This is not what you want to hear and I don’t know how to break it to you gently but:
Sugar is bad for you, it makes you fat. Amongst many other things.
Before you say
- I don’t want to live without it
- I can’t give it up
- Life without sugar isn’t worth living
I’m not going to tell you what a naughty boy/girl you’ve been, or point out the obvious. I’m going to tell you:
- About my journey with sugar
- How to reduce the amount of sugar you eat
- How to manage cravings
- How my life has changed since I quit
And for any male readers, this applies to you too! Yes I am writing from a woman’s perspective and yes I am going to talk about periods but I also talk about Pre-diabetes which effects you guys too.
I used to be a sugar addict. I loved cakes, biscuits and sweets. In fact, I thought that cake was the most universal food as you could eat it at any time of day or night. I always had a bag of sweets in my car. If I had a bad day or was tired, I would use cakes and chocolate to comfort myself. I took sugar in tea/coffee and dinner was not dinner without pudding.
Then I got sick:
I felt nauseas, cold, light-headed, would have outbursts of anger or emotion and was tired all the time. But it was OK because I could fix most of that by having some sugar…until the next sugar crash.
My PMT was horrendous until my periods stopped altogether but then I just got PMT which couldn’t be relieved by having a period.
I carried fat around my middle, my hair kept splitting and falling out, I was prone to spotty outbreaks and my skin was dull and pale.
So I went to the Doctors:
I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Impaired Glucose Tolerance or Pre-diabetes as it is now known). I also had a large cyst on one of my ovaries.
PCOS is a hormonal imbalance. Women with PCOS may find it hard to lose weight and may also have:
- Increased body hair
- Bad PMT
For further information on PCOS click here.
Pre-diabetes is a precursor to diabetes and affects both men and women. For more information on Pre-diabetes click here.
The good news was that both PCOS and Pre-diabetes could be managed by diet. The recommended diet is a Low GI Diet avoiding sugar or foods that turn to sugar quickly in your blood stream e.g. white bread, white pasta, white rice, white potatoes.
I took action:
I quit sugar and replaced it with honey instead. I made my own cakes and biscuits with honey and added it to tea and coffee, because honey is a healthy alternative to sugar right?
Wrong. It doesn’t matter where the sugar comes from its still sugar and it still has the same effect on the body. Honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, fructose – it’s all sugar.
Fruit contains sugar too. It also contains nutrients so I am not saying give it up altogether, rather limit yourself to 2 pieces per day. Some fruits contain more sugar than others. A general rule of thumb is that English fruits contain less sugar than tropical fruits so think apples, pears, berries rather than bananas, pineapple and peaches.
I am writing articles on eating fruit, PCOS, Low GI Eating and Mood Food and Cravings soon. Make sure that you don’t miss these posts by signing up to receive email alerts. To do this click on the follow button on the right hand side of this screen if you are viewing on a computer or scroll to the bottom of the content and click on the follow button if you are viewing on your phone.
Then I got wise:
Through research and my symptoms, I realised that I still wasn’t doing myself any good. So I quit sugar and went completely low GI. Simple…not!
It was hard. Really hard. I felt dreadful, like I had a severe illness, but one that I could fix with a chocolate biscuit. I didn’t want to be a slave to sugar and I certainly didn’t want to develop diabetes or heart disease. I wanted to be fit and healthy and I wanted my periods back so that I could conceive. I stuck with it and won and its one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
I am very much an all or nothing person so for me cold turkey was the only option. I am no psychology expert and I’m not an addiction specialist (because essentially this is what it was and sugar is a drug) but I think that because of the nature of sugar and its action in the body cold turkey would be the only way to do it.
I picked a weekend when I had no commitments and treated myself like I was actually ill. Stayed in bed , slept as much as possible, drank water, ate nutrient rich foods little and often, used aromatherapy oils and nurtured myself.
The first 3 – 4 days were the worst, after a week it was manageable. It takes 28 days to break a habit and after a month I was feeling a lot better and my symptoms were under control. I think it probably took about 3 months for the full effects.
Do I miss sugar?
Nope! In fact I cannot stand sweet things!. My sweet toothed friends find this hard to believe but I genuinely do not like and cannot eat sweet things, whether they are sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners. It’s almost like an ex-smoker who cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke. So I do not feel deprived or like I’m missing the party. However put a sausage roll or a packet of crisps in front of me and its a different story! I crave savoury!
The effect it has had on me:
I no longer have spots or carry excess fat. My periods are bang on 28 days each month, my hair is in good condition, I don’t have sugar lows and my blood sugars are stable. I am a healthy person!
When I do eat sugar:
The only time I eat sugar is as fuel during long training sessions (over 1.5hrs) when I need energy but don’t want to eat bulk. I also use sugar as recovery after long training sessions but try to get this from fruit. The harder I train the more sugar I can tolerate without adverse effects.
How to manage sugar cravings:
Artificial sweeteners are not the answer! The problem with artificial sweeteners is that they taste sweet. So they do not teach you to not like sweet things. You need to not taste sweet things to not like sweet things.
If you really need to taste something sweet, try drinking liquorice tea. It naturally tastes sweet and is said to help stabilise your blood sugars. However use in moderation as too much liquorice tea or prolonged use can have harmful side effects.
Cinnamon also helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels so use in cooking or try drinking cinnamon tea.
Some foods need a little sweetness so I use pure vanilla extract or bee pollen for this.
- No to sugar
- No to food that turns to sugar quickly in the blood stream
- No to artificial sweeteners
- English fruits over tropical fruits
- Liquorice (in moderation and not for prolonged periods) or cinnamon tea to help manage cravings
- Pure vanilla extract or bee pollen when you absolutely need a bit of sweetness
- Follow my blog for email alerts on articles coming up – Eating Fruit, Low GI Eating, Mood food and Cravings
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