I meant to keep a weekly diary of what my experience has been like since I quit sugar on December 1st/2015, but I didn’t. There are three kinds of people I’ve encountered when I tell them I’m off sugar.
1. The person who probably eats too much sugar, that thinks I’m nuts, and says, they could never give it up.
2. The person who eats too much sugar and knows they should cut down, asks me lots of questions and then contemplates.
3. The person who doesn’t eat a lot of sugar, thinks I’m nuts and says, why don’t you just eat it once in a while.
Life without sugar sometimes makes you feel like an outcast. It makes going out for dinner almost impossible. It makes going to family for dinner very stressful. There’s quite a bit of planning, thinking, monitoring that goes on for the first month or so, before eating is simple and quick.
Wait, there is a point that I am getting to. It is worth it, to me. I’m not going to preach the negative effects of sugar on your body. But I am going to suggest that you make a list of everything you eat in a day and count how much sugar you’ve consumed. The average daily amount I used to have totaled to 20-25 teaspoons. That’s WITHOUT sugary drinks, juices, candy, cakes, cookies. My go-to sweet was chocolate covered almonds and fruits, lots of fruits. My concern started when I noticed how much fructose I was eating (sugar found in fruit, jam and honey) which has a lot of bad rap (google it). I knew if I didn’t quit it all and get over my addiction to sweetness, that I would continue and these little things I was starting to notice (digestive problems I never had before, skin problems and irritability), probably would get worse.
I read about five books on quitting sugar, took a bit from each of them and finally at noon, on December 1st, once I realized I hadn’t eaten any sugar yet, I told myself I’d try for the day. When I made it through one day, I said, I’d continue for the week. My true test was Hanukkah dinner at my adopted Jewish family, who has the best desserts in this universe. I stuffed myself with all her good salads, proteins and latkes and then had herbal tea, watching people eat my favourite chocolate cake. When I left not half as stuffed as I normally am, I knew I could continue sugar-free for longer. I got through the holidays by going for the cheeses, rather than the holiday cookies. I didn’t lose weight, I didn’t gain it either.
While I continue to be a social outcast and have yet to go home for a visit, there are positives that have resulted. I feel energetic, less moody, more alert and my digestive system and skin have improved. The greatest feeling to come out of this is I feel empowered for resisting temptation. At first making eating decisions required so much thought and will power. Now I’ve gotten use to saying no and knowing what I can have.
People ask me what joy do I have in the world if when I don’t eat dessert. The truth is, my life doesn’t feel less joyous than it did before. I don’t have craving anymore (that went away after a week or two). I have other food joys. I love sweet potatoes, mushroom stir fry, cheese, popcorn and pickles. Those are my go-to comfort food. Luckily I have low blood pressure, so a bit extra sodium is something I actually need.
I’ve turned into a trivia addict. If I’m home at 7:30, I need to watch Jeopardy and play along. I go to trivia nights when I hear about them. Both my partner and I do a lot of physical fitness both together and apart. It’s nice that we both enjoy playing music and trivia, allowing for a good balance of body, mind and spirit.
Lastly, people keep talking about natural sugars not being bad for you and fruits providing many vitamins etc. This is true. I am eating twice the amount of veggies to make up for the banana and apple and dried fruit, I usually have at this time of year. I will go back to fruit when local strawberries, berries, etc come out. If I’m going to go over my 6 teaspoons of sugar (which I currently get from yoghurt and veggies) I’m going to go for a local fruit in season. They are a special treat that come at just the right time of year.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll stop keeping track and be a bit more flexible on going out to dinner. So far the only place I’ve eaten outside my home is an Ethiopian restaurant, which doesn’t use sugar (at least the restaurant I go to). You’d be surprised how much sugar is added to common restaurant food. I’ll leave that for another entry.