So, as you’ve heard, I’m planning on giving up sugar, right?
Well, yes and no.
I love the reactions people have when I tell them I am doing this, but what is best is the bemused looks from people who know me.
Growing up, I was known for my sweet tooth. My parents joke about how I
am was incapable of sitting through a meal without uttering my favourite phrase: “What’s for dessert?”
Even those who only know me through my blog are probably raising their eyebrows after reading my Great British Bake Off posts and being exposed to my general baking obsession.
So how is it that a sugar addict (and I do not use that term lightly!) like me ends up choosing to actively avoid it?
After reading Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar, I was 100% convinced and committed, ready to give up sugar for life. But as I’ve pared back on it, I’ve realised that actually, what I am committing to (and what Sarah promotes) isn’t exactly that.
Hey, hats off to you if you manage it, ok?
But for those with an incredibly sweet tooth like me, here is the real plan of action:
I’m giving up sugar for 4 weeks.
4 weeks out of 52 in a year. 4 weeks out of 520 in a decade. 4 weeks out of the 1300+ I’ve been alive. 4 weeks out of the 2600+ I hopefully have yet to live.
Bit of an anti-climax after all my no-sugar talk?
Let me explain…
As of February 1st, I am still planning on completing Sarah’s 8-week sugar detox plan. And before you point out my appalling maths skills, the first two weeks of that plan involve slowly phasing out sugar (which I’ve already been doing for a couple of weeks now anyway), and the final two weeks you get to phase a little sugar (fruit and some natural sweeteners) back in. So voila, 4 weeks without sugar.
Seriously, even someone with as sweet a tooth as me can probably just about survive that!
The truth is, I will be crossing that bridge when I come to it. But my hope is that – as has happened for so so many people who have completed Sarah’s detox – my body will by then have ‘reset’ itself. As a result, I should have broken a lifelong habit of overindulging on sugar (ever heard the saying that it takes 8 weeks to break a habit?), and my body should crave fructose very little, if at all. Also, many people have found that after the detox (or even some who have fallen off the wagon once or twice during it), they indulge in a piece of chocolate cake and find that they feel sick, tired and generally pretty bad after eating it.
I raised my eyebrows repeatedly everytime I read this, until I had a piece of store-bought chocolate cake the other day. And those nagging stomach pains that have plagued me on and off for years that no-doctor-could-explain-but-I-haven’t-had-since-reducing-my-sugar-intake suddenly reappeared. Within 10 minutes of me eating the cake.
So the truth is, I may complete the detox and then go back to my sugar-eating ways (although if I feel great as a result of the detox then start old habits again, I may try a mini-sugarfast for a few days or weeks again to reset myself every now and then). But I am hoping that, even if it doesn’t make me give up sugar entirely, it at least helps me to reduce my fructose intake significantly. The World Health Organisation (WHO) are insisting that our recommended daily allowance of sugar (currently 10% of daily calories) should be halved in order to be considered even remotely healthy. Sarah agrees. She recommends 5-9 tsps of sugar a day (divide the grams on the ingredients labels by 4 to get tsp). The WHO say we should be reducing recommended consumption from 12 tsp to 6 tsp (from 50g to 25g). (That means that when the carton of orange juice currently says one glass is 25% of our RDA of sugar, it is in actual fact 50% of what the WHO believes is healthy!) And that is just recommended consumption. In reality, most of us are having far far more than that. Currently, when I have Alpen and fruit juice for breakfast, I have already consumed that by 7.30am. Add in white toast and jam, and my sugar intake is unhealthy before I even think about that KitKat bar after lunch!
That is my aim – to at least get down to the WHO’s (and Sarah’s) RDA.
My hope is to completely cut the following (maybe have them on rare occasions, but certainly not on a daily, or even weekly basis):
– Fruit juice and soft drinks (because one glass of apple juice has as much sugar as a glass of Coke).
– Jams, chutneys and sauces (I am planning on experimenting with a couple of stevia-based jams/marmalades made with low-fructose fruit, but even they will be eaten in serious moderation!).
– Low-fat products (because they are crammed full of sugar in order to replace the taste removed by taking out the fat).
– All processed chocolate bars, sweets, biscuits, cakes, etc. (this one feels doable as we rarely have them anyway).
– High-sugar desserts in restaurants (cheese plate, anyone? Or starter/sides instead of pudding?).
– Dried fruits and sugary cereals/cereal bars (including supposedly “healthy” ones).
– Where possible, white bread and most white flour based products (although I will probably not be as militant on this one considering the amount of baking I do!).
– Homemade low-sugar desserts/treats (I made Sarah’s sugar-free millionaire shortbread this week and my husband and I simply could not believe they were sugar-free, as they tasted just like regular ones!) – sounds like a fun baking challenge, I’m in!
– Chocolate (85% dark chocolate), occasionally (my hot chocolates will also be made of cacao powder and stevia with milk, or melted 85% dark chocolate in milk and/or a little cream where possible).
– Fruit (but perhaps only a few times a week, or at most once a day, rather than lots), especially low-fructose fruits like berries, citrus fruits, peaches and kiwis.
– Carbs (the sugar in most of these is very minimal, so I won’t be fussy about this and will continue to consume on a weekly, perhaps even daily basis).
The main trick, as I’ve discovered, is good sensible swapping. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t deprive yourself. When you are craving a sweet treat, then either opt for a homemade sugar-free treat or, even better, go for a savoury one (some cheese, nuts, savoury crackers, vegetables, good fats, etc.)
So I don’t feel guilty about eating chocolate cake the other day. In fact, I’m glad I did. Because not only is it actually a treat because I don’t have it often, but it also helps remind me why I am doing this for me, and for my family.
Because the truth is, there are many reasons I am doing this (no more stomach pains!!), but there are few that would help me see it out other than this one: I want my daughter to grow up being able to have sugar when she truly wants it without becoming dependent on it as I have – I am doing this for her, and I hope that she will thank me for it one day!