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As part of my sugar-free detox, I am trying to commit to finding out as much as I can about the science behind it in order to encourage myself and remind myself why I am doing it. One aspect of this is to read Dr Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity and Disease. I’m hooked on it (and off sugar!). Dr Lustig is an endocrinologist who has specialised in child obesity for over 16 years, and has spent much of that time researching the link between sugar and obesity.
He explains all of the science behind it in an easy to understand and easy to read way. His writing style is smooth and funny, and the information he has uncovered is staggering. I was particularly struck by this section:
“For the 45% of adults who are normal weight, pay attention. You either sneer at or pity the other 55% of your brethren who take up two seats on the bus. You look down on them as weak, overindulgent, and lazy. You resent them, and you show it financially and socially. You’re indignant that they cost you money. And you think you’re out of the woods and home free. You’ve been told that you’ll live a long and happy life. Whatever you’re doing, it must be right. For those of you who are ‘naturally’ thin, you’ve been told that you have great genes and can consume all the soft drinks and Twinkies you want without gaining a pound or getting sick. Would that it were true. A few years ago, you were the majority… Now you’re the minority. And you’re losing your percentage year by year.
“This means that many of you are flipping – that is, gaining weight and going over to the ‘dark side’. Indeed, current projections suggest that by 2030, [we] will be 65% overweight… So, if you’re flipping… something must be sending you over to the ‘dark side’. And if that’s not your fate, it will be that of your children. Nobody knows this better than I, because I take care of those children every day.” (6-7)
Dr Lustig is not some ‘hippie’ who has suddenly decided that fat is good for you and sugar is bad. He has done a huge amount of research and is an expert in his field – one of the world’s most prominent experts in fact. And he is nowhere near being alone in this – so so many doctors and scientists are now saying the same thing. (For an 18-minute summary of the contents of Dr Lustig’s book, you could watch the Catalyst show below:)
He proposes that when it comes to the growing obesity epidemic (which none of us are 100% safe from), the number one villain is fructose (Chapter 11 – no surprises there), and the solutions (other than obviously cutting fructose as much as possible) are eating plenty of natural fibre (Chapter 12 – wherever fructose is found in nature, fibre is too – think of whole fruit and veg and whole grains – but all processed foods are stripped of fibre) and exercising (Chapter 13 – Lustig does state that exercise very rarely helps you to lose weight, but it has massive impacts on your health, even just 15 mins of moderate exercise a day).
The more I read and watch about all of this, the more convinced I am that we are doing the right thing for our health and our daughter’s health. But to be honest, even just the empirical evidence – our own experience of giving up sugar – is fast convincing us anyway!
My husband was a little more skeptical than I, partly because I was the one who did a lot of research (as I have a tendency to), and he decided he was happy to “go along with it”. But this week, he went out with some work friends to TGI Friday and came back home admitting rather sheepishly that he had had some sugar (in the form of barbecue sauce and brioche burger buns), as it is pretty hard to have anything in TGI Friday without sugar!
We’d both heard that slip-ups are almost an essential part of the I Quit Sugar journey because they have a tendency to remind you of why you are doing it – I had my own experience of this a couple of weeks ago, but my husband was not convinced that he would feel any different if he had some sugar (I seem to get addicted to it more easily!).
But after eating sugar, he felt so bad by the following morning that he proclaimed himself right back on board the quitting sugar bandwagon! And the more we both read and research and find out about it, the more and more sure we are…
Well, I’d gathered from I Quit Sugar that it’s around week 5 and 6 of the 8-week programme that the cravings are supposed to hit – and, right on time, they did. They weren’t as bad as I thought, but it was hard at first, especially the day or two before our next shopping trip, as the cupboards were relatively bare and I found myself perusing them far too regularly once more.
It was strange, because I still felt full from the veg and wholegrains and good fats we were eating, and yet I still found myself searching through cupboards for snacks that I knew weren’t there!
In an attempt to stop myself giving in and going to buy a chocolate bar from the local shop, I made us a sugar-free pudding: tiramisu with cacao powder, a sugar-free shortbread base sweetened with a tiny bit of rice malt syrup, and a spoonful of stevia mixed into mascarpone, cream, a splash of brandy and some strong coffee. It was just what we needed to get us through this week. I know some people swear off sugar-free sweeteners as well during this time. But then some people also have fruit. And others cut carbs as well. So we figured it was better to allow ourselves one sugar-free naturally-sweetened pudding a week (if we wanted it) rather than cave and actually eat sugar!
I’ve been in bed with a cold much of the week, so I honestly cannot tell you how much of an effect no-sugar is having right now. I have had a few headaches this week (classic withdrawal symptoms possibly, or maybe just my semi-regular headaches I get anyway), but I have had more energy than I usually do when I have a cold, so that’s something!
And despite my cravings, I actually still don’t feel like I particularly miss sugar… My husband really misses jam, and I occasionally miss fruit. But those are things we plan on eating again in moderation once we are through the next few weeks, as well as occasionally sugar-free and low-sugar treats, or even the odd ‘normal’ cake from time to time.
All stuff to look forward to in the future, but for now, I’m happy curling up under a blanket on the sofa with a hot cacao sweetened with cinnamon and some soft cheese on sourdough bread. Yum.