Sunday, 22 March 2015

A week off the white stuff

When I wrote this post I was feeling very unhappy about my body, both my physical size and the way I felt inside. I felt bloated and uncomfortable a lot of the time, and I was aware the way I was eating wasn't doing me any good.

Tired from constant wake ups with Violet and the general demands of two small children, I was reaching into the cupboard for a sweet treat without really thinking. We live near a gorgeous bakery and stopped by most days. It was when I noticed I was buying two or three different cakes just for me, eating them and still wanting more, that I realised my sweet tooth had got completely out of control.

Then I read this post by Keri-Anne whose gorgeous blog Gingerlillytea I absolutely LOVE and when she mentioned only having eaten sweets or chocolates twice since Christmas something clicked inside my head.

I suddenly realised I needed to stop eating sugar.

I have a massive sweet tooth and absolutely LOVE chocolates, cakes, biscuits, baked goods, doughnuts, flapjacks, puddings, ice cream, you name it. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a bit of an emotional eater as well. If I feel sad, grumpy, tired, miserable or even just a bit bored and restless my hand reaches for a biscuit practically automatically. And then another. And another. Once I start I find it hard to stop, I can easily demolish half a packet of biscuits or an entire family-sized chocolate bar in one sitting, and still want more.

I can't remember the last time I went more than a day, two at a push, without eating some form of sweet treat. Once or twice I have decided I'm not going to eat so many, will manage a day or two, then I'll reach a point where hunger, deprivation and general cravings collide and snap, and demolish anything sweet I can get my hands on. Then I'll feel crap and beat myself up for not being able to stick to my resolve and seeing as I've started that packet of biscuits I might as well finish them now….

It's not really had a huge impact on my weight as I have always been so active, but in a way this means I have given myself permission to eat even more biscuits and chocolates 'because I work out'. But it was starting to have a massive impact on the way I felt about myself, and so the sugar had to go.

To be clear I'm not talking about cutting out all forms of sugar. I know some are fanatical about going sugar-free and cut out fruit, dairy (which contains lactose) and refuse to entertain sugar substitutes like honey, maple syrup or agave nectar. I don't suffer from any intolerances or medical conditions and for a healthy person like me, I felt to cut out all forms of sugar completely would be unnecessary.

That said, I felt it was important I went a bit cold turkey to begin with to really break the sugar habit. I didn't want to replace eating three cakes from the bakery with demolishing three muffins sweetened with honey or maple syrup instead, so I have spent the last week avoiding any sugar substitutes at all. I have eaten fruit, and bread which contains some sugar. But I have avoided any foods, sauces, cereals and the like that list sugar in the ingredients (I thought I would be safe with a bowl of good old Corn Flakes, until I read the label. Once you start looking there's sugar EVERYWHERE!)

It hasn't been easy. I have felt quite limited in what I can eat and despite being aware I was eating and relying on sugar far too much it has surprised me how often I've wanted something sweet. After every meal my mind instantly wanders to a pudding. I want sweet snacks during the day, and at breakfast I've been pretty much limited to toast and eggs or nut butter (I'm not a fan of porridge). Any time I get a bit restless I've started thinking about how much I want something sweet to eat.

On Tuesday night I actually made a batch of raw chocolate peanut butter cups, which are free from refined sugar but do have maple syrup in them. I thought, at least if I have these on standby if the cravings do get too much I can have one instead of thinking 'oh sod it' and buying and eating half a bakery. Having the reassurance of a standby seems to have worked well, as I haven't touched them yet.

I have tried to avoid thinking too much about sugar but haven't forced my mind away if it has popped into my head that I'd like something sweet. I've definitely eaten more fruit than I usually do, and a bit more cheese too. What's been surprising is the realisation that basically everything I have been snacking on contains sugar. I haven't snacked on fruit or cheese in years. I've just been defaulting to something sweet. It's quite eye-opening.

A week in and I feel amazing. I have noticed a huge difference, with absolutely no bloating or cramping and a massive reduction in general gassiness. As a result I feel far less lardy, even though I have no idea if I've lost any weight or not. I feel much more comfortable in my clothes, my waistbands feel looser, and I just generally feel happier. And my skin looks great, although it's been pretty good since I got into the green smoothie habit.

I don't feel particularly deprived and my mood has been quite stable and upbeat, which is a pleasant surprise. I definitely felt a bit grumpy the first day or two and had a bit less patience with Cherry but after the third sugar-free day it was business as usual. I feel like I've had much more energy, we've had a busy week and I've run or cycled or done yoga every day, but I'm not feeling particularly worn out from it.

Today I have made a batch of sweet potato brownies as I do want to have something to nibble on and I seem to be turning to toast and peanut butter a bit more than I would like. I am a bit concerned this will open the floodgates and I will be piling down mountains of muffins within days. If this happens I'll have to go back to no substitutes. But I'm hopeful I can introduce a couple of alternatives and keep them as genuine treats, not everyday treats.

I'm very much taking an experimental, take it one day at a a time approach which feels less pressured. I can't see me never eating sugar again and I have in mind that a chocolate egg at Easter would be a nice stepping-stone to give me something to look forward to. But the main thing is I know I can go a whole week without eating any sugary snacks, and that feels like a bit of an achievement if I'm honest.

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