A lot of people have raved to me about the benefits of cutting out sugar. They have more energy, their moods are more stable, their head feels less foggy… etc etc. I’m a big believer in the idea that what you eat affects how you feel, and am well aware that my emotions and moods are far smoother after eating a protein-heavy meal or smoothie than after eating something sweet or carb-heavy. I’m also a stress- and comfort-eater and occasional binger, and at those times I certainly don’t turn to balanced snacks or healthy foods. I have been known to eat a whole jar of Nutella in one sitting, with a spoon, without really knowing that I’m doing it, and that’s despite having an intolerance to cocoa in anything other than relatively small amounts (it gives me migraines). I’ve never had an eating disorder, but it’s fair to say that I do have disordered eating patterns, and my relationship with food is not a particularly good one.
When I decided to give quitting sugar a go, I did worry that this was just another way of trying to control my food intake in an attempt to keep a check on the more volatile aspects of my relationship with food. But then I thought, if cutting out sugar could actually stabilize my mood so that I’m less likely to stress-eat and binge… then that’s surely a good thing.
So, I invested in these books by Sarah Wilson:
I’ll admit that I bought them partly on the basis of the style, which I really like, but having read through the first one I like her relaxed attitude to giving up sugar. In particular, I like her suggestion to treat it as an experiment. For me, that shifts the focus to the consequences and effects of each decision, and means that a slip can be learnt from rather than simply judged, as opposed to only focusing on the end goal.
The original “I Quit Sugar” contains an eight week plan, the first week of which eases you in gently by just making a few changes to your diet rather than immediately going cold turkey. The major changes I’m making in this first week are stopping having orange juice for breakfast, and having just a small bit of very dark chocolate after meals rather than something sweeter. I’ve also started having sourdough bread for breakfast with nut butter (cashew, which I could easily become addicted to), rather than sliced bread with a higher sugar content with standard butter.
Now, I’d thought that my diet was pretty low in sugar before I started doing this. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, however, but yesterday and today I’ve developed a really persistent headache and headaches are one of the major symptoms of sugar withdrawal. I did test this yesterday afternoon, when the headache was particularly annoying, and had some iced gems (those mini biscuits with sugary icing blobs on top which for me are a proper childhood throwback). The headache didn’t disappear completely, but it certainly got better. I’m hoping that this stage doesn’t last very long, and that going through this now means that when I give up sugar completely in a couple of weeks, things won’t be so bad. (I may well laugh at my own naivety in the near future.)
I’ve also been trying some recipes from the IQS books, as there’s no way that I can make fundamental changes to my diet if I won’t be eating delicious food. The first thing I did was voluntarily buy kale (perhaps for only the second time ever) to make some kale crisps.
This was ridiculously easy (drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and (my own addition) some garlic granules) and cook in the oven for 5/6 minutes. They were really tasty and moreish.
Next, I tried a juice/smoothie called “I Am Graceful”, which is apparently an anti-inflammatory blend (I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds good).
Again, this was delicious, despite it containing celery which I really don’t like on it’s own. This was also the first time I’d tried chia seeds (expect to see a lot more of those in future…). As an added bonus, it helped a little bit to take the edge of a nascent migraine. Which was nice.
Finally, I attempted bacon and egg “cupcakes” (basically a little cup of bacon with an egg cracked into it, topped with feta cheese, oregano and black pepper).
Tasty once again, although the egg was a little overcooked for my liking (I like my yolks runny – it sounds ridiculous but they taste too “eggy” otherwise), which I think was due to having to keep them in the oven until the bacon was cooked. Next time, I think I’d use ham, which would remove that issue.
On balance, I’m enjoying this experiment so far, despite the headache. The real test will come when I’m faced with a cocktail menu, at which point I may not so much fall off the wagon as dive head first over the side. However, by that point I may be feeling the benefits of having cut my sugar intake so I may not be so tempted. (More imminent laughter, perhaps.) Time will tell!