When I look back now to the first week of August 2017, I can best describe myself as ‘permanently sitting on a roller-coaster, powered by sugar and caffeine’
I sigh as I look back, because I really do know better. I’d taken on too much client work (because I absolutely love my clients) for the time I had available (the kids were on holiday from pre-school) I was working, every evening, all evening. I was leaving zero time for self care and minus numbers worth of time for my marriage (my husband must have grown sick of my profile as that’s all he saw as he sat next to me on the sofa hunched over my laptop) I wasn’t eating well – going for instant gratification over long term value. I was tired, snappy and starting to lose sight of my priorities.
Thankfully, a holiday reset me; I managed to put down all those balls I was juggling, take a look at them and pick out the most important few. The truth is I was never very good at juggling – from now on, I would revert to throwing a single ball up in the air, catching it firmly, then swapping it for another, thanks very much.
Things seemed better, but one sticking point remained:
The amount of sugar in my diet had gone through the roof.
I didn’t think I was that unhealthy but I knew I was firmly planted on the sugar roller-coaster. I’d always loved chocolate but the large bars of Lindt in the supermarket trolley every week had risen from 1 to 3.
I’d often have ‘breakfast biscuits’ on the way to work which contain a surprising amount of sugar. Or I was drenching my porridge with honey.
I was snacking on too large portions of dried fruit or Nutella out of the jar.
I was kidding myself that grabbing a cereal bar and a shop-bought sandwich was healthy.
Then of course, there was the wine and prosecco…
As a result, I felt starving only two hours after having eaten. I literally craved something sweet after my evening meal and once I started I didn’t want to stop – it seemed impossible to only have ‘one or two squares’ of chocolate.
I was eating less vegetables, because I didn’t fancy them – really, I just wanted the sweet stuff.
My blood sugar seemed to drop suddenly at times and I’d feel hot, shaky and extremely hungry, so much so that I had to start keeping ’emergency snacks’ on me at all times. I’d had this issue in the past and even had tests for metabolic conditions – they’d come back clear, so I’d just dismissed it.
I felt sluggish and run down. My skin was spotty and my hair both greasy AND dry. What a mess!
At first, I still didn’t consider that sugar might be the culprit, I guess because I considered myself to have a generally ‘healthy diet’ It wasn’t until I met up with a friend who had recently given up sugar, that the penny dropped. I was having WAY too much of something we really don’t need a lot of at all. Sugar (especially processed) adds very limited value to our bodies. And it stops us from eating the things which DO add value.
But could I do this? Research shows that sugar is just as physically addictive as Heroin – I’ve seen ‘Trainspotting’ – just how bad was I going to feel? In the end however, it came down to curiosity – that and the fact I’m used to being ruthless with my decluttering. That was it! I was going cold turkey…
I don’t recommend going cold turkey
The physical symptoms were pretty intense. Stomach cramps, blinding headaches, lethargy, anxiety, intense cravings for sweet stuff. It was pretty brutal but to be honest, it only spurred me on. If it felt this bad coming out of my body, what harm had it been doing whilst it was in?
I cut out all processed sugar, including the hidden kinds such as in cereals, most bread and other white carbohydrates, shop bought sauces and ‘fat free’ dairy. I limited certain vegetables (potatoes and butternut squash) and most fruit (it’s better sugar, but still sugar)
I found I had to cut out things containing sweetener too like my beloved Diet Coke because it seemed to mimic the effect real sugar had on my body.
The nasty symptoms lasted for a week and then I came out the other side. It’s similar to decluttering in many ways – short term pain but once you push through, the benefits are far reaching. They include:
- Better quality sleep (I now need less sleep to feel rested)
- More energy
- Feeling calmer and more content
- Clearer skin
- Better hair
- No cravings
- Stable blood sugar
- A controllable appetite
- Increased focus and concentration
- Easy weight management (I didn’t need to lose any weight but had I needed to, I’m sure it would have dropped off – read more about decluttering and losing weight here)
My body just seems to be working more efficiently without so much sugar. I’m less of an emotional eater because I no longer feel desperately hungry a few hours after eating. Because of that, I make more rational food choices and I find it far easier to make healthier ones.
I haven’t given up sugar entirely (that would be impossible really as it’s present in things like carrots and spinach and we do need some)
I cut it down to a minimum for a couple of weeks and now I’ve eased up slightly (by easing up, I mean I’m having the odd wine or prosecco here and there – you’ve got to draw your line in the sand somewhere :))
I’ll be sticking to the ban on processed food, sugary treats and sweeteners. They don’t do anything for me and I don’t need them.
What seemed impossible before now just seems simple.
Just like a home, the body must be the best version of what it can be. Then it can provide the most comfort, joy, energy and contentment.
Food and drink is much like possessions we choose for our home. We can choose to eat and drink that which adds the most value to our bodies. Within this process, I’ve got a new found appreciation for the following:
- polenta (alternative to chips or mashed potato or a coating for chicken)
- spelt bread (genuinely seems to have more depth of flavour)
- nuts (especially pecans, macadamias and cashews)
- eggs (an omelette is an easy way to combine veg)
- plain or salted popcorn (great snack)
- miso soup
There so much more of course and it’s down to personal choice. Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar‘ books offer a brilliant resource and there’s tons of free info on the web.
We experience greater long term gain in a multitude of ways if we’re intentional about how we fuel our bodies.
As with decluttering possessions, this process has made me appreciate food for how it can complement my life.
And just as with our home, perfection isn’t realistic. As long as what I eat most of the time adds true value – that’s enough.
Thanks so much for reading.
A Tidy Mind