Cutting sugar from my diet was triggered by my dentist telling me that immediate action was required if I was to have any natural teeth lasting into my retirement.
I took the message to heart and that night I religiously cleaned my teeth and gone was my little bowl of comfort sweets.
Sugar was playing a vital part in my life as a comfort factor and energy booster. After a trying day I like to read a novel last thing at night as a means of escapism, and as I doze off another little sweet is both comforting and energising.
I’d tried to cut back on the sweets, but every evening, a time when I’m naturally tired, I would fall asleep in my living room watching TV then find I couldn’t get to sleep upstairs later on.
So in the morning, I would promise never to eat sweets again only to find by late afternoon a sudden craving setting in thinking that I must awake and the only way to do it was by eating sweets.
And so I spent every evening with a little bowl of sweets beside me from early evening to last thing at night.
Chastened by the dentist I returned home determined to change. Not only did the sweets have to go, but also my whole life had to change.
Over the last couple of years, I’d noticed I was becoming seriously unhealthy. If I walked long distances I would suddenly find I couldn’t breathe properly and would have to sit down. Then I discovered an immediate cure in the form of Sports drinks packed with glucose and sugar.
This revelation increased my dependence on sugar. I visited my GP for advice but a diabetes test proved negative so there was no further help available.
So how hard is it to come off sugar?
Firstly my opinion on any form of drug withdrawal program is that of a cold turkey hard stop is preferable. Unless one is going to experience life threatening epileptic type fits, when a doctor is needed, just stop as soon as possible.
Twenty years ago I chain smoked cigarettes and my lungs hurt so much I had to visit hospital. I was so pleased when the consultant said there weren’t any signs of cancer yet I resolved to stop.
I then spent another ten years giving up, when the stopping and starting again become a whole new hobby in itself. Eventually, I gave up giving up and finally gave up nicotine the good old, hard stop way.
I’m not against substitution, and I did use nicotine lozenges. But they were so effective that I got stuck with them for ten years, instead of just using them for the recommended two weeks.
This time I will use various full fat treats to strengthen my resolve to give up sugar, but they too must be swiftly cut back to ensure there is no undue delay in transferring to my new healthy sugar free, low fat diet.
So having realised stopping sugar was akin to giving up an addiction I thought I just better get on with it.
I wasn’t going to throw away any food which I’d already bought, but rather not replace any items once I’d used my existing packet all up.
To try and reduce my weight I’d practiced giving up hard fat products, cheese is the biggest culprit and closely followed by ice cream and chocolate. So I had lots of potential treats to fall back on.
The first big step in stopping my sugar intake was to change from sugared tea and coffee, to ‘no thank you-I don’t take sugar.’
Saying that is just like asking for a ‘non smoking room, please,’ at a hotel check in. More than simply rolling off the tongue naturally these words are making an identity statement.
‘I don’t smoke, and I don’t take sugar.’
The first morning I did stop putting sugar in my tea, but then went and bought a tub of chocolate chunks from the supermarket to comfort me.
It wasn’t until the following Sunday (day 11) that I went the whole day without any free sugar in anything I ate that day.
The results were pretty horrendous. I got a splitting headache. I couldn’t sleep. I got up the next morning uncharacteristically early, then couldn’t concentrate so curled up and snarled. It was terrible.
Free sugar is a term for added sugar. For the purpose of this article, I’m not going to attempt to breakdown the complexities of the different types of sugar, as there are loads of natural sugars out there in bananas and grapes.
Sugar is added by manufacturers in to jams and many others products so I must get into the habit of always looking at the label and buying the low fat variety.
And avoid adding any sugar at all to tea, coffee or sprinkled in granular form.
I’m not using any sweeteners as my aim is to reset my body’s taste receptors so I’ll regard a sweetened mug of tea as sickly.
So I’m eating lots of fruit regardless of whether it comes with built in sugar or not, and I’m scanning labels to make sure I’m not buying the lowest sugar variety.
But will this work? Will my body ripple with muscles and energy? In next week’s part two we will take a closer look at food labels and understanding them, and I’ll highlight any changes to my body that I’ve noticed after cutting right back on my sugar consumption.