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If somebody had told me last year that I would not be eating anything with refined sugar in it, I would have said they were crazy. I wasn't able to go 2 days without my bar of chocolate, my sugar in coffee, or my slice of cake. My meals consisted of shop-bought sauces full of sugar, my sandwich spreads the sweetest you could find, and my after-dinner treats my extra sugar laden sugar high for the day. I started my day sweet, continued my day sweet and ended my day sweet. My tastebuds were sugar sensitive and needed sweet food.
"I was officially hooked on the sugar drug"
I consumed sugary foods for comfort, for energy, when bored and because I was just plain hooked. Much like most of the western world. I was officially hooked on the sugar drug, encouraged by food companies to indulge, advertising claiming the health benefits of the foods I ate while not declaring the detrimental effects of the sugar in the food. I was sucked in, thought it was the norm, everyone was doing it. Until, issues related to my hormones cropped up and I began to look into my heath.
"...refined sugar is the anti-fountain of youth."
This is when I discovered the horror that refined sugar is. From blood sugar hikes, to diabetes and other diseases, BUT, what shook me to my core came from pure vanity. I had noticed the skin beneath my eyes had become more crepey. It did not spring back like it used to. This horrified me as I looked in the mirror. It was then that I discovered refined sugar affects the collagen in the skin, so in fact refined sugar is the anti-fountain of youth. And so began my sugar-free journey and what a journey it has been.
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Was Giving Up Sugar Easy?
No and yes.
In the first few weeks it was actually easier than I had expected it to be. I had read that many people suffer withdrawal symptoms like headaches and huge cravings. I went through a relatively easy first month coming off sugar. For me it was after the first month that cravings kicked in. I think my mind thought I was joking and did not believe I was going to follow through with it. It was convinced its artificial high was going to return. It was wrong. I was determined to keep to my commitment.
My First Challenge
|SWEET BBQ |
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Eating out can be problematic when giving up sugar as its hard to find out the exact ingredients in a dish. However, I planned ahead and made sure I followed a fairly strict plan. I didn't feel like I was missing out in fact I felt quite liberated by the choices I was making.
My action plan when away from home was :
- Do not succumb to dessert. Eat a starter like soup, try not to have bread as white bread can hike up the blood sugar much like chocolate or cakes. Ditch the sweet sauces like ketchup, BBQ, sweet and sour etc.. If you need something on a burger and they have a mustard, sometimes they are low in sugar or sugar free.
- Choose Indian food, English or some other protein rich food source. Choose the less sweet options (not korma or tikka). Chinese food is pretty much a no-no as most western Chinese restaurants have an absolute buffet of sweet and sugary savoury meals and desserts. Apart from plain soup it's a challenge to avoid refined sugar.
- Make your main course protein or dairy, and fat rich. If there is sugar in the meal, protein and dairy slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. And when I say fat, I don't mean dripping with fat options, but I do mean as good a fat as you can get.
- Drink water before the meal. Try and have a full glass as this will fill you so you may not feel you want to over-indulge. If you would like an alchoholic drink when away (which I did) choose wine over beer and water over fruit juice (fruit juice has all the good fibre taken out of it and is high in sugar and can cause blood sugar hikes).
- Avoid bread, especially white. If you really want some have it with cheese or protein.
How Do You Stop Craving?
When a friend is indulging in the tastiest looking cake in the whole world.
Plan ahead. Make sure you are satisfied and full enough before dessert comes around.
My Mum and I visited many coffee shops on my trip away, I often sat and watched her indulge in heavenly looking pieces of cake with her coffee. I was not sure if I would be able to handle this so I planned ahead. I used a tool called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). EFT is an acupressure point, tapping technique (click here for a great introduction video on this by Brad Yates).
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My Second Challenge - Hormones
Later into my sugar-free journey I found the hardest times when I crave sugar sweet foods is before and during menstruation. I discovered later that many women have blood sugar issues at this time, so I simply upped my food intake with more protein, fat and extra fruit for that desperate sweet desire (like apples,bananas, grapes and, when really in need, plums).
Blood Sugar -TIP
Don't ignore your blood sugar. If you feel extremely tired and cannot focus, shaky and anxious, especially during hormone time you probably need to eat something. Life-enhancing food does just that; it enhances our well-being, gives us fuel for energy. If your exhausted for no reason, eat. My food of choice was sliced chicken or sliced apple smothered in peanut butter.
But, if you have gotten to a point where what you have eaten has not helped you feel better, an occasional glass of pure fruit juice will not hurt you. Yes the fibre may have been taken out but sometimes you need a blood sugar hit. You will know when you do, follow your instincts. And if you have that glass of apple or orange juice you can always follow it up with protein or another food to level out the blood sugar.
My Overall Advice
Don't give up at the first hurdle. You can do this. The benefits are huge. I gave up sugar when I had a neural injury to my back, I was in a lot of pain for months and I could have easily succumbed to refined sugar and super sweet foods to comfort me but I didn't. I always say if you can manage a life change during the hardest time, then you will do it long term. It takes 21 days to create a new life habit, get over that 21 days and your body will adjust more easily.
Physical Benefits Of Quitting Sugar
- More energy. Instead of wanting to stay in bed past 9am I now often get up before 8am and often before 7am now.
- Better skin tone. It may not revamp you back to your early twenties when things are nice and springy but it will prevent any further faster deterioration that can happen from too much sugar.
- I have lost over 1 stone in weight. This is without any effort and included snacking in between meals.
- Food tastes sweeter naturally. Fruit, vegetables, milk.. you will taste sweet like you have never tasted it before.
- Better mental focus. You will find you can concentrate more because you have more energy.
- Hormonal moods swings will lessen considerably.
- If you have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) this is said to lessen symptoms also.
Emotional and Spiritual Benefits
Giving up sugar for me was more than just a physical journey. The emotional and spiritual benefits have been huge.
Whereas before I had stuffed down difficult feelings like anxiety, anger and stress with sugar, because I did not want to face the pain, I was able to face this pain more easily. I was able to confront old memories and doing so has been truly transformative.
Before going sugar-free I found staying positive a real challenge. My mood swings went up and down like a yo-yo. I went from extreme highs to deep dark despair. My blood sugar going up and down was the cause of this.
Now, I feel more balanced.
"The biggest benefit is change."
I have been able to mentally and emotionally make inner and outer changes that I was not even aware I needed to make before. And those changes that I was resistant to have become much easier to take.
Life seems clearer now and I feel stronger and more steady in who I am. I value myself more, have more confidence and have realised how I need to take 100% responsibility for my inner world and how I react or respond to my outer life.
I feel incredibly focused, more passionate and more deeply connected to source energy, the divine within all things. I feel more heart connected, open and receptive to God, the Universe, Life, whatever label you choose to give to that special meaning of life.
And all because I gave up refined sugar.
So this is my journey so far.
3 Months on.
Now I can introduce a little sweetness back into my life (in moderation), not refined sugar, but a little more fruit, a little honey or coconut sugar when baking cakes. I have started having a little xylitol (sweetener natural to the body) in my weekly decaf coffee when I go out to cafes. And I even enjoy a treat of dark chocolate during those hormonal times when chocolate is a healer (yes I still believe chocolate is good - smile - just make sure it's good chocolate).
We are predisposed to want sugar, it is in our nature. From a young baby wanting milk to an adult wanting sweet foods, but we can make the decision to eat balanced sugars, better sweet foods, more life-giving not life-depleting sweet foods.
Overall, sugar no longer controls my wellbeing. I choose my own inner balance. I choose to feel stronger, not swayed so much by external circumstances because my inner balance is coming from a place of power not addiction.
"Clarity, strength, balance."
I highly recommend this journey if you are wanting change to take place in your life, your spirit and your well-being.
Please share in the comments below if you are taking or about to take this journey and good luck!
For more articles on sugar-detoxing check
out earlier posts on Kelly Martin Speaks HERE
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