A couple of weeks ago, inspired by various friends and online stories, I went sugar-free and cut refined sugar out of my diet for 14 days. Let me begin by saying that I don’t think that refined sugar is the root of all evil and I definitely don’t want this post to come across as preachy in any way – I really just did it to see if I could see it through to the end and if it would make a real difference to me.
Now, I’ll be honest and admit that it wasn’t a 100% sugar-free fortnight but probably about 95%. It is a definite learning curve identifying what I could and couldn’t eat as there are so many things that formed my everyday diet that contained a small amount of sugar, such as condiments, which I would add to my food without thinking. I also didn’t cut out fruit and natural sugars as I really don’t see what’s wrong with fruit!
The first few days were a real mixed bag. As with any new diet or healthy eating plan, I was really enthusiastic to begin with, filling my fridge with lovely fresh vegetables and looking up new recipes to try online. I didn’t really have to make huge changes to what I was eating as we eat pretty healthily for our main meals, but I had to change my habits with snacks (chocolate) and drinks (fizzy drinks).
I had read about people experiencing ‘sugar-withdrawal’ after a few days and I thought it would just be a mild headache I could treat with some paracetamol…well, I definitely underestimated it! On the second evening, I had such a painful headache that I could only open one eye. Painkillers didn’t help and I was so miserable that I ended up going to bed at about 8:30pm. It really did make me think about the effect that sugar has on your body if this was the reaction I had when I cut it out.
After that initial hiccup, it was pretty plain sailing for the rest of it. I became a bit obsessed with reading labels, spent a lot more time in the kitchen cooking things from scratch and was a regular on the Deliciously Ella website.
There were some definite pros and cons to this little experiment. On the plus side, I felt great, my skin was in really good condition and I lost over half a stone with what felt like very little effort. I rarely felt hungry and discovered some delicious new recipes.
However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing out and denying myself on certain occasions. We went to the pub and instead of a glass of wine, I stuck to sparkling water. We went to the farmers market and I had to walk past my absolute favourite brownie stall and instead bought an apple to snack on. We also didn’t really eat out as I just wasn’t sure what I could really have on the menu. So whilst I didn’t have any cravings for sugary food, I definitely had a bit of a moan when I couldn’t have some of my favourite treats.
When I reached the two-week mark I gave myself permission to start introducing sugar back in to my diet again. It was amazing how much sweeter things tasted and it was also interesting to see which changes I kept, such as having water with meals instead of a fizzy or sugar-based drink.
So, am I going to keep up a sugar-free lifestyle? In a word, no. I enjoy eating out and trying new foods too much to deny myself to such an extent. However, I would say that I follow a ‘reduced-sugar’ diet now. I am much more aware of how much sugar is in food and do try to choose the healthy option when I can. However, I won’t feel guilty about wanting a proper chocolate brownie now and then because let’s face it, a ‘Chia, Date, Coconut Oil and Pecan’ version just doesn’t hit the spot in the same way! x