Sugar equalled happiness for me for most of my life. Whether it was my dad bringing home a 'quarter' of wine gums for me on a Friday evening or my mum making a birthday cake for me, my daughter and I spending whole afternoons baking in the kitchen when she was little or the groans of appreciation as people tasted my famous pavlova. All my life I have associated sugar with love or celebrations.
I LOVE sweetness and I still get jittery at the thought of a day going by without some kind of sweet treat being consumed. Thankfully, now that I am no longer a sugar junkie I am able to enjoy delicious sweet treats every day which are actually good for me as well as tasting great!
Last year I finally faced up to my addictive relationship with sugar. Having overcome my addiction to cigarettes (30 a day for nearly 20 years) about 10 years ago and my addiction to alcohol 3 years ago, I was very aware of what addiction looks like and feels like to me and it isn’t good. The emotional highs and lows, the binges, the self-loathing, the energy slumps, the headaches, the periods of abstinence, the falling off the wagon, the mindless consumption of empty calories…..I hated it and yet the idea of a life without sugar was seriously terrifying to me! Maybe you feel the same.
But I love to experiment with myself and my life and to feel the fear and make the change my heart is yearning for anyway! From experience it is ALWAYS worth the short term challenge to get to the other side.
So in May 2015 I committed to a Sugar-Free Summer. It even had its own hashtag - #sugarfreesummer– so if you search for that hashtag on Facebook you will find all my hints and tips from that summer.
I was really nervous before I embarked on this because I found it so hard to visualise a life without my favourite Wispas, Lindt chocolate, pavlovas, scones etc. But I committed to it via Facebook so I had to follow through! Since then I have had so many people asking about how I did it, what tips I have and how I handled it that I have decided to write this blog as my oracle on how to set yourself free from sugar. If I can do it, so can you. And, if you do follow this advice and break your addiction to this really damaging substance then I promise you that you will feel better than you have felt in years. I do!
After my 3 month Sugar-Free Summer in 2015, I gradually started relaxing about sugar and, of course, it gradually starting sneaking in again. Definitely nowhere near as much as before but I did revert to buying chocolate regularly and that was when I knew it was time to take action again. Since then I haven't bought chocolate, biscuits, sweets or sugary drinks and I don’t use sugar in anything at home apart from my home-made jam which I refuse to see as bad for me!! However, if I am out for a meal, I allow myself a dessert or when I am in France I do treat myself to the odd patisserie….after all, it would be rude not to.
So, why have I chosen to do this? Because all the research I read about what sugar is doing to our bodies and our brains scares me a lot. I also see ever-expanding waistlines all around me and my intention is to give myself the best possible chance of being physically and mentally healthy in my old age. For me, that is reason enough and I am inspired by the likes of Mimi Kirk who is such a shining example of how a clean diet can actually make you grow younger!
Where to start then?
The first step to breaking any addictive habit is to get VERY clear about your WHY! What is your motivation? I am not going to go into this in too much detail here because I have written other blogs about it, have made videos about it and, naturally, I am a huge fan of hiring a really good Life Coach to help you to make any positive change.
So once you have got your motivation right then you need to realise that there are several different approaches that you can take depending on how serious you are. Personally, I took ALL sugar out of my life for the first two weeks. When I say ALL sugar, I mean ALL sugar so I didn’t even eat fruit. The idea here is to rebalance your system and clean the sugar out completely. To really break the addiction.
Next you must be aware that sugar is in nearly EVERYTHING in the supermarket these days. I mean this literally. This is one of the bonuses of quitting sugar. You save about a ½ hour on a normal weekly shopping trip because you are only visiting about 20% of the supermarket aisles. Check the labels of everything you buy if you are going to be purist about this. It is everywhere - tomato ketchup, all processed food and even, I noticed yesterday, a packet of cracked black pepper cashew nuts…..Why? Well that is for another day but you really will get a shock if you start to look for sugar in the ingredients.
Preparation is essential and this leads me to my first word of warning. If you want to give up sugar you are going to be forced to really clear up your act in terms of what you are putting into your body. As I said before, nearly all processed food and most food in restaurants contains hidden sugar. For me it was simply easier to decide to make everything from scratch and to stop eating out as much. That included my breakfast cereal and all my meals as well as all my sweet treats.
My second word of warning is that clearly this takes planning and preparation and you have to actually enjoy spending time in the kitchen and learning about a new way of living. If that is not of interest to you or you are really short on time already in your life then this may not be the time for you to attempt a completely sugar-free diet. You might decide to simply stop consuming shop-bought biscuits, sugar and chocolate….for a lot of people that is enough and it is a great step forward.
I was so surprised at how easily I have transitioned into a sugar-free life but I think that also depends on how much sugar you consume before you start so a really good tip is to gently cut down on your processed foods and sugary snacks/drinks for a month or so before you finally make the break for good. The less sugar you consume on a daily basis, the easier it is to make the transition to doing without it.
Also, if something doesn't taste particularly sweet to you during the first couple of weeks of sugar-free life, don't be put off. Try it again a few weeks later because I promise you your taste buds will change drastically. I am now at the point where a glass of carrot and apple juice tastes almost too sweet to me.
But, if you do decide to go the hardcore like I did and let go off the sugar completely then here are some great ideas for how to get started.....
First up, read and learn about sugar-free living and find amazing recipes in books like these which have become my bibles!
Next order in loads of these ingredients because they are going to form the basis of your sugar-free treats from now on –
I suggest that you aim to cook up a batch of something sugar-free but sweet once or twice a week. If you do this then you are much less likely to relapse because you are still getting a sweet hit every day. A few of my favourites are –
Anything else on my yoga teacher Julie Preston's website!!
But there are so many free sugar-free recipes online now that it is actually pretty easy! Also, I have discovered that I can just replace sugar with stevia or rice malt syrup in most of my normal sweet recipes. I just play around with quantities until I get the sweetness level right.
Luckily, a few companies are now making sugar-free yummy treats which can help to save you spending too much time in the kitchen on busier weeks. Check out these and these which have just come onto the market and are seriously good if you can't be bothered preparing your own -
I would love this blog to become a really great resource for anyone wanting to give up sugar so please feel free to share your favourite sugar-free recipe or product in the comments box below.
I do hope that you will give it a go because it is SO worth it and so are you. My hormonal night-sweats are gone, my weight is steady, I have no headaches, my energy is balanced and high, my brain is clear and my skin, hair and nails are in great condition. It can be easy as long as you take the time to plan and prepare yourself. And remember, I was a total sugar addict so if I can do it, you can too but if you feel you need a little extra support then why not book a FREE Introductory Session with one of my FreshStart Accredited Coaches who will help to get you motivated and keep you on track.