If you read a newspaper (an actual paper one, or online version) you can’t fail to have noticed that sugar is the latest ingredient to go on the avoid-at-all-costs list. Among other things sugar, we’re told, is more addictive than cocaine, increases your risk of heart disease and cancer, makes you fat and ages the body and causes wrinkles (is it wrong that this is the one that got my attention?).
The poster girl for the kick-the-sweet-stuff movement is Sarah Wilson, who quit sugar for two weeks in January 2011, mostly because she was short of a topic for a column she was writing for a newspaper at the time.
Her energy, skin and health (she has an autoimmune disease which is exacerbated by sugar) all improved so dramatically she decided to keep going, said goodbye to sugar forever, and has since written several books on the subject, started a website and documents her healthy life on her blog, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Phew.
Sarah just turned 40 and looks so healthy and happy (check her Instagram @_sarahwilson_ for evidence) I’m inspired to try quitting the sweet stuff too, but at the same time the more someone tells me not to do something, the more I want to do it and, quite frankly, I think life’s too short to deny yourself the odd treat here and there.
I didn’t used to have a sweet tooth, always having a starter rather than a dessert, and choosing cheese over chocolate every time. But a stint as a wedding magazine editor, and the regular deliveries of cupcakes that came with the job, changed all that. At 4pm without fail I would get that familiar energy slump and reach for whatever sweet treat was to hand.
Now I work mostly from home it’s easier to avoid cupcakes (although I can’t walk past Ladurée without going in for a rose petal macaroon or two) but a rummage through my fridge and kitchen cupboards reveals that my diet is still surprisingly heavy on the sugar.
My day starts with a bowl of porridge topped with honey, dried fruit and a glass of fruit juice. Honey, dried fruit and fruit juice are all on the eliminate-for-good list.
Lunch is usually a Covent Garden soup (no sugar in that, I just checked) with oatcakes (which contain palm fruit oil, hmm, sounds sugary) and cheese, liberally topped with chutney. The second ingredient listed in the chutney? Yep, you guessed it, sugar.
Midway through the afternoon I’ll have a cup of tea with a fruit and nut bar. I dread to look at the ingredients but, here goes, on top of the dried fruit, they contain sugary crisped rice, glucose syrup AND honey. Oh dear…
Dinner varies but if I go out and there’s a crumble or a cheesecake on the menu I can’t resist, although I’m happy to share. I have no idea how much sugar is in a custard-drenched crumble or fruit-topped, biscuit-based cheesecake. I’ll just assume a lot.
The one thing I’m doing right is drinking red wine, as opposed to any other alcohol, but I’m confused as to whether I should be giving up alcohol entirely anyway, or having a regular glass of red for a healthy heart and to lower my risk of cancer. I think my head might explode at this point…
So, that’s where I’m at. Although I like the sound of the benefits of giving up sugar, I’m not sure I can kiss the sweet stuff goodbye for good. Maybe I’ll start with two weeks like Sarah and see how I get on…
Have you tried giving up sugar? How hard was it? And what benefits did you see? Do share below.