How to cease sugar this year: ‘It’s a lifestyle change , not a diet’
Week four is when most people experience a accident, and mine is monumental. But by week six, Ive come through the other side
Its Monday night, and Im clutching an eight-pack of mini Kelloggs cereals in the queue of my local corner shop, hoping I dont see anyone I know. This is the next best thing to the full box of Coco Pops Ive been craving all day.
Call it a regression to the simpler snap, crackling and pop of children, but theres refuge in a bowl of something sweet and crunchy, topped with ice-cold milk. And during a particularly trying few months( Im about to get married, my mothers been diagnosed with cancer ), it has become a welcome part of my evening routine.
From the World Health Organisation halving its recommended daily sugar uptake from 10 teaspoons( about 40 g) to five in 2014, to the UK governments plans for a tax on sugary soft drink in 2018, weve all had the memoranda: sugar is evil. But me? Im a healthy eater. I juice in the mornings; I count my five a day. I keep a heap of snacks on my desk that have wholesome words written on them such as raw, natural and nutritious.
Yet I dont feel so smug when Im wolfing down a bowl of chocolate-flavoured puffed rice, scarcely through the door, coat still on. I feel tired and grumpy. Ive not been paying much attention to my diet lately; I just know that my moods are all over the place and my tummy is often bloated. Later that night, I log what Ive eaten into the nutritional app, My Fitness Pal. A typical day green juice and porridge for breakfast; baked potato for lunch; chicken, brown rice and salad for dinner; plus two pieces of fruit as snacks comes in at a whopping 47 g of sugar. Im shocked.
Can I actually cut out sugar completely, and is there any phase? I sign up for an eight-week online programme, I Quit Sugar, created by a glowing, sparky Australian journalist called Sarah Wilson. Shes no nutritionist: she quitted sugar as an experiment, and saw it so beneficial that she created a step-by-step program. One and a half million people have since signed up.
Every Thursday, I am sent a shopping list and a snack plan for the week ahead. On Sunday, Ill prepare in advance and freeze what I can, aka The Cook Off. Theres its further consideration forum on the site, as well as experts, including doctors, nutritionists and personal trainers, available to answer queries. Its a lifestyle change rather than a diet, the idea being that if you switch your palate to savoury, and replace sugar with fat, youll eventually stop craving anything sweet. Follow the plan, and you cut down in week one, run cold turkey between weeks two and five, and gradually reintroduce a little bit of sweetness between weeks six and eight.
I feel overloaded by info. First, what am I actually giving up? When I talk about discontinuing sugar, Im talking about quitting fructose, Wilson tells me. Fructose is the adversary. Its added sugar hidden in processed foods such as fruit juice, ketchup and bread. Its addictive, builds us eat more and stores itself in the liver, inducing it harder to break down than fat.
To set this into context, full-fat yoghurt naturally contains around a teaspoon of sugar( 4g ), whereas fat-free fruit yoghurt contains around six teaspoons. Our bodies are designed to metabolise the fructose equivalent of two small pieces of fruit a day. A small bottle of apple juice contains nine teaspoons.
I approach week one impression motivated( cleaning out every last raisin from the kitchen ), until the prospect of cooking a batch of curried parsnip fritters followed by apple bircher muffins( and thats just on the first Sunday) pushes me over the edge. I fire off a panicky email to the I Discontinue Sugar site to explain this isnt for me.
Theyre clearly used to sugar-free slackers; I get a friendly email reminding me that all I genuinely need to remember is the slogan Jerf: Merely Eat Real Food. You will be completely penalty if you eat an abundance of fresh render, meats, dairy and fats. If it comes in a packet, try and avoid it. If you cant, opt for the ones with the least number of ingredients, and always less than 5g of sugar per 100 g. The complicated-looking dinner plans are actually flexible, they say, and I am directed to helpful guides on the website( from an eating-out defraud sheet to a sandwich-making guide ).
Replacing sugar with fat is easier than it voices. My new breakfast is eggs and avocado, or buttery mushrooms on sourdough, while for dinner its bangers and mash or roasted chicken. I dont find it hard to replace dessert with a cheeseboard, and a glass of red wine with dinner five times a week is encouraged, because it helps digestion. But is it any healthier?
Week four is when most people experience a crash, and mine is monumental. I get really drunk on Jgerbombs( 25 g sugar per beverage) at my hen do and nurse my hangover with pizza( 7g sugar in just a single slice ). I have headaches and emotional outbursts for days. But by week six, I feel as if Ive come through the other side; Ive not only stopped having cravings, I have a savoury palate.
Im scarcely a poster girl for the programme Ive actually gained weight but this wasnt about dieting. Eight weeks on, Im in control of my cravings, I have more energy, and I cant even stomach a piece of fruit, let alone a bowl of Coco Pops. Alcohol is another story, but theres always 2018 to tackle that animal.
The I Cease Sugar programme runs every eight weeks, and costs from 89; go to iquitsugar.com for details.
Swap juice for a piece of whole fruit
Ditch processed foods and check labels: avoid anything with more than 5g sugar per 100 g
Switch to full fat foods
Read more: www.theguardian.com