Written by Joel Huggins
Sugar. That most ubiquitous of ingredients which is found in, well, pretty much anything bad for you (and even lots of things marketed as good for you!). The sugar industry is thriving and due largely to lobbyists working on behalf of many well-known multinationals, government policy when it comes to our Western diet has been hesitant to propagate the notion that sugar, and not necessarily fat, is making us fat. This is why over the last few decades the ‘anti-fat’ campaign has been so loud in the public sphere and many brands promote their low-fat alternatives, which compensate for taste by adding, that’s right – lots more sugar. Fortunately, this is starting to change and the risks associated with sugar are beginning to be communicated to the wider public.
However, the amount of sugar which is added to so many everyday foods is still really quite astonishing and unnatural. When we were cavemen, sugar was actually a valuable source of energy, and particularly useful for quick energy bursts when we needed to hunt. Our brains therefore evolved without a ‘fructose full’ switch, which was helpful when we came across the odd berry bush so we could eat as much as possible and store the sugar as fat, which we would need later as energy to hunt. We used to have to work for our sugar but not so much anymore. In fact, we can’t get away from the stuff because it’s so abundant. Having evolved without a ‘fructose full’ switch has become a huge liability! (Sarah Wilson: I Quit Sugar).
Back in July of last year, I wanted to get a little trimmer for summer and someone at work had recommended that I follow James Duigan’s two-week ‘Lean and Clean’ programme. Her husband had done it, lost a stone and ‘kept the weight off’ she assured me. I ordered the book on Amazon and stocked the fridge with all the correct ingredients for the week ahead. Whilst doing the two-week programme (which also happened to promote a low-sugar diet), I came across Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar’ book which another colleague gave me having noticed I was following a low-sugar programme. Sarah Wilson had started the IQS (I quit sugar) mission as an experiment, realised how much better it made her feel and so followed up her original book with the next edition…’I Quit Sugar…For Life’. I have to add, when I say sugar I mean fructose in all its forms: cake, biscuits, chocolate, white bread, the stuff in tea and coffee, and even most fruits.
My original two week-programme therefore mutated into Sarah’s philosophy which I found more accessible, more realistic and a more interesting read. After the two weeks, I weighed myself, and sure enough I had lost just over a stone. Great! However, it wasn’t to last as a matter of days later I was off on holiday and unsurprisingly the weight crept back on. December rolled around and after months of neglecting my original two-week programme I decided to try the whole thing again come January 1st, which paired with Dry Jan, I thought would be a winning combo.
Studies say it takes between 21 – 66 days to change a habit. As I write this, we are now on day 21 so I am hoping that I fall into the former of those two numbers and today is the big day that my sugar habit has been kicked…for good!
Going forward I aim to maintain a sugar-free diet. That said, it is impossible to eliminate all sugar completely because not only does our body need some now and again, it is found in a lot, a lot of food. Combining no alcohol and no sugar in one month has actually made it easier. It is as if doing one healthy thing spurs me to do another in an almost chain-like reaction. No sugar and no alcohol has meant fewer excuses not to go to the gym and fewer excuses not to cycle to work on a Monday. Before, I wouldn’t get on my bike to work until possibly a Tuesday or Wednesday because my body would still be feeling fuzzy and my mind groggy from the weekend’s excesses.
It’s so refreshing not to be feeling the usual Sunday anxiety, which sets me up much better for the week ahead. The mental benefits to a low-sugar diet are becoming increasingly obvious to me. Continuing with a limited-sugar diet will mean I feel healthier, better about myself, my skin will be clearer and I will hopefully continue to lose weight, albeit at a steady and healthy rate.
Something that I have to bear in mind as January comes to an end, and my calendar is once again starting to fill up with social events, is my commitment to the sugar-free mission. Once I start drinking socially again, I have to stick with it. It’s those hungover Sundays when it’s going to be easiest to nip to the shop and get myself the odd Twix or extra-large bar of Dairy Milk. Remembering these first 21 days in which I’ve been ‘Growing Happy’ should help me commit, and even as dry Jan comes to an end, the IQS mission will not.
Why not try and kick sugar for an initial two weeks and see how it makes you feel!
If you want to find out more about the IQS philosophy, then click here.