Want more energy, better skin and to feel less sluggish? You'll have to pay the ultimate price... banishing sugar from your life. Amanda Cassidy broke up with the sweet stuff recently but says it wasn't easy.
I can sniff out chocolate from an impressive distance, a skill I'm sure I picked up after a childhood crammed with KitKats and Unite bars in my lunchbox every day (before parents realised how bad sugar really is for kids).
The cake-sale at school is my all-time favourite of the volunteering slots, two hours of indulging tiny corners of brownies, marshmallow-filled gooeyness and rice-krispy bun therapy.
In short, I'm a sugar-craving, sweet-toothed, candy-coated obsessive over anything that falls under the umbrella of treats or sweets.
But it is hard not to be, in a world where sugar features in almost every product we consume. Passing on the chocolate with my coffee in Butler's was unthinkable. But breaking up with this sweet thing was important.
While a little sugar in your life is no harm, we have progressed to a situation where we are bombarding our bodies with too much of the stuff and it is having a big and negative impact on our health.
I began researching my motivation: 'Research suggests that slashing your sugar intake can help lessen sagging and other visible signs of aging' I read.
'Sugary fare spikes your blood sugar, triggering a flood of insulin through your body, which over time encourages fat to accumulate around your middle'.
Or scariest...'a diet with lots of fast-digesting carbohydrates, like sugar, requires the pancreas to release lots of insulin, meal after meal, day after day. That excessive demand may overtax insulin-producing cells, causing them to malfunction, eventually leading to diabetes.'
"All labels had to be checked, most convenience supermarket foods and condiments were out".
I also found a study that showed those who get 20% of their daily calories from sugar have a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who keep their sugar intake to just 8% or lower of their calories. In short, cutting back now will pay off big-time when I'm older.
But knowing it is the right thing to do and actually doing it are two different things.
Firstly, it isn't at all convenient. All labels had to be checked, most convenience supermarket foods and condiments were out.
Desserts, sugary drinks and most types of alcohol were to be avoided (as much as possible, but let's not go completely nuts). The first week was definitely the hardest and most sobering (in all sense of the word) to realise how much I'd been dependent on the white stuff. I had a headache for two days straight, didn't sleep right and was pretty irritable.
My best friend, the banana
I tried not to substitute my regular treats for sugar-free versions as I thought I'd become bored and eventually sneak back to the regular sweet treats. Instead, I tried to recalibrate my day and therefore my lifestyle.
Breaking the habit of a chocolate bar with my tea was the hardest. It was so ingrained in my daily habits. But slowly I started to enjoy the black and white nature of ruling things in or out accordingly. Out for dinner, I'd opt for a smaller meal and go for the cheese board instead.
People's reactions were particular. Some looked aghast when I mentioned it finding it hard to imagine a world without chocolate or muffins so for the most part I keep it to myself. Joining groups or forums where other people are in the same boat is useful - it also provides a wealth of knowledge I would have found difficult on my own.
I'm now a month in and while it is still hard to avoid sugar in a sugarful world, being liberated from the craving cycle is refreshing. My healthy habits mean my children now also consume a lot less of the sweet stuff too. It is back to being reserved for treats only, in the true sense of the word.
It is still a struggle to discover what sugar is or isn't in. Sauces, pizza bases, mustard, soup. I'd been focusing so hard on not eating the cakes and the chocolates that I forgot it is really lurking everywhere.
My good intentions may not last but already I can feel the health benefits. My skin is clearer, I've shifted those few extra pounds I couldn't shake before, and feel sharper than I've felt in a very long time.
Of course, this isn't for everyone, but when you really drill down into the damage sugar is doing to our bodies, it is hard not to do something, anything, to reduce our intake, even by a little.
Image via Unsplash.com
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