Last week I promised a blog post to more fully explain the reasons I want to give up sugar and my difficulties with doing so. This is that post. But before I start it might be worth updating how my first week has gone.
The answer is not so well. Awful, in fact.
So bad that I’m eating a biscuit as I’m writing this post. Kind of ironic to be munching on a sugary treat while I write about how I’ve got on with giving up sugar. The truth is that I haven’t really started yet. Stating an intention publicly would usually give me at least a day or so’s motivation to try and do what I’ve said I would or wouldn’t do. But this time I never even got off the ground. On Friday after writing the last post I decided to finish off some of the sugary things in the house and then start the following day, then that became after the weekend, and then somewhere in the middle of the week I realised this just wasn’t working at all.
At this point it’s probably worth going back to why I wanted to do this in the first place. First and foremost it’s about my health. I’m not the healthiest eater and I definitely need to lose weight, but ‘dieting’ is not something I engage with at all, knowing from bitter experience that it’s the quickest way to put on weight. I’ve been told countless times not to think of it as a diet. Make it a lifestyle change they say. Just start to eat more healthily they advise.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s all bollocks and doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t just make little changes, and my willpower could never stand up to big changes. Sooner or later I always ended up back where I started, and usually heavier too.
Around the beginning of 2017 I started to notice more and more blog posts and articles and videos about giving up sugar. My initial reaction was that was something I would never be able to do, and for a while I ignored it. But it also coincided with a part of me that felt that it was time to address my weight problem, and so I watched a few of the videos and I read a few more of the articles, then one day I was listening to the radio and I heard an interview with Paul McKenna. I remember Paul McKenna from the days when he used to hypnotise people on TV in the 90s but I was also vaguely aware that he’d written some books on losing weight through hypnosis too. But in this interview he was talking solely about sugar, and he was pretty passionate about it too. Feeling that this was the sign I was looking for, I immediately went on Amazon and ordered his book Get Control of Sugar Now! I read it in a few hours, and was honestly shocked. OK, so I know that too much sugar isn’t good for me, but the amount of subterfuge that seems to have gone on within the food industry to hide information about what sugar is, and more worryingly what it is in, was truly shocking. Of course I recognise that chocolate cake is not a health food, but I was surprised that fruit juices and smoothies (yes, all of them) are not anywhere near as healthy and natural as brands would have us believe.
The most important thing for me however was learning just how addictive sugar is. My relationship with food has never been healthy, but I’d not really considered that my inability to make lasting changes was down to an addiction problem. After reading about how food companies actually use sugar precisely because of its addictive attributes, I realise that my uphill battle with food might not be entirely in my own head. Or rather, it is in my head, but cutting out sugar might well be the missing piece of the jigsaw.
Anyway, I’m not going to regurgitate and paraphrase all of Paul McKenna’s work – suffice to say I learned a lot, and if you’re interested I definitely recommend his book. After reading it I listened to the mind reprogramming track on the CD and can honestly say I didn’t (knowingly) eat sugar again for around 4 months. His CD includes several different techniques to stop you reaching for that cake, but I didn’t need any of them. My body and mind just did not fancy anything sugary. Totally uninterested. For someone who could happily binge eat a big Dairy Milk and then look for dessert, I felt like a completely different person – immediately. During the first week I lost 10 lbs doing nothing other than cutting out sugar. After that the weight loss slowed but I still easily lost 2 or 3 lbs every week even though I’d made no other changes to my diet and was still on occasion eating crisps and pizza and other crap (ok, ok, probably quite a few occasions).
So, for 4 months I enjoyed the health benefits of not eating sugar. I say not eating sugar. I actually couldn’t avoid it completely – it’s surprisingly difficult to do unless you cook everything from scratch, and I haven’t quite got to that level of domestic goddess yet. But I carefully chose any convenience food to be very low in sugar (e.g. 1 or 2 grams per 100g) and I simply avoided things I was doubtful of (you wouldn’t believe how much sugar is in a Starbucks/Costa latte).
The benefits were amazing. Apart from the steady weight loss I could taste what I was eating better. Seriously, I could clearly notice that food I was familiar with actually tasted different. I had more energy. And I’m really noticing this now after allowing myself to go back on the sugar: I feel lethargic and am taking daytime naps. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good daytime nap, but I didn’t need it before and I do now, and I’m pretty sure it’s down to the sugar.
Anyway, I’m not trying to evangelise here. It’s up to you whether you want to give up sugar or not. I’m just working through my own shit really. Because despite everything good I was getting out of it, around 5 weeks ago I suddenly fell off the wagon. I’d been to Legoland for the weekend with the kids; we’d had a great time, I’d avoided ice creams and desserts and didn’t find it overly difficult. But the day after we got back I suddenly decided to have a cake of some sort. I don’t even remember exactly what kind of cake it was. But I do remember that that evening after the kids had gone to bed I binged on a whole load off sweet stuff. And the same the next day. Ice lollies here, biscuits there – all the stuff I had gotten into the habit of just ignoring or declining, I was saying go on then, just a little piece. And hence why I come to be sat on this friday afternoon, writing a blog post accompanied by a (still sugarless) cup of coffee and a packet of biscuits.
Writing all this out has helped me to remember why I gave up sugar before and what benefits I got out of it. Hopefully this will be the shove I need. I’m going to go and listen to the Paul McKenna CD right now and give this whole giving up sugar thing another whirl.
So, on Day #8 of my first Exploration, I may finally get started….
P.S. Finding time and space to write can be challenging, but finding time and space to *think* about what you’re going to write is the far greater challenge.
Thinking Time is my regular(ish) letter about productivity, positivity, and (ugh) procrastination, and is dedicated to writers and students who want to get more (thoughtful) writing done.