Monday, January 08, 2007

Giving up sugar: two weeks on

In case anyone is interested, I thought I'd post about the effects I have noticed so far, two weeks after I gave up sugar.

Background:

In an attempt to stop eating 98 metric shitloads of sugar and sugar-infested cake and biscuits every day, I decided to give it up entirely for one month, and then gradually bring it back in small quantities. The rules are that I don't eat anything that exists primarily for the purpose of oozing happy gooey sweetness at me (e.g. desserts, chocolate, jams, cake, sticky drinks, honey), nor anything that according to the ingredients list is more than 7 or 8 % sugar. I'm not doing anything crazy like cutting out fruit or alcohol, though.

I have stuck to these rules almost 100%, with one relapse on New Year's Eve (when I was tempted beyond my limits with chocolate-dipped strawberries and marzipan).

What I've noticed:

  1. The first few days were easy. Probably because I started the day after the sugary sinfest that is Christmas. At that point I never wanted to see a dessert again, which might have had something to do with the origins of this experiment. About four days in I had a few cravings, but since then it hasn't really been a problem. It's been WAY easier to go cold-turkey on sugar like this than it ever has been when I've just tried to cut down on it a little in the past.
  2. I am hungry all the freaking time. Not hungry as in "I could do with a chocolate biscuit right now," or "Mmm.... doughnuts", but "My stomach is eating itself from the inside, I'm so hungry. Can I have a four course meal now, please?"
  3. I am eating all the freaking time. Presumably a consequence of the previous point. But it turns out that my personal "what I like to eat" list goes something like this: Sugar, fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, dairy products, chicken, savoury junk food. So take the sugar away, and suddenly I am eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruit and veges without even trying. This means I've been snacking mostly on fruit, pieces of pumpernickel bread with herring, tuna on crackers, and yoghurt. And eating gigantic meals full of vegetables at least four times a day. All of this tastes much better (and the fruit much sweeter) than it usually does. This might just be because I am hungry, or it might be that I'm no longer tasting things through a filter of comparison with the chocolate bar or slice of cheesecake I just ate.
  4. And I am losing weight. This is actually a little disturbing, since it wasn't my intention, and I don't need to lose any (although for the time being it won't hurt, either). But I've lost at least two kilos* in the last two weeks, which made me suspect that despite eating 98 million times a day, I might not be eating enough (which would explain why I'm always hungry). So for the last few days I wrote down everything I ate and worked out the calories. It turns out I'm only eating around 7000 kilojoules (approx. 1700 calories).
  5. Have resolved to eat more cheese.
  6. I've spent the whole two weeks feeling mentally foggy, tired and irritable. To be fair, though, this could equally well be due to all the drinking I did over Christmas/New Year, the fact that I'm not eating enough in general, or it could be an attempt by my brain to get out of dissertation writing ("I'm not smart enough! Don't make me do this! Let's go back to bed, okay?")
  7. I'm getting educated about (and horrified by) the contents of the foods I usually buy at the supermarket. Even some of the yoghurts I (used to) buy are over 20% sugar! And as for muesli bars and breakfast cereals, I'm not sure I want to eat them again even after I stop this experiment, now that I've read the labels. Even bread, frozen meals, pre-made sauces and (weirdest of all) some types of potato-based crisps are way higher in sugar than I expected.
Anyway, my experience so far has been a lot less difficult than I expected, and has probably done me some good. I would certainly recommend the experiment to anyone who is looking to lose weight, since that seems to be happening without me even trying, and I am still eating what feels like mountains of food.

________

* For the metrically challenged among you, this is around 4 1/2 pounds. Or 8.934 imperial wombles.

19 Comments:

paideia said...

good luck with the continuing sugar-avoidance... I was inspired to do the same but have fallen prey to the muffins in the library coffee shop...

you're right, though, that food tastes better when not tasted through a sugar haze (I was off sugar for a month last summer and it was amazing)... and that there are staggering amounts of it in a lot of products (esp flavored..well, anything, but especially yogurt)...

My brain agrees with your brain about the dissertation-writing :-)

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, paideia. I'm not a huge fan of muffins, so those aren't likely to be my downfall. I nearly faltered at our dept's afternoon tea yesterday, though, since it's really hard to sit for half an hour in front of a plate of biscuits which other people are eating, drink tea, and not automatically pick up something to munch on as well.

But I did it!

Sarah said...

May I ask why you decided to do it? I'm tempted to give it a go for a while just to improve the overall quality of my diet, but I'm curious as to what the rationale behind your decision was. Most of the people I've read or heard about giving up sugar have had pretty misguided reasons for doing so (even though there are plenty of good ones!).

StyleyGeek said...

Hi Sarah,

My main reason is that I like to be able to control what I eat. With the sugar it was getting to the point that I was ALWAYS craving something sweet, and eating desserts, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, etc four or five times a day. Also when I got started on a packet of biscuits or chocolate bar, I could never stop until I had finished the whole thing. And then my digestive system would tell me off about it for hours.

A couple of times I tried to just cut down, i.e. limit myself to e.g. one dessert a day, but I found that once I started that one thing, I would either be miserable for the rest of the day, craving more, or I would give in and eat more sugar.

So I figured that if I went cold turkey on it for a month or so, that might (a) kill the cravings if they had a physiological basis and (b) prove to myself that I had some self-control, if it was just psychological. Either way, I'm hoping that when I start eating desserts again, I'll be able to stop after a small portion.

LaKisha said...

I just had a craving for a chocolate banana so, since I can't dip a banana in chocolate at my house, I ate a banana and a chocolate bar together. I noticed though that the banana didn't taste quite so sweet, and in fact, began tasting like nothing. The chocolate though, tasted quite nice.

Stacy said...

I recently gave up sugar in my diet too (with a short binge though the holidays that I regret) but more because of health issues. I was not overweight before, but I've suddenly lost a lot of weight because I cut out table sugar, high sugar content foods, (And yogurt! WHO KNEW!) honey, syrup, and high sugar alcohol.

Food DOES taste better! Fruit and vegetables especially. Like you, I used to eat and drink a lot of sugar, but my stomach just can't process it like it used to.

The lack of instant sugar buzz in the morning is a drag... stopped drinking coffee, started drinking green tea with stevia as the sugar substitute. And I never realized how many of my favorite foods are loaded with sugars.

I chew sugarfree gum and drink a lot of water to stave off cravings for sugary snacks. But my skin is healthier, I feel more energetic... I think cutting sugar is one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

Enjoyed your blog!

H. said...

Dear StyleyGeek,

I gave up sugar once; it was the worst twenty minutes of my life. I am now trying to restrict myself to two sugary, sugar-coated pieces of sugar per day although I fully intend to go cold turkey as soon as cold turkey starts tasting like white chocolate.

Good luck with your battle against the sweet stuff.

Yours in admiration

Anonymous said...

Good luck!
I recently stopped smoking and of course am eating absolutely everything in the house! A little coffee with my cup of sugar... all day long. Can my family survive more withdrawals if I give up sugar too?

Anonymous said...

I stopped eating sugar 8 days ago and I feel great! I've already lost over 5 lbs. and my skin is looking excellent! I am 47 yrs. old and had given up hope of being able to lose weight. I wish I had given up sugar 10 yrs. ago! It gets easier after the first 3 days but you still have to battle the psychological pulls to have something sweet at certain times of the day. No different than quitting smoking over 20 yrs. ago.
I highly recommend giving up sugar! It will change your life. You will feel better, younger and happier than you could ever believe possible.

anonymous said...

I have now given up sugar for "almost" 4 years and have totally given up caffeine for 8 years. I say "almost" because there are times I eat sugar unknowingly and regret. I usually eat home-cooked food, seldom eat out and am very careful about reading labels... I avoid anything that contains sugar, aspartame, sucralose, maltodextrin, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup and pasteurized fruit juice, etc. There was a time when I could tolerate honey and gur (molasses) but I'm not able to tolerate that any more.

Why give up caffeine and sugar? Because it makes me a better person. I have more energy, can concentrate on the "present", have no mood swings and am very enthusiastic about life in general.
I like to wake up in the morning full of energy and not have to depend on my cup of joe or hot chocolate to wake me up. I strongly believe that sugar (and caffeine) is not good for anybody and is as addictive as drugs. The sooner we give up sugar, the better our life is going to be.

I strongly encourage you to give up sugar and stick with it. It's a lot of hard work initially but you will be amply rewarded at the end.

tarmale said...

Hi, I a woman in my 30's and have been a sugar addict my whole life. I have given up smoking, drinking, meat and a lot of other things but I hesitate with the sugar because it's hell the first few days and never got past that.
Can you offer me any advice because as of right now and for at least a month I'm giving it up.
Thank you!

StyleyGeek said...

My main suggestion is just to really do it cold-turkey. Give up ALL sugar, not just sugary snacks, but also sugar in your coffee, any processed foods high in sugar (check labels: I avoided anything that was more than 5% sugar, including yoghurts and cereals). But continue to eat fruit. In a couple of days, you should find that the fruit is sweet enough in comparison to the rest of your meals to give you a bit of a buzz when you need it.

And if you promise to yourself only to do it for a month, you can survive the first week or so by imagining all the yummy treats you'll have after the month is over.

choco said...

Good luck,
I have always been a sugar addict, I suffer from bad IBS which is made a millon times worse with my high sugar diet. Last year I gave up sugar for three months and i cannot stress how amazingly i felt, truly like a different person with s natural high. I still went back though the physical cravings go its the mental one that last.
One tip though - water - the more you drink the less cravings your have and if you have a sugar binge water helps you to feel better.

Anonymous said...

About three years ago, two of my girlfriends and I decided to give up sugar for three months. Since then, L's kept a strict "only for special occassions" taboo, H watches what she eats, indulges now and again when her bf dumps her, but gets back on track after a pint or two, and I.... have utterly returned to my former ways.

Honestly, all I remember about the time was how hard it was at first, and how I spit out the first brownie I tasted when the three months were up. But that revulsion quickly passed. :D

Now, I'm gonna go again. I'm married, and out of my parent's house (and therefore much more in control of my diet), and the cravings have really been bothering me lately.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you: I know how hard giving up sugar can be. I've been a sugar addict for most of my life, and have been trying to be sugar abstinent for the last 10. Last winter, I finally achieved my peace with sugar when I accepted the fact that I can't eat sugar. Ever. It makes me depressed, turns me into witch Mommy, makes me overeat, plays havoc with my emotions, and causes endless pain and misery. It became a choice of sugar, or my life.

I would greatly recommend checking out Kathleen des Maisons work at radiantrecovery.com, as well as Connie Bennett's book Sugar Shock (www.sugarshock.com.)

I've written about kicking my sugar habit at my blog, First Ourselves, http://www.firstourselves.com/first_ourselves/2007/10/kick-your-sugar.html, as well as on Connie's blog (http://www.sugarshockblog.com/2007/08/kick-sugar-suce.html)

The thing about sugar detox: it sucks. You feel terrible, bitchy, moody, weepy, depressed, irritable, starving, like you will die if you don't eat sugar. But those feelings pass. You will reach a day when you don't crave sugar, when your moods and weight are stable: I promise.

Good luck to you,
Karly

Anonymous said...

I am also a sugar addict. I gave it up once for 46 days and felt great, but what I found was that I turned to chips and tortillas which I don't normally snack on, instead of sugary things. It's a tough road but I'm ready to get back on again after reading everyone's experiences.

I have a love/hate relationship with sugar. The addiction keeps drawing me in even though I don't feel good and it doesn't taste good. I'm going to try cold turkey tomorrow and go one day at a time like I did last time.

Wish me luck!! I'm going to need it.

sav75 said...

I have not given up sugar for 1 WEEK!!! And I am dying!!! My head is in a fog, im losing my temper at little things, and I always HUNGRY!!! why!!! I gave it up because I recognize that is very important for my health...im taking it one day at a time. Does it get easier? Why am I always hungry???

Dr. sipmac said...

StyleyGeek, believe it or not, in this year (2009):

1. I gave up coffee
2. I gave up drinking coke
3. I gave up smoking
4. I gave up soda

And now I'm giving up sugar. Now I know how you felt.

epi said...

I gave up sugar too because of that 'Sugar: the bitter truth' video on youtube. My skin is more moist and I feel better. But after a month I'm not losing weight anymore, maybe even gaining 1 pound. I still have milk, whole fruit, peanut butter, and unsweetened chocolate (tastes like black coffee). How do you figure out the sugar percentage in food?