I started my sugar free journey 6 months ago. It’s gone super quick.
I was sat at work during the usual 3pm energy slump on 24th January 2017 and was really struggling to get through the last 2 hours of work. I’d already eaten my mid-afternoon chocolate bar, but still had a can of Appletiser in front of me – I actually thought this was the healthy option. Hah! After one sip, my mouth was coated in a sickly sweet syrup; the type that makes you go “tak tak”.
I started reading the information on the can: “100% Apple Juice, Gently Sparkling, No Preservatives” and “Of which sugars: 34.7g”
34.7 grams of sugar!! That’s 10 grams more than the maximum recommended by the WHO (World Health Organisation, not the band, unfortunately) – I googled this figure, I didn’t already know that.
I found loads of articles and websites about the side effects of too much sugar. I found a website called I Quit Sugar (iquitsugar.com) set up by an Australian women called Sarah Wilson and read through all the blog posts and tips on how to quit sugar completely.
25th January 2017, I gave up sugar, completely.
No sugar, no syrups, no sweeteners, no honey, no dextrose, no glucose, no maltodextrin, no ethyl maltol; did you know there’s more than 50 different names for sugar? I didn’t. The most difficult one, though, is fructose. It’s apparently one of the most damaging kinds, but when it’s encased in whole pieces of fruit, the body can process it nice and slowly. When it’s in juice or white sugar form, for example, the body tries to process it all too quickly, because there’s no fibre to slow it down, and ends up storing most of it as fat while creating extra insulin.
I learned all this off of the internet!! I was still a little dubious, of course.
I decided to try it for just 2 weeks, just to see if I felt any difference.
2 weeks later, it was the start of “Sugar-Free February”, and I thought another month couldn’t hurt. I’d already noticed a few changes:
- my weight had dropped by a couple of kilos
- my feet were strangely soft around the heels (I had been suffering from cracked heels over winter)
- my skin was still not perfect but there were fewer spotty bits
Another 2 weeks into the “experiment” and my skin had completely cleared up – only after it got much much worse for a week where I nearly gave up.
Now, the biggest thing that got me through the withdrawal symptoms and the times when my will power wanted me to admit defeat, was watching health food documentaries. Fed Up was my favourite sugar-related one, with That Sugar Film coming a close second. From those I ended up watching Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, Cowspiracy, eventually Earthlings (aka The Vegan Maker), and most recently, What The Health. It was a small step to go from sugar-free into veganism, really.
Going sugar-free had already meant that I was cooking a lot of my own food to avoid the hidden sugars in processed foods, and I was getting a weekly veg box from Abel and Cole. I started trying the various vegan substitutes for milk, butter, and cheese, and I had to admit, they weren’t as terrible as I’d expected.
I was a big dairy advocate in my pre-vegan days, always opting for the full-fat, organic versions. I would put butter on absolutely everything, then top it with cheese, and wash it down with a big glass of milk. I started to enjoy my tea more with unsweetened soya milk than I had with cow’s milk (I switched them occasionally at the start). I love the Oatly milks in coffee; the flavours mix perfectly. I found an avocado oil spread in Waitrose that is an excellent butter replacement on toast. The Vio-Life cheddar slices taste great on toast with the avocado oil spread and some Marmite – now my go to snack of choice when I get home from work.
Giving up meat was easy, though. I went, fleetingly, fully vegetarian after watching a documentary on factory farming when I was 14, and was a poultritarian/chickitarian (only ate chicken) for about 10 years after that. But for the last 8 or so years, I’ve been eating pretty much everything, while making snide judgements about people who didn’t (I’m a total hypocrite).
What is not easy about going vegan, is the digestion. I ended up googling my symptoms after some particularly bad moments near the beginning of my veganism to see if it was normal to (warning: graphic description) poo like a Mr Whippy ice cream machine. Apparently, it is mostly expected, and is the body getting rid of all the animal proteins. The more you ate, the worse the release. Great.
One month in, pretty much normal again.
Read my next blog post to find out my reasons for going and (hopefully) staying a sugar-free vegan…