Before I start…
So before I start, a word of warning…this is going to be a long post! So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and a snack! Read this post if…
- Are you struggling with brain fog, depression, bad memory, mood swings, hormone imbalance, food cravings, lethargy, tiredness, lack of concentration, weight gain? If you answered yes to even just one of these things, it could be connected to sugar (I say could, because not everything or all of these things are connected to sugar, there could be other underlying health problems at play).
- Do you have a desire to know what happens when you go off all sugar? (by all sugar I mean cane sugar, honey, coconut sugar, fructose, yeast, alcohol, sweeteners?)
- Would you like to have more energy, increased concentration span, a better memory, stabilized blood sugar levels, less addictions to certain foods and a stable weight?
If you can answer yes to any of the above questions or are simply curious, then read this post!
Just a quick disclaimer: I am not a qualified nutritionist, dietician etc, I speak purely from my own personal experience. I am not endorsing, encouraging or advocating going off all sugar or a certain way of eating, this is purely an informative post based on my own personal experience. (Also going off sugar in itself does not mean automatically that a lot of your problems will be automatically cleared up, take for example a hormonal imbalance. It is good to note that the same time I went off sugar, I also started on a hormonal treatment which one has to factor in as well as far as hormones were concerned.)
Great, now with that all out the way, let’s get started…
How it all started…
It was the year of 1942….Just kidding! I am not that old! In July 2014 I went off gluten completely. July 2015 marked a year since I had been off gluten 100%. However, it was also around this time I started to notice that I still seemed to have digestive issues. Especially bloating, abdominal discomfort and at times headaches. I also felt tired a lot of the time, I struggled to remember certain information (like people’s names. )
So it was in July 2015 that I went to an endocrinologist. An Endocrinologist is someone who treats hormonal imbalances, and other problems with your endocrine glands. Endocrine glands include the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, ovaries or testicles, hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
I had a feeling that it was m hormones at fault. The short end of it is that she put me on a sugar-free diet for 3 months.
the first two weeks
Okay so let me clear up what “sugar free” entails. When I say “sugar-free” besides actual sugar, it includes certain fruit and vegetables, alcohol, high starches like white potatoes, white rice, gluten free or normal oats, mushrooms, yeast, processed foods. Most packaged foods (hidden sugars) and raisins. Sugar Free includes no cane sugar, no honey, no coconut sugar, no syrup, glucose, dextrose, maltose, mannitol, sorbitol, sucrose, corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup and any artificial sweeteners.
Looking back at my food diary, I can tell you that the first two weeks I suffered a lot from headaches, lethargy as well as irritation. I have always had a sweet tooth and never bothered to stay away from sugar itself. If I wanted chocolate, I ate it. I had coffee and tea throughout the day with two teaspoons of sugar in each cup!
Sugar addiction is a real thing. The more eat, the more your body craves it. Eating sugar releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine which makes you feel good. When the dopamine effect wears off, you start to feel cranky and your brain sends a signal (the craving) for more “feel good foods” (the ones with sugar). Over time, as this behavior is repeated, your brain adjusts to less dopamine and the only way to feel the same “high” is to increase the amount and frequency. (which is what substance abuse is all about)
Eating sugar reinforces these neruo pathways, even thought the effects such as headaches, weight gain etc indicate that this isn’t good. Which is why it can be termed an addiction as exactly the same process happens when taking recreational drugs like cocaine.
Even a diet high in fructose, like the natural sugars found in fruit can be detrimental to your health. High amounts of Fructose consumption can cause a resistance to leptin (the hormone that regulates hunger and tells you when to stop eating) This is called leptin resistance.
We are getting off track here though! So yes, the first two weeks I had some bad side effects.
week 3 to week 6
After the initial two weeks of going off sugar, I started to feel more energetic. Less irritable, and the weirdest thing for me was that I started to like the taste of foods I had always disliked before, like celery and olives. Food tasted clean. However I was extremely hungry all the time!!
I learned to drink coffee and tea with no sugar at all and this habit has stuck with me. So much so, that none of us in my immediate family take sugar in our hot beverages. We have a standard joke in our house that if I buy 1kg of sugar a year it is a lot! (of course now that I run a bakery, that isn’t the case, but that sugar is only used for the bakery!)
What I did to counter the hunger was to eat smaller portions throughout the day, rather than 3 main meals. I also ate healthy food as close to nature as possible. I ate salads, fruit low in fructose, sweet potatoes, avocados-foods rich in protein, healthy fats and healthy carbs to curb the hunger.
I also lost a lot of weight, my skin looked better and over all I felt and looked better.
3 months and beyond
I stuck out the 3 months of completely sugar-free and loved how I felt so much, that I pretty much stuck to it after that. I did have times where I allowed myself sugar or went on it again but each time I did, I felt terrible again and then would go off it for the most part again. Since 2016 , 4 years ago now, my view of sugar has changed my life in so many ways.
what going off sugar did for me
- Going off sugar showed me just how addictive sugar is, you only know the effect it has on you when you are not consuming it anymore.
- I developed a new respect for food in general, reading labels to find hidden sugar brought to my attention how much sugar is packed into processed, packaged and prepared foods.
- When you have to go off all sugar, you need to start with the basics of food again, preparing and making food from scratch.
- I learned how to make simple things that normally one just buys from the shop: mayo, salad dressing, tomato sauce, lemon curd, and much more.
- I started to do a lot more research on sugar options and alternatives and educated myself.
- I experimented a lot with alternatives especially in baking and developed a lot of my own recipes.
- Food tasted different, better, distinctive.
- I lost weight and felt better in general with more energy, more concentration, a clearer mind.
- My hormones balanced and my brain fog, depression and memory improved.
Maybe this will benefit someone else which is why I have shared it. Sugar consumed in high amounts, whether natural or not, can have detrimental effects. However, I have also learned that sugar in small amounts and on an infrequent basis is fine. The key is Balance and moderation. I encourage you to do your own research and if you do try going off sugar, do it for at least two weeks. Studies have shown that takes just 10 days to break the sugar addiction cycle. Please also note that going off sugar, while initially hard to adjust to, is a rewarding lifestyle change that will benefit you in many ways such as stabilizing weight, blood sugar levels and much more!
For more information on sugars, alternative options please see this post of mine.
If you are looking for sugar free healthy options, I do offer such in my bakery. Delicious tarts and dessert cups as well as sugar free or healthier sugar alternative cakes. You can see my menu for more information.