Recently I discovered that sugar is not my friend. For me this is a sad and sorry realisation. For a long time sugar was my sole vice and what I turned to for comfort. Years of pregnancies and breastfeeding denied me booze, cigs and coffee but there was always the knowledge that I could relax with a cup of tea and a slice of cake (or two, or three…) when I needed a break from the relentlessness of dealing with no sleep and small children. The thought of quitting sugar would never even have crossed my mind and I’d probably have laughed at you if you had suggested it.
At the end of last year after seeing a particularly awful photograph of myself I decided that I needed to do something about my diet. I eat quite well most of the time but I had the serious problem of eating far too much sugar.
There was the obvious problem of sugary snacks (it is too easy to sit down with a biscuit and a cuppa or more likely a giant bar of chocolate after dinner!) but sugar is a sneaky bugger and I realised that I was having sugar at nearly every meal without thinking much about it. I don’t eat a lot of pre-prepared food but I noticed my intake of things like jam, ketchup and maple syrup had increased so I decided on quitting sugar or at least that I was going to try to cut down on the added sugar in my diet in an effort to do something about my ever increasing waistline…
I’ll not say it was easy but it was effective.
For a week or so I was pretty much insufferable as I cut the obvious added sugar out of my diet but after the same amount of time I noticed that I was a lot less bloated, my clothes felt a bit looser and it wasn’t too long before I started to lose my taste for a lot of the excessively sweet stuff I had been eating before. Unfortunately then Christmas happened. I didn’t return to normal straight away but a lot of sugary food made its way into my house and it felt far too wasteful to throw it out so of course I had to eat it and then it was a slippery slope. I didn’t return to munching just as much sweet stuff as I had but I did spend a lot of January snacking!
I did notice an unpleasant side effect of eating sugar again – I have a patch of horrible skin on one of my hands. The doctors have never put a definite name to it but it’s some kind of dermatitis/psoriasis/eczema thing and it didn’t matter what creams I tried nothing gave me much relief. My skin cracks and peels and I end up with painful hacks. It takes all the pleasure out of doing any of the crafty things I love when my hand is constantly sore and chapped. When I went off sugar my hand started to clear up and for the first time in years I had a bit of relief. It never occurred to me that sugar might have been the culprit until after Christmas and the return to my sugar consuming ways. My hand got worse than I could ever remember it being before. Cue another trip to the doctor to see if there was anything that they could give me and the realisation that perhaps eating too much sugar was in some way related to my skin.
Finally the doctor prescribed an amazing emollient cream that gave me some help but at the same time I quit sugar again. After about a week or so of using this cream and quitting sugar my hand looked like there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Now you would expect that to be enough evidence to cause me to quit sugar for good but I’m not sure I explained the extent of my addiction to the white stuff! I had myself convinced that really it was the cream doing all the work and it wasn’t really the sugar so when Easter rolled around with all the associated chocolate I relapsed again. Easter managed to be a bit easier to manage as I only spent a couple of days of munching sugary treats (I’ll admit there was quite a bit of sugary Prosecco too!). Even then I pigged out a lot less than I would have done before but my hand got bad AGAIN. Sore, cracked and peeling fingers within 24 hours of pigging out on sugar.
So finally I’m convinced.
For the good of my hands (and my health) I need to stay away from sugar. Or I need to seriously limit my intake. I’ve been still drinking a bit while I’ve been off sugar. I love red wine and couldn’t totally go without the odd glass of wine in the evening but I’ll be avoiding sugary Prosecco and I’ll switch the tonic in my G&T to slimline. I couldn’t totally do without chocolate either but I seem to have rediscovered my love for the very dark stuff as opposed to the sickly sweet milk chocolate I have spent years adoring!
It’s funny because I was never a huge fan of sugar when I was younger. Too many sugary treats used to give me a headache and I have always preferred fruit that was a bit tangy (or unripe as my husband likes to tell me!). I know that quitting sugar seems to be the new thing. Sugar is getting a particularly bad rep in the press at the minute and I’m usually the ultimate cynic when I read how bad everything is supposed to be for you but having seen the effect of sugar on my own body I really have to wonder about this one. It worked its way into my diet and after reading articles like this one I’m certain I became a full blown sugar addict without even realising it.
Now I’m on a mission to try to learn to love other food again and to get some low sugar baking on the go. Quitting sugar completely is all well and good; but I know the one thing that will send me rushing back for a fix is feeling like I’ve been deprived. I love baking!
I’m still undecided on whether natural sugars like maple syrup and honey will be any better but I guess I’ll experiment and see. I’m pretty certain I don’t want to swap sugar out for artificial sweeteners as I can’t stand the horrible artificial taste. Thank goodness I am beginning to notice that I don’t crave sweet things as much as I used to and I notice the natural sweetness in food a lot more. Here’s hoping that I’ll manage to stick to my low sugar ways and that it will become a bit easier in time.
Have you had to give up any of your favourite foods for any reason? Do you have any amazing low sugar recipes for me to try?! Please get in touch and let me know.