Thursday, 30 September 2010

Coming Off Sugar

We all know that sugar is not very good for you but after reading articles on the dangers of sugar, I was convinced I had to make an attempt to remove it from my diet. I’m not talking about just removing table sugar but also a lot of the fructose as well. So I look at ingredients and if it says, “sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or inverted corn syrup, or fructose”, I don’t eat it. Fructose in its natural form (fruits and vegetables) is fine but I do limit fruits with extremely high fructose content such as mango and nectarines. I must admit I was hoping I could abandon this effort and determine there was no big difference as I have a bar of Belgian chocolate in my cupboard that the kids have not discovered. I figure my chances of getting at that chocolate bar were good since I don’t have any major health issues to complain of. Okay, so I get tired and look haggard when I do too much. However, I don’t sleep well and am 42, a mother of an 8 and 6 year old and we just got a puppy so that’s a bit like having a new baby, except puppies don’t wear nappies (although I am considering this as an option). Also, I work as an acupuncturist, and am in my second year of my Chinese herbal medicine studies working toward my MSc. The biggest incentive for me to remove sugar in my diet is that despite eating healthily, I get blood-sugar dips so I know I’m not processing sugar well. Blood-sugar dips are a pain. I go from feeling great, jumping about with the kids to suddenly getting extremely shaky, edgy and worrying about what I can legally and quickly eat to prevent me from fainting in aisle four of the grocery store. These used to occur just when I missed a meal but I’ve noticed that now they occur even if I have eaten plenty but that ‘plenty’ contained sugar. What really shook me up is that ‘sugar’ could mean a freshly juiced carrot, and apple juice. After consuming such a healthy mix, I’d be ready to faint within the hour as if I had eaten a Mars bar for breakfast. Apparently, these insulin surges and dips are pretty bad for you. However, I’m also hoping that by coming off sugar I’ll benefit from being able to think more clearly, have loads more energy, and prevent premature ageing. So I decided to give it a go.
The first thing I discovered is that coming off of sugar is ten times worse than coming off caffeine. For one, it lasts longer. But instead of a headache like you get with coming off caffeine, coming off sugar could best be simplified as PMT with jetlag. Not the 3 or 4 hour time difference jetlag, but the jetlag you feel when you land in London at 6am from a Hong Kong flight where you didn’t sleep on the flight and then have to head straight into work. My mood was one of those that caused my husband to know that silence and long walks with the dog was the best way for him to get through this. And instead of lasting a day or two, like caffeine, it lasted an entire week. Some people report it lasting two. I’m not sure I could have lasted two weeks feeling like that. What shocked me is that I didn’t realise my body was so addicted to sugar. And that my body was depending on it, looking for it to run. I found that when I was tired, I really wanted to reach for sugar. Although I also knew that it was sugar that was causing me to feel so lousy. It’s now been about 9 days since I’ve been off sugar. One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m sleeping really well. For decades I’ve slept lightly and wake up anywhere between 5 and 10 times during the night. That’s just not happening. I’ve also noticed that I now have no desire for sugar. I had a pear yesterday and it tasted so incredibly sweet that it was almost too sweet. Unlike when I’ve eaten sweets before, I had no desire for more sweet treats. Not craving sweets is liberating. And I've also noticed that my energy has picked up and I'm not having dips in energy. Previously, I craved sweets when I was dipping in energy. Without the energy dips, I have no reason to reach for that chocolate bar. The knock on benefit is that my kids are eating significantly less sugar. I have not asked my family to come off sugar but, naturally, their intake is coming down. I'd like their sugar levels to come down a lot more, however, I need to be a good role model first.

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