Over the last year I have completely eliminated added sugars from my diet. Sugar is not only bad for our health, but very addictive as well.
Why aren't people talking about this? Why do we accept sugar as part of our traditions, a sweet escape?
To answer these questions I highly recommend reading Pure White and Deadly, by John Yudkin.
This year I will not be putting chocolate or treats in my children's advent calendar. I've decided to take a stance and break tradition. Instead we will be doing a different christmas related activity for each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas. Rather than candy, the kids will pull a card from the advent calendar with a picture of that day's activity on it.
My point is, we can do things a different way. We don't need sugar laden birthday cakes, christmas treats, and comfort food. A little ingenuity and one can create more memorable special occasions that aren't centred around sugar.
Dr. Robert Lustig is a pioneer in sugar research. If you are looking for some hard facts on why we shouldn't be consuming copious amounts of added sugars check out his video.
Yes it's a long one, but well worth it.
Since removing sugar from my diet I have noticed many big benefits.
The Benefits I've Noticed On A Sugar Free Diet
1. Better Skin
I have suffered with sever eczema since I was very young. In recent years I've had very angry rashes cover my face and arms. The doctors couldn't explain them and of course gave me cortisone cream as a solution.
Yes the cream cleared up the rashes, but they kept coming back. They weren't addressing the underlying issue.
I also had such severe eczema on my hands and fingers that my fingers would swell and the nail bed would start to detach. I can't tell you how painful this is.
When I quit sugar my skin cleared up literally within in a few days.
Recently I had a setback, I spoke about this in my last article. Immediately after eating added sugars the eczema began to reappear on my hands and fingers. This experience proved to me not only the addictive nature of sugar (because I relapsed so easily), but also that sugar is a major cause of my skin issues.
2. Improved Menstrual Cycle
Irregular, long lasting, and painful menstrual cycles have plagued me since my very first one at 13. I thought this was just how my body worked.
My periods were so heavy I was afraid to leave the house during the first two days in case I bled through. My cramping was so severe I curled up with a hot water bottle and stayed in bed as much as possible for the first few days.
But when I quit eating sugar my cycle became regular, I had less severe cramping, and my flow was reduced to medium.
Full disclosure, this may be attributed to a reset in hormones from my most recent pregnancy, I can't guarantee it is from not eating sugar, but I like to think it has at least some part in it.
3. Better Control Over Emotions
I'm a ginger, I'm wild, crazy, and very emotional. A fire burns in me.
I've always struggled to control my temper.
After quitting sugar I am more even tempered. Of course I still get mad, sad, and everything in between, but I have better control over these emotions.
Again during my sugar relapse I immediately noticed my emotional control faltered. So, I directly attribute this change to sugar.
4. Improved Sex Life
Yes this totally happened.
I haven't been interested in sex in recent years, but a few weeks after quitting sugar I found my sexual appetite increased dramatically.
I don't want to go into too much detail here as this is a little too private, but it's been enjoyable if you know what I mean.
These points are a few of the benefits I've noticed so far. I quit eating sugar May 2016 and the improvement in my health has been dramatic.
It wasn't easy and still isn't easy. I'm not sure the cravings for sugar will ever go away. But they are now manageable, especially because I know if I eat added sugars I will once again be in pain from eczema. I would do anything to not have eczema.
To help you get started with a sugar free diet here are a few steps I followed.
How To Remove Sugar From Your Diet
1. Decide "Why" You Want To Quit Eating Added Sugars
It's next to impossible to be successful at anything if you don't have good reason for doing it.
Why do you want to quit sugar?
Write it down. Keep this list of why's close at hand to review on occasion.
2. Find a replacement for sugary treats
When I first quit sugar I knew I would need a little help, something to replace sugar.
My go too sweet treat is fruit especially dried fruits as they seem more like a treat. Yes fruit contains the bad guy fructose, but fruit also has fibre and water to help digest said fructose.
To start, the goal is to still satisfy your sweet tooth without consuming added sugars. Later on you will want to reduce the amount of fruit you eat and consume more vegetables instead. Fruits are a healthy part of our diet, but should be eaten in moderation.
Another helper was and is herbal teas. Tea is also warming, comforting, and seemingly sweet without the sugar, so it is a great replacement for sugar.
If you are a chocolate lover try eating some raw cacao beans. They are quite bitter, a bit of an acquired taste, but still satisfying. I make a mixture of dried goji berries and cacao beans. The goji helps lessen the bitterness and both are chalked full of superfood powers.
Really look at the sweet treats you eat and do your best to replace them. This process may be slow at first, and that's okay. Take it one day at a time, one treat at a time.
One day a carrot will provide all the sweetness you need. Trust me on this, as you start removing added sugars from your diet you will be amazed at the sweetness of vegetables. Your palette changes quickly.
3. Replace sugar laden condiments
Condiments like mayonnaise, bbq sauce, ketchup, and salad dressings are generally full of sugar.
Start with one thing, either replace it, or stop using it.
Try flavour infused oils & vinegars instead of salad dressing. Dip your fries (which are homemade and baked of course) in sugar free salsa instead of ketchup, or make your own ketchup.
Fall in love with mustard. Out of all the condiments this one is the simplest. Mustard has very few ingredients, and doesn't contain sugar. There is a great variety of mustards out there, always read the ingredients to be sure sugar isn't added, and have fun experimenting.
Instead of bbq sauce, I use dijon mustard. It adds moistness and flavour to bbq. As a Canadian I am obsessed with bbq and have been known to bbq steak in -20C during a blizzard, so replacing the sauce with something sugar free is very important to me.
Get close and personal with spices. Experiment, try everything, learn what you like and don't like. Spices are a great way to replace sugar and add flavour to your food.
4. Take a good quality multi-vitamin
I don't often talk about supplements, as I believe the supplement industry is no better than the pharmaceutical industry. But I do think we should all take a multi-vitamin.
A multi-vitamin will help fill in the gaps in your diet. Sometimes we experience cravings because we are lacking in certain nutrients. So it's safe to say a multi-vitamin can help.
As far as which multi-vitamin to choose, this is based on age, gender, income, other nutritional needs. It is best to consult a nutritionist or doctor to help you decide on the right supplement for you.
I can help you with this process, simply send me an email and I will get back to you with details and pricing.
5. Observe and Change Behaviour/Habits
Sometimes we are eating sugary foods because we are emotionally distraught, bored, watching TV or various other reasons.
It's important to notice this behaviour and change it. If you find yourself breaking down and eating added sugars, make a note of when and why.
Write it down and vow to change this behaviour. Think of ways you can prevent the trigger from happening.
I tend to crave sugary foods when I'm upset. I would binge eat and then feel even more horrible when done.
Now when I'm distraught I go for a walk. Nothing too major, just a short brisk walk around the block. By the time I get home I not only feel better, but I don't have that desire to eat an entire chocolate cake.
I work at making this my immediate reaction, and it's not easy.
This will be an ongoing process. So stick with it and do what works for you.
6. Sleep, for the love of god, sleep
In my experience I crave and consume sugar the most when I'm tired.
Good sleep will help anyone control sugar cravings, in addition to imparting many other benefits.
Practice good sleep hygiene, make it a requirement in your day. Here are a few tips, use what works for you.
- Make your bed every morning and keep your room clean
- Have a bedtime routine - whatever works for you
- Don't watch or use screens for at least 1 hour before bed
- Don't read stimulating books right before bed, if you can't put it down you won't sleep
- Try having a warm bath before bed, add a few drops of lavender essential oil
- Don't drink caffeinated beverages after 4:00pm (after lunchtime would be better)
- A good romp with hubby/wife is a fun way to relax before bed ;)
- If your partner snores, wheezes, or rolls around in bed waking you or keeping you awake, there is no shame in sleeping in separate beds. Sleep is important people
- If you snore or have sleep apnea see a professional. Snoring and sleep apnea can take years off your life
- Try drinking herbal teas like chamomile before bed
- Don't eat or snack after your dinner or try not to eat at least 1.5 hours before bed (if you have blood sugar issues eat a small snack before bed high in protein/fat - consult a nutritionist for your exact needs)
- Install blackout blinds
- Take up meditation
- Get plenty of exercise throughout the day, but not directly before bed. Like food, no vigorous exercise at least 1.5 hours before bed
- Clear your mind by writing in a journal and keeping a to do list
- Leave the screens out of your bedroom, no tv, phone, or computers
- Put your phone in night mode every night - you can set it to do this automatically
- Keep your bedroom minimalistic, very few pictures or stimulating items
- Choose a soothing paint colour for the bedroom, no reds, oranges, or yellows
- Never go to bed angry at your friends or family, vow to resolve any issues before bed
You don't have to do all of this, choose what works for you, and please do yourself a favour and make sleep a priority.
You will find that quitting sugar will change your diet into one based on whole foods.
The food industry crams sugar into most processed foods because they know it's addictive. They want you to keep spending your money and making them rich.
Stick it to them and stop eating their sugar laden shit. Yes you read that right, that's how I feel about processed/refined foods, it's all shit.
Take it One Day At A Time
Quitting sugar isn't easy. It will take dedication and willpower.
Sugary treats are ingrained into our society. They are a part of our traditions. You will be going against the norm, this may be the hardest part.
Always remember, your overall health will completely change just by quitting sugar.
Quitting sugar looks different for everyone.
I needed to completely eliminate sugar from my diet because I know my body can't handle it.
Maybe you will be able to eat a sugary treat on occasion or not. The degree you quit sugar will look different for everyone.
Remember that we have skewed the definition of "treat". A "treat" is not daily, weekly or even monthly. A "treat" is something enjoyed on very rare occasions, for example once or twice a year.
I promise you that quitting sugar will completely change your health.
I don't believe sugar can be considered a food, and that we have all been duped into thinking it's okay to eat. If you are interested in adopting the minimalist diet, then quitting sugar is a necessary step.
I am anti-sugar and proud of it.
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If you are looking for a good start to the minimalist diet, try out my Simply Food program.
If you want to talk to a nutritionist, consider working with me. I don't want to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty good at it. Simply send me an email to discuss your needs and determine if we are a good fit.