Excessive consumption of sugar can be stopped, willfully
During February of last year, I found myself in the midst of positively unwelcome nutritional advice. The nation was told that “Sugar is the new fat”. This was unwelcome news to a bona fide connoisseur of sweet delights. According to Action on Sugar, the extent of harm caused by excessive sugar consumption has been consistently ignored. Could I be eating myself to premature diabetes, or worse still, a shortened life expectancy?
And then Shrove Tuesday came around. At work, the question came, “What are you going to give up for Lent?” While perusing news websites in my lunch break, the revelation came again: “Sugar is the New Fat.” After reading yet another article about how sugar was destroying the nation, I had my epiphany. Was I strong enough to give up my beloved chocolate, biscuits, sweetened buns and cake for Lent? Could I possibly invent a new me? I decided to go the whole hog and cut out all refined sugar.
No refined sugar from March 4th to April 20th – sugar free for approximately six weeks. I like nothing more than to return from work to a couple of chocolate digestives washed down with warm tea. Would it be possible to persevere without this comfort through Lent? Initially, I honestly thought that I would come crashing down at the first hurdle; discovered in a gutter, face smeared with chocolate having overdosed on Milktray after day three, and having to be checked into rehab.
In order not to make this task seem completely unrealistic, I allowed myself to be a social consumer of sugar, a bit like being a social smoker. However, I had to be mindful of moderation, so I couldn’t just down half a box of Roses, and cake would have to be consumed in slithers.
The biggest struggle in the first week was saying no to biscuits at work. To stave off the cravings and maintain a peak state of attentiveness, I replaced the chocolate digestives with almonds and raisins. There were more almonds than raisins, and eating a handful of this mix seemed to stave off the cravings for sugary naughties fairly effectively. Most of week two was spent fantasising about Victoria sponge, my real weakness, but successfully staying away from the white stuff. Week three was also a struggle, but I still managed by eating the odd date or raisin at the end of meals in place of dessert.
However, something strange happened by week four. My alarm went off at 6.45, and I leapt out of bed as if I had been awake for hours. Never in my life had I felt this refreshed after sleeping. Oddly, as the weeks progressed, this energy began to ebb, although I still felt that I had more energy in comparison to when regularly consuming sugar.
Then came weeks five and six. I had had no jam, fizzy drinks and sweets, and also had marginally fallen off the wagon with respect to chocolate and puddings. Oddly, I was reaching a stage where I didn’t even need my after meal raisins anymore, and started to savour the natural sweetness of apples and carrots. If someone had offered me the choice between a salad of spinach leaves, avocado and sun blushed tomatoes or a Wispa (personal weakness), I would have gone with the salad.
Week six was revelatory. Having not really missed refined sugar at all in weeks four and five, in week six I began to fantasise about all the nice things I could chomp on come Easter Sunday. Returning to my parents’ house for the Easter break, I relished waking up in my childhood home on Easter Sunday and preparing myself whatever I wanted to eat. But the jam on toast I began with was sickeningly sweet, and I could not finish it. I had a piece of chocolate, without really wanting to, and for the first time in my life I didn’t enjoy it. It was stunning how beholden I was to a substance, which had the same texture as soap.
Over the last ten months, I have fallen back into my evil sugar-consuming ways. But what this experiment proved was that if the increase in energy levels were anything to go by, sugar is harmful. It also made me believe that cravings are almost entirely psychological.
Most importantly, however, this experiment was a massive personal achievement and marker of self-control – I feel like I have achieved something by not giving in to what I had believed to be my slavishly potent sweet tooth. When I set out on saying no to sugar, I had believed that I would not be able to do it. Yet, I did manage to broadly stick to my rules. I felt such a glow of achievement, that who knows, I might even do it again. And I’d certainly recommend others try it too.
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