It’s been a while since I posted. A lot has been going on. Good and bad. I got a new camera I am so excited to be working with, I’ve been continuously cooking, working, and making new recipes. The not so good includes having my external hard drive sporadically breaking and not being able to receive my photos, videos and content I use for this blog and my instagram. Quite upsetting, even more to find out to fix it would cost more than a computer! Just yesterday I found out my sim card for my camera still has photos of my celeriac soup and mini focaccia loafs, which means I’ll be posting the recipe for these soon!
But the biggest news of all may be that I have been over ~ 6 months without sugar ~ ! Actually, it’s more like 7 at this point, but 6 seems more of a notable milestone. How that happened so quickly and effortlessly still surprises me, for the very same reason I often loose track and forget I am sugar-free. Let me explain what this means and how I transitioned to a sugar-free lifestyle.
Back about 7 months ago, I was coming back from a trip and noticed my had appetite changed. I hadn’t been eating many sweet things for the duration of the trip and realized, upon returning home, I wasn’t craving them, which was surprising for the typical dessert-driven me. And just as quickly I realized I wasn’t craving sweets, I as quickly decided to try not to eat any foods with added sugar for a week…consciously. Soon one week turned into two, which turned into a month, which turned into few months, and now here I am 6 months later and I have no intention of turning back.
It was a cold-turkey decision that stuck.
What I didn’t know when I started, was what sugar-free meant. The term can often be associated with the 90s diet craze of “low-fat” “low-sugar,” aka preservatives and fake sugars. It is so far from that, in fact if you are going to eat sugar I’d suggest real sugar not the fake kind. But anyway, Sugar-Free to me means not eating any added sugars. I was never really informed just how sugar affects the body. You always hear about gluten, meat, fat, cholesterol, dairy, and all these fad diets. But what I had never heard of was a sugar-free diet, or really lifestyle (I don’t like to use the word diet, as it implies a short-term restrictive way of eating, I’m talking making food choices that stick). What I did know was that I was always craving sweet things and would often opt for dessert after dinner. But I didn’t realize how much sugar I was adding to my diet and how much it was affecting me. And I didn’t really understand the full impact sugar was having on my body and how much of the world’s food is overtly and in disguise, full of sugar.
As someone highly sensitive to sugar, consuming it was heavily affecting my mood, sense of hunger, energy, and my mind-body connection. Here are the significant changes I’ve noticed:
- Clearer skin + less puffiness. My skin wasn’t terrible before, but I had some redness and dryness, but mostly I was prone to puffy skin. This was especially significant after indulging sweets. I still break out time to time but it’s not the same as it was before, and it glows!
- Sustained energy and mood levels. Those mid-day humps and afternoon crashes seem less intense and less frequent since quitting sugar. With a more sustained energy level throughout the day comes a more leveled mood. This includes feeling anxious. Sugar was increasing my heart rate, the same that happens when I feel anxious, so now that physical symptom is no longer contributing. There is a greater sense of balance and less shifting in my mind and body.
- Hunger + Feeling Full is a very different feeling. Simply put, eliminating sugar has allowed me to easily identify when I’m hungry, when I’m not, and when I’m full. Hunger or feeling full is no longer based on my need for sugar, which would in turn be a need for a boost of energy or end of meal treat. It is now based on actually being hungry and feeling full until satisfied, not stuffed. That saying, eat until you’re 80% full, or only eat when you're hungry, never really caught on. I was never sure of my body’s needs. For all you die-hard dessert fans, who crave something sweet after a meal, I am with you. I have always had a sweet tooth, and even after a meal Iwouldn’t feel satisfied unless I had something sweet. After cutting out sugar completely, I am comfortably satisfied after a meal. Now I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full and know what my body wants.
- Better Sleep. Sure I still have sleepless nights, but falling asleep is much easier. I was also so sensitive to sugar, my friends would joke when I said I couldn’t have sweets after a certain hour or I’d be up all night. But it’s true! Whether it would be trouble falling asleep or waking up a few hours after falling asleep feeling restless and awake, these occurrences are no longer an issue with my sleep. Like I said with feeling anxious, sugar really was affecting my physiological system, where in that I would physically feel the effects of sugar spikes. Now I feel more at rest!
- the “Mind/Body Connection”. Sugar works on the same system as do certain drugs. When ingested, our body releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure. It’s our reward system, so eating sugar sending these signals. That is partly why it is so addictive. Sugar was disrupting that very system that signals to our brain, “I’m full.” Now I can easily eat and know when I’m full. I never had such a strong sense of connection between my mind and body. This balance allows me to really be in touch with my body’s needs and know what it wants. Meals are gently digested and I feel full and nourished.
So what exactly is a sugar-free lifestyle and what exactly do I eat.
Let me be clear and that is I’ve never believed in a diet that restricts and deprives you of your body’s needs. Seemingly drastic, eliminating sugar has felt in no way restricting, in fact it has done quit the opposite, which is liberate my body’s need for addictive sugars and focus on what it really needs to feel nourished and full. It is the reason I’m still sugar free after 6 months and don’t really think about it all that much. I say to people who are interested in sugar free lifestyle to eat the same as they do, just eliminate sugar. Start with that, then slowly you will notice your body craving different foods. I’ve noticed my appetite change completely without fully being conscious of it. So what are the foods I eat, stay away from, and have sometimes.
What I have:
Any food without added sugar. I eat fruit and natural occurring sugars. Fruit has a lot of nutritional benefits, including vitamins and fiber necessary for our daily needs. But, there are fruit way sweeter than others. Many tropical fruit like bananas, mango, pineapples, etc., are quite sweet. In the beginning of my sugar-free journey, I could easily eat these fruit. Now, I can only eat a limited amount until they become too sweet. I still include banana and mangoes in my smoothie, still love pears, still would eat pineapple, watermelon, etc., but I trust my body and listen to when is enough. Other than fruits and vegetables, I can eat whatever I want, so long as it has no sugar.
What I sometimes have:
Dried fruit. Not often, but when it’s around at a party or dinner, I might snack on some. Again, I can only have so much until it becomes too sweet. I like dates and dried figs are probably my favorite, but I make sure, if buying them, that no sugars have been added or the fruit is not coated in cane syrup as it often is, but the only sweetness comes from naturally occurring sugars.
What I don’t have:
Added sugars. This means all processed and unrefined sugar. Anything from white sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, as well as maple syrup, agave, and honey. This is not to say that some unrefined sugar may have health benefits, but they are still sugar, and noting that most of the sugar I did eat while I ate sugar was these unrefined sugar, the elimination of such sugars have been life changing!
What I tell people who are interested in the sugar-free lifestyle is to completely cut out sugar, but still have everything else; you don’t need to change your diet other than eliminating sugar — try it for two weeks, see how you feel, then go from there. You’ll notice your body’s appetite, cravings, and needs change; these changes will have greater affects on your health, body, and mind.
I hope this post shed light on what a sugar-free life looks like. I didn’t know much before I started, but I can say now that life is a lot better without sugar! Let me know in the comments below what you think and if you’re interesting in cutting out sugar. See you in the next recipe post!