Wednesday, 1 October 2014

My no-sugar challenge

A couple of months ago I went to a nutrition workshop focusing on giving up sugar for a month. Sugar has been getting a lot of bad press recently and is thought to be linked to growing obesity rates and much worse. It is proven to be addictive and I felt I was very much addicted to it!

I had given up refined sugar for Lent, earlier in the year but instead of chocolate after dinner, my husband and I had gorged on dried apricots instead, which are still sugar and I had baked with agave syrup, honey etc. This time I wanted to do it properly and avoid any and all forms of sugar. The workshop I attended did not tell me much that I did not know but it did help remind me what I needed to be avoiding and gave suggestions for filling the sugar void.

I chose the month of September for my no-sugar challenge. I roped in my husband because as strong-willed as I know I can be, it is no fun watching someone else munch on biscuits/cookies when you can't touch them. We ate nothing containing sugar, no potatoes (very high in starch which turns to sugar in your body very quickly)  and no refined carbs (wholegrains were fine). We ate fresh fruit but only seasonal produce (those sun-soaked tropical fruits are much higher in sugar than fruit grown here in the UK) and only up to two pieces a day.

We quickly discovered our snacking tendencies! We munch on things before dinner and after dinner we do like a couple of squares of chocolate or a couple of biscuits with a tea. My husband who buys lunch during his work day found it very restricting and ate a lot of salads during the month!

As we do not eat a huge amount of sugar generally, it was not the horrendous upheaval in our diet as it could be for some but we did have to make changes to some of our snacks and our big weekend breakfasts. I made wholemeal flour tortillas one day because the shop-bought tortillas contain sugar. They are pretty easy to make but of course it was not as convenient as getting some out of a packet! Snacks largely consisted of nuts, seeds, oatcakes, rice/corn cakes.

Did it make any noticeable difference to us over the course of the month? Well I remarked to my husband that I felt my overall mood had been better, I had snapped and shouted less and generally felt more balanced. My husband thought he had been sleeping better. We also both lost a little weight, not intentional, not needed but not surprising.

Now the month is over and the no-sugar challenge complete, I am craving some roast potatoes and a rhubarb crumble! I will aim for moderation, avoiding sugar more days than not but allowing some maybe over the weekends. Will I be able to have just one biscuit (not several) and only one or two squares of chocolate or will I be quickly drawn back into my bad ways? We shall see....!

What is your typical sugar intake like? Are you careful with how much you eat or do you recognise that you probably consume more than you should? If you too have given up sugar at some stage, what was your experience?
photo credit


  1. Thank you leaving a comment on MLAG! So kind of you. I've been away from writing and blogging in general but your article here is very interesting because I tend to eat no sugar as it messes up my nervous system (anxiety symptoms flare up even if there's nothing to be anxious about). I do eat potatoes, though, and they don't seem to affect me the same way. I almost never touch sweets or bread and if I do it's in tiny amounts, just for the taste. It was challenging at the beginning and now I'm totally used to it. Congrats on becoming aware! Best of health to you. ♥

    1. You're very welcome Maryse :-).
      Really interesting to hear the effect sugar has on you and why you have had to avoid it. You definitely can get used to going without it after a bit of time and don't miss it as much as you imagine you might.

  2. An interesting experiment! Not one I feel I could undertake, but well done to you! Amazed about the potatoes- I had no idea that, like fruits, they contained natural sugars!

    I think you're right in your conclusions - moderation (as with everything, is the key). I get far too reliant on Diet Coke (I'm in one of those phases now) and yes, I do like dark chocolate - I have been known to have more than one Fry's Chocolate cream bar in a day! :) And those gold-packet choc Hob Nobs, without the dairy.... mmmmm.

    I'm very sensitive to certain foods (as you might remember) and so avoid anything derived from animal or fish. If I've unwittingly consumed some dairy before realising, I suffer physically, and with mood. I actually deliberately ate a few pieces of fish and some mussels last month as an experiment - awful, never again!!! Shame - daughter of an ex-fishermen.... :(

    So yes, I'll keep my Diet Coke and sugar, in spite of the harm it's probably doing me - but it's plant-based all the way as that's what keeps me balanced! x

    1. Really interesting to read about your experience and how sensitive your body is to dairy and fish. I would say you definitely keep things balanced with your plant-based diet and at least you recognise your reliance on Diet Coke ;-). xx


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