I started thinking about giving up sugar halfway through last year.
Inspired by people who’d quit the sweet stuff completely – and felt mentally and physically better for it – I wanted to see what kind of an impact it would have on my mood and my anxiety.
So, at the start of 2015, I finally bit the bullet and decided to try to live life sugar free for 31 days.
Why live life sugar free?
Utter the words ‘sugar free’ and most people automatically think I’m doing a faddy diet to lose weight. That’s so not the case!
Over the last year, I’ve learned that keeping a close eye on my physical health, my fitness and my diet in particular, has had a major impact on my mood. While I started exercising and watching my diet to feel better about my body, I continue because it’s helped me find mental balance.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think giving up sugar for a month can cure anxiety. Diet is unlikely to be the root cause of anyone’s worry, and I’d always recommend talking to a mental health professional if you’re experiencing severe difficulties. What I do know is that, for me, binging on unhealthy, sugary foods tends to make the symptoms of my worry worse.
How does sugar affect my anxiety?
Most of us have probably experienced a sugar rush, and that shaky, nervous feeling that can come with it. We’ve probably also experienced the complete lack of energy and low mood that accompanies a sugar crash.
I’ve noticed that when I have too much sugar, and I’m also experiencing anxiety or panic, those feelings are amplified. By cutting out sugar, I’m hoping to cut out some of the more avoidable symptoms of anxiety as well.
What food can/can’t I eat?
There are lots of variations of the sugar free diet. Some go the whole hog and cut out all kinds of sugar, including fruit. Some allow a glass of red wine with dinner due to the fact that it’s low in fructose.
I’ve decided to stick to the following:
- no refined sugar (fruit is full of natural sugar, so that’s allowed)
- no added sugar
- no alcohol (although that one’s kind of because I’m doing dry January too!)
Them’s the rules!
What if I lapse?
This has happened already, and I’m carrying on regardless!
I’ve accidentally eaten added sugar in all sorts of things I didn’t realise it was in – fat-free yogurt, dried fruit and worcestershire sauce to name but a few.
For me, the occasional lapse is OK. This experiment is about learning to live life sugar free, and you can’t learn without taking a few wrong turns along the way. I’m building up a good library of tips in case you’re also wanting to make the switch to sugar free, which I’ll bring you over the course of this month.
What about after January?
Well, I haven’t quite decided yet.
I’m not planning to binge on chocolate and cake, that’s for sure! But that’s not to say I won’t refuse the occasional bite of something sweet – if I can stomach it. Lots of people who’ve cut out sugar from their diets say it changes their tastebuds, so they don’t even like eating sugary food anymore.
I guess we’ll see!
How am I doing so far?
Two days into my sugar free diet I had the worst panic attack in the middle of the night – I still can’t really identify what I was feeling anxious about.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my body was struggling to adjust to post-Christmas life without cake, pudding or alcohol – it probably was a bit of a shock to the system after two weeks of festive celebrations!
Since then though, I’ve been doing OK, aside from a few cravings. These haven’t been for chocolate or biscuits, but they have been for mid-afternoon snacks like crisps, which usually have added sugar in them. I’ve also been craving wine almost daily (especially if it’s been a stressful one!) but that’s starting to pass now too.
The worst part of giving up sugar is discovering that it’s in pretty much everything I use to cook with. I’m making a lot of sauces in particular by scratch, which is time consuming but luckily something that I also enjoy. I’ll be bringing a few recipes your way over the next few weeks, as well as pinning like mad to my Sugar free goodies Pinterest board!
Other than that, I’m actually feeling a little more clear-headed and energetic than usual, and it’s only been a week. Three more to go!
Are you living life sugar free? What do you struggle with, and how does it make you feel?