Today is 5 weeks since I stopped (almost stopped) eating added sugar.
My added sugar intake has never been really very high, but not particularly low either.
This is why I feel this may be an interesting piece of writing, because my sugar intake may more or less reflect yours.
Some important notes, for perspective;
- There are no benefits to added sugars in our diet.
- The NHS recommends no more than 30g of added sugar for adults each day.
- In North America the average adults consumes 77g of added sugar each day.
I was eating approximately 25-35g of added sugar each day.
Today, as part of added sugar challenge, I am eating approximately 0-5g of added sugar.
There are many benefits of cutting down on added sugar and these are widely reported and therefore I will not go into them here, but you can find out the benefits of cutting added sugar here.
I wanted this short opinion piece to document my experience when cutting down on added sugar, in an honest, non-exaggerated way, so that you can make your own mind up whether reducing or giving up added sugar intake is something that may interest and benefit you.
Here is my experience with my added sugar challenge over 5 weeks;
In the first week, I was highly motivated and therefore it was not particularly difficult for me to give up added sugar.
In fact as I navigated myself through a no added sugar landscape I found myself feeling a little angry at how added sugar has crept into almost everything you buy packaged or canned or in a jar.
For example, have you seen how much sugar is in a can of baked beans? The answer is 4-8g of added sugar per half a can!
Anyway, the results of this first week were not particularly exciting.
I didn't feel very different. I did get some withdrawal effects - I felt a little more irritable and grumpy for two days but i'm not sure if I can attribute that to the reduction of added sugar.
This wasn't all consuming, I wasn't an ogre or anything but it definitely wasn't nice to be in this state, for myself and others around me.
This negative energy clung on for a little while but I knew that it was short term, and most probably due to the reduction in added sugar so I didn't worry about it too much, and kept a low profile for these days.
I had my nieces birthday and I passed on having the cake. It was a supermarket purchased Vegan cake.
I felt a little awkward as this cake was purchased for me specifically, being the only Vegan in the family. It was one of those cakes that lasts a ridiculous amount of time with no need for refrigeration, so I didn't feel too guilty as was bound to be consumed sooner or later (by someone else).
The novelty of not eating added sugar had largely worn off by this time so there were more temptations than in the first week but over-all I did not struggle to say no to the sugary temptations and in fact I felt a little smug, saying annoying things like 'it's amazing how much sugar everyone eats' even though I was that 'everyone' a couple of weeks before.
I noticed that i felt less bloated this week, and I had more energy overall.
I was sleeping longer and deeper (according to my watch).
I can not be sure if this was coincidental, with the winter nights, but either way, I was happy with this result. it would make sense as sugar intake is known to affect energy levels and therefore I was happy to link this with my challenge.
So far, i had not seen any negative symptoms of added sugar reduction, apart from the days of mild irritability in week 1.
I was eating more fruit than usual.
My sugar reduction goals are for added sugar only and not natural sugars. Fruit has always been a significant portion of my diet. I appreciated fruit much more in this week.
To keep the experiment on track I decided to not substitute added sugar for an increase in fruit sugar and to just keep my fruit intake from now on, at the same level, as before. This was 2-4 portions of fruit per day.
My weight and body-fat had remained the same, according to my smart scales.
My face was looking more.. radiant :-) but I still had an issue with dry skin. i was hoping that cutting out added sugar may reduce this but it hadn't.
I also found that I was saving a little money, maybe £10 a week as I made certain swaps in my shopping basket for whole food items which are off course naturally added sugar free.
Post shower I looked at myself butt-naked in the mirror and thought I was looking a little leaner with more definition.
I had changed my gym routine slightly so I can't put this fully towards my transition to an almost added sugar free diet but it is a likely candidate for the reason why.
I was pretty happy with this.
This has re-motivated me to continue and has made me hopeful for improved future results.
I did not plan for the end of week 5 to be Christmas day.
Nonetheless, at the beginning of Christmas day, I told myself I would not eat added sugar.
But I did. Quite a lot this day.
My sister in law gifted me some vegan truffles. I ate a number of these. I also shared them out but yes the truth is I ate most of them myself. Silky smooth & delicious.
Then I ate some Candy Kittens.
Anyway, I wasn't totally put off by this and I didn't dwell on it too much.
Boxing day (today) I carried on added sugar free, with a feeling of restarting afresh.
I over-ate way too much on Christmas day anyway and I was really eager to start afresh with healthy eating and sugar free eating, well into 2023.
Overview, after 5 weeks of almost added sugar free eating, I felt better, I looked healthier and it really wasn't too difficult. At the same time, the results haven't been ground-shaking.. No-one has demanded to know my secret to my healthier looking skin and i'm not permanently zen and enlightened.
Either way, It was my first time attempting this and I feel that i can keep it going.
The initial temptations of sugar go away really fast, especially if you're genuinely keen to reduce your added sugar levels and you've watched some Youtube videos to help motivate you, then you'll most likely stick the challenge through.
Of course we all have hugely differing relationships with sugar and food in general and it is important that you make this challenge yours. Maybe do it for a day, or aim for one week, or consider reducing your current added sugar intake by half?
One other benefit is that I do feel empowered and it has me asking myself what other challenges can I consider.
I would definitely recommend that you explore going sugar-free, but as always, it is only one doorway towards a healthier you.