So you're thinking "this is my year to quit sugar"?

From the archives... for the holidays. First published 17.1.2012.

This happens to be a positively superb year to quit sugar (particularly if you're Danish)! Why?

  • It's an information-rich time, with more books on sugar available now than ever before, all designed to light a fire up your bonnet. There's also lots of support on the net at the moment aimed at helping you go sugar-free.
  • New research is catching up with what old research discovered many moons ago, about the effects of sugar on our health. Some of it is even trickling through to mainsteam media.
  • The new Aussie dietary guidelines warn of the dangers of sugar, too. 
  • Denmark is even slapping a tax on sugar.

So the stars are aligned, I tell you.

With annual global sugar consumption expanding by about 2 million tonnes every year, now's the time to get a handle on the ol' sweet tooth, I think.

A sugar refinery midway between Coffs and Byron. Passed it on my way up last year. Not so sweet-looking, hey?


I've posted about sugar and all it's woes (and my personal woes) before, which you can read in my 3-part series here, here, and here. If you don't think you eat that much sugar, test that theory by reading my post on hidden sugar here. I've also shared some tips on how to quit, which you can read here. To summarise:

Why I quit:
  • I was addicted. I needed a sugar hit every day, sometimes a few times a day. Without my hit, I felt crabby, fuzzy, dizzy. Which is of course exactly how I felt on my way down from a sugar high. Hence another sugar hit. Just like an addiction. It was an addiction.
  • I was sick of the faded fuzzy headedness I'd feel every afternoon. 
  • I was tired of being at the whim of food. Because of my sugar addiction, I needed to eat every couple of hours or the desire to strangle someone would take hold as I'd slip into hypoglycaemia.
  • I wanted to get clean, fresh and sharp.
  • I wanted my bloating to be-gone.

What the research tells us about sugar:
  • Sugar, table sugar, is 50:50 fructose and glucose. It's the fructose that's the real problem. Quitting sugar is about quitting fructose, to be precise. Although glucose is no angel either.
  • Fructose is the only sugar our body doesn't have a corresponding hunger hormone for, so we can eat it and eat it, and eat it, and never feel satisfied.
  • We were never designed to eat fructose like we do nowadays. In our hunter-gatherer days, fructose was a rare find (a few berries here and there). Nature sort of guarded us from overdosing on it. 
  • Fructose is highly addictive crud - studies have shown it to be as addicted as cocaine or nicotine.
  • Unlike glucose, which is used up by every cell in our body for energy, fructose can only be processed by our liver (which technically defines it as a toxin). Our liver breaks it down into fatty acids. Yes, fat. Fatty fat fat. As David Gillespie (of Sweet Poison) says, 
" Eating fructose is like eating fat that your body can't detect as fat... and makes us eat more fat".
  • Research has concluded that fructose leads to insulin resistance, fatty liver, high blood fat levels, type 2 diabetes, high bad cholesterol - all the 'epidemics' of the 21st century.
  • It also makes us depressed and anxious, because it stuffs around with our brain chemistry, specifically, our serotonin levels.

To top that all off, sugar farming and processing is devastating our environment. A report by the WWF estimates that more than 145 million tonnes of sugar is produced every year, and that doesn't include open-pan production in Asia. According to the report, sugar cultivation and processing impacts on biodiversity and entire ecosystems by:
  • screwing over the soil (soil erosion and quality)
  • overusing water and contaminating water streams (sugar mill effluents are rich in organic matter that reduce oxygen levels in the freshwater systems they end up in)
  • clearing land for more cane cultivation, which clears habitats
  • using chemicals to control pests and to fertilise.

In fact, sugar is one of the thirstiest crops in agriculture, along with cotton and rice.

And a few little eco-tidbits:
  • In 1995, millions of fish in the local rivers of the Santa Cruz region in Bolivia were killed as a result of the annual cleaning of the sugar mills in the area.
  • The pollution of Danish coastal waters by sugar mill effluent has been linked to an ulcer syndrome in their local cod.
  • The prevalence of S.mansoni infection in children at a camp in the Wonji sugar estate in Ethiopia rose from 7.5% in 1968 to 20% in 1988 due to irrigation development. The wetter conditions encouraged higher numbers of the snail which hosts the parasite.
  • The sugar industry in Australia has been a significant player in major infrastructural projects, including damming of the Burdekin, Tully and Barron Rivers, which has altered the pattern of freshwater flow into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and has led to sediment impacting the inshore reefs.

So there you have it, by quitting sugar you're doing the best for your health as well as lightening your load on the environment. And the even better news is - quitting sugar is relatively easy. Compared to cocaine, I imagine.

For me, it helped to think of it as an experiment. I quit to see how it would make me feel, if it would make me feel better. And it did. Very much so. Three-thousand-billion times better. So I continued. And I haven't stopped.

Quitting sugar doesn't have to be forever. It's about breaking the furly, insatiable bond we humans have with the sweet stuff so that you can regain control over it. You might decide never to touch the stuff again. Or you might conclude it's rude to pass up your nanna's butter cake on her birthday. That's the magic of it - when you go through this process of quitting, you get to the point where your consumption of sugar is something you can control. And that's freedom.

So here are some to-dos for those wanting to give it a go, or are just starting out:
  • Educate yourself on the issue. Grab yourself a copy of any number of great books on the market today. David Gillespie's Sweet Poison is a terrific one. If you don't want to read, watch the video below by Professor Robert Lustig, a leading expert in childhood obesity in America. It'll sort you out.


  • What worked for me was to abstain from anything sweet-tasting for the first two weeks. That meant no fruit, no honey, no chewing gum, or chutney. This gives your taste buds the time to recalibrate, to reset their 'sweet-o-meter'. Within about a week or so, everything starts tasting sweeter anyway.
  • Read my best quit sugar tips here.
  • I quit cold turkey. If that doesn't sound like you, you like the softly softly approach, then Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar e-book is fantastic. Wilson walks you through a slower, 8-week process of quitting. I read it after I'd quit, and still found it invaluable for all its tips and recipes. You can buy it here, through my affiliate program, if you like. She's currently running a sort of live online 8-week program, were she essentially holds your hand through the 8 weeks outlined in her e-book. They're on to week 3.

For those who have quit since last year, or are in the process of quitting, how is it going for you? Have you found it relatively easy, or painstakingly challenging? Any tips, or questions?

Tomorrow I'm going to post a couple of recipes that are designed to help you out in the process of quitting - a delicious raw cocao snack and a special tea designed to curb sugar cravings...


4 comments:

  1. I quit as a new year's resolution and have (very surprisingly) not found it as difficult as I thought it would be. I have gone "cold turkey" but plan to reintroduce limited fruit back into my diet and indulge in the occassional treat in future. I was a sugar fiend but can't believe how sweet life is without it. As a friend who is doing this with me pointed it out - this is what food is supposed to taste like. We are so used to eating things laden with sugar and salt that those are the only flavours we recognise.

    I was suprised how quickly this change happened - as you say within a week. I haven't had any proper cravings but the occassional situational ones (like when going to the movies and not being able to tuck into the pick 'n mix) sweets.

    Admittedly, two things that I am eating that still have added sugar (though still that total sugar is under 3g/100g) are bread and some veggie sausages/burgers.

    Thanks for the continued inspiration and motivation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's so great to hear! You're absolutely right, sugar is one of those things where you don't realise the impact it has on you until you ship it out of your life. Then all of a sudden you feel fantastic, food tastes fantastic, it's like a lightbulb goes on.

    I was experiencing situational cravings too, but they fade over time.

    It's hard to cut sugar completely out of your diet unless you make absolutely everything from scratch yourself! Oh but I will be posting the easiest bread recipe ever invented shortly, which has no sugar... you might like to try it out.

    Thanks Michelle, onwards and upwards!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Maria, I am loving your blog and feeling very inspired and motivated in many areas, so thank you! Although it is American, I thought you might like this visual that was sent to me today.

    http://digg.com/newsbar/Sex/the_national_sugar_rush_a_look_at_america_s_soda_consumption

    Lisa Sayer

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great Blog Maria, thanks for all of your insights. I quit sugar two months ago now and I've found that I've almost lost interest in food where as before I was always occupied by hunger. I feel great, have lost weight and am loving life!! I am looking forward to reading more of your posts. I get most of my products sugar substitutes from http://www.biome.com.au/53-organic-native-food

    ReplyDelete

 

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