What happened when I quit sugar
Do you have a sweet tooth? You’re not alone.
A study released last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that a significant 52% of Australians exceed the World Health Organisation’s recommended intake of free sugars – the added sugars from processed food and drinks – per day.
On the other end of the scale, there has been a trend for health-conscious people to remove added sugars from their diet entirely. While many people claim they could never do it, is quitting sugar really so extreme? Melburnian PETER STEWART quit sugar, and shares his story below.
Growing up and for most of my adult life, I had what I would call a heavy intake of sugar. I’d drink soft drinks and have cravings for sugar at night. I hadn’t really looked deeply into nutrition and I also never really learnt how to cook.
As I approached 30, I decided to kick my health into gear. I was feeling a bit unhealthy, so I started reading books. I couldn’t just hear the information that sugar was unhealthy; I needed to find out what sugar was doing to my body, and how to live without it. One of the books I read was called The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, and he lists the things you need to do to quit sugar. The first thing is to do your own research.
Seeing a personal trainer really helped. So did visiting a dietician. They taught me even more about nutrition. My personal trainer did something called a ‘bio-print’ where they measure your weight and height to determine how much of you is lean mass. While I’d always had a thin-to-average build, these measurements showed that my body fat was too high for my size.
Quitting sugar was much easier than I expected. The first week was difficult, but it actually wasn’t due to cravings. It was that my patterns – like going to the service station for a soft drink – were hard to change. It was all habit-breaking, and I found that as soon as I had alternative snacks, like fruit and nuts, it was really easy. There were no pangs. I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners, so I avoided sweet things entirely.
Within a week, I felt a million times better. When I subbed out sugar, I actually started eating more whole foods, which left me feeling healthier, so I wasn’t rundown and craving sugar and salt all the time.
It improved my mental wellbeing too. While I started my health kick for physical reasons and with an aim to look better, the unexpected outcome was an improvement to my state of mind. Through exercise and diet, I found my overall wellbeing improved massively.
I am still not confident with cooking. I don’t have the skills nor time to make most of my meals, but I worked with my personal trainer, who looked at my diet and where I work, and found healthier lunch and dinner options for me. If I was left to my own devices, I’d be in trouble, as most of the advice you see is to cook for yourself. I set up habits where I was selecting the options that were better for me – so a quarter chicken with vegetables instead of chips, or grilled fish and brown rice from the fish and chip shop. It’s all about choosing the healthier options. I’m now looking into fresh food delivery services to learn to cook healthier food, as I’m time poor and I’m at a stage in my life where I can afford the convenience this service provides.
I’m less strict about sugar now. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good balance in my life, and I’m pretty comfortable with having a piece of cake if it’s someone’s birthday, but I try to avoid it most of the time. Once – around my birthday – I fell off the wagon with diet and exercise for a week, and I felt physically terrible. My adrenaline levels were depleted and I found myself craving sugar again, and I realised it was because I had dropped my new habits.
(As told to Taryn Stenvei)
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