Eight things I learnt from giving up sugar

assorted iced donuts

I have to admit, I’ve never challenged myself to give anything up. Whenever I’ve wanted to shed a few pounds to get into a special occasion outfit, swimwear ahead of a summer holiday or a tight pair of jeans, I’ve just cut back.

I’m a firm believer in ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’. Whether it’s a glass or two of wine, a plate of creamy pasta, a bag of chips, a fudge brownie or a cheeseburger and chips – everything in moderation.

So when I have ‘naughty’ days, I also have ‘good’ days. But then came along a really bad day, when I got the worst toothache I could’ve imagined.

Read: Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh on sugar

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of my dental history, but suffice to say, something sweet set my tooth off. That, and a huge dentist bill, put an end to eating chocolates, biscuits, desserts, cake, ice cream … you name it.

While there is still some sugar lurking in my diet – in things such as condiments and cocktails – I’ve forgone most of the sweet stuff for good, and this is what I’ve learnt along the way.

1. Weight loss without having to think about it
My days of ‘cutting back’ are long gone. Everything fits.

2. Sugar lurks in a lot of things
It definitely helps if you prefer a bowl of salted cashews or pistachio nuts to chocolate truffles. But being a ‘condiment girl’, it’s easy to forget savoury things such as tomato sauce, mayonnaise, chutney, mustard and cranberry sauce do contain sugar. I can’t give them up – so it’s not like I’ve cut out all sugar, just the foods that trigger a toothache.

Read: How much sugar is hiding in your food?

3. I don’t miss it
It could be because I get my caffeine fix early in the morning and then drink lots of water for the rest of the day, but I never feel the need for a cup of sugary tea and a biscuit.

I don’t suffer from a mid-afternoon slump and fantasise about having something sweet. Of course, it helps if you brush your teeth after lunch and always have a bottle of water by your side.

4. I sleep better and have more energy
You’d think without a sugar fix I’d feel lethargic, but it’s exactly the opposite. In fact, I was surprised at how much better I sleep without eating something sweet after supper.

5. Where there’s wine, there’s a way

While I pass on fresh fruit, a glass of vino has many virtues (again, in moderation). Take sticky Sauternes, for example. Served ice cold, the French dessert wine is like drinking pure nectar with all its lush, honeyed flavours. Chilean reds also have notes of dark chocolate, meaning I never miss the sweet stuff too much.

6. Cocktails have their benefits, too
It’s easy to tick all the sweet boxes with a cheeky cocktail. Think porn star martinis, piña coladas, Singapore slings, or my go-to mixed drink: a melon ball.

Read: Cocktail culture through the years

7. Dietary requirements are a tricky subject
I do feel a bit guilty when I have to tell people about my sugar-free dietary requirements. It’s never a great feeling to go to a friend’s house, only for them to not understand why I must pass on their homemade vanilla cake, sprinkles and all.

8. There’s actually not a lot of willpower involved
Maybe one day soon I won’t be able to resist a tray of gorgeous-looking chocolates or a sumptuous cupcake – but that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, writing about sweet stuff is making me think about it for the first time in months. As the saying goes – out of sight, out of mind!

Have you given up sugar? Do you find a particular treat hard to resist? Let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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