So this is a subject which is pretty close to my heart, and I feel like I should address it to some extent, especially as many of my recipes are sugar-free (which really means that I cook most of my food from scratch). Don’t be scared by the headline and read on.
About a year ago, at one of my dearest friends’ houses, I discovered Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar cookbook. Now, I’ve had my issues with weight and body image and dieting, and let me tell you, I wasn’t about to embark upon another one of those restrictive low-carb/high-fat, low-fat/high-carb diets. I’d tried those and all it really led to was fatigue, temporary results, and a sense of self-esteem way too attached to my body and my food intake.
Simply put, dieting, as a concept, isn’t something that attracts me. My goal, more or less, is to find the right balance between watching what I eat (eating healthy) and NOT watching what I eat (having a healthy mindset).
My own “mens sana in corpore sano“*, if you will.
So, of course, any term with a “-free” tacked on to the end makes me a bit wary, as does the notion of “quitting” any one foodstuff. But as I started reading through this book, I realised that a lot of what Wilson was describing was what I went through on a regular basis: sweet cravings, complete inability to stick to that “one cookie” you said you’d have (and finishing the whole box), energy slumps and difficulty focusing…
So, I started to get curious. But rather than take this book at face value, I started doing some research. And what I found out…was kind of scary.
Ever heard of Dr. Robert Lustig? For the past 16 years, he has been working on childhood obesity, and according to him, sugar is poison – as in, biochemically, our body treats it like a poison, processing it through the liver (like we do ethanol, in alcohol) and sets off a bunch of negative biochemical reactions all worse than the other, including blocking your leptin receptors – which basically means you can’t tell when your body has had enough to eat. And as sugar is literally present in almost every single processed food today, this is a problem which everyone faces to some extent.
Now, I hate to label one single thing as the sole culprit when it comes to health and weight problems, but I have a hard time imagining that this is all a complete lie designed to sell cookbooks and merchandise – especially as finding completely sugar-free food is near impossible. So, in September 2014, I decided to try out eating sugar-free for a couple of months.
Did I feel better? Frankly, I did. Getting up in the morning was easier, I had more energy, I started being more aware of my hunger – and satiety, most importantly. I felt healthier, more energised, and balanced.
However, the truth is, it was hard to continue: no-one in my family eats sugar-free, birthdays, Christmas and New Year were rolling around, and sticking to a completely sugar-free lifestyle didn’t stick.
This trial period did show me that it was possible, and I try to eat sugar-free most days out of the week. I genuinely believe that this is a healthier way to live, and am enjoying discovering a new way to cook and eat.
If any of you readers out there are interested in giving this a shot, I’d love to give you further information.
For those of you who are interested in a lil’ more info, here’s a video of Dr. Lustig speaking about sugar at a TEDx conference: believe me, it is very revealing.
Follow-up: article about him in The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/24/robert-lustig-sugar-poison
*”Healthy mind in a healthy body”