how quitting sugar made me nicer: Sunday Life

This week I’m (still) quitting sugar


Again, a quick note for readers of this blog who’ve been following my “I quit sugar” posts, this might seem like I’m repeating myself…I kinda did for my Sunday Life column readers. For those of you playing catch up on this topic, you can read other “I quit sugar” posts, like  my interview with David Gillespie here, the reasons why sugar makes us fat here, how I quit sugar here and some breakfast ideas here.

I quit sugar a few weeks back, to see if it made me a nicer, less cranky, agitated person, and wrote about it here in this column. I got a lot of feedback asking how I actually did it, so I thought I’d do a follow-up . I’m now able to report back from the sugar-free frontline that I’m doing OK. Many studies say it takes 21 days to overcome a habit. I’m over the hump. And the subsequent dip. And off the cranky, saccharin addicted rollercoaster for good, I reckon.

In the process, though, I’ve had to be really careful I didn’t become one of those bores who reads nutritional labels before accepting a potato crisp and who quotes guilt-inducing food factoids at dinner parties. As a colleague Nicole said, “I’d rather sit next to a funeral director than someone on a diet”. I don’t know, the last time I sat next to a dieter at a dinner I got to eat her leftover cheesy potatoes and the parson’s nose from her chicken (anyone else share my salivatory obsession with parson’s noses? No…?).

That said I couldn’t help myself and have been spurting startling “did you knows” all week. How about I share some of them with you now?

Did you know a glass of apple juice contains as much sugar as a glass of coke (about 10 teaspoons)? And did you know there’s more sugar in barbeque sauce (55 per cent sugar) than in chocolate topping? Sure, we don’t eat cupfuls of barbeque sauce, but over the past few weeks I’ve witnessed just how many sauces and spreads and drinks containing added, hidden sugar I consumed in a day and it adds up to… cupfuls.

And what about this: even natural snacks contain more fructose than we can handle. A small box of sultanas is the equivalent to a kilo of grapes and contains 70 per cent sugar. Squeeze a juice and a muesli bar into a school lunchbox and it contains more fructose than in a Coke and king-size Mars Bar. The fructose molecule is exactly the same, whether in natural sultanas or chocolate and our bodies process them (or, rather, don’t) in the same way.

But the most grating crusade (apparently) I’ve adopted this week is against low-fat food. When fat is removed from a foodstuff, particularly from dairy, it’s often replaced with sugar to make up for flavour lost. Thus, did you know a small tub of “diet” yoghurt contains about 6 teaspoons of sugar? Even the ones that say “no added sugar” (“fruit juice concentrate” apparently doesn’t count)?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re designed to metabolise fat (and carbs and protein) and to be satiated by it; we have a hormone that registers fat in our bodies and tells the brain to stop eating. We’re not designed to metabolise fructose (table sugar is half fructose). Our bodies don’t detect it when we eat it, so we have to eat a stack of it to feel full. Which we do. Which is why apple juice can be more fattening than milk – we have to drink more of it to hit the “I’m full” point. Plus, unlike fat, fructose turns directly to fat in our systems.

Before you wallop me over the head with a doughnut, I’ll finally share the rather contentious way I got off my sugar addiction. I ate fat. As forward-moving creatures, we don’t respond well to being told to stop something. I tell you to stop thinking about those weird “pickled people” old ladies made with old stockings and sold at fetes in the 1980s. And my bet is you’ll think about weird pickled people. So when taking out sugar I figured it wise to add something back in. I chose healthy fats and proteins. Grilled haloumi and tea made with milk stepped in to soothe my deranged 4pm yearnings. I ordered an extra serve of calamari after dinner while everyone else had tiramisu. It got me through, I lost a bit of weight, lost all bloating and I’ve experienced true satiation for the first time in decades.

Slowly, slowly, sugar has dropped from my agitated, needy radar. I appreciate not everyone feels the need to cut sugar completely, especially in it’s natural form. Personally I had to for health reasons, but have found it’s made me a nicer person. Even at dinner parties.

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