Updated: Mar 28
"Are you losing weight?" is a common question I'm asked these days. Having run or walked over 200k in the last eight weeks, one would have thought so. We'll all have to remain thinking so as I'm not a proud owner of any bathroom scales.
However, when I put on my burgundy jeans, the ones I resort to when I've been lackadaisical about my laundry. I doubt I've shifted a pound.
'Perhaps, you should quit sugar for a bit?' she said.
'Perhaps, you should think again' I thought. Alas, she's right. Since I no longer drink booze, given up several years ago now, I have substituted it with sugar. I've gotten quite discerning about biscuits and cakes in recent years having eshewed them for years.
I pondered this for a while, I mean, how hard could it be?
I don't take sugar in tea or coffee - unless I run out of milk.
Substituting a sugar pastry for a savoury one really isn't that difficult.
It's not like going vegan!
Or doing a dairy free month. Cheese doesn't have sugar in it.
Fruit is life's natural sugar and I could always eat more fruit.
Then I really thought about it.
Saturday's pancakes with lemon and sugar may count as one of my five a month but lemon pancakes sans sugar really don't appeal.
My rhubarb is ready for harvest...
No marmalade on toast for breakfast. Nor Hot Cross Buns!
Isn't bread made with sugar?
Then I thought about it really hard.
How the hell is one supposed to watch the sobfest also known as The Handmaid's Tale without at least a kilo of chocolate?
Week one - June 15 to June 22
Friday celebrated with a 'farewell sugar' carrot cake. Only, it was made with banana. It was quite an unspectacular send off. In fact, a very disappointing send off. Criminal, in fact. I had to console myself with a millionnaire's shortbread.
Surprisingly, a Saturday Fry Up was a perfectly fine substitute.
Unsurprisingly, a cut up mango really didn't hit the spot on Sunday night's episode of the Handmaid's Tale.
Otherwise, it's been pretty okay so far.
June 18: BREAKING NEWS: A household in the Cotswolds has run out of milk. This is a disaaaaaster. Poor thing (me) is having to sustain self on flowery herbal tea thingies left over from Veganuary.
It is surprisingly easy giving up sugar - I haven't missed it too much at all. I sort of amble around the kitchen like a lost orphan periodically, but otherwise I'm hanging in there. I did have a headache all day yesterday - whether that is coincidental or not I have no idea.
Week one done. One of the easiest challenges I've done. Had a near breakdown when I realised I couldn't have chutney either. Cheese on biscuits isn't quite the same. I'm definitely snacking less, and somehow I feel less hungry at times as well. This link most likely requires a scientist to prove and I'm all out of those this week.
Week two - June 23rd to June 30th
Peeps have been asking me how I am finding life without sugar and then feel the urge to impart some wisdom about sugar that I had previously no idea about...
Sugar causes depression.
So to be sure they knew what they were talking about, I reverted to Dr. Google of course. And discovered that, yes sugar does have a strong correlation to depression. But only if you're a man.
Sugar is also more addictive than cocaine.
I have never tried cocaine so I have no reasonable reply to this. However, found that whilst lots of health gurus say this, in fact there's lots of evidence to suggest it's not addictive at all. I, for one, can safely say I am not addicted to it. Missing it here and there, yes. Addicted, no.
Sugar makes us hyperactive.
Nope. Not in my case it doesn't. Never am I more comfortable than lying on the sofa eating a ramekin of nutella. I find it extrememly comatosing as it goes.
Sugar stimulates the appetite.
I have noticed that I am less inclined to eat now I'm sugar-free. Apparently, this is normal. A recent study found that people were hungrier sooner after a sugar-laden meal. Ergo, finally, I am normal.
June 25: BREAKING NEWS: A sugar abstainer has accidentally eaten sugar. I fancied a sandwich and was drawn to a cheese ploughmans. Half way through I realised it had tomato chutney in it. Immediately, I was overcome by guilt so I had to finish the sandwich in order to hide the evidence (and assauge my guilt). Funnily enough, later on when I went to book club, I really, really wanted to eat the chocolate. I didn't though.
Another week done. I had the wondrous idea of substituting chutney with dried fruit. Now I knew that dried fruit is nature's toffee but it does have the conscience-easing difference of being packed with concentrated minerals and vitamins. Although not vitamin C I've discovered.
What I didn't know was what to do with the packet of dried apricots that have been in the back of my cupboard since last year: a 'two for one offer' that I'd succumbed to when I bought some cranberries.
Dried Apricots with Garlic and Herb Goats Cheese on crackers is yum.
Week three - July 1st to July 7th
The Nutella cupboard has begun screaming at me. And in other interesting news, I have the most ginormous pot belly, where it has popped out from where I know not. It is not showing any signs of going. The irony of middle-aged spread appearing just as I deprive myself of all spreads, jams and chutneys.
Yesterday, as part of the Radio4 sadventure, I learnt one thing that whilst strawberries and cream is a great combination, the best combination is strawberries and grass. They lied. Strawberries and cream is definitely where it's at.
July 7th is also World Chocolate Day. I shall celebrate it by not having any.
This week, more than any of the other two, I've really started to miss sugar. With the two-day 'heatwave', I had a sudden urge for ice-cream. And I'm feeling a bit 'hmmm' after dinner, no longer do I feel full, I am craving something. And I really, really, really felt deprived when I couldn't have my Saturday pancakes this week. In fact, this 'urge' for something happens periodically throughout the day. A bowl of fruit, or a packet of crisps just isn't cutting it.
I can't say that, pot belly aside, I'm discovering much has changed. Lost weight? Possibly, but I can't say it's because I cut out sugar when I'm running 25k or so or a week. So I thought I'd check out what others have discovered about doing "one month no sugar" and discovered, that they too, have found a depressed appetite, and the cravings kick in later on.
I also, to my horror, realised I have not been sufficiently vigilant about some things. I'd been checking out some sauces, e.g. chinese stir-fry type things. It never occured to me to abstain from ketchup and mayonnaise. Dammit. I knew pre-bought Ragu sauces had sugar in but I only ever make my own from scratch. But mayonnaise? Mayonnaise? I have never seen a single chef or cook make their own mayonnaise and chuck in a load of sugar. Why, Hellman's, why?
July 8th - July 15th
Okay, following yesterday's discovery on Mayonnaise, I consoled myself with some Sour Cream Kettle Chips as I watched the Handmaid's Tale. It suddenly occurred to me that they had a sweet aftertaste.
I have done a thorough audit on what I've been eating what in the last three weeks. One small problem, of course, is that I can't completely remember.
So I've spent the morning checking food labels. Now eliminated...
Vegetable stock pots
Salt & Vinegar crisps
Cheese & Onion crisps
Some frozen Linda McCartney products
Biscuits for cheese
Some pre-made vegetable soups
Sour cream and chives dip
At one point, such was mania at my discoveries, I found myself checking the cat food. I am have relieved/half alarmed to discover cat food doesn't have ingredients listed. Chicken cloaca can't be appetising in any formation.
So clearly I have not been doing this sadventure with all the verve and vigour of a sugar loathing health-freak. There's nothing else for it - I've to start again.
Week 1, Days 1 - 7
Day 1 Ready salted crisps are sugar free. Yay (ish).
Been shopping - well, that was a depressing affair indeed. It's shockingly hard to find sugarfree foodstuffs, even stuff you would bet your bottom dollar has no need for sugar. Took twice as long as usual as I had to read every goddamned label going. I definitely need varifocals nowadays.
A friend suggested I eat Activia to tackle my stomach bloating. It is, thankfully, no added sugar.
Day 6. The second coming is no longer due for arrival. Not from my home at least. My pot belly has deflated. Activia has done the trick: I'm not a fan of Yoghurt, but three pots a day has put me back in normal, rotund shape. If I was murdered today, the chalk outline would be guitar-shaped.
Day 7: Decided to spend some of Sunday being culninarily creative as this no sugar shizzle is quite hard going.
Today's Star Recipe: Homemade Cranberry and Pumpkin Seed Brown Bread, served with sugar-free chutney and superfine, wonderful, excessive use of adjectives, warmed French Camembert.
Mandatory magazine-esque picture to entice one's tastebuds:
And now, in true culinary tradition, I should now write near forty scrolls-worth of a cook's innermost thoughts on the sheer exquisiteness of a summer's day when one inhales something scentful and it brings one to an internet near you to write about it so that one has to hunt through all the trollop, advertising and links to find the actual ingredients required in order to contemplate whether indeed one can make it. Discover one can't because one is missing an ingredient, or seven, and then repeat with the next promoted recipe.
I've avoided all the reminiscing on how I came about this dish, mostly because it's boring, and unromantic in its origins, instead, I will jump straight to the recipe.
Brown Bread with Cranberries.
Preparation time: 30mins + 20 mins + 50 mins in oven. (1h, 40 in total)
1) Seek out Brown Bread recipe on Internet that has no sugar
2) Seek out any Brown Bread recipe on Internet and omit sugar.
3) Follow recipe and hope for the best.
Sugarfree Rhubarb Chutney
1) Grow own rhubarb.
2) Slice and boil in a small amount of water and apple cider vinegar.
3) Add ground ginger.
4) Add raisins for sweetness.
5) Add more raisins.
6) Add sultanas.
7) Add any other dried fruit one can find in the back of one's cupboard that may add sweetness.
8) Boil it all to death.
Superfine, wonderful, excessive use of adjectives, warmed French Camembert.
1) Buy camembert from local shop, the more pretentious the better.
2) Throw in oven gently.
Dried, crumbly unsliceable brick of bread, with revolting chutney. Camembert fine.
Week 2 Days 8 - 14
Day 8: I am definitely missing sugar. I feel low on energy. I want a Danish pastry or six. Followed by some ice-cream.
Day 9: Sugar yearning ongoing. I am wondering, though, whether it is just processed food I'm yearning.
Day 13: My friend has obtained for me some Polish sugar-free chocolate, and some Polish sugar-free biscuits. I doubled checked the ingredients and laughed out loud to read 'May cause laxative effects'. The chocolate was delicious - remarkable as I'm not usually a fan of dark chocolate so I was as surprised as anyone to eat the whole bar.
At 2:30 this morning I was not laughing anymore. I'm still reluctant to leave the house. And I'm off for a curry tonight...<sob>.
Reflections on the halfway point...
Going no sugar is no joke. It's bloody hard work. I really don't know how health freaks do this.
You think you're going to lose weight - and I have. But this is partly because I'm running 100k a month at the mo. But the bloating undermined any weightloss: I still do my morning acrobatics just putting on a pair of jeans.
My face, I'm told, is thinner. My wobbly bits are definitely more wobbly. Normally, the first place I lose weight is off my boobs. Not so now I'm entering the middle ages. My back fat has reduced for sure - bras are becoming less of an instrument of torture.
Shopping has become a labourious chore - all that reading of labels only to discover that nope, it's not suitable. I discovered some out of date salad dressing in my fridge one day and was delighted to find it sugar free. I was devastated to find that Tesco's no longer stock it.
Going for a coffee is exactly that: a coffee. No chocolate sprinkles. No pain-au-raisin on the side. Nor chocolate cake. It's less appealing to just pop out for a coffee these days. So that's a money-saver!
And I've been more intimate with the crapper than I had anticipated. There's detox and there's detox. I may be rubbish at sprinting, but the food I'm eating is sure as hell sprinting through me. I've stopped eating chillies though.
I'm dreading the upcoming heatwave - no ice-cream! I learnt, when living in hot countries, that frozen grapes are lush. They'll have to do.
I also have learnt: never just 'omit the sugar' and hope for the best. It makes food especially unpalatable.
The good news though - my appetite is much smaller. I'm eating smaller portions than usual. I'm leaving more food on my plate. I graze a lot less. I'm eating more fruit.
The bad news: I'm becoming a health food bore. Smug is a good feeling...and the yearning for sugar never goes away.
Week 3 (days 15 - 21)
Day 16: Finally discovered why my intestinal track has seemingly become an extremely fast log flume for all my food: No processed food diet + regular exercise = mucho time spent sitting on the loo. 'Tis a normal, healthy response I'm told.
Just doesn't seem that way!
Day 18: Aside from that with a heatwave gripping the nation (for a entire two days) I am desperate for ice-cream. Bought some grapes to freeze as a substitute but ate them all on the way home before I could get the into the freezer. Told that gooseberries are better.
Week 4 (days 22 - 28)
I thought this week would never come...and at the time of writing this, I'm still five hours a way from it.
And that five hours, seven days gave me amble time to plan my sugar reintroduction...Although, of course, I am now hindered by the latest Sadventure, the £10 a week challenge, so that ruled out anything particularly exotic.
Pineapple Upside Cake?
Sugar sandwich? This was voted twice by friends bizarrely!
Pineapple meringue pie?
I was most tempted by the idea of having a sugar bath. Alas, with the world's most revolting bread sitting in my bread bin, it had to be Bread and Butter Pudding. No ice-cream but who cares!
More than one person has warned me to introduce sugar back in slowly, lest I have a sugar coma...sounds like a good night's sleep to me.
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