Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Giving Up Sugar - After One Week

I always try to give up something for Lent. I think it's a really good opportunity to remind myself that there are people in the world who don't have things to give up, and how lucky I am to have a lifestyle where I'm able to have little treats and vices. It's usually something like chocolate, but I've been finding that giving up one treat is a bit of a cheat really, because there are plenty of other sweet treats to fill the gap, so this year, I've given up sugar. I have made it a bit easier, in that I don't count the hidden sugar in meals, but I have stopped eating any sugary treats. No cakes, biscuits, chocolate, nothing and it's been interesting. Here are the highs and lows of my first week, which was a lot harder than I expected.

Day 1 was really easy. I was feeling quite smug about giving myself a real challenge this year, so I wasn't craving anything, and didn't have any negative side effects. I was just quietly looking forward to the health benefits of not eating so much sugar. I don't eat a lot of processed foods, so the majority of my sugar does come from eating between meals, which is obviously really bad for me. I started researching sugar, and it turns out it's in everything, from savoury crackers to brown sauce, so it would be a massive job to give it up completely and not necessarily a good idea, according to nutritionists. I won't eat anything that's obviously flavoured, like sugary cereal, but I think the little bit that's left in my lunchtime crackers probably isn't worth worrying about. So, I should be fine, right? I'm only giving up most of my sugar intake, so I'm making it much easier on myself. Oh. So. Wrong.

Day 2 and the headaches began. It's a very specific headache, that feels really generally achy, like having your head in a bucket, and the bucket is too tight. You are not getting that bucket off any time soon, oh no. It's your bucket and it's here for the long haul. As well as the head bucket, came the exhaustion. Not just a bit tired, I mean completely unable to stay awake, or take in anything anyone was saying. My new bedtime is about 8pm. Oh joy. On the plus side though, I did feel a little bit lighter. You know, not-bloaty lighter? Fellow Bloaties will understand. I bought some natural yoghurt and seeds, just to have something to eat after dinner. It's weird not snacking at all, especially when you're really tired. I'm not sure it made much of a difference, but it felt good to be doing something positive about it.

Day 3 arrived and I hadn't had much sleep, as I woke up a few times still feeling headachy and a bit rubbish. I am starting to think that if this is what the withdrawal symptoms are like, it probably is a fairly harmful substance to be consuming a lot of. I can now add insomnia to my list of unpleasant symptoms. Evenings are a particular struggle, that's when the headaches start and then I just get more and more tired, until I want to go to bed, because it feels like it's about 2am, when in reality I'm being outlasted by a 12 year old. Today I also started eating more fruit. Apart from my morning protein shake, I don't really eat much fruit, but I thought it might take the edge of the headaches, so I made a banana and beaten egg pancake for after dinner. Sadly, it didn't help. Nothing is shifting the bucket.

Day 4. There were some improvements today. I started to feel a bit healthier inside. My waistbands started to feel a bit looser and that spurred me on quite a bit. I'm not craving anything, which is strange. In all the literature I've read, cravings have been a big problem for some people, but I haven't really noticed any. I have, however developed a real enjoyment for actual food. I look forward to mealtimes, I think because I'm not snacking much, and if I do, it's not as filling as sugary snacks would be. I think I'm already tasting things more too. Either that, or I'm just so damn grateful by the time dinnertime rolls around! Either way, I am loving appreciating the tastes and textures of meals more than I did before. Bucket still intact.

Day 5. Today I went to the gym for the first time since I stopped having sugar. I'd been putting it off, because of the bucket headaches and also, because my son comes too and he does like to go to the cafe. Where they sell rather lovely muffins. I know, I might as well not go to the gym and not have the muffin, but there we are. I was surprised at how easy it was to watch my lovely son lick his muffin and wave it under my nose, in that helpful way that nearly-teenagers do, and not have any. I had tea. Which was gross. I wondered if I was noticing how strong it was because my taste buds were improving. I normally like their tea. Bucket still there, but a little looser today.

Day 6 Tired today, but that might be partly gym-fallout. I spent a long time reading about sugar withdrawal, because I've been really surprised at the negative impact stopping even most of my sugar intake has had. It's just sugar, not crack for goodness' sake. It turns out, it's not necessarily because I was actually eating far more sugar than I'm prepared to admit, although I'm not ruling out that possibility, it's more to do with blood sugars adjusting themselves and adapting to this new regime. Sugar is much easier to convert to energy, so the body has to work harder now converting other, less obvious energy sources such as carbohydrates and fats. The bucket is still there, but only in the evening.

Day 7 Still tired. Starting to think this will never end. The children made cakes. I thought this would be a problem. I imagined I would need to dig up a lot of will power, what with the smells and the cake mix covered washing up, etc, etc. I was absolutely fine, though, genuinely not bothered. I'm really surprised by this, but, despite what I read during the research phase, the cravings still haven't arrived. Usually, if I get tired and headachey, it seems almost primal to crave high energy, sugary foods, but maybe I'm just really determined to succeed with this. Either way, the cakes remained in the cupboard until the children had eaten them, even after I did my parently duty and admired their handiwork.  


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