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Going AIP

This post first appeared on my other blog Giving Up Sugar.

I haven’t posted in ages on Giving Up Sugar.  Mostly this is because once you’ve given up the white stuff there’s little left to say, and I am not one to hang out in my kitchen creating mouth-watering sugar-free treats.  (Which is a shame, because I suspect I could make a killing.)

However, some of you on your own sugar-free journey may be interested in my next foray into wellness.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease at the ripe old age of 27.  Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (which I have too).

I was not at all surprised when I received my diagnosis.  Most of the women in my family have hypothyroidism, so I knew what was up when I put on a huge amount of weight in 6 months, felt like a slug all the time, had a puffy face, thinning hair and had freezing cold hands.  The hands thing was the final piece in the puzzle for me, as I had previously been one of those ridiculously hardy folks who swan around in summer clothing in the middle of winter.  But now people would shake my hand and cry out ‘Flipping heck, have you been dipping your hands in ice water?’  Something was definitely wrong.

I had to beg my doctor to run the tests as she didn’t expect someone to have hypothyroidism at 27.  But to her credit, she was swayed by my family history and ran the tests (I now realise how fortunate I was that my doctor listened to me.  Many people with Hashimoto’s are misdiagnosed as having a mental illness).  I’m not kidding when I say it took me 6 more years to fully understand the implications of my condition and to accept the limitations of it.  I spent those years ignoring my body, being lackadaisical about taking my medication, pushing myself through the tiredness and brain fog, and generally trying to live as I had before until I gave myself a bad case of burnout.

It was the burnout that forced me to pay more attention to my body and my lifestyle.  My body was screaming at me to slow down because it could not take it any more.

So I slowed down and began to recover.  Giving up sugar helped my energy levels to increase, and I was able to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, plus I lost weight.  Then eating the Trim Healthy Mama way (which is refined sugar-free) helped me shed two more dress sizes and feel more energetic.  But it hasn’t quite been enough.

I have always had a tricky case of hypothyroidism.  My thyroid levels almost always require tweaking of my medication and I am closely monitored for this.  Sometimes I need more thyroxine, sometimes less.  Even when my thyroid levels are ‘normal’, I keep having bouts of unexplained tiredness, poor memory, brain fog, irritability and feeling so, so cold.  Some of these ‘thyroidy bouts’ as I call them, can last a few weeks or a few months.  At the moment I am a bout which has been going on for a couple of months now.  Fun times.

Trips to doctors have them treating me like I am a mental health patient, despite the fact that I am a patient with hypothyroidism, complaining of hypothyroidism symptoms.  But as my thyroid levels are ‘fine’, doctors don’t seem to know what else to do other than screen me for depression and look confused.  I have learned to take my husband with me to all such appointments for back up as I am never taken seriously without having him there to say ‘Yep, what she is saying is absolutely true.’

My thyroidy bouts are not fun, and are very hard on my husband as he has to pick up my slack.  I’m a stay-at-home parent to two toddlers, so that’s a lot of crazy slack to be picked up!  I’m sick of these bouts affecting me – and my family – despite the fact that my test results are ‘normal’.  There has to be more that can be done.

Our genes play a part in the development of autoimmune disease, but diet and lifestyle can reduce the effects once that switch is flicked on.  I’m pretty active in the Hashimoto’s online community and have seen many reports from fellow sufferers saying they’d seen a huge reduction in their symptoms by following the Autoimmune Protocol.  It’s like the Paleo diet, but harsher. The first phase is an elimination diet where you cut out the usual suspects like grains, eggs, soy, dairy and sugar.  But the Autoimmune Protocol goes further.  Developed by Dr Sarah Ballentyne – an expert on immunity and inflammation – the protocol also cuts out nuts, seeds, alternative sweeteners, nightshades and NSAIDS (ibuprofen etc).  The main focus of the protocol is to eliminate foods that contribute to leaky gut and bad gut flora from the diet.  You can read more about the science behind the protocol here.

People with autoimmune diseases can expect to see significant improvement within a few weeks or months, although some may take longer.  I feel confident about doing the first phase because it’s not forever.  Once a measurable improvement happens, then a slow reintroduction to other foods can begin.  Many people discover they react badly to nightshades (tomatoes/potatoes/eggplant/peppers) and have to avoid them for life, and I suspect this might be the case for me.  My father is deathly allergic to raw tomato, and my skin often reacts to nightshades when I  prepare them for cooking.  Other people can successfully reintroduce eggs, nuts and dairy, so I hope I’m one of those!

Food elimination diets are daunting.  But if you’ve eaten something all your life, you may be unaware of its impact on your health and well-being.  I never truly knew how addicted to sugar I was until I eliminated it and saw improvements in my energy and saiety levels.  People who’ve gone AIP report significantly negative reactions to many of the reintroduced foods (like two weeks of feeling yuck), and those reactions are enough to help them avoid that food for life.  I’m hopeful that getting to the bottom of any food intolerances will help me kick my thyroidy bouts for good.

I wondered what on earth there would be left for me to eat if I attempted AIP.  No eggs.  My staple breakfast.  No dairy.  But, but what’s life without cheese?  No curries?  I think I might cry.

Help was at hand thanks to my local library and The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, by Mickey Trescott.  D and I were so impressed by this book, we immediately bought our own copy.  Besides being a beautifully designed and photographed cookbook, what had me going ‘okay, this lady is my new BFF’ was that Mickey acknowledges that sticking to AIP during the elimination phase is HARDER THAN HARD.  She acknowledges that having to make every single dish, sauce or dressing from scratch feels like a Herculean task if you work full time, have kids, or are sick. You know, from an autoimmune disease.  If that’s you, Mickey’s your gal.  She has meal plans and shopping lists to ease into the AIP way.  There are also many other great AIP books out there if you look online.

I haven’t started AIP yet, but I do have a starting date (28 July).  I’m approaching this like I did when I gave up sugar.  I’m not quitting until my social calendar is empty.  My birthday and a trip away are coming up soon, so I will go AIP after then.  I will be turning down dinner invitations and dining out while I’m on the elimination phase because I can’t be bothered with the hassle it would entail.  I have a wedding to go to in September and I think I will just tell the beautiful couple not to worry about a meal for me, and take my own food.  I want to cause zero hassle on their big day.  It will definitely be weird, but when you are on the elimination phase you absolutely cannot cheat.  If you have a reaction to something, you probably won’t be able to work out what caused it (Was it the dressing?  Were the veges sauted in butter? etc.).

So wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

Have you ever gone AIP?  Did it work for you?

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Dollar Diet: Week 45, hey you sweet thing

So many delicious things

So many delicious things

I got together with some lovely friends for a sugar-free baking sharing session.  It was great to have so many people expressing an interest in reducing the amount of sugar in their diets.  We all made a couple of recipes each, and bought them for everyone to try to see if it was something their family might like to eat.  We had several kids in tow so many of the recipes can now be certified kid-friendly.

A sharing session like this is great if you are a ‘sugar-freer’, for several reasons.

1) Many sugar-free recipes are REVOLTING.  Like, oh-my-god-get-this-abomination-outta-my-mouth-now revolting.  This is a great opportunity to try a wide range of recipes and see what ones you actually like, without wasting your time and money.

2) Sugar-free ingredients can be expensive.  Alternative sweeteners can be costly, as can other ingredients beloved by those who create SF recipes.  There’s nothing more annoying than spending lots of money on cacao nibs and chia seeds, only to find the end result is not your cup of tea.  A sharing session is a great way to know whether a certain ingredient is worth your financial investment.

3) It’s a great time to educate others on the benefits of sugar-free living.  I can hold court about not eating sugar for hours if allowed, but I seldom get the chance.  🙂  At the sharing session I was asked all sorts of questions, and gave my opinion on the best alternative sweeteners.  The others were very interested in just how much not eating sugar has transformed my life – for example, I seldom need snacks or spend much mental energy thinking about food anymore – and they were keen to give it a real go.  It’s also a great opportunity to let others know what recipes are really sugar free.  There are many recipes out there claiming to be sugar free, but when you read the list of ingredients it has a cup of agave syrup or 2 cups of honey.  Yeah, not quite the real deal.

I made a batch of Sarah Wilson’s ‘oreo cookies’ (which are quite nice, but in no way taste anything like the original in case you wondered), and some chocolate/nut balls (which do have dates in them, but are a treat that will please everyone).  I came home with a reasonable haul of goodies which disappeared over the next few days, so it was well worth the effort.

Many people would like to give being sugar-free a go, but starting just feels too hard.  A little sharing session like this might just be a delicious tipping point.

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Sugar-Free Toddler: So, what does your kid eat?

The number one question I am asked when folks find out I am sugar-free is if my kids are sugar-free too.

To which I reply, mostly.

Sausage eating banana 'ice cream': simply frozen bananas blitzed in the blender until smooth and creamy

Sausage eating banana ‘ice cream’: simply frozen bananas blitzed in the blender until smooth and creamy

Chip is only 9 months old so he is 100% sugar-free.  Sausage is 2 1/4 years old, so she is the ‘mostly’.  My second most-asked question is what on earth I give her to eat if she’s sugar-free, like she must live on gruel or something.

Having a mostly sugar-free toddler isn’t too hard when they are used to eating this way.  I imagine that transitioning a toddler off large amounts of the white stuff wouldn’t be much fun!  I feel exhausted just thinking about it…

Sausage is a pretty good eater (for now).  She’s not too fussy, eats most fruit and vegetables, and generally eats what we eat – although she draws the line at Ryvita (yuck!), vegemite (I DON’T like it!) and lettuce (that’s digusting!).

She does however, have a massive sweet tooth, especially for chocolate.  Her diet isn’t 100% sugar-free, but then it’s not my intention for it to be.  I believe in taking an 80:20% approach to what my kids eat.  I think forbidding my kids to eat any sweets, cake etc only serves to increase its desirability, which can lead to bizarre behaviour and attitudes towards food.  My mother once told me about some children she knew who were never allowed any sweets at all.  They got into serious trouble for shoplifting their ‘forbidden fruit’.  I also have a friend who grew up without being allowed to eat anything ‘bad’ – he was always sent to parties with a box of his permitted food – and he went crazy when he finally left home for university.  He had an enormous stash of chocolate at all times, and slept with several cases of cola under his bed!  His unhealthy relationship with sweet stuff continues to this day.

So Sausage does get some sugary stuff during her week.  It’s a lot less than the average child I think, and I think it’s easiest just to tell you what she might eat in a ‘typical’ day here in Tawhero.

Breakfast: She eats weetbix or cornflakes, sometimes with a bit of fruit on top (like the feijoas we have in abundance right now).  I can’t get her to eat porridge but you can be sure we’re working on this.  Pretty much any other cereal here in NZ is riddled with sugar.  Some cereals can be 30-40% sugar and yet are promoted as being healthy such as Nutrigrain or Sultana Bran.  And most cereals peddled at children, such as ‘Honey Puffs, Cocoa Pops, and Frosties’ are incredibly sugary.

Occasionally I make her scrambled eggs or pancakes for breakfast.  She likes pancakes just with butter.

Just FYI, I don’t limit fruit.  She’s a toddler and has more energy in her little finger than I have in my whole body.

Morning Tea:  Morning teas can be my trickiest meals in terms of curbing her sugar intake.  We attend two play groups that provide morning tea, and they always, always, always include sugary biscuits/cookies.  They are not the worst offenders in the biscuit world (i.e. they tend to be cream wafers or vanilla wine biscuits) but they seem to be a staple at play groups, along with providing fresh fruit.  One group sometimes provides a diluted raro drink (a powdered sugar drink) which I ignore and give her water (Sausage rarely has juice, and when she does it is very diluted.  She’s never had soft drink.  She is fine with drinking water or milk).  I realise of course that I could forbid her to eat the biscuits, but one or two during the day aren’t going to hurt when they are often the only sugary things she eats that day.  I could even bring her own morning tea, but I don’t for the above reasons.  I’ve have spoken to the play group organisers but it falls on deaf ears.

Don’t get me started on what adults are given to eat at play groups.  I have NEVER been offered anything savoury.  It’s always chocolate biscuits (in front of the children too!).  Fortunately I seldom need a snack in the mornings otherwise I’d go home with a grumbly tummy.

If we are at home, or at Playcentre where we bring our own morning tea, she eats things like boiled eggs, crackers, cheese, hummus, carrots, fresh fruit, yoghurt*, sandwiches, cucumber and tomato slices, tuna, chicken or some sugar free baking if I’ve been particularly organised.

* I haven’t been able to convince Sausage that unsweetened yoghurt is delicious, so I sneak it in to her commercially prepared sweetened fruit yoghurt at a 50:50 ratio.  I will be gradually increasing the unsweetened ration, mwahaha!

If we are out and about and are not organised we do give Sausage biscuits (just keeping it real).  Griffin’s do a fruit digestive that is surprisingly low in sugar.  They are the best of the bunch if you are in a pinch.

Lunch: Sausage is addicted to peanut butter sandwiches.  We use Pic’s 100% peanut brand, which is in my opinion, the best ever.  I will eventually have to wean her off onto other spreads as many schools forbid PB due to increasing numbers of kids with deathly peanut allergies in attendance.  Anyway, lunch is often a PB sandwich, with sides of cheese, tomato or whatever else is to hand.

Afternoon tea: Usually similar to morning tea.

Dinner: Sausage eats what we eat, unless it’s a highly spicy curry.

Sausage does get the occasional sugary treat such as ice cream or chocolate from us and her grandparents, and I allow her to eat what she wants at birthday parties – but she isn’t really on the party circuit like older kids can be.  She is always my litmus test for any sugar-free concoction I make, as if it pleases her, it is generally a hit with everyone.

Having a (mostly) sugar-free toddler is possible. 

Do you limit sugar in your house?  How do your kids respond?

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Week One

My first week of commitment to the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan went well.

The only thing that tripped me up were the two social gatherings I went to over the weekend.  I don’t have any ‘on-plan’ tried-and-tested crowd pleasing recipes yet, so I opted for making healthy choc/date/nut truffles and sausage rolls which I figured were my best options as I had very little preparation time for both events.  Neither of those dishes are on plan, but it couldn’t be helped.  I managed to mostly eat on plan at the events, but in the future I will be:

  • testing out more THM recipes so I can bring an arsenal of them to social events, and
  • filling up on THM food before I go out whenever I’m unsure what will be on offer at an event

I kept our meals simple.  Lots of tuna salad, eggs, and chili with quinoa and veges.  I want to get the basics rights before I branch out into the fancier stuff.  I made a couple of THM recipes from the book that were delicious so I’m pleased I didn’t throw in the towel before giving THM a fair go.

I haven’t weighed myself because I know I will find that too depressing.  I’m sure the scales will show I’m losing weight, which gratifyingly has been the case since giving up sugar again in January, as my clothes are getting looser.  I have taken some ‘before photos’ which I hope to share with some kick-ass ‘after’ photos one day!

 

Are you a Trim Healthy Mama?  Do you have any tips for newbies like me?

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Trim Healthy Mama: a review

Giving Trim Healthy Mama (THM) eating a go was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

As a rule I try to start new diets or eating plans when my social calendar isn’t filled with temptation in the form of birthday cake.    Now I have Sausage and D’s birthdays out of the way I have started THM with a vengeance.  THM has been feeling a bit like my nemesis for the past year and a half since I first purchased the book.  I tried and failed several times to eat the THM way while I was pregnant, but my cravings were too strong and I think I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it.

I have struggled with my weight for most of my adult life.  After going sugar-free I lost quite a bit of weight, only to gain some back while pregnant with Sausage.  I was just starting to loose some of it again by eating sugar-free and running when I became pregnant with Chip.  And then after Chip was born I put on even more weight(!) due to stress-eating when things were bad with his reflux.  It’s time for it to come off again.  I am on board with THM now and raring to go.  As of Monday, my two month THM trial has begun!

Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett  (image credit)

Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett (image credit)

THM is an insanely popular book in Christian circles and seems to be a successful way of eating for many, many people.  In a nutshell, THM is a carb-controlled eating plan that emphasises ditching sugar and most carbs, and embracing healthy fats and whole foods (as such, it is not a huge change to how I eat anyway).  If you want to make the most of the recipes in the tome-like book, it does require some expensive and hard-to-find-in-New-Zealand ingredients – but the ‘plan’ can be followed without it.

I don’t want to go into the THM way of eating because it feels disrespectful to the authors to give away their trade secrets.  I’m going to encourage you to buy the book instead.  The authors do a great job of explaining how tweaking what you eat in combination can make a difference to whether you burn fat or store it, and these ladies have really done their research.  Let me just say that THM makes good sense to me and does not involve complicated food restrictions or calorie-counting.  THM is not a ‘diet’.  I can eat as much as I like.  I just need to be careful about what I eat in combination and when.

I’ve been a THM Facebook member for several months now, and hardly a day goes by without someone posting their weight loss or improved health success story.  Many members have posted about how GOOD and how ENERGETIC they feel on the THM way of eating, and that’s why I have been desperate to give it a go.  I don’t know about you, but energy is in short supply with the adults in our household.

 

What I like about the book:

  • It’s an entertaining, easy read.  The authors are two Kiwi lasses (hooray!) now living in America. who have been on a healthy-eating journey for a long time.  Their book is largely written as a conversation between the two of them and their banter is often laugh-out-loud funny.  They are great at breaking down the nuts and bolts of nutrition,andmaking the science behind their plan accessible to people like me.  Because generally when it comes to food science, this is me:
    Brownie points to anyone who can tell me what movie I’m referencing…
  • The book is huge.  The authors go into a lot of detail, and I said earlier, they back up what they are saying with research.  Like actual peer-reviewed research.  Not just anecdotal evidence sourced off Dr Google.  Plus I reckon the vastness of the book makes it seem like value for money.
  • The plan is holistic.  Pearl and Serene don’t just cover food.  They look at the impact what you eat has on your hormones, your sex life, your will power to exercise, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding, weight maintenance and more.
  • They recognise that approaches to nutrition differ.  They don’t expect anyone to suddenly change a life time of habits and favourite foods overnight.  They know that some people find eating a healthy diet and making food from scratch easy, while others rely heavily on convenience food to make it through the day in one piece.  The sisters themselves are like this – one is a purist and the other likes to cut corners, so you will often find two versions of a recipe for whatever camp you fall into.
  • They have lots of recipes for you to try.  I hate how some ‘diet’ books are all like ‘check me out, this is how you should be eating’ and then only give you a handful of recipes that will actually work with it.  THM is half eating-plan stuff and half recipe book.
  • You can have dessert.  For breakfast even.  It just needs to be made without refined sugar or loaded with carbs.  They have a considerable number of dessert and treat recipes which won’t make you pile on the weight.  The THM desserts aren’t too different from the way I’ve been eating since quitting sugar back in 2012.
  • There is a huge internet community out there for support and encouragement.  And I mean huge.  The main THM facebook group (there are many, many THM groups) has over 84,000 people in it.  The New Zealand THM facebook group has over 800.  The authors now have an active website and YouTube channel so you can keep up to date and keep motivated.

 

What I don’t like about the book:

  • It’s written for an American audience so some of the ingredients are hard or impossible to find here.  Some of the ingredients needed to fully make use of the recipes I have had to source from overseas, which is something I don’t generally like to do as buying locally is important to me.  However, as I mentioned previously, it is possible to do THM without the fancy ingredients and there is even a Facebook group for people who do this.
  • I think it’s hard to do THM cheaply.  You can’t be vegetarian or eat meat sparingly and do THM.  THM meals require some protein source.  However, I do think that once you are ‘on plan’ and your body is fuelling properly, you probably find you eat less.  Cutting out junk food and lots of carby foods also means there should be more wiggle room in the food budget for protein.
  • It’s written for the American palate.  I’ve tried several of the recipes only to find I didn’t like them, which is disappointing when factoring in the effort taken to source some of the ingredients.  I’m not hugely into creamy, cheesy dishes which some recipes rely heavily on.  However, there are still a ton of their recipes I haven’t tried so I will be persevering.  There are also plenty of bloggers who follow THM and are out there creating THM recipes – so many that I could probably try a different THM recipe at each meal for several years.
  • The dessert/treat recipes rely on sweeteners like Erythritol and Stevia and use other exotic ingredients like almond flour.    I feel uneasy about using alternative sweeteners (I still use them instead of sugar!), but that’s just me.  These ladies have actually done research on them and I haven’t.  I want to get to the point where I don’t feel the need for that stuff – which is (mostly) possible when you’ve been off sugar for long enough.  I’d like to get a few crowd-pleasing treat and dessert recipes under my belt for special occasions and to tackle cravings, but I’ll mostly be sticking to a piece of fruit if I feel the need for dessert.  A criticism I have of low-carb dessert recipes (not just THM) is that they tend to use large quantities of exotic flours like almond.  I would not sit down and eat three cups of almonds, so using three cups of almond flour in a recipe doesn’t feel very ‘whole foods’ to me.  Again, these are just my thoughts and I have done zero research on it!
  • The book is expensive.  It cost me over $60 (NZ).  But it is huge…

 

I will be posting weekly updates on how I’m going with the THM plan.  I’m really excited to give it a go.  Because it seems to work.  Judging by the daily testimonies of people who have struggled with their weight for years and years, who have tried every diet out there, who have given up dieting in frustration, who have a long list of health complaints – THM seems to work for them.  I’m praying it works for me too.

 

Have you heard of Trim Healthy Mama?  Would you give it a go?

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How to give up sugar

This post first appeared in my other blog Giving Up Sugar.

I have been trying to live sugar-free for the best part of three years now, and since beginning back in 2012 I’ve noticed the sugar-free movement getting more and more traction.

cake1

 

image credit

While sugar-free living is not a magic path to a super-slim me, I prefer eating this way.  I certainly do lose some weight and have waaaay more control over my appetite when I am sugar-free.  Some people are able to give up and stay off the white stuff for good, but I was derailed from the sugar-free wagon by both my pregnancies.  I’m not sure why.  Both pregnancies played havoc with my thyroid (I have hypothyroidism), and I found it impossible to ignore my chocolate cravings.

BUT, I have leapt back on that wagon with gusto and must report that it’s been pretty easy so far.  Knowing that I have been successful at keeping sugar-free for months and months in the past is a great motivator.

The number one question I get asked about living sugar-free is how I go about quitting.  So here’s my guide giving up the white stuff.

FAQ’s:

1. How did you do it?  How can I quit sugar too?

You can either quit gently (I’d recommend Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar programme if this sounds like you) or go cold turkey.  I went cold turkey, cause that’s just how I roll.  Either way, here are some tips to make it easier on yourself.

  • Quit when your social calendar isn’t full.  It was the beginning of November when I first discovered Sweet Poison.  As Christmas was coming up, the first time D and I quit (more on that later) we decided to be kind to ourselves and wait until AFTER Christmas/New Year’s.  We waited until we were back at work, so we didn’t have lots of free time to think about food.  Stay in for a couple of weeks instead of going out for dinner at night.  Avoid your favourite cafe.  Have friends over to your house, instead of going to theirs.
  • Get sugar in all its variants out of your house.  Give it away to your neighbours.  Just get rid of it.  You don’t want to be sitting at home on day two with that stash of chocolate you always keep in the top right-hand cupboard calling your name.
  • Generally I think soft drink is the devil, but get some Coke/Sprite Zero, or other zero-sugar drink to get you through the withdrawal period, if you think it might help.  Trust me, after a few weeks you will no longer want the stuff anymore.  I had it for about a week (that’s all I could stand) and it helped me when I got cravings.
  • Expect to have a few days of feeling rubbish.  It passes.  Sooner than you’d think.
  • Really think about if you’re ready to quit.  It’s okay if you’re not.  Just file the idea of quitting sugar away for when you are.  For me, I’d just had enough.  I’d hit bottom.  I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my over-eating that carrying on as I was just wasn’t an option anymore.  Sweet Poison was the first thing that gave me hope in like, forever.  My daughter is my main motivation for staying sugar-free.  I don’t want her to grow up with a weight problem, or have the food issues that I did.

2. Why should I give up sugar?

Oh man, once you’ve been off it you’ll see.  Fructose is killing us.  It’s making us fat, sick, tired, diseased, spotty and addicted.  There is nothing in fructose that your body needs.

Giving up sugar has changed my life.  Here are some benefits I’ve seen:

  • weight loss
  • increased energy
  • increased satiety levels (I only need 3 meals a day)
  • clearer mind
  • fewer mood swings
  • better sleep
  • clearer skin
  • HAVING CONTROL OVER MY APPETITE.  I never could stop a one chocolate.  Now I can look at chocolate and not even want it.  Now I seldom even think about chocolate.  Or other sweet stuff.

3. What’s sugar withdrawal like?

Unfortunately, it’s different for everyone.  David Gillespie reckons men have an easier time of it than women.  I think he’s probably right.  My husband D took a couple of weeks to withdraw, which is pretty typical for men.  I took a couple of months.  Some women take longer.  You may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • irritability (Duh!  Of course you’re going to be irritable)
  • intense hunger (When D and I quit we were both RAVENOUS on the first day.  I would have eaten anything not nailed down).  Have a metric tonne of sugar-free snacks at the ready.
  • tiredness/lethargy
  • trouble sleeping

All these symptoms are normal.  You are detoxing from an incredibly addictive substance.  I felt headachey, hungry and tired for a couple of days, but otherwise I was okay.  I found the worst part of withdrawal was simply saying no to temptation when out and about.

4. How will I know when I have withdrawn properly?

Your appetite will decrease.  You will no longer have thoughts of food taking up valuable space in your mind.  You will no longer be planning your day around trips to get snacks, or panicking about when food might get served at a friend’s dinner party because you’re starving.  You will be able to look at sugary treats and say ‘euck’.

5.  How do you stay sugar-free?

Expect to mess up.  Ok?  Just expect it.  You’re going to be okay.  You’re making a big change.  You’ve been addicted to this stuff for most of your life.

It takes a person an average of SEVEN times to break any sort of addiction, and sugar is no exception.  D and I first quit in January 2012 and did really well until we went to America in September that year.  We came back totally addicted again (hard to avoid it when you are been hosted by people).  As I was pregnant at the time and finding withdrawal incredibly hard, we decided to be kind to ourselves and quit after the baby arrived.

I am not militant about never eating any sugar – but I do have strict, self-imposed rules around when I do have it: super-special occasions like milestone birthdays and weddings only.  This means I hardly ever have it.  I do this because D and I are very social and always have ‘special occasions’ going on.  I do this because I enjoy celebrating with loved ones, and some times are special enough to me to eat a damned piece of wedding cake.  It works for me.  Some people find staying away altogether works best for them.  Figure out what approach works best for you.

After you’ve been sugar-free for a few months it really does get easier and easier.  If you mess up, or deliberately choose to eat some, just gird your loins and start eating sugar-free again at your next meal.  It’s not the end of the world.

6.  How do you get kids to be sugar-free?

Err, good question.  One of my kids is only a baby so he doesn’t know any different.  My older kid is often surrounded by it at play groups and birthday parties.  I try not to be militant about what she eats when we are out as I think that merely serves to increase the desirability of sugary food to children.   Her meals are home are almost always sugar-free which  helps her have a balanced diet.  I try to spread the sugar-free message where ever I can (without being a pain in the butt) – especially at play groups where there are always biscuits etc on offer.

If you’ve got older kids, you might need to take a different tack.  Sugar is in most of the food your kids eat, even if you haven’t meant to sugar them up.  Seriously.  It’s in their cereals, their yogurts, their ‘healthy’ muesli bars.  Depending on your kids’ personalities, you might want to take the softly, softly approach.  Arm yourself with lots of yummy sugar-free recipes.  And once you’ve all withdrawn, you can replace the sugar in their favourite recipes with alternatives. (Occasional treats people, occasional).

7. I love baking.  What sugar alternatives do you use?

Okay, lots of recipes will claim to be sugar-free but still use honey, agave, or maple syrup.  Those things are all high in fructose and still bad for you.  So you do have to look a bit harder online to find truly sugar-free recipes.

Occasionally I use stevia, erythritol, dextrose and rice malt syrup.  While many people who have researched these alternative sweeteners swear by them, I must say that I think the jury is still out on them for ME, so I don’t have sugar-free treats a lot.  With all due respect to my sugar-free friends out there, some people use sweeteners like it gives them free licence to eat cake.  Like it magically makes things healthier.  It’s still cake.  You can make some amazing sugar-free treats for sure, but use them sparingly.  Dextrose cookies twice a day does not a healthy diet make.