I have observed over the years that when I am stressed or anxious I gain weight. Quickly. It’s very depressing. So naturally I’ve been on lots of diets. I’m pretty disciplined about dieting when I put my mind to it. But I am, sadly, statistically predictable in that after a three or four years I gain the weight back, and some. And the more that this happens, the less inclined I am to do it again. This is partly because dieting takes up so much mental energy that would be better spent elsewhere; and it is clearly ineffective in the long term. But the key to weight-loss, I have read is 80% diet and 20% exercise.
So, what to do? Well, having read that sugar, as well as being a big culprit in weight gain, depletes collagen production and skin elasticity, I thought it might be worth cutting down. After a bit of internet trawling it occurred to me that since sugar is entirely nutritionally unnecessary, and also pretty detrimental to health, I might as well cut it out entirely (while being tolerant of the odd lapse, of course).
About 10 weeks ago, that’s what I did. I didn’t think that I was a big sugar eater, so I didn’t anticipate any sugar withdrawal. Ha! That was foolish. On reflection, I consumed more sugar than I thought I did. I’ve never been a three bars of chocolate and a pack of biscuits a day sort of a person, and I’ve been pretty savvy about “hidden” sugars – like the ones in bread and breakfast cereals etc. Plus, eating out aside, all our meals are freshly prepared from minimal ingredients. But I did indulge in cakes, and sweet treats on a fairly regular basis. And actually, the withdrawal was much more full on than I imagined it would be – it was mainly characterised by a week of tiredness, irritability and crying… I couldn’t quite believe it, but apparently that’s pretty standard.
So far I have only given up added sugar (both refined cane sugar and natural sugar sources like honey and maple syrup). I have also stopped eating all and any white flour products like breads and croissants. I am still eating fruit, because despite its fructose content fruit has other nutritional benefits, so it’s not really the same as eating a bag of Haribo. I still drink alcohol (moderately) because, seriously, one thing at a time. I am not being so strict that I have sworn off sugar for life. I think that if I have the odd mouthful of pudding, or a dark chocolate truffle or two at Easter, that’s fine. Feeling deprived would be the enemy.
And is it worth it? Yes. My skin looks good. I feel consistently energised throughout the day. I rarely crave sweet things. And I make better food choices overall. Oh, and I’ve lost a half a stone, with what feels like very little effort – certainly I have not had to exert the kind of mental energy over this way of eating as I would have to with calorie restriction, or some more complicated form of diet. It’s not massive weight loss, but I had thought to myself that somewhere in the region of a ½ lb a week would be fine. I want to make this a lasting change driven by overall health considerations, and not by weight-loss. Even if I failed to lose another lb, I would want to keep eating this way. The best thing is that I’m not taking a half-informed approach to cutting out any major food groups or restricting the good foods that I can eat. It’s all good.