Sugar and I go way back. Imagine balmy summers in Devon. Home from school. Out playing in the streets. Then the tinkle of Mr Walls ice-cream van. I never knew his name. He was just ‘Wallses’. But I was oh so familiar with the shelves of the van that’d rival Wonka’s factory. Not only did Wallses stock every ice-cream imaginable but he did the best range in sugar laden treats and sweets. I would expunge every penny of my pocket money and then snaffle the lot before my mum called me in for tea.
Let’s face it. When you grow up in the land of clotted cream, the home of fudge, there’s not a great deal of hope for you. In the West-country my addiction to sugar started, but I made the bold decision this November to end it.
Everyone loves a ‘month’
Things were spiralling. A few factors had lead me down the path of the sugary damned. Throughout lockdown I’d curbed my snacking with the help of Noom. Then, as the world opened up, it was was back to pub nights and alcohol. Alcohol makes me make all the bad choices. Add to the mix, writing. Sitting at a desk alone, tapping away, with the siren song of Harry’s snack shelf luring me away from my manuscript. Then covid got me good and proper. I suffered a lethargy and malaise that only seemed soothed by packets of double chocolate mini cookies and fizzy cola bottles.
So coming up to November, I decided to coin my own ‘month’. Everyone loves a month, don’t they. Dry January. Mo-vember. Neither work for me. January is miserable enough without giving up on a little tipple. And I’ve had my ‘tash lasered, so no handlebars for me. I decided to go for ‘No Sugar November’. I shared it with my Noom support group. “I didn’t realise it was a thing” was the response from Janet in Idaho. Well, it’s not ‘a thing’ as such Janet, but it’s my thing. I make the rules. This is my rodeo.
The First Rule Of No Sugar Club
The first rule of No Sugar Club is there are rules. I wanted to go as cold turkey as possible, but let’s face it, I wasn’t going to be living on dust. Or worse, lettuce. I decided that I’d be allowed fruit. I’d also try to cook ‘clean’ where possible but I wasn’t going to beat myself up over a little ketchup or a slice of white bread.
Sugar is in everything, I know. But I was going to cull the obvious. The biscuits. The sweets. The puddings. The wine. The gin. The ‘skinny whip’ bars that may only have 98 calories but who am I kidding, they’re just feeding my addiction. To be fair, it was more ‘No Obvious Added Sugar November’ but it didn’t quite have the ring.
So 1st of November I began. Thirty One days and an uncertain future lay ahead. Two sober nights out on the cards. Cupboards filled with treats. A husband and a child salivating over cornettoes nightly. This was not going to be easy.
Day one and two I thought I was breezing it. Feeling good. Shunning all things evil. I was a paragon of freshness, health and virtue. Not even fruit or dastardly white bread crossed my lips. Then it hit. The withdrawal.
I was up most of the night. An upset belly, nausea and dizziness had me lying on the floor of the bathroom at 3am. It must be a bug, surely. But no. The next day the headache assaulted me. I swear, I looked like Ewan McGregor coming off smack in Trainspotting but without his Scottish charm. I was bed bound. Chris had to do the school run. I googled sugar withdrawal and it confirmed my symptoms. And suggested cold turkey was not the finest move. But in for a penny …
I went to sleep praying to feel better. But also knowing that in scientific tests, cocaine-addicted rats, when presented with cocaine and sugar, opted for the sugar. It was very apparent this stuff is lethal and that its chokehold on me was tighter than bondage gear. This was fifty shades of hell.
Fresh As A Daisy
However, the next morning I woke up feeling as fresh as a sugar-free daisy. Over the next few days I noticed a few strange phenomena. My appetite was gone. Normally I wake up thinking of breakfast. Food is never far from my mind. But I just wasn’t hungry. I do believe my blood sugar had stabilised, not seeking its next high after a crash.
Then there was my taste buds. I had allowed myself fruit and had banana in my porridge. The sweetness! It was too much. I managed half a bowl. Who was this freak! This was the girl who used to have sugar on toast for breakfast. (Don’t ask. But yep, margarine and granulated hardcore stuff. Explains the fillings. Not sure how my mother allowed it)
Then there was the weight loss. It was dropping every day. I did change more than one variable mind you. There was more water, more exercise and the usual monthly fluctuations.
When people asked me how I was feeling I could genuinely say I felt fantastic. I had the surge of energy that had been missing for the last year and to top it off, even my skin was clearer.
All in all, it was fairly plain sailing. I’m not one for cutting out food groups. As I hadn’t been draconian with my rules there were still sugary carbs present in my diet. I don’t like fads. But I was unhappy with the addictive grip sugar had on me.
It began to get easy, as I dished out Harry’s Halloween sweetie haul, to tell myself that I just wasn’t allowed it. Breaking off cadburys. Doling out Maoams. The smell of Mulled Wine. I was genuinely able to tell myself I didn’t need it. Even the Prosecco fuelled quiz night, I sat happily sipping on my Diet Coke (yep, artificial sweeteners were allowed in my rule book). It was refreshing not to wake up crusty and with a mouth as dry as a badger’s arse.
I did notice towards the end of the month that the desire to snack took hold of me again. My appetite did increase and let’s just say I got up close and personal with too many slices of Emmental cheese. Before November, I’ve never been much of a cheese fan. But the secret eater who used to snack of an evening on everything sweet she could get her little mitts on was no more.
Hey There, December!
Entering into the season of advent, my ‘month’ was over. I’d smashed it. Thirty-One days and the cycle was broken. So what now?
The first day I thought I’d test the waters. Get back on the horse. There was a Kit Kat. An advent chocolate. Some Maoams lingering from Halloween. Then a large glass of rich Shiraz at the pub. One word. Headache. My poor system couldn’t deal with the overload.
My mission had been accomplished. I could eat it again but it didn’t mean I wanted to. The wine was delicious. The treats were nice. But come the second of December, it was not a challenge to avoid the chocolate and snacks. I was putting the Christmas tree up though so mulled wine was essential. I’m only human.
Would I Recommend?
Frankly, it was brutal. The first few days were horrific. I could barely move my head. But when my body evened out, I felt the best I have all year. Cold turkey was like ripping the plaster off. Painful but effective.
I know everyone likes a measurable so let’s talk scales. Over November I lost between 12-14 lbs (I weigh every day on the Noom programme, and there’s always a fluctuation thanks to hormones, salt intake, water etc). I can fit back in to jeans and skirts that had become too small.
More importantly, my relationship with sugar has stabilised. It wasn’t till I went through that hideous comedown that I realised quite how evil it is!
For Christmas there will be quality street. There will most definitely be Baileys. And it goes without saying there will be lashings of custard. But I’m confident that I can indulge in moderation, something October Karen lacked the control to do.