When we last left me on the sugar free challenge, I was off to a bad start. There was bingeing, sadness and regret. Like any average Sunday, really.
But it’s been over a week now and things have gotten more interesting and complicated.
Here’s what I’ve discovered…
Oh god there’s sugar in everything. Everything!
The detox started in earnest the next day. I started off strong, choking down some seriously flavourless oatmeal (some people call it porridge – I don’t) and eating chicken and brown rice for lunch.
For dinner, I made a salad with sausage and a mustard vinaigrette. Guess what? Mustard has sugar in it!!
After dinner, I cooked an enormous amount of meatballs and brown rice for the entire week’s worth of lunch and dinner and, if necessary, breakfast. Meatballs for all, I say! I was on a roll, feeling good about myself and the job I was doing when I looked at the label on the can of diced tomatoes I had cavalierly tossed into the pan.
There’s sugar in canned tomatoes. Also, the minced garlic from a jar that I used? LOTS of sugar.
There is so much sugar everywhere, brands have taken to creating “No Sugar Added” labels. That’s a selling point now. Here, buy our carrots. There’s no sugar added. Oh, thank you very much for not adding sugar to the carrots, you MONSTERS. By the way, just because something says “No Sugar Added” doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Also, if you’re checking labels, looking for sugar, you should know that, like a high profile criminal on the run from the law or a celebrity checking into a hotel, sugar goes by many other names.
No one is safe. Danger lurks in every corner. We’re all in trouble. Hug your children.
Like bringing a sweat towel to the gym, quitting sugar is extremely inconvenient.
I enjoy cooking, especially for dinner.
But unless you’re a chef or something, cooking for lunch just feels like something people with no jobs, no hobbies and no sense of their own mortality have time for. Sure, you can be the kind of person that brings 45 bags of groceries to work and makes a deeply complicated salad in the office kitchen. But then you open yourself up to looks of derision and nicknames like Super Salad Sam.
I usually just prefer to make a sandwich. Well, a lot of breads have sugar in them. Some added, some natural. And cold cuts are processed meats, which is against the rules. Plus, as I discovered when I started this thing, they can cause health problems, are widely considered evil and may contain humectant, papain or carrageenan.
I’m not a scientist (yet), but I imagine it’s a good idea to stay away from humectant.
I feel tired, hungry, unfocused and unfriendly.
I knew that I was addicted to sugar. As discussed, when I eat ice cream, I eat to win. Whatever portion it happens to come in is getting consumed. That’s a fact.
But that sort of thing doesn’t happen very frequently, so I didn’t think there would be withdrawal symptoms.
I was wrong.
I felt fatigued and lacked anything approaching focus. I would just stare into the middle distance for minutes and lived in constant danger of falling asleep, even while talking to people. And the endless anti-climaxes on Game of Thrones made me even sleepier than usual.
I was a mess.
Leftovers - I hope you like 'em, because that's what you're getting.
People with busy lives who don’t believe in eating pre-made food should not make this lifestyle change. I’ve been forced to make huge amounts of food and portion it out for consumption throughout the week. My glassware is getting a serious workout.
I just can’t leave anything to chance. It’s too easy for me to be stuck in a sugary wilderness with no options, The Revenant-style.
Playing basketball became incredibly difficult and humiliating.
People who know me know that I’m an athlete. Even people who don’t know me know because it’s the first thing I say whenever I meet someone: “How are you? I’m an athlete.”
Well, I tried to play in my usual early morning casual basketball run and it was a disaster. I was discombobulated, disoriented and, eventually, disappointed. I was like Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly, just heaving the ball up in the general direction of the basket with no real hope of it ever actually going in.
I don't have statistics to back it up, but quitting sugar tears families apart.
After the first day or two, I started getting extremely anxious texts every other hour from my very tense lady friend. She was not happy with this situation. She was moody and fatigued. She didn’t think she was a sugar addict, but her regular diet consisted of those pre-packaged granola things which have lots of sugar in them. And her favourite cereal is sugared up like nobody’s business.
One evening, I tried to explain to her that the withdrawal symptoms were an indication that she ate too much sugar. Big mistake…
ME: This means we’re on the right track with quitting sugar.
LADY FRIEND: Yes, yes. But it's got to be okay to eat chocolate once in a while.
ME: I just think we need to stop thinking about dessert like it’s the best thing in the world.
LADY FRIEND: Sometimes, I’ve earned a bit of chocolate.
ME: See, it's that kind of mentality that –-
LADY FRIEND: I can't live like you! You're a robot!
The sugar cravings started to go away and I was less hungry throughout the day
After a few days, I found myself thinking about sugar less. Accepting this way of life, I wasn’t tempted by chocolate or ice cream, though I did catch myself staring at the Ben & Jerry’s freezer section in the supermarket for an inappropriately long period of time.
And once I had broken the habit, it wasn't that hard to avoid sugar as long as I followed these essential tips:
- Pour Tabasco sauce over everything.
- Eat cheese all the time. Never stop eating cheese.
I also found that I was less hungry throughout the day. Meals sated me for longer periods of time and I ended up snacking less.
And most importantly…
I lost weight! I lost weight! U-S-A! U-S-A!
We should all accept our bodies. They do so much for us every day and they’re wonderful just as they are.
Those are things I used to think because I lost at least two kilos and it was absolutely thrilling. Call me shallow, call me vain, but other than winning a lot of money at a casino, there is nothing better than losing weight.
And the love of my wife and children. That’s pretty good too, I guess.
This is what I look like now:
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Watch Sugar Crash on Thursday, 22 September at 7:30pm on SBS. After it airs, the documentary will be available on SBS On Demand.