I, Emily Duffield, am an addict. To something more addictive than heroine, and more accessible than Tiger Wood's pants. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am addicted to sugar. My love affair with sugar has been a long and sweet one (touché), and like all addictions since my first hit as a child, sugar has been with me through the good and bad times, birthdays and breakups, celebrations and humiliations; sugar has long been a friend of mine. Hell, who am I kidding; more then a friend it’s been staple in every meal and every snack I’ve had for the past 25 years. But as of the night of Friday the 19th October I decided that sugar and I are through.
It started off as a fairly average day. Average as it can be for someone who has just moved to a new city, is moving into a new apartment that day and also has a job interview. Due to my lack of sleep I decide that the most helpful breakfast for myself that day would be a large can of ‘V’ accompanied by a pecan plait and a Cadburys marvellous creations bar. Just for that extra bit of energy, ya’ know. I move into my new flat, lug my suitcases up the stairs, legs shaky from caffeine or exercise I’m not too sure. Change and rush to my job interview which en-route I grab a Whittaker’s hokey pokey bar and a can of coke – double deal justification. Finish the interview, head around town to get my new room kitted out, find myself starving in the ‘Warehouse’ and with no other food in their but giant bags of lollies I grab a large bag of Werther’s Original toffees and proceed to chomp my way through the majority of the bag whilst walking round the shop. By this point I now feel sick with a sweet overload. But that’s ok, I can get something savoury soon to sort it out.
After another hour around town I enter the supermarket before heading back to my new place. Not really feeling up to eating a meal after my recent sugar-overload I decide on snacks instead, a bag of chocolate covered raisons, a bag of BBQ flavoured rice crackers and an assortment of pick and mix chocolates and lollies. Consume the majority of these whilst hanging up my wardrobe, and then go out to socialise with the new flatties. Flattie’s friends come over for film and bring the obligatory supersize Cadburys bar and large bags of m&m’s. Bonding quickly over the chocolate I eat more then I should. Night falls, I get into bed accompanied by the few last squares of Cadbury’s and realisation falls that I have not eaten a single meal all day. Not even a single meal but bar the chocolate covered raisons not even a piece of fruit or veg. And then an even worse realisation hits that not only have I lived like this today, but in fact I have been doing this all week. And my brain frantically scrambles back to the last meal I had which consisted of a MacDonald’s 3 days ago. Holy Moly. Where did I, Emily Duffield go so wrong? And that was it. Right there. That was the moment. The moment I decided to say goodbye to sugar for good. (I at this point would also like to add I did spend the last week on planes and buses and living out of a suitcase in hostels moving…I am not usually quite so bad!)
So this cant be too hard right? I mean sugar is only in lollies and chocolate and cakes and brownies and biscuits and ice-cream and cookies and oh those melt in your mouth cupcakes and….Stop. Oh how wrong I was. You see when someone decides to go sugar-free its like cutting off your right arm. You are literally waving goodbye to the majority of the supermarket, sweet and savoury. I discovered this out whilst traipsing up and down the supermarket aisles scrutinising the back of every can and bottle for the better part of three hours with a security guard breathing down my neck. White bread – no, cereal – no, soup – no, crackers – no, wraps – no, mayonnaise – no, tomato sauce – hell no. You see even things which you would naturally assume to not really contain sugar all do. Even if not present in the ingredients as ‘sugar’, it still is present as some weird ‘ose’ sounding ingredient; glucose, dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose…and the list goes on. At the great risk of having a breakdown down the supermarket aisles whilst cursing all the food companies I decided to make it easy for myself and go back to basics. Fruit, vegetables, raw meat, fish, rice, eggs, nuts, seeds and cheese all graced my basket. For my sweet kicks I bought sugar-free jelly, sugar-free sodas, unsweetened yogurt, bananas, dried apricots and dates. Purists could argue that there are natural sugars in these fruits, but at the risk of keeping me sane, I would have too much of a tough time without them.
The only one thing I cheated on was chicken stock. At the risk of going crazy, I could not find one which didn’t include some sugar, and at 8pm on a Saturday night I did not have the heart to roast a whole chicken just to make stock off it. So they got me there. But once I got home and started to make my sugar-free meals I realised when you have all the ingredients it isn’t actually that hard to make meals which don’t taste like their missing anything, and are actually really tasty!
For me the hard part about coming off the sugar isn’t just the cravings, it’s the habits associated with it. The urge to grab a chocolate bar when I’ve had a bad day, or to relieve stress. The natural impulse to stop off at a dairy and get a liquorice log. Mentally I have some hard habits to break, which is why for myself going cold-turkey is the only option. I’m an all or nothing kind of gal, and I know that if I tried to ration chocolate it just would not work. I have never been someone who can ‘forget’ about half a bar of chocolate in the cupboard, my Easter eggs go in two days flat, and most Christmases I end up having to replace Toblerone bars several times before I actually give them as presents.
It’s been just over two days without sugar for me and I have to say, I’m not feeling lethargic, or weak, or less energetic. In fact I actually feel the opposite, I feel pretty damn good. Too long I was fuelling my body with empty calories and rubbish, and now I am happy that what I am putting into it is good for it. Let’s get this straight, this isn’t a diet for me, this isn’t a life plan. I’m not promoting this to anyone, I’m certainly not a dietician, and I’m not following anyone else’s food plan. This is just me trying to do the best for my body whilst I can. I’m sure I’ll fall off the wagon, but right now I’m excited to see how fuelling my body right may effect me both physically and mentally. If anyone wants to join me feel free – the more the merrier! I plan on updating you with my progress or struggles, and any delicious (sugarfree!) recipes I may have encountered along the way.
Sugar baby, you were good while you lasted, but for now I think I’m sweet enough.
Here’s an example of what I’ve eaten the past two days to show you how with a little bit of preparation going sugar free isn’t too hard! (note this is not endorsed by anyone but myself!)
Breakfast : oats, natural unsweetened yogurt, a cut up banana, and some chopped up dates
Lunch : roasted garlic and cauliflower soup (yum!), an apple and some dried apricots
Dinner : Roasted aubergine, pumpkin, carrot and onion with a cheddar and mushroom omelette.
Snacks : almonds, cashews, sugar-free jelly and carrots
Breakfast : ½ avocado and a poached egg on wholegrain bread
Lunch : Chicken, avocado and cashew salad, a natural yogurt and a banana
Dinner : Squid and vegetable stir-fry with Tamari sauce, and brown rice.
Snacks : sugar-free jelly, apple, seeds and cheese
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