Roll back six weeks to late January and I was full of verve for quitting sugar and becoming healthier. I was also a little high on that delightfully smug feeling garnered from the knowledge that my food intake was about to become more wholesome than that of the people around me. I was convinced I'd soon be shedding unwanted Christmas pounds effortlessly. I'd signed up for the I Quit Sugar 8 week program and guess what? I failed miserably at it.
The failure started when I didn't prepare properly. I dutifully printed the meal plan, stocked my pantry with the ingredients on the first weekly shopping list but failed to do anything with them. I did not make the gluten free buckwheat loaf for the first Sunday cook up as suggested. I did make a chia pudding but as usual I ate most of it before it could swell up because I raid the fridge impulsively between 9pm and 11pm most nights, without fail and I love the sweet creamy taste of coconut milk and vanilla. So, not exactly a great start.
The first week continued in this vein of picking and choosing what I wanted to follow on the meal plan substituting this for that and not drinking the lemon and water as instructed, rather opting for the free lattes over at Waitrose, but I was sugar free. The headaches, nausea and dizziness were excruciating. I can't find another way to say it, I was in pain. It was not enjoyable and it didn't end for me until well into week two. I suspect this is because in my normal routine I eat a lot of refined sugar. Even though in general I eat healthily I have a ludicrously sweet tooth, which when coupled with a great metabolism has meant I can eat packets of biscuits, cakes, chocolate bars and ice-cream daily without any noticeable adverse health effects in the short or long term. So you're probably wondering why do I want to change? Well, last autumn I noticed I was experiencing mood swings, sometimes I would snap at Bella & Bear for no plausible reason and I wasn't sleeping well. I was also constantly looking in the cupboards for something to nibble when I was bored. All quite normal behaviours for a single mum, nothing to worry about right? Then I noticed that my children were mirroring my behaviour. They'd come home from school tired, have a sweet snack that didn't fill them up and then bicker, fight and constantly request more snacks until supper time. There was also the fact that all three of us kept getting sick. First with colds and sore throats, then coughs and chest infections that we couldn't shift for months. Bella kept complaining of headaches and tummy upsets. Bear would have a temperature but still be bouncing off the walls. In December alone they had about a week off school each due to illness. It took me a long time to accept why we were all behaving the same way and experiencing the same symptoms, we were eating way too much sugar and our food was not nutrient dense.
The reason it took me a long time to reach this conclusion is because I cook with whole foods and fresh vegetables at least five evenings a week for my family. A typical week of evening meals for us would include bangers and mash, spaghetti bolognese, cottage or shepherd's pie and a roast dinner on Sunday. We'd also have a pizza night and a left overs night. I serve two types of veg with most meals often broccoli and carrots. Most meals are followed by a pudding of ice-cream and chocolate sauce for the children and a yoghurt or piece of fruit for me. Reasonably healthy right? The trouble is all of these meals contain either large quantities of refined carbohydrates (which our bodies convert into sugar) or large quantities of added unseen sugar (just read the back of that Dolmio jar). So my main reason for starting the 8 week program was to learn new sugar free recipes and reduce our overall sugar consumption.
I stopped buying chocolate biscuits and by week two things were settling down. I felt more balanced mentally, better able to concentrate on projects, I was sleeping better, really enjoying the meals I was trying and Bella & Bear were not nearly so hyperactive or disagreeable after school. Then at the end of the second week was Bella's 7th birthday party. I made two types of cupcakes, her favourite peppermint bark, marshmallows and bought typical kids party fodder. I did well initially holding back throughout the party until I caved, devouring what shall be known as 'the gateway cupcake' in less than a minute. It began with a slight lick of a finger covered in homemade frosting and culminated a week later in my eating an entire bar of Green & Black's cooking chocolate while watching Revenge. It was an epic fail.
Since then I've been teetering on the edge of trying again or accepting defeat. The thing about failing spectacularly like this is that you can't fudge your way around it. It wasn't a little slip up I made, it was a full on face plant and I've found it hard to admit to myself why I failed. It wasn't that I was weak willed. It's that I was arrogant. I thought I could sale through a difficult life style change without sufficient preparation or a backup plan. Now I've taken some time and accepted my short comings I take a very different view, I am humbled by the strength of character it takes to make continuing efforts toward a life altering goal. I'm going to try to quit sugar again because failure is only complete when we give up on our goals and while I may have lost sight of mine for a few sugar-soaked weeks they remain constant.
So I'm six weeks behind, starting the program again from scratch but I'm resolute and the first thing I've done this time round is to make that buckwheat loaf. I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing.
Roll back six weeks to late January and I was full of verve for quitting sugar and becoming he...
Tuesday, 3 March 2015