I’m writing this post from my perch at St Ali, a rather fancy cafe in South Melbourne.
How fancy, you ask?
Check it out: they have coffee ‘meal deals’ such as the ‘Barista Breakfast’ ($10 taster of 3 coffees) or the ‘St Ali Coffee Adventure’ ($20 for 6 coffees. For hardcore non-migrainey narcoleptics only).
Plus, your brunch comes out looking like this:
Ahh Melbourne, you delivered the goods again. I’m just not gonna think about my tab which is going to be around half the monthly rent I paid in Thailand.
Anyway, to make room for a large group at the communal table, one of the staff politely asked me to move seats, which I was happy to do. As a thank you gesture (I’m assuming), they brought me a complimentary brownie – large and chunky, with a sugary crust and caramelised macadamias on top. What a lovely surprise!
Oh sweet holy kettlebells. How could I resist?
Being such a hefty piece of fructose-charged goodness, my head told me to eat half, and take the rest with me to give away. Any more would be too much for my sugar-sensitive system.
So of course, I devoured the whole damn thing.
As I now sit here with a throbbing head, I thought I’d share with you what it’s been like being off the sweet stuff, and how sugar affects me now.
You may recall I went on a ‘No Sugar’ challenge with my sister Lizzay of HowIQuitDrinkingAlcohol that ended on Christmas Day. (I didn’t blog about it at the time because I was too busy eating plum pudding and ice-cream.)
For a whole month, we didn’t eat cakes, biscuits, muffins, lollies, chocolate, dried fruit, artificial sweeteners and anything with added sugar like BBQ sauce and yoghurt. Fresh fruit consumption was limited to one piece a day.
(Side note: if you’re sitting there thinking ‘oh, I don’t eat much sugar’ but you eat, like, 5 pieces of fruit a day and/or drink fruit juice, you’re kidding yourself. Sugar is sugar, whether it’s natural or processed. It has the same harmful effects on your body. Read more about it here.)
So what did I eat?
Each day was slightly different, but here’s what a typical day looked like:
- Breakfast: two fried eggs and half an avocado
- Lunch: leafy salad with tuna or meat, chickpeas, tomato, feta, capsicum and lots of herbs. Olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
- Dinner: Same as lunch, or lentils with meat and spinach, or homemade pumpkin soup.
- Occasional dessert: plain Greek yoghurt with cinnamon, shredded coconut and crushed almonds
- Snacks: plain nuts, a small banana on occasion, carrot sticks, meal leftovers, banana smoothie
- Drinks: coffee (black, milk and bulletproof), water with apple cider vinegar or a squeeze of lemon, tea (green, black and herbal), soda water and fresh lime, occasional few glasses of wine or beers.
What, you drank alcohol?
Yes, I did – I stuck mostly to red wine and vodka sodas and avoided sweet white wines and cider. The only issue I have with alcohol is – it messes with your willpower and ability to think straight.
I remember at one point during the challenge I was at a cocktail bar. I’d had a few wines, and was like “I’ll get a sour cocktail, that means it’s not sweet!” which, to my tipsy self, was perfectly sound reasoning.
Alas, the next morning I woke with a very dry mouth (yep, a sugar hangover of sorts) and realised that duh, most cocktails have sugar in them. What was I thinking? Fail.
That week when Lizzay and I had our little accountability chat, I told her glumly that I’d had a fail. “It’s ok Chris,” she replied. “I had a fail too. I was making a date loaf, and ate a date, and kept on eating them. I couldn’t stop myself. It was terrible!”
Ok, so we were one for one. I could deal with that.
What were the hardest parts of the challenge?
Resisting homemade dessert is really difficult. But somehow, being on a ‘challenge’ makes it easier to resist because there’s no mental torment ie “Do I eat it?? Do I not?? Can I allow myself just this one time??”
It’s just “Nope, not having it. I don’t have a choice.”
Another tricky thing to navigate is Asian restaurants. Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cuisines typically use sugar in a lot of dishes. When I ate at Asian places, I avoided the obvious ‘sweet and sour’ or ‘honey-glazed’ dishes, but I could tell there was sugar in some of the marinades and dressings.
What did I learn?
It’s amazing when you cut out sugar, your cravings do cease. You just no longer feel like having something sweet. If you have a mega addiction, it may take you longer for your cravings to go away, but I promise you, it is possible and totally worth it.
Now, my tolerance for sugar has plummeted. I can detect even the tiniest amount of hidden sugar in savoury restaurant dishes, and eating sweet desserts makes my head hurt.
But am I still addicted? I would say so. Or, rather, I am still very much susceptible to the addictive qualities of sugar. As I discovered with this morning’s brownie, I can’t just have ‘a little bit’. The minute I get a taste of something sweet, it’s heads down, bums up, face first into the plate. Not ok.
Off the sugar, I feel more balanced, less crave-y and less bloated. It’s a nice feeling, and one I want to maintain. So I’m making it a lifestyle choice. My only sugars will come from a small piece of fruit a day, and perhaps the occasional dinner party dessert.
And irresistible brownie gifts ;)