This week, it is Sugar Awareness Week (yes, I s*** you not) and it falls perfectly with my 2020 resolution to reduce my sugar intake. It’s three weeks into the resolution, and it has been an interesting three weeks to say the least. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to reduce sugar from my diet (I couldn’t even give up chocolate for lent), but with the knowledge of the health benefits I pressed on. We are all aware that diets of high sugar can lead to type-2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay (in a world full of plastic surgery veneers, save your teeth the pain). Some of the biggest culprits of high sugar are chocolate bars (dark chocolate is the lesser evil), sweets (candy if you’re American) and fizzy drinks. And whilst we might not like to admit it to ourselves, a lot of us are actually lowkey addicted to the stuff (raise my hand, I was one of these unfortunate folk). As a result, when we give sugar the heave-ho, we can experience some withdrawal symptoms, and this my friends is where this post lifts off.
If you do decide to kick away that sweet tooth, here are some of the withdrawal symptoms you could feel. It is completely normal to have these side effects, and understanding them can help you push through (and not give into sweet, sweet temptation).
Down in the Sugar Dumps
What sweet irony, the espresso depresso got an extra shot of depresso (please appreciate the coffee references). Yes, I felt even lower than usual during the first week of detoxing. Unfortunately, for those of us who struggle daily with depression, taking away the rush that sugar gives us, slumps us back into the void. Knowing this, however, really helped me cope. Understanding that this was a symptom of withdrawal, and accepting that it wasn’t going to last forever, pushed me through it. For me, I couldn’t go cold turkey (praise be, if that’s your bag) so I decided that if I was good with my sugar intake throughout the day, I could reward myself at night. Bear in mind that this rule didn’t include gorging out on chocolates, although I didn’t beat myself up too much when I did have a little extra chocolate than I should have (I’m only human, and Lindt is too good).
So far, I have kept to this little rule and it gives me the motivation during the day to keep the sugar demons at bay.
Sleep? I Hardly Know Her
Honestly, thank goodness for my meds for helping me drift off at night, because it is phenomenal how much sugar can affect your sleep. I was having weird dreams, waking up at the drop of a penny and feeling groggy in the morning. I’m no sleep scientist, but from what I’ve researched, as your body adjusts to the shock of reduced sugar, your REM sleep (the type that makes you dream) can be affected. I already struggle getting out of bed in the mornings as it is (as we have seen in the Morning Routine Challenge series), so feeling as though I’d had a terrible night’s sleep on top of the low mood was grim (or did the sleep cause the low mood? Sugar-ception).
This symptom has fizzled out since the first week – partly due to the introduction of a small treat at night, and partly as a result of my new medication. Through my research of this, others have found it helpful to do something really relaxing at night, such as a bath or a form of mindfulness.
I Hate Everyone
(When don’t I?)
Ever watched TV and a character started going a bit berserk because they’re detoxing from a drug? Well this is the PG-13 version of that. Obviously I’m not comparing myself to a heroin addict going through hell from withdrawal, but the way sugar is so ingrained into the everyday diet makes quitting a struggle. I found myself getting very irritable or in a “whatever” mood (picture a teenager in the prime of puberty and you’re getting close). Again, much like the other symptoms, knowing that this was a result of my body adjusting to its higher form, soothed my red mist. To combat this, I didn’t stop myself from snacking, I merely changed what I was snacking on – swapping Jaffa cakes for an apple (and my god do I love Jaffa cakes). Yes, fruit has sugar in it (spare me the lecture), but the nutritional qualities of fruit completely outweighs the sugar content (just don’t binge it). Luckily, I have an outstanding support network of friends and loved ones, who encouraged me (especially during my essay writing) by showing me that I was doing so well.
The take away? You can’t always prevent yourself from taking your cravings out on someone, but you can prevent yourself from falling into a trap of feeding the monster with sugar; try fruit instead.
Running on Empty
This is what imagine most supermodels feel – always hungry. When I first took away sugar from diet, I had some serious cravings, and to be honest, I’m still experiencing this. It’s amazing how much the body relies on sugar to energy when you keep piling in into you. As soon as I stopped giving my body short energy, it freaked out and wanted me to feast like a Tudor king. Admittedly, I did give into this, not by eating more sugar, but by eating equally unhealthy foods with more fat than sugar. Now, I am woman enough to admit this wasn’t my finest hour (particularly after Christmas), but all successes are entrenched with failure. One top tip I have seen from other sugar-ditchers, is to increase your protein intake when detoxing. I’m a meat-eater (veggies and vegans, don’t at me), and there’s always chicken, ham (smoked, because that how my Polish ancestors ate it), and eggs around. So, I ramped up the meat, egg and fish intake – swapping sugary porridge for egg on toast. By swapping, I started some new cravings but not for sugar!
See, you have to fail to succeed sometimes.
These are just a handful of symptoms that I personally experienced, and others will go through different side effects. However, as it is Sugar Awareness Week, why not try slowly reducing now? Or, if you’re reading this in the distant future (hello future friends!) now is as good a time as any to start. (Please consult with a healthcare professional first though fam, I don’t want a lawsuit on my hands). Also, check out this post by Claudia Smith about blood sugar imbalances and its link to mental wellbeing!
See you next week!
Featured Image Credit 📷: Joanna Kosinska