We’ve all seen food fads come and go. I’ll happily shun a demonised food group, with vigour. Low-fat foods – booo. High-fat foods – booo. Carbs – hissssss. Only to embrace them again when the fad is over.
I’ve also been known to adopt a fashionable diet plan. Eat for my blood type? Sure, why not. Eat for my body type? Make mine a mesomorph. Eat like a caveman? Just as soon as I don this animal pelt. *
The latest dietary pariah is sugar. It’s a veritable fructose frenzy out there. The word is, it’s added to almost all processed foods and we’re eating way too much of it. I’ve heard sugar addiction compared to a reliance on cocaine or heroin. The Daily Mail even pronounced sugar to be ‘the new tobacco’ last week. A hysterical overstatement in the DM? I was shocked.
I’ve just started a New Year program at my Yoga studio: ’40 days to personal revolution’. Sounds ominous, I know. To add even more pressure, I’m away during the final week so I need to squeeze my personal revolution into 35 days. Part of this program is giving up sugar.
When I stopped drinking alcohol over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to replace drinking with baking. To my mind, it made perfect sense. I would hardly feel the loss, I reasoned, if I reached for the shortbread instead of the champagne. In hindsight it may not have been the most nutritionally sound decision.
I’ve read Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar and it contained a lot of persuasive arguments and data about the evils of a diet rich in sugar. Therefore I have now purchased Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar book and am following her plan.
I say ‘following her plan’ but she recommends eschewing ALL sugar for the first 8 weeks, including all fruit. Apparently this is to ‘recalibrate’ the system before re-introducing some natural sources of fructose. It’s a nice idea, recalibrating, but we’re not computers. If we were I’d be pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete on a regular basis. Locking the display when people approach. Defragmenting every now and then to improve my processing speed.
And then, when fruit is allowed? Low fructose choices only (berries, citrus). Bananas, grapes, pears – out. I think it’s a sad day when you deny yourself a banana. Delicious, portable, eaten courtside by many a top tennis player. Good enough for Novak Djokovic, good enough for me. So fresh fruit of all kinds is in, but I’m sticking to the recommended maximum of 2 pieces per day.
I agree with the advice to avoid fruit juice and commercial fruit smoothies, however. They are chock full of the white stuff.
Thankfully I’m not going it alone. I have a partner in denial. Maybe you assume it’s B. After all, we live in the same house, eat the same meals. Some people with cancer believe a low-sugar diet can starve the disease of the energy it needs to thrive. Nope, not a bit of it. B has become more aware of the sugar he eats and is curious about the plan, but shows little sign of following it.
B: Maybe I’ll give up sugar too.
Me: You bought a box of Mini Magnums today.
B: Oh, right. I think I’ll have one of those.
My Saccharine Second is instead my sister Melissa, who like me has an interest in self-improvement and self-imposed deprivation. Here is her home-made sugar free granola. This was 3 days in the making, including the time needed to activate the nuts. You could say she’s committed.
The first 2 weeks have gone well. Initially I experienced sugar cravings after lunch and dinner and was somewhat irritable (as B can attest). These have subsided and I seem to be equally (or more) satisfied with nuts and cheese as treats instead of cake and biscuits.
Surprisingly, it’s turning everything I thought I knew about nutrition on its head. I’ve lost most of the Christmas flab I put on in December even though I’ve been eating plenty of natural fats (avocado, nuts, coconut milk, greek yoghurt, cheese). I’m scarcely hungry between meals, my skin is clearer and I have more energy.
Time will tell whether this is a lasting trend and the World Health Organisation does reduce its recommendation for daily sugar intake, as is rumoured. Or perhaps it will go the way of the Cabbage Soup Diet and we’ll all be knocking back orange juice with impunity in a year’s time.
* I don’t understand the logic behind the Paleo diet. Our nomadic forefathers ate natural foods, certainly. That’s all they had! I’m sure they would have jumped at the chance to gorge on a Domino’s 5-cheese crust pizza and cookie dough icecream meal deal, had one materialised in the cave. They only lived until around 30 so are hardly a great advertisement for healthy longevity. They also had 1/3 of the time we have to become completely bored of eating only meat, nuts and vegetables.