Even now I’m almost dreading writing this post. Its almost like having to write about a best friend that is no longer in your life anymore. That constant that has been there since day one, sugar is that item in most of our lives. Sugar is so immaculately and intricately woven into the fabric of our lives, that we don’t even realise its present most of the time. Unless you were raised in a home like mine, then you were more than likely exposed to sugar at a very early age. Monique had a very normal upbringing in this regard, mine was a bit different as both of my parents had done a lot of study on the benefits of a plant based diet and the negative effects of sugar. My parents may have protected me from over exposure to the white stuff, but through grandparents and life in general it crept in without being noticed. Sugar becomes one of the foundational associative memory patterns in many of us. If it doesn’t start before the age of 1, then it will definitely start then! We celebrate our first birthday with a big sugary cake. When we fall down we are given lollies to soothe and comfort. When we are sick, our childhood medicine is pink and sweet. When we are naughty we are bribed with sweets and we are rewarded for good behaviour with the same. As we become adults this same reward system is still very much in place. If we have a bad day we search for comforting food or drink which is usually full of sugar. When we suffer emotional upset or a break up in our romantic lives, we bust open that tub of ice cream and pop a bottle of champagne, (no? ok maybe Monique and I are unique in that regard… but champas and ice cream cure broken hearts-jus sayin). When it comes to sugar it is very hard to control and eradicate it because it is so insidious. Sugar is added to virtually everything! Even savoury items you would assume are safe, will have sugar added to them and it will be an item quite high on the list of ingredients.
When Monique and I first started this journey, Monique was the one that quit sugar first. Monique cut all gluten, grains and processed food completely out of her diet. She was still eating fruit but her diet was basically paleo with the occasional bit of fetta cheese on a salad. To be supportive and give it a try, I did it with her a few weeks after she started. Being the extremist that I am, I went one step further and cut out all fruit as well. I always had a pretty healthy diet and coming from a health conscious, vegan family I assumed this would be a piece of cake, (pardon my pun) especially since I have never been a sweet person, (most of my ex’s would agree). I couldn’t have been more wrong. I began what would be three entire weeks of physical and mental withdrawal. During a flight, the captains would ask me for a coffee and a biscuit, and I would have a physical reaction to watching them eat the sweet cookie. I would smell the sugary, buttery scent of the bakery in passing and it would be like looking at an ex boyfriend holding hands with his beautiful new partner, (I know, I should let it go) It was hard! Way harder than I would have ever imagined. Monique eventually quit fruit as well and together we completely overcame those sugar cravings. The beautiful thing is that the clean burning, sustained focus and energy that came from eliminating that nasty drug was amazing! There were no more ups and downs or late afternoon slumps. No more peering into the fridge searching for something sweet when you know your not hungry. Monique and I became pros at reading food labels. As a result of the complete elimination, we would be able to taste if there was any added sugar. Upon having a meal in a restaurant where sugar was added, we would become light headed two bites into the meal to alert us of its presence. All this may sound like a lot of work and initially it was difficult. Ok, it was very difficult! Like any habit it takes a while to form new healthy ones, however, the pay off is massive. Monique experienced increased energy and weight loss, level moods and clearer focus. I experienced increased and sustained energy and more endurance during my workouts, better sleep and improved moods. In place of food that was awash with sweetness, we began savouring our food and discovering new flavours. Food became enjoyable and nourishing without guilt or feeling sluggish and full afterwards. All of this from quitting sugar.
This was the first step on the path that would lead us to becoming full paleo /vegans. I told Monique a while back that I would never become complacent and allow sugar to seep back in, mostly because I cannot bare to go through the withdrawals again. We both agree that this is a highly sustainable diet/lifestyle. We have managed for a year now and we are both constantly on the go. It takes a bit of planning, a lot of self control initially, a dash of frustration with a current health or wellness issue and a deep love for yourself. I’m not writing this to tell you its easy, I’m just saying its worth it!