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I haven’t eaten refined sugar since Monday, March 30, 2015.
This was not something I had planned for.
This journey began with a dream….
I sat in the doctor’s office and couldn’t believe the words he was telling me. Stage 4 breast cancer. I cried, I questioned, and I denied. I went home and told my husband. I tearfully tried to express just how serious this was. My husband couldn’t grasp it and insisted we return to the doctor together for more information. Within two days I listened to the same information, all over again. The prognosis is grim. Treatment options are limited and most likely won’t have success. We went through the painful task of telling family and friends. I signed up for a radical treatment which made me feel horribly sick afterwards. I was afflicted with vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and non-stop pain in my body. The months of treatment were brutal but not as devastating as the fact that I knew I was going to die… and soon. Through it all I prayed for a miracle and cried desperately to God to heal me and to allow me the opportunity to see my girls grow up. At some point I recalled being told that when you’re sick with cancer you should stop eating all sugars because sugar feeds cancer cells. I quit eating sugar thinking it was my last and perhaps only hope….
All night I experienced this very real dream of being sick with cancer. From diagnosis, to treatment, to the emotions of it… this dream was terrifying and felt so real. You can imagine how relieved I was when I woke up. You can also imagine how distressed I was.
I could not shake this dream from my head.
The next day I came across an article about how bad sugar is for people. Although medical field denies the theory that sugar feeds cancer cells, I couldn’t help but find it very eerie that I stumbled into this article the day after having such a terrifying dream.
Then a day later I went to the library to pick up some holds that had come in. One of the holds I had reserved at least 5-6 months prior… it was I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson.
Friends, I got goosebumps. There was no way I could deny all the warnings and signs. I realized I had to quit sugar… immediately. I picked up the book on March 30th and I haven’t eaten any refined sugar since.
Not too long ago I shared some tips on How to Quit Bad Habits… For Good! These tips came from my experience of quitting sugar.
I’ve encountered many questions since I quit sugar and I thought I would take a few minutes to address them here.
Did you quit eating all sugars including fruit?
No. I quit eating refined sugars as well as anything with corn syrup or gluctose-fructose in it.
What sugars do you eat?
I still eat fruit but I make sure that my vegetable intake exceeds my fruit intake.
I also eat maple syrup, honey, agave, and rice syrup. These are my “permissible” sweeteners but I consume these in very small quantities. Sugar is sugar and minimal consumption is the best.
How long did your withdrawal symptoms last for?
I was tired, weak, irritable, and had non-stop headaches for a little over two weeks. The symptoms were intense in the first week but steadily declined as time went on.
Don’t you miss things like sweets and treats?
At times I do but I have lots of substitutes available. In the book I Quit Sugar, Sarah suggests eating cheese for dessert and it’s a wonderful substitute! Green apple with cheese is also a delightful snack.
If I’m craving chocolate, I eat a tiny piece of homemade chocolate (made with coconut oil, cocoa, and maple syrup). My other favourite chocolate treat is Sarah’s sugar-free nut-ella. As I mentioned previously, these are still consumed in very small quantities.
What about special occasions?
I quit sugar in the midst of girl-guide cookie selling season and several days before Easter. My husband’s birthday is also in April. You would think my timing wasn’t the best but I actually liked being faced with the challenges of these social situations.
I realized that as long as I didn’t draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t eating particular food items, no one noticed my food choices. For example, while everyone ate strawberry shortcake, I ate a few strawberries.
I know you like your wine… did you quit that too?
No way! Sarah shares in her book that wine is permissible in limited quantities. She suggests no more than a glass a day. I drink only 2-3 glasses a week.
Have you lost any weight?
Before I answer this question, I want you to know that weight is not my motivator. A healthy body is my motivation. While I try not to focus on numbers and inches, I did take my measurements prior to this journey.
In 4 weeks I have lost 2 lbs and 2.25 inches. As a 40-year-old woman whose metabolism has slowed down to pretty much nothing, I’m very pleased with my progress.
Is it hard to avoid processed foods?
As soon as I decided I was doing this, I went all in. I bought all my groceries and baked crackers, biscuits, chicken stock, and made a batch of my homemade chocolate. I wanted to make sure that I had a stash of alternative convenience foods readily available for me to snack on.
Grocery shopping was a whole other challenge. Once I started reading food labels, I realized just how much sugar is in everything. Most packaged foods have some form of sugar in them.
What are some of your favourite recipes?
Many of my recipes I got from Sarah’s book. Here are a few of my favourites:
What are some of your favourite food swaps?
Oh, I love this question because I’m proud about how clever I’ve gotten with substitutes.
* Instead of soda, I drink carbonated soda water with a splash of lemon in it.
* When I’m craving a sugary treat I try drinking a green or a white tea. If the craving doesn’t subside, I opt for fruits low in sugar (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, or pineapple).
* I snack on seeds and nuts when I’m feeling peckish.
* Instead of cereal, I have a fried egg with cheese, tomato, and guacamole for breakfast.
What has helped you the most?
I would say mindful, slow eating has helped me the most, especially if I’m satisfying a craving with something like a piece of fruit.
How does it work? Instead of just shoving the fruit into my mouth, I take a small bite of the fruit and close my eyes so that I’m really tasting it. I think about the flavour and chew it slowly so the sweetness explodes from it.
I find this strategy helps me limit my intake sweet foods.
How do you feel?
It took a while to feel different. As I mentioned previously, the sugar withdrawal was brutal. However, I can now say I’m clear-headed, I’m energetic, and I feel healthy.
I’ve had years of horrible stomach aches. We couldn’t determine the cause and for a while I was beginning to wonder if I had a gluten sensitivity. Ever since I quit sugar, I’ve had 2 or 3 mild stomach aches. I have a feeling that sugar was negatively affecting my digestive system and I’m so happy to not have to be dealing with regular stomach aches anymore.
I think a month without refined sugar is a huge success. I would like to develop my repertoire of sugar-free recipes and come up with a variety of diverse snack and meal options.
I hope these sugar-free tips have been helpful for you… and if you’re thinking of quitting sugar, I say – GO FOR IT!
I’m committed to this journey and I can’t wait to see where the coming months bring me.