Way back when, before the I Quit Sugar movement (hi Sarah!), before Paleo and Keto (I've never tried either), I gave up sugar. It was a shock for me because I was a total lolly and chocolate girl. Red frogs, pineapples, chicos - Allens was my party friend and I wasn't ashamed of it at all.
Then my naturopath advised me to give up sugar while I was trying to get pregnant, because it can do a number of things to your insides that put some systems out of whack which can inhibit conception. So after years of yo yo dieting and spending weeks and months in and out of various forms of deprivation, I finally gave up sugar in a desperate attempt to get pregnant.
And what I discovered was that if you give up sugar, if you just don't eat all the Caramello Koalas I was scoffing on a daily basis and continued to eat good, wholefood, healthy meals, was that you don't have to diet to lose/maintain weight. Your body evens out.
The great bit is that I can still eat a lot of food at mealtimes, I just had to stop eating the crap. So you don't feel deprived because you're eating all the healthy food you can to feel full. It's like a non-diet, and it really works.
The key for me was my naturopath at the time was not super strict. I'm not very good with super strict. If you tell me I can't eat chocolate and then tell me I can't even eat fruit, I'll just go straight for the chocolate OVER the fruit. Which everyone knows is not the right choice but when fruit is given such a bad rap about its sugar content, you start equating an apple to a Mars Bar. In your head they're the same thing which is just bloody ridiculous.
So this new naturopath told me I could still eat any fruit I wanted. Banana. Pineapple. Even mango. And what a freeing, joyful feeling that was, not having to deny myself tropical fruit during summer (only to binge on Tim Tams later).
She also told me to lift my good fat intake - good fat including butter from grass-fed cows, eggs with yolks, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, the fat on meat when I had a grass-fed steak, full fat milk, full fat cheese, full fat yoghurt! Stuff that actually makes you full and happy so you naturally eat less junk.
I ditched most things that come in a packet with the exceptions of pasta, brown rice, lentils etc - though now I go to Scoop Wholefoods and pour grains straight into jars so I don't have a bazillion plastic bags in my house which will never decompose and I'm not contributing to the planet's plastic problem.
And I just eat proper breakfast, lunch and dinner with healthy snacks. Here are the guidelines I generally follow - but do note, I will have the occasional Gelato Messina. Impossible not to.
- Animal products that are pasture-fed without added antibiotics or hormones (preferably organic but grass-fed trumps organic).
- Wholegrains, no white carbs (although I still do pasta, I love it too much, but no white rice as it's tasteless anyway). Corn is a good grain, sweet potato and potato work as carbs with your meal, and lentils/buckwheat/quinoa/barley are all great options. They're also surprisingly tasty.
- Good wholemeal sourdough bread, not the mass produced supermarket brand sliced breads that have sugar in them and fold up like cardboard. I don't overdo the bread though, a few slices a week is fine.
- Read labels and look at the sugar content. I try and choose things that have less than 8gm of sugar per 100 gm of the food.
- I make my own salad dressing with lemon, EVOO, salt and pepper. Ditch sauce with sugar. Mustard is good!
- Snack on fruit/raw nuts/yoghurt/veggies/healthy dips (with no vegetable oil).
- Avoid unhealthy oils like vegetable oil (a more detailed story on which oils are best coming soon). Good oil choices include extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil, coconut oil.
- Eat full fat everything - the low fat options are a con and a marketing exercise which made everyone unhealthy.
If I want chocolate, I go for dark chocolate which has less sugar and a higher % of chocolate. I used to be a huge white chocolate fan but my tastebuds have changed so much over the years since doing this that I can't stomach white chocolate anymore. And I HATED dark chocolate. Not sweet enough for my out-of-control sweet tooth. But now it's exactly where my tastebuds are at.
I also make these amazing chocolate brownie bliss balls that actually taste like truffles. Better than store-bought chocolate and even my kids like them. Here's the recipe, adapted from Wholefood Simply:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup cacao
12 dates, seeds removed
1 tbsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Blitz it all in a food processor, roll into balls and pop in the fridge for at least two hours before eating. Guaranteed to satisfy all your chocolate and sugar cravings.
Of course I still have major splurges, especially around Easter and Christmas, but they're fewer and far between now, not daily or weekly like they used to be, and I'm in a much better place with body image and acceptance.
Once you know you can eat as much as you want of good, healthy food at breakfast, lunch and dinner, you're so full and happy because you can eat things like butter (!!!) on sourdough bread (!!!) that you're way less likely to pop to the corner shop for a packet of liquorice bullets.
Oh, and also, I'm not silly enough to give up wine. A good few glasses a week is fine. It's not about deprivation and making yourself feel horrible. It's about making yourself feel good so you can continue this eating forever. So I drink the wine, eat the cheese, eat wholefood meals and I just ditch the sugar and processed foods as much as I can. It works.