I had been toying with the idea of giving up sugar for a while. This may seem crazy for someone running a pudding business. If I am perfectly honest it was just to see if I could, and what it was like as much as for any of the benefits it may bring. Perhaps I had a few too many pounds around my middle and felt a bit out of control when a packet of sweets came my way, but I think I was generally pretty healthy and in control of my diet.
I have been following a carefully designed programme for the last 5 weeks. I am now in the middle of week 6 out of 8. In a nutshell, the way I approached it was to cut out extraneous sugars for the first two weeks. So if I fancied a packet of Revels, my nemesis, I didn’t have any. I don’t drink alcohol anyway, so I didn’t have to cut it out. The only things I drink are coffee, with double cream, and water. I found that my water intake sky-rocketed. My wife is always telling me to drink more water, but no more; I am drinking litres of the stuff.
From week 3 I cut out all fruit too, in any form. If I have to buy lunch out I check the labels carefully to make sure that I am getting something with fewer than 6g of sugar in 100g. You may be surprised at how many things that prohibits, obviously all processed food is a no go area. There are a myriad of superficially healthy products that are no good for you at all. I will continue like this until the end of week 8, when I should have rid myself of sugar cravings, recalibrated my relationship with sugar and had a pretty good crack at the experience.
I have lost a stone since starting. This wasn’t particularly my aim, but clothes feeling surprisingly roomy is always better than unexpectedly tight. I am sleeping better and this comes on the back of having been an insomniac on and off over the last 20 years. I have much more constant energy levels; gone are the slumps in the afternoon and the post-binge comatose states. I also find that I stop eating when I have had enough, rather than ploughing on through regardless. Some of this mindset undoubtedly came from boarding school, where I had to eat what I was given, but some also came from an inability to stop when sugar came into the equation.
I have found the cravings less bad than expected. I haven’t really had any awful detox symptoms either. I can’t say that I haven’t nearly given in during moments of weakness, but somehow I haven’t too often. I was given some lychees as a present, so I ate those. I think it’s important to maintain a healthy level of common sense with it all. I also bought some coconut-milk ice cream for a vegan guest and persuaded myself it’d be daft not to give it a whirl. I was wrong; it was daft. I ate the lot almost, felt immediately bloated and pretty cross with myself.
I am loving the experience so far and it has become the inspiration for our range of sugar- free puddings. What we want to do is provide people with a healthy and delicious alternative to the sugar laden offerings currently around. Get wise to lines like “no added sugar”; you don’t need to add sugar to a lot of things. They’re already bad for you. “Sweetened with fruit sugars” is another misleading line. Fructose is the devil in all this. I am no scientist and my research has all been academic rather than practical. I wouldn’t know where to start in a lab. My understanding is that humans have not developed an off-switch for fructose, because it used to be such a rare commodity that it was useful to be able to gorge on it occasionally if we stumbled across a bee’s nest or fruit tree whilst wearing loin-cothes and carrying clubs. Now fructose is anything but rare; you can’t move for the stuff.
The trouble with trying to find an alternative is that it’s difficult to find consensus on one product. If you want 5 polar opposite opinions just read 5 articles. What we will insist on though is that they are fructose-free and not artificial. We have tried lots; some taste great but change the colour, some work for one thing and not another, some are just awful and some are so eye-wateringly expensive as to be prohibitive for commercial use.
I’ll keep you posted.