So Sweet Without Sugar - My Diet Experiment
I did not have any major health issue like diabetes or obesity that would prompt one to consider quitting sugar. I wanted to explore how life would be without sugar.
Sugars I eliminated
So it all started as a casual experiment nine weeks back. I thought I would quit sugar only for a week or two. But it has been nine weeks since I am off sugar. Let me state what I mean as sugar. I have eliminated only the man-made sugar in concentrated forms, but not the natural sugars.
The elimination list includes refined sugar, palm sugar, jaggery and artificial sweeteners. I also avoid fruit juice since it is another concentrated form of sugar after filtering out the essential fiber and other nutrients. But I continue to relish on raw fruits and carbohydrates containing natural sugar with no restrictions.
Why did I quit only sugar?
Two of my earlier attempts at quitting sugar have failed. Five years back, I quit sugar for close to a week, but I got back to sugary stuff because of the temptations and lack of motivation. About six months back, I tried a "no-carb & no-sugar" diet. I could not follow this diet beyond two meals.
In a "no-carb" diet, one needs to eliminate all carbohydrates (rice, wheat, fruits, etc.) and it was impossible for me. But sugar-free diet seems a lot easier to follow as I don't have to eliminate or reduce my intake of carbohydrates and natural sugars.
Benefits of Quitting Sugar
I am a man in my late forties and I have not been lucky with my sleep since my twenties. It was terrible in mid-twenties when I could not sleep beyond three hours per day. It improved to five hours per day in my late twenties. Till date, I continue to sleep for around 5 hours a day on an average.
I know this is less than what one individual needs but no matter what I have tried, I could not sleep any better. But quitting sugar brought an unexpected benefit. While it is early to talk about an improvement in quantum of sleep, I have felt a noticeable improvement in the quality of sleep. I get up feeling fresher the next day morning. This is in sharp contrast to the drab starts I used to have earlier.
On the quantum of sleep, I have seen an improvement of half an hour of sleep per day in the last five weeks but I need to see if this sustains or improves in the coming weeks.
2. Energy Levels
The biggest improvement has happened on my energy levels. Earlier, there were many times in a day I used to feel weak and exhausted. A snack then could make me feel better. I accepted this drop in energy levels as a sign of ageing, In the last seven weeks, I never felt weak or tired even once. I have also reduced my snacking to a great extent. Now the evening snack has been replaced by some fruits.
3. Weight loss
I had no major weight issue but still I was sporting a small paunch. Now I can see a few of my tight trousers have fit me better. Hope it is not the effect of my trousers getting stretched.
4. Better taste sensitivity
Most foods taste better now than before. Now, I can feel the sweetness of fruits, some vegetables and even plain yogurt. I guess our tongue becomes more sensitive to taste when we stay off sugar.
5. Preventing Hair loss?
I am also hoping for a reversal in my receding hairline since sugar consumption is perhaps linked to hair loss. But I am yet to see this happening. I will update if I notice any improvement in my hairline.
Challenges and Temptations
For a person who used to love chocolates and ice creams, It surprised me I had none of any major urge or temptation during this period. I can stay off ice cream, chocolates, pastries and packaged food products with added sugar.
The main challenge happens when I travel as the only food available in some places may be a sandwich. Most breads contain added sugar. I have learnt to say "no" to a sandwich even if it is the only food on offer.
The other challenge is to understand and avoid packaged foods with added sugar. Most brands of pancakes, corn flakes and biscuits contain added sugar and one needs to look at the nutritional information of packaged foods.
On the positive side, I enter kitchen more often now and try my hand at making some interesting sugar free treats. Ever heard of "No bake sugar free carrot bites" or "fruit yogurt"? I am making such items whenever I get time.
After quitting sugar, I indulge myself with desserts at the end of every meal. Do not jump to conclusions so soon. After quitting sugar, a couple of oranges feel like a dessert. So quitting sugar is not about giving up tasty stuff. It is an attempt at making everything else tastier.
I would say a sugar-free diet is great for any normal person. If one is diabetic or obese, then this diet is their much needed solution to most of their problems.
I find "no carb", "low carb" or "Keto" diets impractical considering our eating habits. Such fancier diets make quitting sugar harder as it is difficult eliminating carbohydrates like rice or wheat and fruits for most of us.
Quitting refined sugar alone is easier and very beneficial. Let us say goodbye to sugar and welcome a healthier life. Without sugar, I know my life has become sweeter and healthier. This article is my earnest attempt at persuading few others to give up sugar and enjoy a better life. Say "No" to sugar. Say it now.