Fitness & Healthy Lifestyle

Sugar Free 7: The Round Up, The Review & The Downright Surprising!

This post links to this previous sharing & this explanation of why I decided to do this.

OK so let's begin by saying that I actually don't consume refined/artificial sugars in any form, & I equally don't really eat natural sugars such as raw honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar with any regularity. What I do have however is fruit & dried fruit, kombucha & green juices with things like citrus & green apples in them.

Now before you all throw your hands up & say "Who is this holier than thou being" this was the idea - everyone can start from their own level, mine being that I go Black Ops style, devilishly dark green AKA no forms of sugars AT ALL.

I might have thought it was going to be easy ... it wasn't.

DAY 1 - I woke up after a good night's sleep, had my usual green smoothie & some of my savoury carrot waffles with broccoli & a little tahini for breakfast before heading out for the day. Monday's are always my busiest clinical day & I usually find myself starving & ready for lunch by about 12.30-1pm, but 2.15pm rolled on round & I decided it was probably best for all involved that I have lunch before cracking on with my afternoon clients. (I'd opted for some tinned mackerel, roasted root veg, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes & a spoonful of hummus).

I waved my last 1 off for the day at 5pm, did a quick swap into my gym kit & headed to reformer pilates, I would usually have a piece of fruit as a quick energy boost but I'd swapped my usual banana/clementine for a handful of cherry tomatoes which I munched on the way. Class done it was home for a dinner of edamame pasta with roasted cod & greens.

DAY 2 - Now I would say I sleep well, I do wake early & get cracking (self employed life hey!) but I class myself as an early bird & it suits me. The difference I was starting to notice already though was that although my sleep was the same length in terms hours, the vitality I felt on waking was increasing. Breakfast was the same as the day before (if you look at that recipe you'll know the waffle maker was a new addition so there was a large batch prepared & ready for the week) but lunch today was my super green falafel, salad, sugar snaps, roasted carrots & hummus.

Home visits being the activity at hand I didn't really notice I was starting to feel a little peckish & actually ended up being starving by the time I came to eat, & this is when we encountered our first moment of fruit deprived mania - I literally couldn't think of anything I wanted more than a piece of fruit, or a bucket, basically it needed to be there, in quantity & FAST. But I stuck to my guns, had my cherry tomatoes, a cookie dough protein ball & carried on.

My energy (despite that moment of madness) remained beautifully stable & come the end of my day I decided I fancied a workout so despite having covered most of North London on foot (we were having some incredibly balmy February weather!) I went to the gym & ran a zippy little 6.8km without really realising what I was doing. That in the bag I headed home, unloaded the million articles I had on my back, enjoyed the other bit of cod that I'd roasted with some veggies & greens & fell into bed like a baby.

DAY 3 - I won't lie this is embarrassing but I dreamt of raspberries, beautiful sweet mounds of perfect raspberries. I told my sister this & I think she's still laughing many days later. That aside I bounced out of bed, halved the quantity of matcha I usually have in my morning smoothie as an experiment, swapped my waffles for a simple omelette with parsley, avocado & some of my seed crackers headed out the door.

Positives I continued to notice were that feeling of limitless energy, my skin which had been suffering the week before with unusual breakouts (I had been reaching for more of my natural treat foods because I was busy & tired) was now perfectly clear & I was more than 100% convinced my focus & concentration levels were up. On the downside I was starting to come to terms with the fact that I am an absolute fruit fiend, I rely on those quick natural sugars before workouts, in the afternoon when my energy dips, after dinner when I fancy something sweet....basically I wasn't as 'sugar free' as I thought! Now to clarify fruit is by no means a bad thing, it is a wonderful & necessary source of bountiful nutrients, just in my case I had thought I was 100% in control when in actual fact it seems the fruit was......

The other thing was snacks. Now I love nuts, seeds, coconut/almond yoghurts & those energy balls I mentioned before, but they're all quite heavy & I was getting tired of that feeling of fullness. Instead I now turned more to vegetables - naturally sweet things like peppers, my new obsession cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber & sugar snap peas, all of these being fab, my only issue actually being the rate at which they were disappearing!

DAYS 4-6 - Things continued much in the same for these 2 days, my yearning for fruit had died away but my god I was absolutely DESPERATE for a kombucha. Again to a point of embarrassment. Potentially not helped by the fact I had 1 sat in the fridge next to a juicy persimmon that I had bought the weekend before & not eaten/drunk before we kicked off.

At this point though I felt I'd got into my stride & my main focus was on supporting the other members of our sugar free team who weren't quite as clued up on why they were experiencing certain things. I summarise a few of these & my advice below:

  • Energy drops midweek/feeling more tired: A totally normal side effect of the body adjusting to the fact it is having to work harder to get to its energy source once that quick release glucose has been removed. Best to concentrate on taking it a little easy for a couple of days, sleeping more if you can, stepping back from intense exercise & avoiding turning to caffeine in sugar's absence as this will actually worsen the situation.
  • Mood swings: Similarly to the above a totally normal side effect of energy levels balancing out, again caffeine isn't our friend here & riding it out (& apologising to those around you!) is the best route to take. Plenty of water to flush things from the body & these level out within 2-3 days usually.
  • Sleep getting better & then worsening: Blood sugar fluctuations that occur during the day are mirrored when we sleep so as the body acclimatises we can have slightly disturbed nights to begin. Everyone found these resolved by Day 5 which is exactly what I'd expect.
  • Headaches: Sugar is addictive & it will cause withdrawal symptoms in some, headaches are classic here so I tend to advise plenty of magnesium rich foods, plenty of water & rest, again these were experienced by a couple of people but only for 24-48 hours before disappearing & not returning.
  • Skin breakouts: I always describe the skin as the window to what's going on inside the body, sugar will affect probiotic bacteria & yeast levels, in addition to acting like a bit of a toxin so when we take it away we can get a flushing of things from the body resulting in short lived skin issues. Bitter green leaves, beetroot, walnuts & artichokes help to encourage this process & get rid of these more speedily.
  • Food cravings: Part of this will be habitual & part of this will be that acclimatisation process. In someone who has severe issues with sugar we have to consider that their body may not be getting adequate amounts of molecular energy into their cells which is why they crave sweets, but generally it's down to the fact sugar is easy & we're now making the body work harder which it doesn't really want to. Ceylon cinnamon & chromium rich foods are fab here, in addition to sweet vegetables, naturally tart fruits like berries, & herbal teas with cinnamon & liquorice in them.

But like absolute truckers everybody who started with us made it to the end, & as I say all of the things mentioned above resolved by Days 5-6 at the absolute latest.

DAY 7 - Came round exceptionally quickly! I couldn't quite believe we'd made it to the end & I was just revelling in the positive messages both Jazz & I were receiving on our Instagram accounts about how everyone was suddenly tasting food more intensely, feeling so much better in themselves, loving the creativity it was sparking in their eating & cooking habits, the list went on! We also had others joining halfway through & carrying on, starting a month's worth of sugar free living because they were so inspired, & had those far & wide (in Australia, New Zealand, across Asia!)sharing our message & our downloadable guide. I was truly overwhelmed with the response.

But I digress, back to concluding on my own experiences.....

Come the day after the end of the challenge I went in for that persimmon (oddly the kombucha didn't happen until the next day but it was GOOD!) & the oddest thing happened. I couldn't finish it. I mean it tasted great, I really enjoyed it but I had to stop halfway through, I was just sort of, done.

This has never happened before.

I have also not felt the need to add anything else back in, I mean I've had some berries in my morning smoothie & a little mango in a poke bowl I had for lunch the other day but I no longer feel that need I had at first. My sleep is also still great, & I've now actually found I sleep a little later in the mornings too, my workouts continue to improve & I feel I am genuinely more bouncy, happy & lively overall.

So yes for all & everyone who wonder what difference 7 days can make.....well my friends, a whole bloody load of difference it seems!

If you fancy giving it a go yourself check out this post with the downloadable guide, or see here for my clinical information if you feel you would benefit from more individualised support in dealing with your sugar intake.

Because when it comes down to it we're all sweet enough right??

Phoebe x