It is coming up to a year now since I decided to give up sugar. At the time I wrote a blog about my experiences which was really popular so I thought today I would write another, to let you all know how I am getting on.
But there is another reason I want to write this blog today, and that is to touch in on the destruction sugar has on our lives.
This is one of our 21st Century cultural taboos. It’s taken me about six months to step up and put my thoughts down, in the main because it’s not widely talked about and seems pretty controversial.
But it was a conversation that I had with someone a few weeks ago that has spurred me on, so here I go.
The person I was chatting with was struggling because so many of her friends and family were dying of cancer. She was listing them out to me, and I could feel the pain and distress she was carrying having to say goodbye to all these loved ones, ahead of their time.
She looked in my eyes and asked “I don’t understand it, why can’t they find a cure for cancer?”
All I could do in that moment was seal my lips. I just couldn’t get the words out. It feels so scandalous to reply and say, “they have, they just aren’t telling us. The ‘cure’ for cancer, or rather the prevention for cancer is to stop eating sugar”.
The evidence is out there, but it’s buried, and it’s not common knowledge. It feels so controversial to type this here in this blog. But from all my research it all leads to the same conclusion.
We are significantly more at risk of having cancer if we have a high sugar diet…
…and most people on a western diet have a high sugar diet…
…because sugar is put in EVERYTHING.
Because we are addicted to it, and we buy more of those things with sugar in.
Yet culturally we are way off the mark with this one. We have charity events where we gather together to eat lots of cake, laden with sugar in the drive to raise money for cancer research. When someone hands me an invitation to a Marie Curie coffee morning they are met with a perplexed look on my face. I see it as bonkers as inviting me to a smoking session to raise money to find a way to prevent lung cancer. Usually I politely hand the invitation straight back. The ‘bah humbug’ in me prevails.
Photo credit: Kurtis Garbutt
I remember my resistance to giving up sugar well. It began when I watched a film called ‘That Film About Sugar’. The trailer really spoke to me when an elderly lady said something along the lines of ‘life with sugar is good, but life is really great on the other side’.
The film was in a documentary following the same thread as Alan Moore’s ‘Super Size Me’, that exposed the truth behind McDonalds food. What made ‘That Film About Sugar’ even more captivating was that it was about the types of foods which I ate regularly.
This Sugar chap is Australian, fit and healthy and has a good diet. He spends several months eating foods which fall into the ‘diet food’ category; zero fat yogurts, breakfast bars and the like. He has a team of people round him, medical experts recording his vitals though the period of time.
It’s astonishing to see the change in him as the film progresses. He has low energy, sleeps a lot, his health deteriorates significantly and he is told he is on the road to getting very poorly indeed.
That film stuck with me, but I resisted. I knew I needed to give sugar up, but I didn’t ‘want’ to. I managed to give up grain OK, on and off and then permanently, but I didn’t even try to give up sugar.
Then everything changed last January.
I had a cancer scare. I found a lump and was sent for tests, and in that week where I was waiting for my appointment I was in a spiral of anxiousness. I know millions of people will have been in exactly the same situation at some stage in their life, and I tried to console myself that the chances are everything would be OK, but I was beside myself with worry.
My appointment came though and I waited. Whilst I waited I thought to myself, “I want to take some control back here. I don’t want to be in a system of appointments and waiting. What can I do myself?”
I remembered Jason’s research a few years back into the link between sugar and cancer, and so I decided “I am going to give it up”.
Then a voice in my head replied really loudly “I won’t be able to have cake again. I can’t live with that. I would rather eat cake”.
Let me repeat those words…
“I would rather die than never eat cake again”.
Madness! I couldn’t believe I had even thought that. Then I realised it wasn’t me saying that. It was something else. It was what I call ‘the voice of sugar’.
It was the sugar addiction.
So that was it. I was not going to let that voice beat me.
So I gave up sugar.
I went through a grieving process thinking of all the delicious things I wouldn’t be able to have any more.
The next two months as I withdrew were really tough, and you can read more about it in my blog ‘Cracking the Cane’.
But I am on the other side now. Once those two months were over everything became easy. Really easy.
So I wanted to share today what it is like on the other side.
Benefits On The Other Side
The No. 1 benefit is that I don’t have food cravings any more. I used to be one of those people who wouldn’t think twice about popping down to the shop to get in a tasty treat or two.
No.2 is that I don’t think about food all the time now. In fact I don’t think about food much at all. I can drive past petrol stations and not need to pull in for a snack. I can leave the house without thinking when is my next meal and whether I need to take something to eat with me to tide me over until I get back home.
No. 3 is that I am eating a lot less now. I only need to eat two meals a day and a snack or two.
No 4. is perhaps the biggest benefit of all. I have tons more energy. If I am tired I know it is because I haven’t had enough sleep, or I have done too much. It isn’t because I am in a sugar dip. So as long as I have slept well in the night, I don’t feel tired at all through the bed until bedtime.
No. 5. is a really lovely bonus, but it wasn’t my driving force, and that is that I have lost two stones in weight. So I feel much better in myself, and more importantly my poorly back isn’t so sore, as it has a lot less to carry around.
So, how did I find the motivation to maintain a sugar free diet?
Well that was really easy, because I was clear of sugar I didn’t have that voice of addiction inside me. So I just didn’t think about it!
It’s not about the risk of cancer for me anymore. That was the trigger back in January this year, but it wasn’t my driving motivator through the year. It is about how I am feeling right now. That is what I am most interested in.
If I do have sugar now, which is really rare, I feel ill. It gives me tummy ache, and a headache. I had some pic-and-mix at the cinema a while back, and I sat through the whole film with indigestion. So there is no point having sugar any more, as I don’t want to feel like that in 30 minutes time, which makes it a really easy choice to abstain.
Making Lifestyle Changes
Another question I get asked is what changes did I need to make to my daily routine. What does “a day in a life without sugar” look like?
Well, I cook all my own meals from scratch, but I was largely doing that anyway as I am grain free (which is another blog for another time).
When I do fancy a cake I need to bake it myself, and only put a tiny amount of honey or fruit in. I have a stock of five or six recipes that I can knock up in about 20 minutes, giving me cake in less than an hour including cooking time.
So ‘convenience’ food is out of the window, but that is OK as I don’t eat so much any more anyway, so generally don’t need to get food on the go.
I do still get a tiny bit sad, just for a nano second when I see all the delicious puddings in the dessert counter at our local carvery, but it’s over in a flash and only for a brief fleeting moment.
I have had to do quite a bit of therapeutic work to let go of sugar around my family attachments to sugar when I was a child.
I had to rest an awful lot in the first two months. The research told me it would take 21 days for the sugar to leave my body but I felt the effects for more than double that.
I also eat a lot more fruit now, but the low sugar fruits. I have a little list in my purse to remind me which to buy and not to buy. Apples are off the list along with pears and grapes. Strawberries and blueberries are fine along with fruits I never even thought of buying before which I really enjoy now including figs and star fruit. I still have a good 15 or so fruits I can choose from.
This leads me onto the final question I wanted to cover off today. Why is this knowledge about sugar not mainstream?
Surely if it was that bad for us, we would all know about it, right?
Sugar is big business, and major players in the sugar industry have joined together for well over a century to generate research and deliver a mass PR campaign to make us think otherwise. It’s been really successful.
So successful that there has never been a long-term study on the cumulative effects of eating sugar for a prolonged period of time, for example 20 years. There has been a similar study in eating fats, funded by… wait for it… the sugar industry. But it would take a major government funded programme to be undertaken over many decades in order to ‘prove’ the health effects of sugar.
In the 1960’s there was a study undertaken linking sugar to cancer. It was never published until very recently. The study, called PROJECT 259 was sponsored by the sugar industry, but they pulled the plug on it due to significant findings that would hinder their commercial interests. The suppression of PROJECT 259 is ethically concerning because at the time the study was being conducted, the sugar industry blamed high-fat foods for many health concerns.
Only now, in the last year or so, is research beginning to be published linking sugar and cancer together. Here is a link to the coverage of one study, published in the Independent just two months ago on the 16th October 2017.
It’s interesting that even with these, and other similar studies recently completed even Cancer Research isn’t stepping up and announcing the direct link like in a recent blog from spring this year ‘Sugar and cancer and what you need to know”. In the blog it states “cutting out sugar doesn’t help treat cancer, and sugar doesn’t directly cause cancer”. Yet the author Emma goes on to say: “So the take home message is that although banishing sugar won’t stop cancer in its tracks, we can all reduce our risk of getting cancer by making healthy choices, and lowering the amount of added sugar in our diets is a good way to help maintain a healthy body weight.”
So there are some pretty confusing messages out there, and when there is confusion, it gives us a reason not to make the changes deep down we know we want to take in our lives…
… and it’s not just the risk of cancer. Consumption of sugar can lead to a whole range of other illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, strokes, dementia and even Alzheimers disease.
We only need to look at what impact sugar has on our teeth, in a really short space of time, to put two and two together and surmise that if that is the short term impact it has on our teeth, then goodness knows what the long term impact is on the rest of our body.
I grew up as a child believing that cereal with sugar on was a good breakfast. I chomped my way through biscuit bars in the day time and ate sugary yogurts as snacks. Then when I got home I would have a cake or two, as my Dad was a baker and so there was always shop leftovers to devour. I had a sugary childhood and this was completely normal for me. I didn’t even question it when I went into adulthood and left home. It was only over the years as it caught up with me that I began to look into the impact of my food choices. I have tried most diets going, and almost all of them have led me to believe that sugary low fat food is fine to eat in moderation.
Yet sugar is addictive. More addictive than cocaine it seems. Addict a rat over the course of months to intravenous boluses of cocaine, as the French researcher Serge Ahmed has reported, and then offer it the choice of a sweet solution of its daily cocaine fix, the rat will switch over to the sweets within two days.
By the early twentieth century, sugar had assimilated itself info all aspects of our eating experience – consumed during breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Nutritional authorities were already suggesting what appeared to be obvious, that this increased consumption was a product of at least a kind of addiction. A century later still, sugar has become an ingredient unavoidable in prepared and packaged foods, and not just in the obvious sweet foods. From the 1980’s onward manufacturers of products have advertised these foods as uniquely healthy because they are low in saturated fat, gluten free and no MSG, and often hide the sugar ingredient behind fifty plus different names given to the fructose-glucose sugar.
Along the way sugar and sweets have become synonymous with love and affection, the primary contribution to our celebrations of holidays and accomplishments, both major and minor. For the majority of parents, sugar and sweets have become the tools which are wielded to reward children’s accomplishments, to demonstrate love and pride in them, to motivate them, to entice them. Sweets have become the currency of childhood and parenting. It starts young, and it has a tight hold on us for the rest of our lives, if we let it.
Now I could go on and on here, but I want to move on to how giving up sugar has helped others. So for those of you who are really interested in the research and science side of things, I will point you to a fantastic book I have just finished reading “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes. It’s a great and eye-opening read.
Photo credit: Ian Standard
The Power of Community
One of the fascinating aspects of my journey is how other people in my life have shown interested and followed suit.
Here is a snippit from Laura who is on our Born Free programme. In the beginning part of this shamanic course we encourage members to look at an aspect of their life that they would like to change. Laura chose sugar, and here is what she says about her experience of letting go of her sugar addiction which had wound itself around her whole existence like a tight vice.
“My life has changed rather dramatically but whether that is because of the diet I’m not sure, but actually when I think about the reasons I had this addiction for so long and how I used sugar and grain, perhaps there is. Well, of course there is, dammit!
My whole adult life has been a serious of yoyoing with all the things I was using to hide my pain and fear. That would be sugar first as a child, then alcohol all through my twenties and thirties ( gave up that for 10years then it got me again!) and now alcohol free for a year, coffee free for 9 months or so and sugar and grain free for 3 months. Grains have been an addiction all my life too, with loaves of bread being eaten all at once to push down difficult emotions.
So 3 months in, I have been in touch with my 3-4 year old self and acknowledging whatever happened then. I don’t know what this is consciously, so just work on trusting any guidance that comes my way. Emotions have come up to the surface big time, lots of anger and sadness along with moments of pure joy. The ability to recognise that I have finally got this beast in me under control gives me much to be proud of.
It has also raised the importance of self care and I have finally realised that in order to fulfill my purpose and really be me, I need to let someone else now care for Mum. I am totally physically and emotionally exhausted. This is not an easy decision for a control freak to make, but it’s well overdue! Letting go and surrendering to not being in control of everything generally has also raised it’s head and I am responding to that. Including allowing my partner to have the space and time he needs on his own.
Physically, I am back to the lithe teenager I once was and am now planning to work on my core strength with Pilates and yoga.
So, huge amounts have shifted since making the decision to do this and following it through with action and massive support in Nature and from my guides.
Every transition and shedding of an old skin has its pain and challenge but also its ability to allow unfurling into the future person that we are destined to be”. Laura
The depth of Laura’s sharing gives a glimpse into the process which can unravel through giving up one of the worlds most addictive substances. An incredible journey.
Thank you Laura for these inspiring words, and congratulations!
Photo credit: Marco Verch
Would I go back now?
It’s not because I am worried about the links between cancer and sugar any more.
I wouldn’t eat it now because it makes me feel ill straight away, and I don’t want it to have a hold on me again like it did. I love the freedom a sugar free life gives me.
I watch the glazed eyes when I speak about this, probably because I am sounding evangelical. But giving up sugar has been the most revolutionary thing for me with my diet and I have tried all the diets going pretty much.
In my journey giving up sugar, I have come to a realization about civilization.
I have long had a calling to find a simpler and more natural way to live with the Earth. The more I focus on my health the more I realise and uncover about how things which culture tells us are OK, are in fact not OK for me. These are all symptoms of being born into a ‘civilized world’. To name a few more, all of which I could easily write a blog on each are mercury fillings which were in my teeth, eating grain, and wearing orthotics in my shoes.
On my spiritual path I have spent so many years working on the mind and spirit, but putting my body to one side. Now I am focusing on my body, so much more is falling into place. If my body isn’t right it’s a really loud signal that things in general aren’t right. So if I focus on my body, it serves as a wonderful guide.
It is leading me to a much more natural way of being.
Here are a couple of links you might enjoy which I have added here because of the comments which have come up below:
For information on the ‘how’ I gave up sugar, go to my earlier blog this year Cracking the Cane.
A great person to follow for a zero sugar, zero grain diet is Mark Sissons. You can subscribe to his free blog “Marks Daily Apple” and he has some great books out there too. The one I recommend as a first read is Primal Blueprint.