Reading time: 4 minutesPublished: November 20, 2016
Many of us probably don't realise just how much sugar we are consuming and often when I ask the question I find that people get very defensive. It's always enlightening to hear the answers but even more so to see the reaction when I point out exactly where sugar is hidden in the modern diet.
It was especially encouraging to connect with a young man who has made the change to a sugar free diet and is embracing all that comes with it. I always say that adopting a new lifestyle is like embarking on a journey. The road will have many twists and turns but the destination should remain the same.
Below is an article written by Ilya which explains the impact of sugar on the body and the challenges he faces whilst giving it up in 2016. I hope you enjoy the article written by this inspirational young man and that this will drive you towards your own challenges. Maybe you will choose to become sugar free like him. Whatever you choose, remember that lifetrainme can point you in the right direction and has lots of good advice to share. Sign up and speak to your Roshi. They are your mentor and your guide throughout your journey.
Written by: Mimi
My sugar free diet by Ilya Altschuler
This time last year, I was eating what most people would classify as a stereotypically healthy diet. A bowl of muesli for breakfast; avocado, eggs and smoked salmon for lunch; and wholemeal pasta with a jar of sauce in the evening. Fast-forward to the present day, and you won’t find me eating any of those meals. Why? They all contain added sugar, a fact that may be surprising to many of you. Back in January, I decided to go added-sugar free, with the aim of raising money to support the great work that is done by Diabetes UK. At the same time, I hope to increase awareness about the impact sugar has on the body, and the multiple benefits to be gained by reducing intake of added-sugars from your diet.
Diabetes is the fastest-growing health crisis in the UK, with more than 4 million people currently affected, and many more at risk. The limitations diabetes can place on one’s life are significant, and the condition comes with many challenges. Diabetes UK supports those affected, and also conducts research, with the aim of one day finding a cure.
Whilst consumption of sugar is not known to be the cause of Diabetes, in fact to date no definitive cause has been found, there are a huge number of other health factors that sugar has an impact upon. Such benefits include better sleep, increased and more stable energy, weight-loss, clearer skin and even improved memory! However, worryingly, it was recently revealed that Harvard researchers were paid by sugar companies to lie about the potential effects of sugar, suggesting that it has perhaps not received adequate attention over the last 50 years. Only recently has there been a real attack on sugar, with US law requiring companies to include ‘added sugars’ to nutritional information on product labels from 2008. In the UK, the supermarket giant, Tesco, have begun destocking sugary kids’ drinks.
So that’s what the research says, and what’s in the news – but what about what I’ve noticed personally? I eliminated added sugars from my diet on January 1st, and it’s been a learning curve ever since. One of the earliest challenges I faced was the lack of energy I felt in the first few weeks. This was inevitable, as my body was adapting to life without sugar, but it was definitely wasn’t easy. On top of this, I also began education myself on what foods I could and could not have, significantly increasing my time spent in the supermarket… Some of the foods containing added sugar that surprised me most included the majority of tomato sauces, most processed meats, smoked salmon, bread (especially ‘healthy’ wholemeal bread), muesli, and more. Whilst I’m still learning about the kinds of food I can have, after the first few energy-sapping weeks, my body began to start feeling the benefits of a sugar-free lifestyle. I started sleeping better (something I’ve always struggled with); I stopped having energy highs and lows over the day (I stopped drinking coffee for 6 months); and my body fat percentage dropped. Although difficult to test, I felt an overall increase in sharpness and freshness day-to-day.
Now that I am living in the US, it has become a completely different ball-game. One major difficulty is the ridiculous amount of foods that contain corn syrup, and with a lack of a kitchen in my student halls, my diet has become restricted to salads and the odd stir-fry. I’ve found it much more difficult sticking to the challenge here, although I have noticed that restaurants and caterers tend to be much more accommodating to specific nutritional needs, and will always find out the contents of a meal for me no matter what.
It may not seem like it, but on the whole the experience has been extremely enjoyable, and has led me, my family and friends to experiment with new things. My Mum has made Russian pies and cheesecake without sugar, my girlfriend has made sugar-free banana bread, and my Uncles and Aunties have not understood the point of what I am doing at all. Yes, the year has, and is proving to be challenging. But it has also been hugely eye-opening with regards to the use of added sugars in the food industry, in both the UK and the US.
To be clear, I don’t believe everyone should eliminate sugar from their diet completely. This imposes a highly restrictive diet, and I believe in the importance of flexible diets (a whole other topic of debate, which LDN Muscle have provided some great insights on). However, the benefits I have seen from limiting my added sugar intake have been unparalleled in terms of my personal health and daily routine. Come January 1st 2017, whilst I plan to treat myself to something sweet, I will definitely not be going back to consuming the huge amounts of sugar I did before I started this challenge.