It has been one year since I published The Realist’s Guide to Sugar Free. So much has happened since it’s almost hard to believe.
My goal in writing the book was to help people understand the dangers and extent of processed sugars being added to our lifestyle. So what have I learned in the year since?
As I’m a compulsive reviewer and improver, I sat down and came up with 5 key things.
1. Falling off the wagon is inevitable
Sugar free living is hard. Really hard. If it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t have written the book. Even with the knowledge and experience I have, in the time since I have fallen off the wagon more than once. So what do you do when this happens? You forgive yourself and learn from the experience.
There are two ways sugar creeps back in. External circumstances beyond your control make things difficult. Then there is personal choice/poor impulse control. The first often leads to a prolonged period of the second.
Unless you have total control over your food, then it is likely that you will encounter a processed meal or two. On its own, it can be fine. A few days of extended travel and it’s back to square one. Your body wants to continue eating the delicious food and the pull is irresistible. Sugar addiction is back in full swing and it takes dedicated effort to get back to healthy eating and stick with it.
So, you will slip up and you need to forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up, but put a plan in place to start again. Don’t keep listening to the voice that justifies one more cupcake.
2. Discipline begets discipline
The times when I have been most rigorous about being sugar free are the times when I have been on top of things in plenty of other areas too. Sloppy behaviour has a way of spilling over and the opposite is true.
I’m not saying that going sugar free is the key to solving life’s problems. However, if you want to begin a cycle of self-improvement, pick one cornerstone habit and allow yourself to build from there. For me, that is the physical health that I have always found easier to put on the back burner.
3. ‘Big Food’ is already taking advantage of us
Several well known personalities, especially in the UK, have begun to promote the benefits of a reduced sugar lifestyle. Governments are discussing sugar taxes and health providers are finally coming round to the dangers of sugar, rather than a blanket ban on fats. With increased awareness, you might think that we’re getting closer to an easier shopping experience.
You’d be wrong.
Processed, cheap food is about making profit, and marketing is about making more profit for the same experience and calling it a lifestyle. Big Food marketing to undermine consumer’s attempts at sugar free that I’ve already seen includes:
- X% less sugar than before! Yes, you’ve made it X% smaller and are still charging me the same price (or more, blaming Brexit). Nice try.
- Only natural sugars! Yes, you’ve started using fruit sugars instead, but your sugar content is just the same. A particular favourite when it comes to children’s snacks.
- Sugar free/zero sugar! This takes advantage of the increased desire for sugar-free food, whilst still containing a tonne of the worst kinds of artificial sweeteners.
4. I want to help people, even though I’m an antisocial introvert
More of a personal one, but worth mentioning. A huge surprise has been the enjoyment I’ve had from people reaching out to me for help. I don’t always have the answers, but I love to point people in the right direction. So if you want to help people, don’t think the only way is to become a keynote speaker or ‘in person’ counsellor. The world always needs more positivity and compassion and this can be done in a million tiny ways.
5. Education is key
I’ve been contacted by people all over the world and it is clear that understanding the ingredients of your food is hard. Food labelling still has a long way to go. Manufacturers will not make it easy.
‘Serving size’ is frequently misleading and makes it hard to calculate % sugar (a particular problem in America, although much easier in Europe). ‘Added sugars’ can refer only to the white stuff, rather than fruit sugar syrups. The phrases ‘healthy’ and ‘low sugar’ are poorly defined and frequently unregulated, making it easy to mislead the consumer.
I’m not going to lie, constant vigilance is exhausting. It’s a long road ahead, but we’ll get there.
Several people have asked for the book to be updated to include recipes. The reasons there aren’t any there already are quite simple. Firstly, I’m no chef. Secondly, people want recipes in cookbooks to be interesting and beautiful. Going sugar free is mainly about mastering the mundane, everyday foods. However, if there is an updated revision, then I will consider including some.
Until then, you can of course sign up to get the first week meal plan I’ve followed to get back on the wagon when I’ve fallen off. It’s basic, but it works for me.