Although most people view quitting sugar as an unnecessary and over-the-top thing to do, there is a growing number of people who are choosing to kick the sugar habit for good. However, quitting requires them to adapt to a new reality, which, for some, can feel difficult.
Some may refer to it as going on a sugar-free diet, and others simply view it as the start of a new kind of lifestyle. But no matter which way you look at it, your success will depend on your willingness to accept certain aspects of living the sugar-free life.
The unexpected challenges
Not consuming added sugar is novel to most people.
‘You don’t eat sugar?!’
‘Wow, that’s so healthy!’
‘You must be very disciplined!’
‘I could never do that!’
For most of them, foods like a bar of chocolate, a doughnut or a pastry are a ‘treat,’ and there’s no harm in having them every now and again. The thing is many of them consume far too much of the ‘white stuff.’
Although the American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than nine teaspoons per day (36 grams) and that women consume no more than six (25 grams), the average daily consumption is, in fact, 77 grams per day.
But, it’s not just refined sugar their filling up on; it’s also added sugars.
People may say that a little does you no harm, but many are going over the top.
Unsurprisingly, many of them can’t wrap their heads around the fact that someone has eliminated added sugar from her diet. So, where does this leave you if you decide to embark on an added-sugar-free life?
Say goodbye to your usual supermarket purchases
Once you’ve quit sugar, you’ll have to start checking the ingredients labels all the time, at least until you become familiar with the right foods to buy. What you’ll find when you start doing this is that you’ll probably have to leave the products you used to buy on the shelf because the majority of them will contain sugar.
Even when a food doesn’t need to contain it, there it will be, second or third in the list, and sometimes it will make multiple appearances. You’ll stand there staring at the ingredients list thinking why, and that’s when you’ll start to realise just how sugar happy these manufacturers are.
A little bit here. A little bit there. A little bit everywhere.
Want your favourite food? You might have to make it yourself from now on if you can’t find a decent sugar-free alternative. Or just do without. By the way, that includes the so-called healthier foods too.
Some people won’t find you fun to be around
If everyone you know happily eats whatever they want and couldn’t care less about the ingredients, they’ll probably get irritated with you at some point. That’s because they’ll see you as a fussy or picky eater. As long as no food is involved when you’re with them, you’ll be fine.
But watch out for those drinks! If you’re at a friend’s house, and they haven’t got any no-sugar alternatives, they may refer to you as the party pooper, sitting there with your apparent boring glass of water.
Add to that the constant need to remind people that you no longer consume sugar because they constantly forget and insist on offering you what you know you can’t have. You’ll have to either keep reminding them or say nothing and keep politely refusing.
However, it can become boring when someone repeatedly swears how delicious something (sugary) is and shoves it in your face a dozen times to try to persuade you to ‘just taste it,’ even though you’ve said no multiple times.
If your friends don’t mind and happily accommodate your new eating and drinking habits, you’ve got a great set of friends.
Eating out and eating in won’t be so straightforward
You’ll be forced into asking the server in the restaurant numerous questions about the ingredients of every dish you’re considering ordering. Or, you’ll have to accept that your choices will be extremely limited, and you’ll always have to stick to the less exciting, and safe, options.
Failing that, you can hope for the best and order whatever you want (and kid yourself that there isn’t any sugar in your chosen dish).
As for desserts, they’re likely to be a big no-no, unless the restaurant has sugar-free alternatives. If not, you can always choose a fruit salad, of course. Just check beforehand that it won’t be swimming in a sugary syrup.
When it comes to takeaways (takeouts), there aren’t any guarantees that what you order will be sugarless. You can always ask if the dish you want to order contains sugar, and some places will tell you the truth. Others, however, might tell you what you want to hear. If you can figure out whom to trust, and providing they have decent dishes available, you’re good to go.
Suffice to say, cooking your own meals will always be the best option. But you knew that already.
It’s not all bad
Based on the above, it would seem that quitting sugar means living a miserable life, and indeed, it can feel challenging at times. But, there are upsides:
- Being sugar-free doesn’t mean not eating sugar ever again: many foods contain naturally-occurring sugars, although you might need to limit your intake in some cases.
- You’ll be able to walk down the ‘naughty-food’ aisle in the supermarket and not feel tempted because you’ll no longer be so easily seduced.
- You’ll be making a conscious choice every day about what you put into your mouth and won’t be manipulated into buying something unhealthy because adverts have somehow convinced you that it will make you ‘happy’ or ‘improve’ your life in some other way.
- You’ll be among the small percentage of people who have found the strength to do what most people can’t or refuse to do. You’ll feel proud of yourself every day.
- The most obvious factor is that your health will benefit.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you feel this is the right path for you to take to look after your health, then you should take it. Your health is more important than other people’s reactions and opinions. And, as challenging as it can sometimes be, you’ll eventually get used to navigating the ins and outs of your sugar-free life in your own way.