If you told me, back in 2011 that I would quit sugar and manage to stay off it for the better part of 12 months, I would have laughed. Laughed and then ripped the wrapper off one of those king sized Crunchie bars, just to show you what a devoted sugar fiend I actually was. In all the general busyness of January, the fact that I had officially been fructose free for a whole year slipped right on past me. I didn’t give it a second thought until last night when, during meditation class, I suddenly realised that it had indeed been 12, almost 13 months. Of course, I immediately leapt from my mat and ran a victory lap around the class, high fiving people as I went. Though that part isn’t true (though i kind of wish it was..) I HAVE been largely fructose free for over 365 days.
If I’m writing completely honestly, there have been periods where I’ve lapsed back into my old eating habits. This was largely due to a little thing called ‘pregnancy’ which snuck into my system and played havoc with my tastebuds, appetite and ability to stomach certain food groups. If you’ve ever suffered from pregnancy sickness, no matter how mild, you’ll know that you’re completely powerless to eat what you know you ‘should’ be eating, when you’re staring nausea in the face. Instead, you eat what you know will make you feel better, or, if not better, not any worse. For me, lemon flavoured Calippo’s were my thing. Something about the frosty, sweet, citrusyness of them calmed my tummy better than anything else. There were nights when a Calippo would pose as both dinner and dessert and while I didn’t exactly love the fact that I was pretty much existing on sugar, water and some dubious additives, there wasn’t much to be gained from beating myself up about it.
Fast forward to the end of the first trimester when I started to feel slightly better and a weird thing happened. I started to really ‘taste’ the sugar in the stuff I was eating again. If you’ve ever quit refined sugars and fructose for a decent amount of time, you’ll know the very particular taste that coats your tongue and throat when you do consume something high in the stuff. Initially, when I was downing Calippo’s, I couldn’t taste the sugar. Once I was through the initial 14 weeks of pregnancy though, my tastebuds suddenly became ultra sensitive to it again. I had largely lapsed back to a modified version of my ‘pre sugar quitting’ diet, which meant I wasn’t consuming shed tons, but definitely more than I had in the previous 6 or so months.
I noticed, with the way that I was eating, that I had begun reverting back to a whole bunch of emotional eating habits. Using food either as a reward or comfort at the end of a tough day. Being unable to stop once I started eating something sweet (when I’d been off sugar for awhile, I was able to eat the occasional sweet treat, usually a bowl of icecream and be thoroughly content with a moderate sized serving). Though I’ve been very fortunate not to experience any significant weight issues, I absolutely have had a relationship with food strongly rooted in emotions. For years, like so (so) many people, I looked at food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I constantly, CONSTANTLY thought about what I’d eaten and what I would be eating that day/week/month. As different diet philosophies cycled through, the composition of the groups changed but the labels remained the same. It may then seem strange that quitting (which could be likened to ‘banning’) a very specific food group would actually be a step in the right direction but in learning about and choosing to lessen my fructose intake, I started to understand a whole lot more about the nourishing nature of food. A whole new world of wellness started to open up and eating became less about calories and ‘good and bad’ and more about looking after myself and actually fuelling my body in the way it deserved to be fuelled.
One of the primary motivations for picking up ‘I Quit Sugar‘ (you can find the original ebook HERE) and embarking on the initial fructose free experiment was to gauge the impact on my mental health. There’s been a significant number of studies that examine the link between high sugar diets and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. I know myself that what I eat absolutely impacts how I feel, both mentally and physically, and I was intrigued to see whether or not a specific food group could be more triggering for my anxiety and OCD symptoms. In my experience, my mental health significantly improved when I got off the sweet stuff. One of the deciding factors in me really stepping up and cutting right back again has actually been the fact that I am currently not medicated, and with the influx of extra hormones rushing around my system, along with the typical stressors of parenting and pregnancy, I was a little worried about how I would fare mentally. I started to feel myself slipping back into some of the same, agitated patterns of thinking. An inability to really disconnect and switch off, what meditation peeps sometimes refer to as ‘monkey mind’, is one of the calling cards for me that things are starting to perhaps slide in the direction of some moderate anxiety. Luckily these days, I recognise the signs and can make the changes that need to be made.
I realised that i needed to start investing in my health and eating habits again. It may not work for everyone but for me and my body (and mind), cutting back on fructose, avoiding refined sugars as much as possible and eating cleanly and wholesomely are what works. There will still be Saturday night bowls of Maggie Beer BUT I’ve already noticed that I don’t feel the same kind of attachment and longing for the idea of icecream. I can stop after a bowl. What I have been doing, is baking up batches of my favourite treats to have on hand when I fancy something after dinner or in the afternoon. Fructose Free Brownies have been going down a treat and after the reception they received on Instagram and Facebook, I’m re-posting the recipe.
Fructose Free Brownies
This recipe is taken from The Sweet Poison Quit plan but has been adapted slightly. I prepare the whole thing in my food processor (saves washing up).
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 3/4 cup dextrose or xylitol
- 2/3 cup cocoa (I use a mix of raw cacoa and standard, organic cocoa powder)
- 2 eggs
- 150g butter (ideally organic)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 150C
- Mix butter and dextrose together
- Add eggs and vanilla and continue to mix
- Pour in flour and cocoa and mix, mix, mix
- I cook my brownie in a small greased baking tray. You could also use mini muffin cups.
- Cook for 20-30 minutes, depending how gooey you like it
I’m also giving away a copy of the ‘Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook‘ which is packed full of a bunch of sweet treats, many of which are modified versions of the less than healthy originals. Mmmmm cinnamon tea-cake and rhubarb icecream.
To enter, all you need to do is ‘LIKE’ the (Not) Just A Mummy page on Facebook (found HERE) and comment below on what sweet treat you’re really hoping is in the book.
Entries open Tues 11th Feb 2014 and close Monday 17th Feb at 7.00pm EST.
You can also find the quitting sugar bible ‘I Quit Sugar‘ ebook HERE and the ‘I Quit Sugar Chocolate‘ ebook HERE