Oh my, oh my, oh my. That’s how I feel since giving up sugar. When I first said I’d give up sugar for Lent, I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t think it would be this taxing on my body. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that giving up smoking was easier than giving up sugar, and that was hard enough. I should point out that although I’ve given up sugar, I’m still having wholemeal bread and mayonnaise, both of which contain a small amount of added sugar, but even these are limited to small amounts. Everything else has gone – chocolate, sweets, cookies and biscuits, pasta and curry sauces, processed meals and hot chocolate on the weekend.
I was shocked when I discovered the number of food items that contain added sugar. It’s this added sugar that has caused myself and many other Britons like me to become addicted to it. In fact, The Independent reported that the average American consumed 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day and it has even been suggested that the average Briton consumes up to 238 teaspoons of added sugar in a single week! That’s frightening considering the recommended allowance for added sugar is 6 teaspoons a day. So giving up sugar for Lent, I told myself, though challenging would ensure I adhere to this recommended amount.
On the first day I felt incredibly optimistic. I didn’t crave any sugary foods and, because I planned to have cheese and crackers as my after-dinner pudding, I felt fine. I watched the CrossFit Games to help keep me focussed on my goals, despite a nagging headache behind my eyes, and went to bed feeling proud.
I slept fitfully that first night and, on waking, my body seemed to ache more than usual. I went to the gym and found I was lacking energy. I got through the session I’d planned but something seemed ‘off’. By the afternoon I had another headache, this one more severe than on the first day, so much so that I took paracetamol. This helped but didn’t fully rid me of the headache. I suffer from migraines and, though this certainly wasn’t a migraine, the pain of the headache wasn’t far off. And I was exhausted. By 8 o’clock I was unable to keep my eyes open and fell fast asleep on the sofa for an hour. After waking up and going to bed, another fitful night ensued.
Normally on Friday mornings, both myself and my daughter tuck into a bowl of Special K followed by half a blueberry bagel. But both contain added sugar! So as not to cause my daughter too much distress and force her to have porridge again, she had half a wholemeal bagel with some organic strawberry jam while I had scrambled eggs.
And then I went swimming.
I’ve never run a marathon so have only heard stories of how people ‘hit the wall’ after about 20 miles, but that was exactly how I felt during my swimming session. I was fine during the warm-up, though my muscles were aching a lot but I just put that down to yesterday’s gym session. By the time I got to my main set, I was cooked. No kidding, I was done. I had no energy at all. My arms felt so heavy and, no matter how much extra rest I gave myself, once I started swimming my muscles just couldn’t work any harder. I’ve never had that feeling before…ever! Let me tell you, it is not a nice feeling.
I never thought giving up sugar would have such a dramatic effect on my body. When I came home after my swim, I looked up the withdrawal symptoms of giving up sugar and they are as follows:
- anxiety and depression
- low energy levels
- hunger and cravings
- muscle aches and pains
- strange dreams
- gas and bloating
- chills or sweats
I am definitely suffering from a few of these, the most prevalent of which are headaches, low energy and increased hunger and cravings. Even as I’m typing this I’ve got a craving for biscuits – any biscuits would do at this point. What’s worse is that these symptoms can last for up to 6 weeks! By the time I get over the withdrawal symptoms, Lent will be over.
So is it worth putting my body through all of this? I’m sure it is but my body isn’t convinced…yet. But this isn’t really a plan just for Lent. Once the withdrawal from the white stuff has abated, I don’t want to go through this again which means not going back to unhealthy habits.
I’ll update you on my progress on day 6 – fingers crossed I have more energy.
Have a great weekend everyone!