Sweet enough already? Some thoughts on sugar…

In the past I’ve had a lot of success in losing weight following the Slimming World plan, in total over the years I’ve lost just over 6 stone which is a fairly life changing amount, well for me anyway. There was a brief interlude in the middle of my 2 year weight loss journey where I became pregnant with Molly and put about 3 stone back on but getting back to the plan when I was ready meant that I soon shifted this.

Obviously eating a certain way for a number of years means that eating habits become fairly ingrained and I got used to counting syns values and knowing exactly what I could and couldn’t eat on the plan. I would regular sing the diets praises, telling friends and family how fantastic the plan was and how easy I had found it, and actually I maintain that all of this is true, in terms of dieting and trying to lose weight, I think this is by far one of the healthier diets around as it doesn’t restrict any of the essential food groups but gives you options and allows you to make choices to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

However, I am now realising that what it did have the potential of doing, and in my case certainly did do, was to limit the amount of healthy, natural fats and increase the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners. One of the reasons that I was overweight is because I have a terrible sugar addiction. Did you know that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine? (yes, hello my name is Emma and I’m addicted to sugar…. I am a sugar user) and one of the reasons that I loved Slimming World so much is because I could save up all my syns and at the end of the day I could eat some of my beloved chocolate. I could also indulge my cravings through the day with yoghurts packed full of artificial sweeteners and I could dress my salads with fat free salad dressings also high in artificial sweeteners. Yes, these were my choices and I didn’t have to make them but often people with addictions to something don’t tend to make very sensible decisions and if you have someone confirming that it’s okay to go ahead and give into these cravings, in whatever form, then that’s exactly what you’re going to do.

So, once I reached my target weight I started to think about this long and hard and realised that this wasn’t a very sustainable way of eating. It also isn’t a way of eating that I want to encourage my family to pursue. With diabetes plaguing both sides of the family it seemed a sensible decision to  address this sooner rather than later and so I started to research clean eating by reading books and blogs by food writers and nutritionists as Amelia Freer, Madeleine Shaw, Ella Woodward and I realised that this was the route that I needed to go down.

This is only a very recent revelation for me and to be honest I’m still completely petrified of eating fats at all, even good ones. Once I’d reached my target weight I became a bit obsessed with watching every pound and each time I gained a couple of pounds I would panic and go hell for leather trying to lose it again. By the time weigh in day came round I was a nervous wreck wondering if I’d done enough to tip the scales back the way I wanted them and, to be honest, it was making my life miserable. I was also experiencing energy slumps throughout the day because my blood sugar levels were all over the place as a result of all the processed foods and artificial sweeteners I was eating and my mood was often quite low, probably due to a combination of the stress I was putting myself under and the ups and downs of my blood sugar levels. Something definitely had to give but the thought of eating fats and going against everything that I knew and had instinctively done for the last few years terrified me, and to a certain extent it still does! I absolutely do not want to put that weight back on!

Luckily most of the books I’ve been reading, address these issues. Madeliene Shaw talks about “escaping the low-fat mind-trap” and recognising that low fat=high sugar and that actually high fat products fill you up for longer, negating the need to snack and eat more. This makes sense. Amelia Freer agrees that you should “make fat your friend and sugar your enemy”. She points out that there is nothing wrong with naturally low fat foods but there is everything wrong with processed low fat foods as the sugar gets turned into fat in our body, especially around our midriff area and can lead to all kinds of diseases and health problems. This also makes sense. We know this already surely?

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So sugar is bad and fat is good, but like with everything, moderation is key and that’s where I’ve always struggled and that’s what concerns me, how do you know how much you should be eating? And how often should you be eating these good fats? At every meal? Once a day? Are natural sugars okay? From what I’ve read it would seem that natural sugars are okay but again, in moderation…so how much natural sugar is okay? Are dairy products okay? Is gluten okay?  I’m a bit of a “Monica from Friends” (excused the 90’s referencing, showing my age now) kind of personality, I generally like to have structures and plans in place and that was another reason why I found Slimming World easy to follow. The clean eating way of life seems to be a lot less structured and a lot more flexible which in some ways terrifies me because I feel like I need answers to all these questions, but in other ways I find it extremely liberating because now I can eat things that I know are good for me and that I enjoy instead of having to think about whether I’ve saved enough syns up for them.

Above everything else though I feel like I need to give clean eating a go for my family’s sake, I want Molly to grow up with a healthy attitude towards food, knowing what foods are good for her and knowing how to cook them and enjoying them. As of this day I have officially walked away from my Slimming World ways and am about to embark on a clean eating way of life…I think it’s going to be an interesting and exciting journey and I think it’s going to be a  difficult one as well but don’t they always say that nothing worth doing is easy?

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