I’ve been completely preoccupied with the reprecussions of turning the food pyramid, and subsequently my entire life, upside-down.
It all started with signing up for an 8 week programme to kick the sugar habit. Right up until the day the course started I was still saying “I don’t think I can do this.” Now I am past half way through and my whole outlook on food has changed - like I have woken up from a dozey sleep - I haven’t felt this energised or passionate or curious about anything since forever.
I Quit Sugar
Sarah Wilson is an Australian blogger who writes about how she has used her diet to wrassle her auto immune disease to a more manageable beast. I first heard of Sarah when Darren Rowse interviewed her for his bloggers series, and I was using the series to improve my sketchnoting. I can’t remember where I heard about Sarah’s I Quit Sugar 8 week programme, but as it didn’t cost very much, I signed up with the fallback that I wasn’t going to lose a lot of money when it didn’t work.
First of all, the programme is well designed for the web. She’s not bombarding me with emails, but I get my two per week and it keeps me focused and I can consume the information without having to put aside lots of time.
Secondly, the food on the programme is delicious, fast, and relatively easy. Sarah has us do some do-ahead stuff so we can pull things out of the freezer during the week so there’s less of a risk of turning to faster, sugar laden options. Also this isn’t like the kind of eating plans I’m used to: weighing and measuring, portion sizes, all that weight-loss jazz. This eating programme is about getting the sugar out of my system, while teaching me how to think about food in a world without sugar. Teaching me to cook again - which is something I really need to support this life change.
Thirdly, it works! Holy moly, it works! I am sugar free. ME!
So wait, Michelle, it’s not that easy, is it? I mean, if you can go sugar free, it must’ve been an uphill battle, right?
Well there were a few hard bits, like a few headaches, and a few physical aches and pains, but never enough to throw in the towel. Plus, get through the intense fourth week when there’s no dairy, gluten, sugar, caffeine, or alcohol - which honestly wasn’t even as bad as it seems, and kapow, something amazing happened: I got energy.
You know when you’re dancing - like proper dancing; a waltz or something, with a good dancer who knows what they’re doing - and your partner has his hand on your lower back, leading you around the dancefloor? That’s what I am feeling like all day. Every day. Like I have a gentle but knowing hand pushing me through my day.
I have never, ever, EVER felt this energised. EVER. Not even as a kid.
I got fuelled
Is it that simple? Quit sugar and have energy? Well part of it - but I think it’s connected to my anemia. I had read somewhere about different blockers to nutrient absorption. For instance, my sister finds that eating gluten gums up her digestive tract and she loses energy and health. I was wondering if sugar might be blocking my absorption of iron from leafy green vegetables and red meats.
The food plan on Sarah’s IQS programme is full of greenery for dense nutitional bulk. We have some protein and fat, and hardly any complex carbohydrates, and hardly any fruit. I eat when I’m hungry and keep eating until I feel full, and then I stop.
That’s quite an amazing sentence because it means that:
- I know when I’m hungry
- I can feel when I’m full
- I can stop
I learned hunger
My brain can hear when the switch flips in my belly now. I had never (really) let myself be hungry before IQS. I always ate because it was breakfast time (you must have breakfast, right?) then at 12pm for lunch (three meals a day) and then dinner in the evening (meat and three vegetables, plus dessert, plus wine) - never mind all the louise slices/snacks in between. So my stomach was always working, never being heard above the munching to say “hey we’ve got enough food down here, carry on and do something else.”
But now, if I’m not hungry in the morning, I’ll take my breakfast to work with me and eat it when I am. And if I am still full from breakfast at lunchtime, I just keep on going until I’m hungry again - sometimes it’s not until dinner. Mostly though, I’m waking up earlier and with energy so I am eating my breakfast in the morning and lunch at midday and dinner in the early evening and my brain can hear the switch flip on (eat) and off (full) and so portion control is done between my ears like a NORMAL person.
I got going
Now I’m moving lots more. In fact, I have a bit of trouble *not* moving. This hand that’s pushing me around has got me taking the stairs over a lift; has got me walking down the path to the beach without groaning at the idea of walking back. It’s getting all my chores done; it’s cleaning the house; it’s making my bed every morning; it’s made me so tolerant - my temper and (sometimes) moodiness has gone.
But the biggest thing, besides the energy is the controlled and focused concentration that is kicking in for longer periods. At work I first noticed that people had come to my desk to say something to me and I could completely block them out and continue working and they’d just wander off until I got back to them later. First it was around 15-20 minute blocks, then it grew to 40 minutes or so. I’m clocking just over an hour of concentrated focus and quality work now - and remember I’m only in the sixth week of this programme!
Oh my goodness I’m so excited I think I’m going to bust a blood vessel!
I got retested
Late last year I got some bloodwork done, and my doctor was very concerned about my low iron levels. He put me on a course of iron tablets which I took for two months without feeling any change. The last month I’ve continued to take the tablets but embarked on the IQS programme. In the last few days I’ve had my blood tested again and hope that the results have changed.
Of course, I’ve changed a few things so it’s going to be hard to pinpoint what worked, but I’m hoping that my iron levels will show a more positive result. I’m also being tested for Celiac disease - not because I have any symptoms - but just to see if I have those antibodies that can mean gluten is a problem for me. My blood is also being tested to see if the hormone related to pre-menopause is present. I’ve been experiencing hot flashes since the detox week of IQS and I wonder if I’ve knocked that process off with all this stripping the sugar from my system.
The test results should be back in the next few days and I’ll let you know how that goes.
I’m still baking
Today I baked my first ever batch of gluten free food. Mostly it’s because it’s part of the programme, but these pumpkin and chia seed muffins are really quite dense, but delicious with some cashew butter. I’m learning lots of new ways to cook, and foods to eat, and tasty combinations.
My life feels vibrant, and bright, and in control, and just gorgeous. Being only a few weeks in with these changes, the skeptic in my says it can’t last but holy moly, I’m just loving right now!
Let me know if my enthusiasm has encouraged you to look at kicking sugar to the curb? Maybe you did it ages ago and continue to live the benefits? or do you think I’m in a full blown, pre-menopausal midlife crisis and I’m turning into the thing I’ve feared the most: a hippy?
- I Quit Sugar (Sarah Wilson)
- How to make money blogging sketchnote (my sketchnote post on Sarah’s blog)
- Iron(wo)man (thejamjar.com_
PS: photo at the top of the page is the rainbow salad I took to work last week. From the bottom up it’s raw beetroot, grated carrot, grated cauliflower, broccoli pesto, walnuts, roast chickn, feta cheese. Booya: delicious!
I got the results of my blood tests back and my iron has more than doubled to 18 - which is in the low normals but still a massive improvement over 6!
I’m convinced that the low carb component of the I Quit Sugar plan is the reason for this vast improvement in my iron levels increasing the ability heamoglobin to transport oxygen around my body and resulting in this amazing, persistant, surge in energy I continue to experience.
While I will continue to take the iron suppliments, I’m just amazed at the iron uptake that ungumming my gut of gluten and fructose has made in my ability to absorb nutrients from my diet.