On Giving Up Sugar & How It’s Changed My Life

lemon-cake

When you say that something has changed your life, it’s often a bit of an exaggeration. I once said it about our new slow cooker and most mornings, I muse to myself about how my Gilette Venus with Olay razor is life changing (you should totally try it, by the way – you don’t even need shaving gel. It’s AMAZING.)

But I’ve done something recently that’s properly life changing. I gave up sugar.

This isn’t a post about going on a health-kick, however, or being on a faddy diet, or following some amazingly complicated/depressing Goop-style lifestyle. You see, despite keeping up a fairly good façade of keeping my shiz together, for the past year or so, behind the Instagram smiles, I’ve been suffering from an almighty hormone imbalance. Think PMS x a million for around 10 days a month.

It had an incredible effect on my life – for around a third of the month, every month, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I knew when it would hit, so I’d mark it on my phone calendar and avoid making any important plans during that time – no work meetings, events or lunches with friends. There was no point in making plans, since I knew I wouldn’t feel up to it, and I was fed up of cancelling plans on the day, after waking up and realising I wasn’t capable of going any further than the school run and my sofa. Work was hard on those day too – having a creative job is HARD when your brain doesn’t want to play ball. Some days, I would try to get some work done, and others, I would just admit defeat and curl up on the sofa, under a blanket with Netflix. (Top tip: watching Luther when you’re suffering from anxiety will make you feel like EVERYONE you see on the street is a serial killer. Even that little old lady in the tea room.)

For the other two thirds of the month, I was fine. Happy, no anxiety, motivated, creative juices flowing. But also trying to work twice as hard to catch up on the stuff I hadn’t done during my dip, and trying to get ahead before the next dip hit me. And as much as I know my friends understood what was going on, I would squeeze in as many coffees and lunches, as I could, with them, to make up for cancelling on them/not replying to that text/generally being a bit weird on them. All the while, counting down the days until my next hormonal dip would hit.

Jeez, it was exhausting.

But just over a month ago, I thought I’d try something – I gave up sugar. Not in the way that the anti-sugar books tell you to (I’m still eating carbs and fruit) but in a nutshell, I stopped eating and drinking anything sweet. Out went the chocolate (Easter was a challenge, I tell you!), out went puddings, out went fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, fruit juice, biscuits – the lot.

The difference in me has been incredible. It’s actually a bit crazy how different I feel. Looking at my diary, I should have had two hormonal dips by now, but instead, I’ve had a couple of days of mild anxiety, and that’s it. It’s amazing! But why has giving up sugar helped to balance out my hormones? Nutritionist Penny Crowther explains, saying: “Insulin is the principle blood sugar balancing hormone and it can become less efficient if constantly stimulated by a diet high in refined sugar. This can have a knock-on effect on the rest of the hormonal system.” So basically, sugar can throw your entire hormone system out of whack. And in a totally ironic way, I had been comforting myself during my low points with – yep, you guessed it – sugary treats. So, totally unintentionally, I was making myself feel worse!

I chatted to another nutritionist Laura Clark recently, who recommended eating lots of oily fish, protein rich foods like pork, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and nuts – they all contain the amino acid tryptophan which converts into serotonin (the feel-good hormone). So, armed with all of this info, I’ve been on a real mission to change how I feel by eating differently.

It makes me wonder how many other people would benefit from cutting out (or at least cutting back) on sugar – I talk to so many friends about hormone struggles and so many of them suffer from dips that have a knock-on effect to their everyday lives. I also wonder whether the postnatal depression I experienced five years ago might have been lessened if I hadn’t been battling the sleep deprivation with flapjacks, Dairy Milk and endless rounds of tea and cake with my NCT friends.

But for now, I’m focusing on a feeling of freedom – for the first time in a year, I feel free from my hormones. I can make plans without worrying about whether I’ll feel up to it, on the day. That’s better than any post-cake sugar buzz.

*****

I’ve been shortlisted for a blogging award and if you enjoy reading Not Another Mummy Blog, it would be amazing if you could take two minutes to vote for me! The Brilliance In Blogging Awards are run by Britmums, and they’re a really big deal in the blogging world. I’m shortlisted in the Writer category – you can vote for me here. Thank you!

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16 Comments

  1. Steph
    May 1, 2016 / 9:26 am

    I’ve given up sugar too – although had 2 Ferrero Rochers yesterday (my old self 9 weeks ago would have eaten the whole box) and I’ve got horrible stomach cramps this morning :(. That’s enough to stop you from eating it again. One side effect I’ve noticed is, that for the first time in years I’ve been remembering my dreams. Like you I’m still eating carbs and fruit but any added sugar is a no no (makes the grocery shop longer – reading all of the labels!). Glad you have noticed real benefits x

  2. May 1, 2016 / 9:57 am

    Love this Bab. I struggle so much for around 7 days. Like psychotic. I’ve started not going out and avoiding things like social media as it can tip me over the edge. I gave up caffeine recently as I think this made the anxiety really really high. I don’t really drink too much or now don’t have caffeine. I would struggle to give up sugar as well but maybe this is something I need to consider if it means I won’t be missing out on fun for a quarter of the year. Sigh xxx

  3. Ruth
    May 1, 2016 / 11:32 am

    This would suit me down to a t, however the weaning off the sugar would be like a drug addict giving up crack.

    Any tips?

  4. May 1, 2016 / 1:59 pm

    I have definitely cut right back on sugar as well as gluten. My system isn’t brilliant but I definitely think it is helping. This is a really interesting read and I am so pleased to see that it is helping you xx (well done on being shortlisted too x)

  5. May 2, 2016 / 12:13 am

    You are one amazing woman, I just couldn’t give up sugar!

  6. May 2, 2016 / 4:31 pm

    This sounds just like me, I never felt ‘properly’ depressed but for a short time each month I actually hate being around people, have no motivation and just want to hide from the world, then snap & I’m back ready to get back to it again. I’m going to reduce my sugar and see if it has an impact on me too x

  7. May 2, 2016 / 11:48 pm

    You have no idea how much this rings true for me. My symptoms or dips are the same as yours were and similarly I ate sugar as I thought my body needed it. I know refined sugar is bad but Id no idea over the counter affect it had. So I too am now giving up sugar. Jo @pumpkinandposey xxx

  8. May 3, 2016 / 7:35 am

    This is brilliant Alison, I’m so glad it’s helped you and I think it definitely warrants further investigation from myself. I’ve been doing much better with anxiety and depression, but got smacked with a HUGE amxiety attack yesterday when it’s not been that way for a while. I know how crippling it is, I’m so happy you feel you can make plans again… that is HUGE!!! Long may it continue.
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  9. May 3, 2016 / 11:23 am

    I have been putting this off for MONTHS under the guise of ‘too much hassle, sugar is in everything’. Why didn’t I think of your approach, just cut out the mega sugary things?! You gave me the push I needed, started yesterday, thank you. Was craving something sweet all damn day long and a Haribo made it to my lips before I shrieked and ran out of the kitchen 😉 Let’s see if I can manage the month…

  10. Sian
    May 5, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    Have you looked into giving up dairy? Its really interesting the affect cows milk hormones can have on our own hormone system. The hormones that naturally occur in cows milk can have detrimental effects on us and is implicated in hormone dependant cancers.
    You may find this article interesting.
    http://www.larabriden.com/what-dairy-does-to-periods/

  11. May 25, 2016 / 9:08 pm

    Okaaaay do I admit that having heard they’ve brought forward the BiBs final 5 announcement by 24 hours, I’m now feeling sick and frantically checking up on my competition in the shortlist of 10? No I’m going to keep that one quiet.
    I WISH I could give it up. I have such a sweet tooth; damn that Indian diet I grew up on. I don’t chomp on rubbish all day long but I just can’t give up sugar although I did go sugar free in my coffee a year ago aged 47 which was a massive achievement. Interestingly my PMS became very severe first half of last year; like you I knew exactly when it was going to hit and it was for 2 weeks each time. That’s half my year spent feeling depressed and hopeless! We eat more protein and fewer carbs as a family than ever…and guess what? I’ve been fine for a while now. You’ve got me wondering whether it was the diet change! Fab blog. Good luck with the final 5 announcement.

  12. May 27, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    I have really REALLY been contemplating this and I feel like every time I struggle there is celebration or out to dinner and I fail miserably. But sadly I think it will help me a lot with balance out my emotions that are alway all over the place. I am dying to really do it but just can’t seem to find my way on this. You and Morgana have motivated me though I think I need to slowly cut back first before going cold turkey. You are so strong going through Easter man I need that self control myself. I lack it completely. If food is there or treats I eat them ALL no matter what. No holding back here. Its a nightmare and I feel worse for it. Just wish there was an easy way to train my brain.

  13. May 27, 2016 / 1:11 pm

    I have really REALLY been contemplating this and I feel like every time I struggle there is celebration or out to dinner and I fail miserably. But sadly I think it will help me a lot with balance out my emotions that are alway all over the place. I am dying to really do it but just can’t seem to find my way on this. You and Morgana have motivated me though I think I need to slowly cut back first before going cold turkey. You are so strong going through Easter man I need that self control myself. I lack it completely. If food is there or treats I eat them ALL no matter what. No holding back here. Its a nightmare and I feel worse for it. Just wish there was an easy way to train my brain.

  14. November 25, 2016 / 11:43 pm

    I’ve recently just kicked the sugar. I have gone a bit beyond just the fizzy drinks and cakes etc as have cut the carbs too but still eating fruit. I have been suffering with anxiety too so I hope it has as good an effect on me as it has for you. I’d love to hear how you are finding it now several months on. Especially with Christmas just around the corner.

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