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!