It’s Day 35 of my 100-day #iquitsugar challenge.
To give you a preview on how my diet looked like prior to starting this project, here’s how a typical day would look like:
- 1 bowl of oats in the morning
- Chocolates / pastries to match my coffee for morning tea
- Lunch (ulam with rice)
- 1 bar of KitKat 4 Finger Milk Chocolate for dessert
- Chocolates / pastries to match my coffee for afternoon tea
- Dinner (ulam with rice)
- A bowl of ice cream sprinkled with M&M’s chocolate as toppings for my dessert
- It’s normal that I do grab something to bite before going to bed – either another bar of KitKat, Twix or Snickers, or another bowl of ice cream
- On weekends:
- My favourite food to pair with my coffee are scones with strawberry jam and cream. On top of that, I’d order a chocolate chip muffin for takeaway and eat it at home.
- We would drive 27 km just to buy my large wintermelon milk tea with pearls
- If we order fastfood or eat out in restaurants, it’s always going to be paired with a large Coke drink
When I say typical, it’s my daily food intake – KitKat and a bowl of ice cream were my non-negotiables most especially.
If you’ve been following my blog posts, you would know that I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression and mild anxiety late last year. I started my daily anti-depressant medication and pills for anxiety attacks in January and am still on it currently. I’ve also been visiting my counsellor for 1-hour sessions. That has been my life mental health wise.
Since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on mental health; and a recurring theme on articles and studies would be how one’s diet creates a significant impact on one’s mental health. It came as no surprise knowing that too much sugar in the body causes depression, anxiety and a whole lot of nasty stuff which would kill you in the long run, literally.
Therapy sessions helped. Medication helped too. But the greatest help to me so far was when I started doing CrossFit on 1 Mar 2018. If you’ve been following my stories on Instagram, CrossFit was a daily common story ever since. Saying that CrossFit saved my life is an understatement, but I’ll save that for another post.
How I came to quit sugar happened when I’ve been doing CrossFit for more than a month. While I was slowly starting to experience the benefits of exercise and physical activity, I just had this realisation that 4-5 days of CrossFit sessions wouldn’t be of great benefit in the long run if I don’t change my eating lifestyle.
I did a bit of research again and the significant theme on health was always 30% exercise, 70% diet. This means that if I’ve been making great strides on the 30% aspect, my over-all would still be considered poor because of my 70%, majority of which is comprised by processed foods, refined sugar and sweets.
Yes, anything sugary was always my comfort food – but it was only a temporary high. I knew that if I wanted to heal, I needed to change what I was feeding into my body.
Still with 3 jumbo KitKat bars, 3 M&Ms family packs, caramel biscuits and a tub of ice cream lying in our fridge and pantry, I did Day 1 of quitting sugar.
Coming from a body fuelled by KitKat, ice cream and pastries, it was and continues to be one HELL of an #iquitsugar journey. All the possible willpower, discipline and commitment reserves in my body, I have to expend because it is extremely difficult. Knowing that I could easily sneak in a bite of KitKat or a spoon of ice cream in the fridge didn’t help either. Mandarin oranges, bananas and water are my daily food partners.
But 35 days into this journey, I have been discovering a lot of beautiful things about food and about myself, which I haven’t been aware of the whole time. Let me share with you a few of these things:
- If you need to sweeten something, there’s rice malt syrup as natural sweetener.
- It’s possible to have coffee with no sugar. A cup of mocha with macadamia milk, no sugar is the bomb!
- It’s still possible to satisfy your sweet cravings without consuming food that’s high in processed, refined and artificial sugars. There’s heaps of sugar-free, gluten-free, raw food alternatives that you can try out there.
- You know that I’ve always been a fan of wintermelon milktea. But it’s still possible to satisfy that same milktea craving by replacing it with a fruity green tea, no sugar. I find a no sugar fruity green tea extremely sweet now!
- It’s fun to experiment with eating different kinds of fruits every day as dessert. Green kiwi now sits at the top of the list as my favourite fruit.
- It’s possible to do weekly grocery runs just going through the veggies, fruits and meats aisle. If it doesn’t have packaging and nutritional info at the back, the better.
- Surrounding yourself with people who support you in the journey are critical. Thankfully I have my husband and my work colleagues as my sugar police officers 😀
- It’s possible to still take part in office morning teas or afternoon teas. You just have to stay away from the bickies, cake slices and doughnuts. Hello apples, oranges and grapes!
- I realised that drowning my palate in artificial, processed sugary stuff made my palate numb to a wide range of amazing tastes — I’m now able to appreciate a more extensive variety of food.
- To be honest, a healthy diet is more expensive. However, I consider taking care of my health as an investment, not an expense. If these extra bucks spent would help lengthen my life by an extra couple of years, why not?
- I’m able to concentrate and focus on tasks more. If I get into depressive episodes or anxiety attacks kick in, I acknowledge the negative emotions and thoughts but I could now manage to get past it.
- At the end of the day really, it’s all in the mind.
Some of my friends said that I don’t have to quit sugar altogether and just do it in moderation. I don’t have to punish myself, as what they’d say. I guess for some, it works but not for me. Restraining myself from bingeing on those occasional sweets-eating is, for me, more difficult and takes far more effort. I’d rather abstain from it all. But of course, different strokes for different folks so whatever works for you, go for it.
I’m not sure if I’d be able to see this through until Day 100, but so far I’m loving it. A number of friends and work colleagues have noticed the glow and the weight loss, but to be honest, those benefits are secondary. My sustained energy throughout the day and my improved mental health are the primary benefits which I’m after.
I want to be able to live a long and healthy life – a quality, well-lived, depression-free, anxiety-free life, to be specific. I want to be able to teach my kids proper diet and be their role model with eating habits. I want to be able to run and play with my future grandkids. All of this wouldn’t be possible in the future if I don’t make the difficult changes NOW.
It’s hard, really hard, I tell you. But hard does not mean that it’s impossible.
Who knows, after Day 100, I can finally quit sugar for life. Let’s see.
P.S. Watch “The Magic Pill” on Netflix, it’s a very informative and enlightening documentary on how food affects the way you live. If this docu will not make you quit sugar, I don’t know what else will.