Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Update on Sugarless Diet

I’ve been meaning to update on my relationship with sugar. I really have. I had lofty goals of sharing delicious sugarless recipes weekly, but obviously that hasn’t happened. Mainly, that hasn’t happened because I’ve been busy - studying education psychology, theories of ESL education, linguistics, and math, mostly. But it also hasn’t happened because I don’t feel like I have many recipes to share.

Most things that we eat for dinner (and then for leftovers for lunch for the following days) are sugarless anyway. I have to avoid anything that has ketchup as an ingredient or barbeque sauce (which makes me really sad). And we can’t eat any store-bought salad dressings, at least not any that I’ve found.

But just to give you an example, here’s what I might eat on a ‘normal’ day:

Breakfast – Sugarless baked oatmeal is my favorite breakfast right now. (We also have a granola recipe that uses Stevia powder that I really like. But I’ve read a few more controversial things about Stevia recently, so I don’t eat that everyday.) And coffee with cream. I haven’t given up on my coffee. But it’s usually half-caff.

Snack – If I’m home, I’ll make a pot of tea, usually decaf Earl Grey, and slowly drink my way through that with a handful of raw almonds. If I’m at work, I usually don’t think to eat a snack.

Lunch – Leftovers. I try to incorporate lots of vegetables into our main dishes and lots of fat. I used to take an apple or other piece of fruit as a side dish for lunch. Now I take vegetables of some kind. Sometimes we have some delicious vegetable dish prepared at home, but sometimes – I’m not going to lie – I just shake about a cup of frozen peas into a container and put that in my lunch bag to heat up at work.

Snack – If I’m home, probably more tea or homemade hot chocolate. No one else seems to like this hot chocolate but me: it’s basically hot milk that I mix cocoa powder into  and then add some hot water. It’s not sweet, but I still like it a lot. Could just be that I’m craving chocolate and will take it any way I can get it. Who knows? Either way, it satisfies me. If I’m home, I may also choose peanut butter on a sourdough English muffin if we have some of those made. If I’m at work, maybe I’ll eat more nuts. Maybe pickles. (I’ve developed a weird pickle fetish in the last month or two.)

Supper – More vegetable-laden mostly-vegetarian dishes. Lots of quinoa recently. And then some kind of vegetable side dish. Sometimes we’re creative and sometimes not.

Dessert/After-supper Snack – No dessert. And I don’t usually get cravings for dessert anymore anyway, except right before my period. Then I really do and I want to cry because I can’t eat a brownie or some gingerbread with real whipped cream. Instead, we might have a snack of homemade popcorn. Or corn chips with salsa or guacamole (if avocados are on sale). Or we might just have a cup of herbal tea.

So, that’s it. That’s what I normally eat. Mark’s diet is a little more American, since he’s a cook and does some of his eating at work. We both figure that this diet is for me anyway, so if he can be supportive at home and not bring Oreos into the house and waft the open bag in front of my nose, then he’s doing his part.

So, that’s all great, and it sounds really healthy, but have I noticed any differences in my health since starting this sugarless diet? The short answer is yes!

I’ve noticed, happily, that my energy levels are much more stable since I’ve been off of sugar. I used to feel a major dive in energy about mid-morning and then especially mid-afternoon. Usually about 3:00 I would begin to feel exhausted and eat a piece of chocolate or two or three conveniently located in a bowl in our office to bring my energy back up. Now I can go all morning and all afternoon without a snack and I don’t notice any shift in energy. (As noted above, I often do eat a little snack, but this has more to do with hunger rumbles in my stomach and an interest in maintaining body weight than it does with a need for energy.) Honestly, it feels great and I didn’t realize that I could feel this great at 3:00 in the afternoon.

I’ve also noticed that I don’t get episodes of the shakes anymore. When I was really hungry I would often get shaking too and mumble to myself, “Oh, it’s just my hypoglycemia acting up again!” And maybe that was true. (Is hypoglycemia something that can go away if you don’t eat sugar? I don’t know.) But I don’t shake anymore. That’s nice.

I also don’t get headaches as often. That’s nice too! I never would have attributed my headaches to sugar or sugar deficiency but now that my body’s not relying on the sugar throughout the day I don’t get the headaches. Lovely.

And the verdict is still tentatively out on this last notable change: my cycles. For the last two years since I went off of birth control my cycles have been about 50-60 days long. NOT NORMAL. And so frustrating to know when you’re trying to conceive that you have roughly about half the chances egg-wise to conceive that a ‘normal’ body has. But, since I’ve stopped eating sugar, my last two cycles have been about 33 days. Big difference! I almost didn’t believe my thermometer the first time my thermal shift happened at day 22 instead of day 45.

Side note – I just read this book called What Alice Forgot about this woman who smacks her head really hard and forgets ten years of her life. She’s 39 but when she wakes up from her concussion she thinks she’s 29 and pregnant. That book really got me thinking about what about my current life would surprise me if I woke up and thought I was 16 again. And I’ve realized – all the biology I’ve voluntarily learned about my body – the cycles, the eggs, the PCOS – that would surprise me. And the fact that I have temperature charting lingo that I use when I blog about my body’s cycles: all that would surprise me too. Maybe disturb me a little.

So, as I was saying, my last two cycles since leaving sugar behind me have been pretty much normal. Could it be coincidence? Maybe. Could I be less stressed? Maybe. Well, no, probably not. And I haven’t changed much else about my lifestyle in the last two months except that I stopped exercising.

Mark and I came to the conclusion that 20 minutes of walking – to and from work – was probably enough exercise for me since I’m barely hanging onto a healthy body weight. So I gave up Jillian Michaels and dumbbells. But I don’t think that would have miraculously sparked normal cycles. That seems kind of counter-intuitive to me. Only time will tell!


  1. "all that would surprise me too. Maybe disturb me a little." I couldn't help but laugh at this, as I pictured you a little bit like your sister, wrinkling up your nose in disgust.

    I'm so glad that the sugar-free diet seems to be working. Do you find a particular commonality between whatever sugary items you still crave (i.e. chocolate), or is it just a random selection?

    1. Hmmm... I tend to crave really bready things like muffins and coffee cake. And gingerbread, for some reason. So Mark and I are going to make a small loaf of gingerbread for my birthday next week as a 'sugar splurge.'

      I had a dream the other night about a friend inviting me over because she had found a recipe for sugar-free gluten-free muffins that looked and tasted exactly like real wheat-flour sugar-filled muffins. They were soooo delicious and I was sad to wake up!