I am about to embark on a month of personal protest. I’m not going to climb a tree and save it from developers. I’m not going to board a deep sea oil drilling platform. I’m not going to bare my breasts as a sign of liberation. I’m going to attempt something far more significant.
I’m going to go a month without sugar.
I hear your mocking snigger… seriously, how hard can it be?
In this day of modern dieting, most of us have at least a basic understanding of the concept of good nutrition – what goes in should be balanced, fresh and healthy… and if you’re going to regularly overindulge without exercising to expel those extra calories from your body, then expect to see it reflected on the scales.
As a lifelong recidivist dieter (my mother will tell you, if asked, that I was first placed on a diet when I was 6 weeks old), I am very aware of the principles of healthy eating. Regular readers will recall my dismay at my girth measurement in early 2014 being equivalent to the height of a small pony. I’m pleased to say that I’m back to what I consider a ‘normal’ size, partly due to the expulsion of the boy child, and then a year of hard work.
Over the past 12 months, Mr Shoe and I have collectively lost over 70kg. That’s like a whole other person. I now exercise regularly, eat a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of grains, fresh fruit and vegies, and limit my booze to one or two glasses a week. For the record, I do miss my old indulgent self at times… but I don’t miss the cankles or the jowls that went with it.
But I’ve hit a rut. Or as any fitness or nutrition expert would say, I’ve reached a ‘plateau’. Nicer word, same reality. I’ve got the balance between energy in and energy out right – so my weight is staying the same. So what to do…
Whilst I could try and squeeze more exercise into my weekly regime – I actually don’t want to as (like many, many people) I don’t like it. I try really hard to like it. I go running (ok, it’s like a fat girl shuffle but at least I try). I cycle (definitely my preferred torture, oops, exercise option). I have started swimming and even completed a triathlon this summer. But fundamentally it’s a chore and it gives me zero pleasure.
A friend suggested I try a Paleo diet. My five minute google-research revealed that the Paleo diet is often referred to as the ‘caveman’ diet as you eat foods that mimic those consumed by pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers. Given that Neanderthals are now extinct and had an average life span of around 30, I’m not sure I want to go down that track.
I’ve already chopped out booze, carbs and cake (ie anything fun).
But the sneaky thing that still hangs around and stealthily contributes to my daily calorie count is sugar. Not the good, wholesome real sugar found in fruit and vegies. But the hidden sugar that lurks in the nutritional information panel on our food. Sometimes it’s called fructose or corn syrup, dextrose or sorbitol. It’s in mostly every processed food we eat… if it comes from a packet, chances are it’s had some sugar added somehow.
I don’t know how much of this hidden sugar I’m consuming every day. Stats would suggest that the average kiwi has 26 teaspoons a day (compared to the recommended 8). I know that I don’t add sugar to anything I make, but I also eat pre-made food on a regular basis and as a busy working mum I rely on jars of premade pasta sauce or Asian styled stirfry gloop to assist with a quick and easy mid-week dinner.
So April is going to become my month of conscious consumption. I’m going to go ‘sneaky-sugar-free’ for four weeks, without changing anything else in my diet or exercise regime, and see what happens.
And yes, I’m aware that I’ve picked Easter and school holidays for this battle. Not ideal. But I don’t eat chocolate and having some extra time at home with the kids during the holidays should allow me more time to cook real food from scratch and therefore monitor the sugar levels.
So wish me luck… and I’ll let you know how it goes.
A few references… don’t attack me if these are wrong, blame Uncle Google.
1 tsp of sugar is 4 grams.
Research (it’s old but all I could find) from 2009 shows sugars intake in New Zealand adults was 107 grams/day (120 g/day for men, and 96 g/day for women).
The standards for what is ‘recommended’ vary, but daily intake is consistently documented to be 9 tsp of sugar for men (36 grams/day), and 6 tsp for women (24 grams/day).
Here’s how it sneaks up on you – 1 bowl cornflakes with skim milk, 1 serve low fat strawberry yoghurt, 1 glass organic apple juice and 1 slice of raisin toast… all up could equal close to 28 tsp of sugar!
Some of the many names used in food packaging are; barley malt, carob syrup, corn syrup, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, grape sugar, high -fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose