Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Secrets of Being Fit and Fab: Try going No Sugar or severely limiting it

PHS editor Michelle Styles explains what happened when she decided to go No Sugar for January 2013.
For a number of reasons this month I have gone No Sugar (or sweetners). Mainly I wanted to see what would happen and it gave me the excuse to indulge over the Christmas period. I knew that my exercise would keep it in check and I knew what happened last year.

By no sugar, I mean no refined sugar or added sweetners. I have not been having any dried fruit as I know it induces cravings in my body for sugar but have allowed myself fresh fruit. I also have allowed myself gluten as long as there is no added sugar in the product. Because sugar is added to many gluten products as a matter of course, it means essentially I have to make my own. It also means no condiments, fruit juice, soda,  breakfast cereal, flavour yoghurts, jams, chutneys, and processed food unless I can be sure that no sweetners have been added.  I have also allowed myself plenty of nutrient rich starchy carbs as I do exercise.

The consumption of sugar is one of the major dietary changes in the Industrial revolution. In the early 19th century before they figured out to cheaply refine sweetners, the average person in Britan consumed 20 – 40 lbs per year.  The last figure I saw for the UK was 150 lbs and rising. The US is at 170 lbs.  Sugar is known to be a mildly addictive substance.

There has been  very little research into sugar consumption and its effects.  For a variety of reasons, the bulk of research has been done on fat.  Various scientists (Yudkin in particular) predicted that an increase in sugar/sweetner consumption would lead to a rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes in the 1970s but  were dismissed as being out of step. Unfortunately these predictions have come true. Type 2 diabetes which used to be an adult disease is now increasingly seen in younger and younger children.  It is known that different people’s bodies handle sugar/sweetners in different ways. The interaction of insulin and sugar, combined with the hypothalamus isn’t fully understood. Equally concentrated fructose which is used in many processed foods as opposed to the more expensive sugar is processed differently. It tends to metabolised in the liver, leading to an increase in visceral fat (ie fat around the organs which has been implicated in a number of diseases). If you are interested in reading more, Rob Lustig’s  recently published book  Fat Chance has the latest research on the effects of sugar and the metabolism.

Anyway I wanted to see how my body would react.

After Christmas I felt very bloated and my lymph oedema had returned with a vengeance to my arm. I knew I had to detox. I was surprised at how quickly the bloating has gone down. There has not been any study that I could find into the consumption of sugar/sweetners and lymph oedema. There is a general declaration of  losing weight can help but that is far as it goes. Interestingly  I have not had cravings or uncontrollable hunger since I started. If anything, my appetite has decreased. I no longer need to be continually snacking. I do have more energy and seem to be sleeping better.
About a week in, I tried a pretzel that my daughter had made. It had a little honey (the fifth ingredient). My digestion was very unhappy that night which makes me wonder if I have a yeast overgrowth.  Apparently yeast can be a problem and I did have  had antibiotics before. So right now,  I am keeping on the no sugar and making sure I take a probiotic to encourage the growth of good bacteria in my gut. It can take a long time to get rid of yeast. Apparently it can take up to a year to get rid of a sweet tooth.

 The only thing I know for certain is that my cravings have vanished and I do feel more in control. It may be that  for me, sugar/sweetners has to become a very occasional thing.

I also thought it interesting  when I read that 90% of the people who successfully maintain their weight do so with at least an hour of daily exercise. I know my exercise sessions have become an integral part of my life and I do credit them with helping me to maintain.

Next month Angi Morgan is taking over duties on this column and I am looking forward to her words of wisdom.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide range of time periods. Her next book is An Ideal Husband? and comes out in April 2013. In 2010 she started on her weight loss journey and had lost 66 lbs by November 2011, she has been maintaining it ever  since. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle !

    FIRST !! I'll be sharing the column. Thank goodness, because I learn so much from your research and experience. It's very encouraging too that you've maintained your weight loss.

    I'm also on sugar detox this week. I just told my husband that I felt such a difference after only four days. I'll be sharing about my experiences next month.