Beauty Editor, Frankie Rozwadowska, goes sugar-free to put a stop to her apparent sugar addiction
Hi – my name’s Frankie and I’m a sugar addict. I’ve been clean for precisely 14 days, 3 hours and 7 minutes, and I can tell you now – it has not been easy. Sounds like I’m talking about an illegal substance, right? Well I may as well be. Just like drugs, sugar is unbelievably addictive. There’s a reason it’s in pretty much every food – it keeps you hooked. Ever intended to eat ‘just one cookie’ or ‘just a square’ of chocolate, only to end up eating all, if not most of it? Exactly. This seemingly innocent substance causes heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, ADD, dental cavities, yeast infections, weakened immune systems…you get the gist. SUGAR? I hear you cry? That delicious, sweet tasting treat we enjoy in the form of fluffy pink-iced cupcakes, creamy ice-cream and crunchy candies? Yes, that’s the one. Just Google ‘dangers of sugar’ and you’ll soon believe me.
But it’s not just in the obvious chocolates and sweets, sugar is in pretty much everything. Don’t believe me? Go look in your cupboards and your fridge. Pick up that pasta sauce or box of cereal – I can almost guarantee sugar is in there. Check your bread, salad dressing, and seemingly healthy ‘fruit juice’. Yes, it’s probably hiding in them too. Sugar is cheap and easy to produce, it leaves you wanting more and it can be added to anything and everything – a manufacturer’s dream.
Despite being added to food, sugar gives us nothing and in fact robs us of goodness our bodies need. The process of refining it involves extracting the juice from the sugar cane plant, which is then thickened through a boiling process before the syrup is removed. It is then washed and filtered, dried, packaged and pumped into our food – by which point, any fibre, vitamins, minerals or enzymes have been destroyed. Leading Nutritionist and Health Food Expert, Vicki Edgson, strongly advises limiting your sugar intake – especially as we consume 12 times the recommended daily allowance! She also told me some startling facts about the sweet-stuff… “Sugar is a serious poison found in most of our pre-packed and processed foods and condiments. It provides no actual nutrients – it is simply the ‘quick fix with serious consequences’. It has now been identified as being the major cause of high cholesterol, diabetes, Syndrome X (or Metabolic syndrome – a precursor to Type II diabetes), and this link to metabolic disorders results from insulin resistance that occurs when the pancreas is repeatedly challenged to increase its output of insulin throughout the day – e.g. commercial packet cereals for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, biscuits and treats at tea, and pasta for supper. All these products emanate from refined carbohydrates that are cheap to produce, quick to eat, and seriously disrupt our blood sugar levels, leaving us hungry for more, with peaks and troughs in our energy levels.”
If that hasn’t convinced you enough of the sinful side of sugar, how about Vicki’s biggest revelation – that it not only feeds your ever-growing waistline, but also cancer. At the time of writing this, scientists from the University College of London revealed that through experimenting with MRI scanners sensitised to specifically look for glucose (a form of sugar) in the body, they were able to see cancer tumours feeding from it – consuming twice as much glucose than normal, healthy cells. A high sugar diet provides a conducive environment for cancer cells to grow. They multiply rapidly which requires a lot of energy, and that is why cancer cells LOVE sugar. So the more sugar you eat, the higher your risk. The pancreas responds to high sugar levels by secreting insulin, and high levels of insulin put you at greater risk of developing a whole host of health problems, including breast cancer. No wonder Vicki said, “knowing all this, give me one good reason to consume it – it’s just as bad as heroin.”
If I had needed any more convincing, these wise words did the trick. I knew I had a problem when I actually couldn’t pass a supermarket without having to buy at least one chocolate bar, or I’d spend all day thinking about the Ben & Jerry’s siting in the freezer – only to then go home and eat the whole tub. After a meal I had to have something sweet, and if there was sugar anywhere near me – I’d eat it. All of it. My extreme sweet tooth meant I was always lethargic and lacking in energy (but I couldn’t sleep), my skin was dull and I started getting breakouts, I was putting on weight and finding it hard to shift it, and I was feeling pretty damn miserable. Enough was enough. Sugar and I had to break-up, or I was going to end up a fat, moody, spotty sociopath. So I made the decision to not eat anything that contained added sugar – for two whole weeks – and see what happened. Although one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I can honestly say the last 14 days have changed my life.
First step was to rid my kitchen of anything remotely processed (or not) that contained added sugar. Which (unsurprisingly) was almost everything. I then replaced my baking books with body bibles ‘The Clean & Lean Diet’ and ‘The Clean and Lean Diet Cookbook’ – a plan developed by über health king James Duigan. It consists of little to no sugar and the sweet treats it does allow are all in the forms of natural sugars – fruit, dairy etc. James has trained superstars around the world, including Elle MacPherson, David Gandy and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, so I had no doubt that he knew what he was talking about.
Asking him to describe sugar in three words, James replied “not so sweet”. According to the Clean & Lean plan, sugar is the most toxic substance you can put into your body – making us fat, tired, unwell and wrinkled. A habit we seriously need to break. James recognises that in today’s day and age, one of processed foods and ready meals, this is not an easy feat. “Sugar has a similar effect on the brain to pain-killing drugs like morphine. It produces an instant feeling of pleasure, calm and satisfaction, making it incredibly addictive. Many people turn to something sugary for “energy” – and technically it is a form of energy, but a bad type. Yes you will get a quick burst after eating a chocolate bar, but about ten minutes later you’ll feel even more tired than before”.
When asking James his advice on how to curb my cravings and finally kiss goodbye to the sweet stuff, one interesting tip he gave me was not to use sugar as a reward. “Oh I’ve had a bad day, I deserve a chocolate bar”, “I was so good and only had a salad for lunch so I can totally have that cake”. Sound familiar? We are all guilty of it. We often turn to sugar for comfort or to reward ourselves for something – when in fact, it will most likely make us feel even worse shortly after eating it. James suggested I buy myself a beauty treatment or a new book instead – at least they weren’t going to make me fat and ill!
He also told me to up my chromium intake from foods like eggs, nuts, asparagus and whole grains, and include more protein from nutrient rich dark meats (beef, lamb, chicken legs) to suppress my sweet tooth. If I really, really had to have something sweet, I was to have a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts (the protein stops the natural sugars in fruit from hitting your blood stream so fast) or a small piece of organic, dark chocolate – which is actually good for you in small doses as it’s packed with antioxidants. Some good news at last.
I won’t lie or sugar-coat the truth (no pun intended) but giving up added sugar is by no means easy. For the first few days I felt great, heaps of energy and I barely thought about it. But by day four I was seriously struggling. At a friend’s barbeque I ended up with a piece of meat on a plate and that was it. The buns, condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard) and cheese slices all contained sugar. I also had to apologise for putting them all off their apple pie whilst I watched them eating it – staring, mouth open, and practically salivating all over the table. But amazingly, once you allow the craving to pass – you realise that actually, you don’t really want it, you just think you do. There was also having to put up with people passing off what I was attempting as being nothing of importance or difficulty. “Oh I could so do that, that’s nothing. Giving up sugar, how hard can that be?” I soon shut them up after asking them to tell me everything they’d eaten that day, to then inform them that if they were me – they couldn’t have eaten any of it.
14 days later and I’ve been sleeping like a baby, my skin is visibly brighter and clearer, my energy levels are high, my stomach is flatter and there is a new spring in my step. I feel like a different person, and all from saying see-ya to sugar. I’m sure I will slip up now and again and give in to the temptation of a Dairy Milk or a Mojito (I’m only human), but right now – I couldn’t think of anything worse. And that sure is sweet.