Quitting sugar gave me food freedom, not an eating disorder

After reading one too many articles criticising sugar-free and paleo lifestyles – this time from Donna Hay, who labelled these lifestyles the ‘new eating disorders’, I started to wonder whether in fact I do have an eating disorder.

My brief paranoia was the result of these relentless articles, as well as having some people inform me that by quitting sugar I am depriving myself – and getting too skinny. Being bombarded with all this negativity made me start to doubt myself, and I approached a couple of trusted and honest friends to ask their opinion. They assured me that I look and seem healthier than I’ve ever been. I took some time to consider how I feel within myself and how I feel about food, and concluded that not only do I not have an eating disorder, I have a certain freedom from food. However, this process of self-doubt did reinforce to me how embedded sugar is, in our society, and why people understandably find it confusing to comprehend the inconsistent public health messages we receive through the media.

Before I go any further, I want to address the criticisms that I am getting ‘too skinny’. I never set out on this journey to lose weight. I’ve always been small, standing short at 157cm. Over the course of this year I’ve lost about 3 kilograms. While my diet has no doubt supported this, I actually believe this is mainly due to my body readjusting after having my second child. Specifically, since I stopped breastfeeding, I think most of the weight has vacated from my rapidly disappearing breasts. But I feel well within myself, and stronger than I’ve ever been.

A friend told me recently that he thought it was odd that I would prefer to improve my health by removing things from my diet, rather than just by exercising more. Specifically, he termed this ‘cutting things out of your life, rather than adding to it.’

Personally, I believe that while there are incredible and important benefits to exercising and being active, good health starts with nutrition. As I mentioned, I never sought to lose weight, so I have experienced other benefits of changing what I eat – no more constant fatigue and exhaustion, far less sinus-related problems, no more digestive issues, less hypoglycemic issues and much more energy. As a non-exerciser all my life, I explained to him that it has only been this year, since cutting out sugar and most processed foods that I have suddenly found the motivation, inclination and energy to exercise and be more active. I know that if I had not changed my diet, and just tried to focus on adding exercise to it, I would have set myself up for inevitable failure – as I had many, many times over during my life.

My friend’s view also speaks to the common misconception that those of us who have quit sugar must no longer find any enjoyment in food.Β Criticisms of the I Quit Sugar program focus on the idea that a diet which limits intake of fructose, particularly in the form of table sugar (refined white sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, rapadura sugar), coconut sugar, dried fruit, maple syrup and honey, both on their own and already added to processed foods, requires the individual to have strong self-will and restraint; ultimately leading to failure and guilt. There is a perception that we sugar-quitters treat food only as fuel and medicine for our bodies, hamstrung by rigid rules, unable to have any fun with food, obsessed with our bodies. That we are in a constant internal battle to STOP ourselves consuming sugar, AT ALL COSTS.

Well, that’s not true.

Yes, I choose what I eat. But:

I eat whatever I want, whenever I want.

I no longer have any negative feelings associated with what I eat. No guilt or anxiety. No need to crash diet or detox. I don’t have to worry about portion sizes or stopping myself from eating too much, because my body tells me when I’ve had enough.

I eat like a queen. I love cooking, baking, experimenting with new recipes. I truly enjoy fresh, whole foods, and I eat delicious, complete meals. I LOVE vegetables. I enjoy full-fat dairy and healthy saturated fats.Β I eat a wider variety of vegetables and meats, and I enjoy trying out recipes from different lifestyles, such as paleo and vegan, not because they exclude particular foods, but because they tend to be more experimental with alternative ingredients. I’ve always fancied myself as a food enthusiast, but now I’m discovering food in a different way – learning how to cook it better, seeing possibilities and exploring my creative foodie brain. I also appreciate the natural flavours and sweetness in whole ingredients, now that they aren’t masked by hidden sugars and salts.

I never thought I would say this, because I was an eat-chocolate-every-day kind of girl. I had an extreme sweet tooth, and the thought of giving up sugar would have terrified me, even only a year ago. But after gradually reducing it after my mother was diagnosed with diabetes, and then cutting it out (other than in the form of whole fruit) through the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program, I have changed my palate and my body’s response to food.

Quitting sugar and working on my gut-health has reset my system. I don’t have the same cravings that used to dominate me. Post IQS8WP, I can finally say that I do actually understand now what Sarah Wilson means when she talks about food freedom. I still eat whatever I want, whenever I want – the difference is that I now enjoy eating healthy, fructose-free food, because it tastes good and makes me feel great. I do still enjoy sweet treats – but prefer my own homemade, fructose-free treats, because they tend to be richer, darker, sweet; but not sickly sweet. Sometimes I will have dessert when I’m at a restaurant or a special occasion, or cake at a party. I don’t have the same pull towards dessert, but if I do eat it, I feel no guilt.

So, to sugar: I’m really sorry. But I’m just not that into you.

12 Comments

  1. Veronika says:

    Awesome post Erin, I totally hear what you’re saying and wish everyone could understand how freeing it can be! Go you, keep spreading the sugar-free message πŸ™‚

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you Veronika! Doing a post like this is a little anxiety-provoking, because there are such strong and diverse opinions about this issue…. So I appreciate your support. πŸ™‚ xx

  2. lizzygoodthings says:

    What you eat is your choice and yours alone. No one should pooh pooh you. I gave up grains about a decade ago and stayed off them for a year… my health was outstanding.

    • Erin says:

      That is really impressive Liz – I think grains would be harder to give up than sugar! And thank-you for the kind words πŸ™‚

  3. cathyn61 says:

    My experiences with quitting sugar echo what you have written – and this from someone with a huge sweet tooth, who would always check the dessert options on a menu first, but also someone who experienced the sugar highs and lows constantly and would often think about my next meal while still eating the current meal. Now my appetite has self regulated, it’s calmer, I don’t constantly think about my next meal – I’m experiencing food freedom. And it’s great.

    • Erin says:

      Thats wonderful Cathryn! I totally hear you, I was exactly the same. Thankyou for the feedback, I appreciate it. πŸ™‚

  4. Erin says:

    Hi Erin, this is Erin. I just started reading your blog. I could relate to every point you made also. I am a vegetarian and have always really loved my veggies…but now I LOVE them. They taste so much better now that I have lost my sweet tooth. In fact I am now eating them for breakfast, lunch and tea. It’s almost like my body is demanding vegetables by 9am…amazing. Absolutely loving being sugar free. Because of my lack of willpower, I always gave up on my health kicks after a few days. Now, my brain has just switched off to sugar so that I am not needing willpower to resist it at all.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks, Erin! How good are veggies! I just went to make a sweet potato smoothie and was disappointed to find I’ve run out of sweet potato puree… So maybe I will try pumpkin instead! πŸ™‚ It’s great you’ve had a positive experience too. I think removing the willpower element is probably the key – I used to do the short-lived ‘health kicks’ too, and they never lasted. Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it!

      PS – It’s always a little surreal writing to someone with the same name πŸ˜‰

  5. kamillej2014 says:

    Awesome post. It took ages, but quitting sugar has been fantastic. If I’m ever tempted, I remember the lows that follow a sugar hit and walk on by. And it tastes tinny now. No longer will I accept the rubbish presented to us from every angle; loaded with sugar to disguise the lack of taste and real ingredients. I want herbs and spices and beautiful food.
    people snarl about me being ‘skinny’ too but I think they find it threatening that I don’t want what they’re having. Sugar is such an accepted, insidious addiction, people think you’re weird when you kick the habit.
    Bravo you:)

    • Erin says:

      Thank-you! What lovely feedback, thank-you for taking the time to comment. ‘Tinny’ is such a good description, and you’re absolutely right about wanting and appreciating beautiful, real food and flavours. I’m glad you’ve found food freedom too πŸ™‚ xx

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