I spoke on Snapchat last week about refined sugar and why my family and I have cut the majority of it from our diets.
In my recent body positive post I mentioned that I have an endocrine disorder called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). There is no cure for PCOS and depending on the severity of the symptoms it can be very difficult to manage.Diet plays a vital role in the management of PCOS, however, it is very important to note that what works for one woman may not necessarily work for the next. PCOS is extremely complex with a wide and varied set of symptoms. I wouldn’t dream of writing about PCOS or giving advice about it as I am not qualified to do that, no two women suffer the same with it and most importantly it is vital to work with your gp in managing the condition. I have my bloods checked regularly as there are so many other conditions triggered by having PCOS, it is so important to keep on top of it.
One of the biggest battles for many women (not all but a very high percentage), including myself, living with this condition is weight. It is extremely difficult to lose weight when you have PCOS. Our bodies don’t work the same as those without PCOS. Along with many painful, emotional and cosmetic issues, some of us may have Insulin Resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, Thyroid Issues….the list goes on; and then, quite often due to the mixed up wiring of our hormones there are sugar cravings to deal with and sudden dips in blood sugar levels which can very easily result in an instant reach into the biscuit tin for a quick fix. None of this will help with weight or symptoms, which in turn again, can lead to extremely poor self-confidence, depression, extra weight gain on top of the already difficult to move weight. Didn’t I mention PCOS is very complex? Perhaps you’re getting the jumbled picture??
For me, I reached a point a number of years ago where I’d had enough, my confidence could not have been any lower. I have struggled all of my adult life with my weight, I just wanted to feel normal. It has taken years for me to lose some weight. I have hit so many brick walls. It took a long time but a few years back I really couldn’t continue as I was and along with my attitude, I tackled my diet head on, once and for all.
My intention starting out wasn’t to specifically cut out sugar, this was just a natural process as time went on. I initially looked at our diet overall. We didn’t consume an over abundance of processed food anyway, so tackling that wasn’t a huge issue, I have always been a big believer in homemade when it came to meals. I didn’t consume a lot of breakfast cereal but the children did so you may recall last year I finally tackled that and we are now having a much wider, healthier range of better breakfasts.
I was a typical ‘dieter’ however and it is very hard to shift from that mindset. I knew the ‘right’ yogurts to have with my fruit in the morning, I didn’t need to check labels sure I knew how many points were in them….WRONG! It is imperative you check labels, always. The yogurt I was having every morning was neither filling me or doing me any favours. The aforementioned yogurt was replaced with a full fat greek style.I do now buy flavoured yogurts again from a brand I trust and I know do not add sugar to their products. It is, worth paying a little bit extra for a quality product. I’m using yogurt as one example of the many changes I made, not just for me, but all of us as a family. The low-fat peanut butter was replaced with whole peanut butter, we stopped buying biscuits years ago so that wasn’t an issue. I thought nothing of making plain buns and muffins for the kids lunch boxes though, sure they were grand, they were homemade…..WRONG! Yes they’re grand, as a treat, but not every day! We cut down drastically on the amount of shop bought bread we were consuming; now we’re still a household of bread lovers and sliced pans haven’t become non existent but I do my best to bake the majority of our bread now instead.
Chocolate has been replaced with dark chocolate, 70% being the lowest cocoa content we have and that is a treat, not something we have everyday. I make my own granola & muesli, using alternatives to refined sugar. The children like jam, one of my boys in particular has a serious likeness for it, I buy him a very good no added sugar variety. I stopped buying fruit juice, and most recently after a lot of reducing I completely phased out squash. This isn’t even missed now! These are again, just examples, to give you an idea. I went through the contents of my cupboard, had a good look at what I was baking for the children’s lunch boxes and altered and created recipes using natural alternatives. This may have been about me but I was not going to go down the road of one meal for the family, another for me. Any changes I made were bound to be beneficial for everyone.
Having suffered with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) for years, another common issue for ladies with PCOS, I began to notice huge improvements. Initially I assumed it was because I introduced linseed (flaxseed) as part of my daily diet and I was eating far more vegetables than I used to, and I’m sure it was a contributing factor, however having cake at one of the kids birthdays a few years back soon made me realise that it wasn’t only the increase in veg but also the elimination of refined sugar. Any time I have decided, and it isn’t often that I would, to have a treat, coffee & a cake or whatever, it has resulted in a severe bout of IBS. My body just is not capable of processing something that isn’t natural. We have also discovered that this is something that affects three of the children too.
The results of the dietary changes have been amazing for me. I have control over my IBS, I very rarely experience drops in my blood sugar, the increase in healthy fats have improved my skin & nails and my blood results have shown increases in my vitamin levels and while I have never had high cholesterol, it has dropped another bit too. Despite this and daily exercise, the only change I have not seen is in my weight, hence the reason for my post on body positivity. We really should not judge people by appearances, ever!!
If you are contemplating giving up refined sugar, stop thinking and just go for it. We still eat lots of sweet food; glorious fruit, energy balls with luscious dates, a drizzle of maple syrup on banana pancakes, a spoon of honey in tomato soup. All natural, all digestible, nothing processed.
Our taste buds have changed overall, none of us can tolerate anything overly sweet and best of all we don’t miss the deadly white stuff!
When I speak about PCOS, IBS & other issues in this post, these are my experiences, I am not offering advice. If you suspect you have any of these conditions or need help managing them, speak to your gp and work with them in reaching a diagnosis and a management plan.