A few weeks ago I shared my vision for my family for 2013, calling it the Year of Positive Eating. As part of this vision I really want to educate myself more about the best foods to prepare and serve to my family, looking at what we put into our bodies and the effects our choices have on our everyday health. I mentioned wanting to ensure we eat a whole lot less numbers (preservatives and additives) and a heap less sugar. One mama who is a lot further along this path than I is Taryn Rucci of This is Taryn. A self-confessed sugarholic, she quit sugar over a year ago and then set out to create a sugar free home where no one (hubby or three young children) feels like they’re missing out. I asked Taryn to share some of her experiences so far with us…
What led you to the decision to quit sugar?
After having my third child I found myself with a bit too much extra weight on me. I wanted to lose a few kilos and get back into the beautiful dresses in my wardrobe! The sheer thought of eating lettuce leaves mixed with daily exercise was just too much to take on.
I came across the Sweet Poison books by David Gillespie during a trip to BigW with the kids and I was intrigued. Here was someone saying that sugar was the culprit of obesity, not the lack of exercise or the amount of fat we were eating. I was interested because here was an idea that I had never really come across. David also writes about saturated fats in the books. I had always considered saturated fats to be avoided at all costs because we all know they make you fat. Don’t they? What I found out later was that fat is not as unhealthy as it is made out to be. I soon discovered that the current nutritional advice dictated in this country was purely based on bad science that has spiraled out of control.
The basic principle of quitting sugar is this. You are avoiding the fructose part of sugar (sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose). It is the fructose part that messes with your appetite control system and makes you eat too much. I guess I really connected with that message and it just made sense to me.
I read both books in a matter of days and started cold turkey over a year ago. It worked for me. I lost about 4kg in a matter of weeks. I did nothing else but quit sugar. I didn’t exercise. The reduction in my appetite was very noticeable. The weight has stayed off.
What has been the most difficult part of your sugar free journey so far?
The most difficult part of quitting sugar was the terrible withdrawals I felt in the days that followed. I literally climbed the walls. I ate so much. I was grumpy. Nauseated. I later found out the hunger manifests as the body is trying to seek out the sugar in the food you will allow yourself to eat.
Looking back I am pretty sure I was addicted to sugar. I ate lots of it. I could never eat a biscuit without eating the whole packet. I ate dried apricots by the bucketload. I was always thinking about sugar! I drank litres and litres of choc milk during my pregnancies. Blech!
What do you consider sugar? What about fruit?
When I think about sugar I think about the “fructose” part of sugar. Fructose exists in large amounts in different sweeteners such as table sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, juice etc. I avoid all of these. My family and I do eat fruit. I would probably have half to one small piece of fruit a day. While fruit does have fructose, it also houses lots of fibre. Whole fruit (not the juice) doesn’t cause big problems because it’s balanced by the fibre.
What sugar alternatives do you use?
There are many alternatives to using table sugar. When I bake, I choose from a variety of different sweeteners or a combination of a few. I use dextrose (which is 100% glucose). I use Stevia, Natvia and Rice Malt syrup. These are all fructose free sweeteners. I always add a good pinch of salt to all my baking as it brings out the sweetness in the food. Adding cinnamon and vanilla are other ways to bring out sweet flavours.
How did you make the transition to a sugar free home?
Once I had conquered my own sugar addiction, my next point of call was to slowly remove the terrible, high sugar, processed foods that had accumulated in my panty. We never had juice available for the kids so that was easy. For us it was the cereal. I shudder to think of all the sugar the kids were eating for breakfast. I removed them slowly, one by one as they ran out and replaced them with healthier options. I think my eldest daughter cried one morning, but she soon forgot about it and now it’s all they know.
Are your children sugar free outside your home?
No. They have sugar at parties or when they go to friends places. I can control what they eat at home. I cannot control what they eat outside the home and I won’t. As they grow older I trust they will make sensible choices for themselves.
Do you or your children ever feel like they are missing out?
No! As I said the kids do eat sugar at parties and if we go out to the park there is the occasional ice cream treat, so they are not sugar free. My home, however where they eat 95% of the food that goes into their bodies, is.
They enjoy biscuits and cakes like any other kid, I just bake them at home with sugar free alternatives. Baking is something I enjoy and I love experimenting. We never “go without.”
What do you enjoy as a ‘treat’ now you are sugar free?
My blog is full of my sugar free baking adventures. I love experimenting in the kitchen. My husband loves my sugar free brownies and I love the odd slice of sugar free lemon cheesecake. Being sugar free doesn’t mean you will never eat anything sweet again for the rest of your life. It’s just coming to the realisation that you will be doing the cooking and you won’t be buying processed foods (always a good thing).
What do you say to critics of your choice?
I am literally astonished that there is so much opposition to “quitting sugar”. If I said I was going on a “low fat diet” would anyone raise an eyelid? No they wouldn’t. No matter which way you look at it, sugar is a toxic substance, especially given the volume of sugar consumed by adults and children today. Seeing highly qualified dieticians oppose the quit sugar movement actually doesn’t surprise me. After all, who does the processed food industry rely on to endorse their products? Exactly.
Are their any resources you would recommend for those interested in more information?
I access a lot of my information via Facebook. Sweet Poison on Facebook is great resource. The Sweet Poison books by David Gillespie are a great start. Fat Chance by Dr Robert Lustig is also excellent. Sarah Wilson’s blog is also useful; she has a great program to follow and some excellent sugar free recipes. I also have a blog where I share my life and sugar free/gluten free recipes – This is Taryn.
Thank you, Taryn, for sharing this insight into your sugar free journey. Please feel free to leave questions for Taryn in the comments.