Cutting Out Caffeine, Carbs & Sugar (aka All The Stuff We Like...)
Most of us want to eat healthy and giving up caffeine, carbs and sugar seems to be the latest go-to diet craze. PHS Editor Kali Anthony tells us what it's really like, having tried all three!
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to give up caffeine, carbs or sugar? Well, wonder no more because I’ve done the hard work for you. A caveat. I’m no dietitian so can’t say what’s right or wrong in the food stakes. Still, over the years I’ve experimented out of necessity, curiosity or desperation and am happy to share the experience.
Coffee. A writer’s fuel. The drink that makes the world go round. How can we live without it? Well, I had to, when my heart rate began jumping from 60 to 120 bpm with one mouthful of the stuff. On a visit to my doctor he cackled, rubbing his hands with evil glee (this could be a false memory, it was a traumatic moment).
“Go decaf,” he said. Together with avoiding cola drinks, tea and *shriek* chocolate!!!!!
What could I do but begrudgingly follow his advice? Suffering askance looks from my friends when I ordered a skinny decaf cappuccino. Or the abject horror from my Italian barista at the local coffee shop (I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me).
So how was it, you ask?
I try to forget that cold, dark winter of my caffeine free life. But I learned a few things. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are real and I had them for about week, but I didn’t suffer any of the other potential symptoms (sleepiness, irritability, constipation, poor concentration, anxiety, heart rhythm problems, dizziness, nausea… the list goes on. Yay!!) I discovered green tea was no substitute for English Breakfast, but that decaf coffee wasn’t *deep breath* all that bad. And no surprise, I slept a lot better.
Still, after two years I took a punt and another sip from caffeine’s cup. Tea with breakfast, the occasional coffee with friends. A sneaky chocolate here and there and thank all things holy, I WAS CURED!!!!
No racing heart rate. No side effects at all.
And you want to know the final thing I learned from my experience? That I never, ever want to give up caffeine again.
Pasta. My happy food. Give me a bowl and I’ll gleefully float away on a cushiony cloud of carbohydrate joy, with adjectives and adverbs in tow. Needless to say: carbs are my kryptonite. However, always feeling hungry, tired, and generally blah, I jumped on a bandwagon I vowed I never would, and gave them up. No bread, potato, pasta or rice for me.
Now I’m not a huge fan of bread, and potatoes I can live without (unless they’re crispy roasted in duck fat then open my mouth and hand me a shovel). But pasta? Waaaaaa! To be fair I wasn’t as prescriptive as some people when giving up carbohydrates. Higher carb fruits and veg I still ate and no-one was taking away my wine, coz a gal’s got to have something when watching Friday night football with the hubby.
Since carbs are fuel and I was consuming way fewer, I increased the “nutritional density” of my food after reading about that, somewhere. At least I liked chicken liver in my spaghetti bolognaise, and so did the family. Win! I also went full fat on dairy products.
How did I find it? I was never hungry, and felt great. Though I suspect that was down to the trebling of my vegetable intake, rather than anything else (zucchini pasta and cauliflower rice, anyone?) Yes, I lost a bit of weight. No, the process wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, although it’s difficult to maintain considering the rest of the family was eating the carbs I avoided.
Now? I eat wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. The family do too, although the kids whinge about the “weird pasta, and seeds.” Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all!
I was talking to a doctor on Twitter, where all the finest medical advice is found (to be fair, he’s a cardiac surgeon who presumably knows his stuff) and he told me what he tells all of his patients, “Fat is not your foe. It’s the sugar that’ll kill you.” He backed up this advice with colour pictures of the clogged
arteries he’d recently cleared. What a ray of sunshine he was that day.
Back to sugar. I was eating way too much. Gorging on cakes and chocolate with my mother’s group. Walking to the shops for more, when I ran out. Sugar kept me fuelled and on the go.
“You’re glycosating your lipid membranes again,” Doc said to my post of a chocolate peanut butter cupcake (may I add, this was the finest cupcake in the known universe). I've no idea what that meant but it sounded serious. Listening to the advice of my own personal Doctor Jiminy Cricket, I went cold turkey. No sugar unless contained in whole, fresh fruit.
It was hard. You have no idea how much sugar is in everything. I read each food label. Became an expert on sucrose, fructose, glucose, and all things “ose”. I CRAVED it with an almost bone numbing hunger.
Took to eating bananas which I loathe, because they’re sweet. I was cranky, had no energy. I’m sure everyone hated me.
Two long, horrible weeks it took, for the cravings to subside. My taste changed. A world of flavour opened up. Stuff with added sugar, wasn’t palatable. Like when I reduced the carbs, my hunger depleted. Did I mention the weight? It fell off.
Of all the things I’ve tried, eliminating added sugar made me feel the healthiest I’ve ever been. Boundless energy. No more sugar highs and lows. Intuitively, it seemed right. Twelve months I lasted, then sadly I fell off the “no sugar” wagon. Am thinking of going cold turkey again. Feel free to join me.
So there you have it, a summary of my dietary experimentation. You might want to give it a go, or ignore it with impunity and subscribe to my grandmother’s theory: that a little bit of everything in moderation is fine. Did I mention she lived to 104? Sensible woman, my gran.
Kali is a writer of happy endings and failed domestic goddess; will work for coffee, wine and chocolate! For more information about her and her writing, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Have you tried giving up caffeine/carbs/sugar, or all three? How did you find it? Tell us in the comments or share your #HealthyLiving tips on Social Media to join the #PHS Community's discussion on the subject.