It’s a gray Thursday afternoon in Vienna. Today I have few plans or responsibilities and I have treated myself to a day of leisure spending most of the day in my pajamas. I appreciate having a day to myself to tend to the quieter indoor things that I truly love and need from time to time.
As many of you know, a big part of my life, traveling and living in foreign lands, includes negotiating a way to eat healthy. For me this means eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, healthy protein and carbs, as much as possible no glutten, and absolutely… no sugar. This is not always an easy pursuit within the larger adventure of living in new places around the globe. But the benefit for me far outweighs the complications.
Considering the health benefits that life with no sugar has brought to my life, it seems worth mentioning here from time to time.
The truth is, life without sugar and eating healthy has become sort of my… hobby. When traveling, I actually enjoy diving in to new “bio” or organic shops, finding new and healthy foods to eat. I have become a bit of a health food nerd. In Vienna there are plenty of options which is a big change from the more limited selections in South Korea. But still, it is an adventure… Learning to read labels in German. Asking strangers for help translating when I don’t understand something. Over the years I have learned, paying attention to what is in my food is of the utmost importance for myself and my well-being. So, regardless of the discomfort or inconvenience, I take the time to find out what is in my food.
Ten Years of No Sugar
I first quit sugar about ten years ago. I was going through a terrible health crisis and was willing to do simply anything to feel better. A friend at the time had read the book Sugar Blues and was trying out life with no sugar. “What the heck!” I thought and bought the book too. Bottom line, the message of this book is sugar is poison… and we shouldn’t eat it. End of Story.
After reading the book, I went “cold turkey” and stopped eating sugar. I immediately noticed some difference in my health and well-being. What was most interesting, however, was how I felt, after quitting sugar, when I accidentally (or on purpose!) ate some sugar. It was off the charts. I was 100% clear that sugar made me feel terrible, emotionally and physically. I had eaten sugar all my life and until I quit it, I had no idea what it actually did to my body.
My body has a negative physiological reaction to sugar, but the most notable reaction for me is my mood. When I eat sugar my moods are dramatically more erratic. My anger is easily lit like a fuse. So after years of experience, I do my best to stay away.
It is not always easy to live in other countries, be with new people and maintain this diet that is healthy for me. When I lived in Korea I had a friend write a note in Korean saying that I did not eat sugar and please recommend something on the menu without it. I took a picture of it with my phone and had it available for when needed. My experience is often in other countries they just don’t GET why someone would not want to eat sugar… when it is such a wonderful treat. When I was in Germany I was told that people actually think that sugar is good for their kids and give them a spoonful of sugar for their health. In Korea, sugar is added to MOST of their foods. In restaurants it is often considered rude to ask for food a special way or ask what is in it.
In the United States, more and more people are considering that sugar is worth taking out of their diet. When I was back in the States recently, it was a relief to discover a restaurant or two that didn’t scowl at me when I asked what the ingredients were and even happily provided a meal for me with no sugar, guaranteed.
The tricky thing about not eating sugar is that is is everywhere. In the States (and other countries as well) it is hidden in the spaghetti sauce, kidney beans, corn, salsa, turkey… just to name a few. I feel like I have to be a super-food-detective because if not, likely some sugar (or other terrible things!) will sneak in to what I eat. The other challenge here is there are foods that can react in your body like sugar. Some of these are obvious, such as alcohol. Additionally, simple carbohydrates like white rice, white bread and pasta break down in our bodies more rapidly and turn to sugar quickly. Other foods for me that trigger my body like sugar are potatoes and corn.
Is Quitting Sugar for You?
I can really get that people don’t want to give up their sweets! But if you are struggling with physical or emotional challenges, it is worth taking a look at quitting sugar. The truth is, you don’t really know what it is doing to your body until you stop eating it. If you would like to explore a bit more, here are a couple of good resources:
Hungry for Change
This popular video on health and nutrition is a good introduction to changing our eating habits. Their discussion includes the topic of sugar.
Sugar Blues by William Dufty
This is the book that I read ten years ago that first opened my eyes to the hazards of sugar.
This program is based on the research of Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. who introduces a concept called sugar sensitivity. She offers a simple and balanced approach to eating a healthy diet that supports emotional health and well-being without the need for refined sugars and other overly sweet foods. The foundation of this diet is, every meal, eat healthy carbs and protein. Her approach is simple and clean and when taken one step at a time, a great way to easily get sugar out of your life. She also features a child-friendly site called Little Sugar Addicts.
Sugar Free Recipes
I am a steadfast collector of no sugar added recipes on Pinterest. Most recipes featured include simple, healthy ingredients and no sugar added. When cooking sugar-free I never add artificial sweeteners and also do my best to stay away from or minimize even natural sweeteners like agave nectar and honey. Here are some links below if you’d like to check them out:
Healthy Soups and Sides
Rice Cooker Recipes
Breakfast and Desserts
(I have learned it is best for me to mostly stay away from sweet things of any type. It just feeds the need for sweets. But still, here are some healthier sweet recipes options…)
The bottom line when exploring a no sugar and healthier diet is to pay attention to your body and see what does… and doesn’t work for you!
Here is wishing you happy eating adventures! If you have any no-sugar or healthy eating adventures to share, wherever you are in the world, I would love to hear from you! And feel free to ask any questions you may have. I am happy to respond.
Good night for now after a quiet day in Vienna!
Featured photo, a sweet day in Vienna at Stadtpark with my Austrian hosts.