Smorgasbord Health Column – My year of life without sugar – the results January 2020

You might be surprised to find that I am not going to be repeating my weight loss series this year as there is so much ‘diet’ advice out there already, and to be honest the ones that are publicised are usually from celebrities without the slightest nutritional training who are determined to get you to give up one food group or another.

Before I share any dietary advice here on the blog, I practice on myself and check the results carefully. This applies to eating programmes and also to supplements.

The bull was never the same again…..

Most of you are aware that 25 years ago I weighed over 24 stone (330 lbs) I lost 11 stone (154lbs) initially and felt great obviously. But like most people who have lost a great deal of weight, especially in a short space of time, it does tend to come back again.

One of the reasons for that is why so many gastric band surgeries are ultimately not successful. By severely restricting calories over an extended period of time you are signalling the body that there is a famine and it goes into survival mode. And as soon as you start eating normally, the body is going to store everything it can and you gain not only the weight you have lost but some extra too… just in case there is another famine around the corner. Something that the average woman experiences a number of times a year.

In the last twenty five years my weight has fluctuated.. stress, injury and stopping my two hour daily swim on our return to Ireland played their part. Despite the fact that we have a ‘cook from scratch’ approach to our meals, at the end of 2018, I found myself gaining weight rapidly and most of it was around my middle which is a pretty good indication that I was pre-diabetic.

It is estimated that there are 84 million Americans who are pre-diabetic and are at very high risk of developing full blown diabetes. CDC January 2018

According to the World Health Authority it is estimated that there are 400 million people worldwide with diabetes. In the US around 30 million and the UK approximately 3.8 million have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately it is the many millions who are undiagnosed that are at the greatest risk

You do not need to have full-blown diabetes to be suffering from some of the symptoms associated with the disease. There is a condition called pre-diabetes that can be managed with diet and exercise and does not have to lead to the development of type 2 diabetes in the future.

It is also called impaired glucose intolerance and in my experience very closely connected with lifestyle and diet and a possible overgrowth of Candida Albicans. Being overweight, not doing enough exercise and elevated LDL cholesterol levels are also part of the equation. LDL (low density lipoprotein) has smaller particles than the HDL (high density lipoprotein) and because of this it is easier for the LDL to clump and form plaque in the arteries which will narrow them causing a blockage.

Symptoms of Pre-Diabetes

There are a number of symptoms that you might experience either singularly or in combination with one or more of the others.

  • Feeling hungry all the time
  • Losing or gaining weight without much change to your diet
  • Feeling weak as if you might have the flu
  • Slow healing of cuts or bruises
  • Unexplained skin rashes
  • Bladder infections
  • Vision problems.

Unfortunately some people do not suffer any symptoms at all making this a silent disease and if this is the case it might not be detected until the person is suffering from full blown diabetes.

My year of giving up sugar.

I actually began the process of eliminating sugar in September 2018 when I gave up alcohol. We are not heavy drinkers by any means but we still would have a couple of glasses of wine at weekends or if we were entertaining and judging by the number of bottles in the recycling box, that was quite a lot over a month. I had a margarita on Christmas day and a hot toddy on Boxing Day..

I still have the odd glass of wine if we are celebrating something special and a couple of glasses of Cava every few months is not going to be a problem. I had a margarita on Christmas day and a hot toddy on Boxing Day and can honestly say that neither actually made me feel very good.

But we did laugh this week when we realised we had not recycled any glass for three months and those we did need to get rid off were Saurkraut and pickle jars.

Having made a start by giving up alcohol I also gave up chocolate in May except for a handful over Christmas, which tasted great but I was content with not eating the whole tin.

I know it sounds drastic but I did not want all the hard work I put in at 42 to have been a waste of time at 67 which is what I will be on my next birthday.


Carbohydrates come in many forms and get dropped from people’s diet in a flash.  To be clear that if it is refined, white carbohydrates in bread, biscuits, cakes, pies and anything else that has gone through industrialised processing.. then it is sugar.

Wholegrain carbohydrates with minimal processing are less sugary but they still do need to be eaten moderation. I experimented and found that I was less bloated if I skipped the wheat completely and stick to wholegrain rice. If I do have any bread it is wholegrain Irish soda bread with minimum sugar added.


Not all carbohydrate foods behave the same way when eaten. The Glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels.   Foods are ranked according to their effect in relation to pure sugar which would be 100.

So a food that is ranked at 50 has a much slower effect on blood glucose levels than sugar which causes a much faster reaction. The slower the reaction the less insulin is released into the bloodstream.

This results in less fat being stored, particularly around the hips and thighs.

A low Glycemic diet reduces the onset of dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels and therefore will regulate the feelings of hunger. In addition lower Glycemic foods are usually much higher in nutrients and fibre having an overall effect on health.

Low Glycemic Index foods are slowly digested, releasing sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream gradually, resulting in a slow and steady increase in blood sugar that helps keep your body functioning well for longer than high GI foods.

High Glycemic Index foods are quickly digested and metabolized, producing a rapid rise in blood sugar. It’s best to avoid these high GI foods that cause spikes in blood sugar that can result in your body “crashing” or feeling hungry again quite quickly after you eat.

LOW GLYCEMIC FOODS (under the value of 55) Can eat daily

  • Most Vegetables: asparagus, avocados, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, carrots (small portion) cauliflower, green beans, peas, celery, red cabbage, cucumber, lettuce particularly rocket, mushrooms, onions (very important as they contain chromium which naturally controls blood sugar levels), Garlic, peppers, spinach squash and yams.
  • Fruits: apples, apricots, grapes, blueberries, cherries, lemons raspberries, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, prunes
  • Juices: apple, grapefruit, pineapple, tomato (unsweetened) small glass and add sparkling water to dilute.
  • Legumes: black, navy, pinto, and kidney beans; chickpeas; lentils; black-eyed peas
  • Starches: The key is to have a moderate portion and always have protein with it as this offsets the Glycemic affect. So for example:- porridge with milk (but not lots of sweeteners). Wholegrain bread sandwich with chicken etc. Piece of wholegrain toast with an egg. Wholegrain brown rice in moderate quantities with homemade beef curry. You must avoid white processed carbohydrates however and this includes biscuits, cakes and white bread as these are most likely to contain artificial sweeteners and trans-fats.
  • Milk products– cheese and butter again in moderation and from grass fed herds not corn fed (GMO and not their natural fodder) – Milk in tea and on cereals is not a problem but  A piece of mature cheddar a couple of times a week if you are exercising and eating lots of vegetables and lean protein is not an issue – much better than eating a bar of chocolate. Fermented yoghurts may have some benefit on intestinal flora and help the digestive process – watch for sugar content – plain is quite boring but you can add nuts or a small amount of the low glycemic fruit to improve.
  • Sweeteners: I have used Stevia – I don’t particular advocate because I think it just feeds your sugar craving. I am suspicious of other artificial alternatives and if you can do without entirely. If not then like salt, use pinches of sugar to sprinkle on your cereal rather than a teaspoon, it will teach your taste buds to expect less!
  • BeveragesStart the day with hot water and fresh squeezed lemon. Not only does it hydrate, give your body a Vitamin C hit but it also gets the digestive process started, helps the liver and retrains your taste buds. You should find within a week that you no longer have a sugar craving. Tea is fine – green tea is excellent as it lowers blood sugar levels. Scientists are on the fence about coffee consumption – some research indicates that it might reduce blood sugar levels and others the opposite. My advice is if you enjoy a cup of coffee then get ground decaffeinated and have a cup every day and enjoy!
  • Protein. You need protein every day but not as much as people think. If you are eating yoghurts and drinking milk you will be obtaining protein but you can also eat 1 oz. cottage cheese – 1 egg – prawns – chicken – lamb, pork or fish per day. Avoid red meat for the first three to four weeks as this can increase sugar cravings. Oily fish are good for you so try to eat three times a week this includes fresh sardines, salmon and tuna. I would suggest that you also use goat’s cheese and feta cheese as an alternative.
  • Salad dressings. Make your own with low fat yoghurt and lemon juice, or cider or balsamic vinegar and herbs.
  • Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Made up into 2oz packets and used for snacks – the healthy fat will act as a brake on the insulin production and will help with hunger pangs. Buy from a good source and make the mix yourself – unsalted of course. Find the right size zip lock bags and they will keep for ages. Take one to work with you as one of your snacks.
  • Oils Very important to include extra virgin olive oil for dressings as this is a fat that is good for you. Would suggest that you also use this on bread rather than butter and mix with seasonings to use on vegetables and salads. For cooking use ordinary olive oil and I find that rather than frying, it is a good idea to brush some oil onto your meat, fish or poultry and bake in the oven. I am a fan of coconut oil and use in salad dressings and for cooking.

MEDIUM GYLCEMIC FOODS (56 -69) eat two or three times a week.

  • Vegetables: white and sweet potatoes
  • Fruits: bananas, tropical fruits (mango, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple), kiwi fruit, raisins, figs, fruit cocktail
  • Juices: orange,
  • Starches: cous cous, wholegrain rice
  • Cereals: oats, homemade muesli (without dried sugar) Weetabix.
  • Sweeteners: honey (Manuka honey can be consumed more often)

HIGH GLYCEMIC FOODS (above 70) eat very occasionally.

  • Fruits: watermelon, dates
  • Processed foods– It is important over the initial period to avoid processed sauces, meats, meals or anything else that might have hidden sugars or too many carbohydrates. Prepare everything fresh – for example pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes, onions, mushrooms etc.
  • Snacks: popcorn, rice cakes, most crackers (soda, Stoned Wheat Thins, Water Crackers), cakes, doughnuts, croissants, muffins, waffles, white bread, baguette, bagels
  • Starches: millet
  • Most Cereals: Bran Flakes, Cheerio’s, Cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Shredded Wheat, Special K, Total or any cereal that is sugar coated.
  • Sweeteners/Sweets: table sugar, hard candy, soft drinks, sports drinks, fizzy diet drinks, chocolate except for 2 squares of dark (85%) chocolate once or twice a week.
  • Alcohol. It is a good idea to give up alcohol all together for six weeks if you want to stabilise your blood sugar levels.

Eating Patterns.

Personally I now eat within an ten hour window every day which is a form of Intermittent Fasting that suits me best. This gives my body 14 hours each day to get on with what it needs to do in the way of processing the food I have eaten, extracting the nutrients and also allowing for some downtime for major organs such as the liver.

If you usually finish eating at 7.00pm then you can easily eat three balanced meals a day with a couple of snacks between if you need additional energy but they should be nuts, seeds and certain low GI fruits rather than chocolate bars.

Anyway how did all this abstinence add up to with regard to my weight over the last year?

I am very pleased to say that my belly fat has reduced considerably and I am just over 3 stone lighter than I was at the start of 2019. I need to lose another stone (14lbs) over the next three months to be back to my fighting weight.

So if you want to cut your risk of diabetes and all the other obesity related diseases that are numerous. Think about your body as a temple..(an old and trusted saying) and only lay offerings of a sugary nature on its doorstep once in a blue moon.

I will only share one more post next week with my alternative shopping list by nutrient, and if you really want to make a difference to your body and to your health in 2020, this shopping list is pretty much all you need.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty- two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.


If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

Thank you for dropping in today and I hope that you have found the post informative…If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.. thanks Sally.

35 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – My year of life without sugar – the results January 2020

  1. Well done, Sally. Three stone is a substantial loss. I was sorry to read dates are on the high index – love dates but will try to ration my consumption! I don’t usually eat much sugar but over Christmas I indulged, especially on home made tablet. My goodness you soon find out how addictive sugar is when you eat a couple of pieces! Fortunately, it’s almost gone and I won’t be making any more until next Christmas.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Jaye. Hand in hand with cutting out the sugar goes stepping up with the exercise. My oncologist always tells me … ‘eat less and move more’. I make sure to walk at least an hour and a half every day (whether I want to or not!). If you’re not losing weight, perhaps try walking more?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You are looking fantastic, Sally! Great diet tips here as well. It’s time for me to remember my avoidance of sugar. We usually have one square of dark 85% chocolate a day. Gives the chocolatey flavor and benefits but not the sugar. Avoiding processed is the way to go. 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You continue to inspire, Sally. Now that the holidays are over, we still have some sweets in the house, but we’ll probably end up getting rid of most of them (I hate to throw away food, but it’s better than forcing myself to eat it all and regretting it). I think the best part of losing weight is feeling more energetic so the exercise isn’t such a chore. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Sally. I’ve worked like hell over the past three years to reduce my weight. Partly for appearance reasons, but mostly because I knew I needed to take care of myself better. I gave up some bad eating habits and made exercise a priority. I found my groove, and I feel much better. I’ve lost 80 pounds (sorry, we don’t do stones in America), but the last six months have been an enormous challenge just to remain even. It seems like I have to exercise harder just to maintain, and my arthritic knee limits me. Since sugar is my only vice in life, it’s hard for me to completely cut myself off. I used to drink way too much soda, but I cut myself off 100% and don’t miss it at all. Ice cream is a whole different story. The only way I resist is by not having it in the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have done an amazing job of working towards a healthier future Pete, but I know how tough it is to keep it going consistently. Especially when they body has a mind of its own. I started to plateau towards the end of the year and realised my body was slipping back into fat storing. My calories were a bit low and I upped those and had one day a week when I ate a couple of hundred more a day and the weight loss resumed. It is tough to eat nutrient dense food all the time to prevent that, but it is so worth it as you know from the way you feel these days. worth every minute. Like you I don’t have it in the house.. green tea has been my saving grace. It helps me keep the sweet tooth under control…hugsx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think I have told you before that I don’t eat any sugar or confectionery, Sally. It is an irony but I don’t. I don’t have a sweet tooth at all and find chocolate overwhelmingly sweet. I do like my glass of wine in the evenings though and am not ready to give it up get. I do understand what you are saying here. I have noticed that some people who have a tendency to gain weight easily do exactly what you say here. They lose and then gain back more and then lose again and so the cycle continuous. It is a constant struggle to keep the weight off. I am grateful that I don’t like sweets and only have to avoid cheese.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A fantastic rundown Sal. I’m so proud of you for all your efforts and paying off handsomely! Although, not sure how you managed half a year without chocolate! I know what you mean about feeling like crap after drinking, those days are long gone lol, but I have to say those margaritas go down nicely in Mexico and even so, never more than one, and not every day either – they are rather largeeeeeeee lol. I also have found in the past 2 years my appetite has decreased drastically and I don’t typically eat a carb (potato or grains) at dinner anymore. I suppose if I was 20 years younger, I’d be thin as a toothpick, but seems my weight just likes to remain as is so it is what it is! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well Done, Sally proud of you and for keeping it off and recognising that any increases need to be addressed before they become a bigger problem…It isn’t easy for some to maintain a steady weight ..I find walking is my saving grace…I love walking and hate (always) have the gym with a passion but it is an individual choice as to our favoured form of exercise but exercise is a must…I have gained 3lb over the festive period…its the Christmas cake…and I have no intentions of giving it away…sweets and chocolate happy to…But this cake is the first Christmas cake I have made for years…I am enjoying every mouthful and when it’s gone it’s gone and normal eating will resume…..Will link back to this post in my today’s post it will fit in nicely…It is a lovely timely reminder of the changes we can make…Thank you…Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carol.. I decided to play the long game and am happy with the way it is going. I don’t blame you for enjoying that cake.. we still need deliciousness in our lives.. Now I have managed to deal with the major issue I can enjoy things from time to time, but I have to say my knee which was paying the price is a great deal better.. Catch you later.. hugs xxx


  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up 29th December to 4th January 2020 – | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  10. Pingback: Whimsical Wednesdays… | Retired? No one told me!

  11. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – Weekly Grocery Shopping List by Nutrient – Part One – Vitamins A – B | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.