A few months ago, I announced to the ELLE office, “I quit sugar!”. It wasn’t the first time I had done this, and my big news was understandably greeted with eye rolls. You see, I am a processed-sugar fiend—cake is a staple of my diet, and the only way I’d acknowledge salad is if it came doused in syrupy dressing. But all those studies on its ill effects were proving themselves through the latest batch of bumps and lines on my face. I had to do something.
Going cold turkey again was out of the question because my last attempt was spent in a haze of headaches, mood swings and lethargy. I would just have to learn to control my cravings. But first, Dr Vishakha Shivdasani, general physician and nutritionist, explained to me how they work: “A carb-rich diet spikes your blood sugar level, which makes your body release insulin to counter it. Once the sugar plummets, you crave something sweet again. It’s a vicious cycle.” She told me the trick was not to completely give up carbs or sugar, but instead to incorporate the following small, mindful changes into my diet:
1. Start your day with protein, like eggs, so you don’t get a sugar fluctuation in the morning, usually caused by carb-rich breakfasts. Eating fats, like almonds and walnuts, reduces sugar cravings by making you feel fuller.
2. Eat grain-free meals and add more veggies to your diet (avoid all sugar-rich root vegetables). If you can’t give them up altogether, eat just one grain a day, but make sure it’s a complex carb, like buckwheat, barley, quinoa, oats or chickpeas, that don’t instantly spike sugar.
3. Don’t fool yourself—substitutes like honey, maple syrup, agave, jaggery, dates, all have the same effect on your body as regular sugar. Instead, be smart about your dessert choices. Pick options like cheesecake, tiramisu and caramel custard that have a higher protein to sugar ratio, and are less damaging.
Haters will say that this new diet doesn’t fully eliminate sugar, but I wanted to be better, not boring! Eventually, I found that the best way really was to adapt my diet in a way that was conscientious but also didn’t leave me wild-eyed with sweet cravings. Practicing restraint got easier, and as a result, I’ve been waking up with better skin ever since.
Photograph: Sean McMenomy
Styling: Mie Juel