Two years ago Nicole Mowbray gave up sugar and the effects were astonishing. It changed her life, her body, her relationships, her face and her health. Now sugar is under fire and firmly in the dietary spotlight - the World Health Organisation have lowered the recommended daily intake and a leading oncologist has claimed that every major illness he sees is traceable back to a diet high in sugar. Nicole's book - part memoir, part guide - will help women to give up sugar. She will interview experts to back up the science, including nutritionists, endocrinologists, and psychologists.
For Nicole believes that sugar-dependency is a particularly female peccadillo, tied up, as it is, with emotions and validation. Nicole shares with readers how she did it, why they should, what they can expect and how they can do it - with recipes, expert tips and help along the way. This book will tell you what to kick and what to keep and how not to fall into the secret sugar traps.
Author: Nicole Mowbray
Question: What initially prompted you to give up sugar?
Nicole Mowbray: Back in 2012 when I gave up sugar I was struggling with a few issues - despite never having suffered with problem skin as a teenager, over recent years I had developed acne which made me upset. I felt that I was ageing at an accelerated rate too, with fine lines and pigmentation popping up in a short space of time despite having an expensive and elaborate skincare regime. I was also overweight. At 5ft10 I tipped the scales at about 13.5 stone which is two and a half stone heavier than I am now. Although I was active I couldn't seem to shift the weight which had accumulated around my tummy. I had mid-sleep insomnia (basically I woke up a few hours after going to bed and stayed awake for a few more) which I thought was the cause of the mood swings I was also plagued by. I also suffered repeated bouts of tonsillitis, sometimes several times a year. I analysed my so-called 'healthy' diet and realised everything I ate was sweet. Eager to shed a few pounds I decided to cut back. It all started from there. Since I implemented the changes I outline in the book, my body, mind and health have been transformed.
Question: How long did it take for your cravings to disappear?
Nicole Mowbray: The first few days of my withdrawals from sugar I craved sugar acutely. I've read stories of people who claim to feel incredible just a few hours after giving it up, this didn't happen to me! The first week I felt rather terrible. Flu-like symptoms, lethargy, headaches and repetitive thoughts about the food I'd decided to ditch, although I didn't give in. From there it got easier. Spurred on by the physical changes I saw, it became easier to say no to sugar. I did crave certain things - honey, ice cream or frozen yoghurt, fruit juices and smoothies - for a good few months, but I developed some coping strategies, started eating more protein and cinnamon which helps to regulate blood sugar. Nutritionists believe that cravings are a sign of you doing something 'wrong' (in a dietary sense) earlier in the day - having a sugary breakfast for example will cause you that've cravings mid-morning. But cravings are more than a physical desire. Sometimes even now I am I two years in I still really fancy something sweet. Normally ice cream or a cocktail. I try and have something else instead, but on the rare occasions I really want something I may just have a small bit of it. Life is too short!
Question: Do you still eat fruit?
Nicole Mowbray: When I talk about giving up sugar, what I am really talking about is giving up sweet things. With that goes all the fruit I used to eat - sadly. My old diet included lots of fruit, probably four or five pieces a day. I thought it was a healthy snack, which it is, but not at the quantities I was eating it at, while mainly sat at my desk all day. My favourite fruits were all the ones that are very sweet - pineapple, banana, mango melon, figs, dates. Sadly they've all been consigned to the bin. Nowadays I eat a lot of veggies - still great vitamins but less sugar. I do still eat lots of avocados and tomatoes however, and occasionally I will have some dark berries (these are lower GI) with some nuts on top of porridge or natural Greek yoghurt. Giving up sugar is - for me - about reeducating my palette not to crave sweet things.
Question: How has giving up sugar changed your life?
Nicole Mowbray: The physical changes have been massive. I have lost quite a bit of weight- well over two stone. My skin is much better, thankfully no more spots or redness! The pigmentation and fine lines which had started to dog me now appear much less visible, the overall texture of my skin is improved. People comment that the whites of my eyes always look bright and twinkly. Then there are the unseen changes - I haven't had tonsillitis once since I cut back my sugar intake, my irregular periods have righted themselves. I sleep soundly, am a much calmer and less stressed person to be around. I'm also aware of what I am putting into my body now, which I wasn't before. I suppose this knowledge has caused me to treasure my health and the wonderful piece of equipment that is the human body. I want to help it look, feel and perform it's best, and I do this by not filling it with rubbish.
Question: How will Sweet Nothing aid others in cutting sugar from their diets?
Nicole Mowbray: It will educate people. I think many of us don't realise how much damage sugar does to the body - I know I didn't and nor did my family and friends. Once you know this, it's easier to cut back. Sweet nothing also tells you how to deal with going low sugar by providing recipes, swaps and tips. You don't have to become a hermit, living in a wholesome bubble of boredom. It's possible to be very sociable, go out for dinner, drinks, go on holiday, date... I did - and do - all of this stuff. It was hard at first, but it have written the book so it is less hard for others.
Question: Can you talk us through the people you interview in sweet nothing?
Nicole Mowbray: I'm not an expert, I'm just a normal 35 year-old woman, so I knew it was important to speak to proper experts in my book. It was fascinating, even retrospectively, to find out how and why I felt as I did at times through the withdrawal process and why I had exhibited the symptoms I had before I cut back on the sweet stuff. I spoke to Mica Engel, a former A&E consultant turned cosmetic doctor about my skin. Ian Marber, a highly regarded nutritionist, provided the expertise about why I felt as I did when giving up, how sugar reacts in the body on a chemical level, James Duigan (an Aussie) whose Clean and Lean book I followed when going low sugar gave me the benefit of all his years of low-sugar living, nutritionist and personal trainer Holly Pannett provided all the recipes and exercise inspiration and Professor Graham MacGregor, a cardiologist and chair of the pressure group Action On Sugar in the UK gave me his expert opinion about the future of food regulation. As sugar addiction - and that's what I had - is such an emotional issue I also spoke to psychologist and counsellor Amanda Hills for recommendations on how to deal with the emotional fall out. I also quote other well-known experts like Dr Robert Lustig and Dr John Yudkin.
Interview by Brooke Hunter