Self-experiment: Eight weeks sugar-free: Can life without sugar really work?

This article comes from the stern archive and was first published on January 11, 2019.

Self-experiment: Eight weeks sugar-free: Can life without sugar really work?

This article comes from the stern archive and was first published on January 11, 2019.

After eating a large bowl of Bircher muesli with cherries for breakfast a few weeks ago, I had an unpleasant feeling in my stomach. Heavy, full and grumpy. And the sweet taste in my mouth didn't want to go away even after brushing my teeth. Pretty soon after that I was hungry again. Funny, I thought. Shouldn't muesli at least keep you full for a few hours? Confused, I dug the packaging out of the trash can. The 100 gram portion in the health food store cost almost four euros. “It tastes great, the best we have,” the cashier told me.

When I looked at the bottom, where the ingredients were hidden and printed in small print, then I was shocked. Of the 100 grams, 45 grams were sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of 25 grams per day for adults. Anything above that is harmful to health. With the two spoonfuls of sugar that I had stirred into my tea as usual, I had consumed twice the portion of the sweet crystal before I left the house in the morning. A real shock that made me think.

Read more about healthy eating here

I'm not overweight, I run two, sometimes three times a week and ride my bike to work. I felt like I was well protected from cardiovascular disease or diabetes. But was that a misconception. I did the math in my head. A can of Coke every few days. In between, a few toffees, sugar in tea, a little chocolate pudding for dessert at lunch, gummy bears and so on. Things added up quite a bit. I honestly had completely lost track of how much sugar I was consuming per day. Open or hidden, every now and then. After my little extrapolation, it quickly became clear to me: definitely too much.

And more importantly: I urgently needed to change something. From then on I decided I wanted to try to avoid table sugar as much as possible. No more chocolate, no more gummy bears, just nothing. Radical because I was sure that I wouldn't be able to simply reduce consumption. Taste and stop - the temptation would have been too great.

I have never been on a diet in my life. I didn't feel sick. But after researching the Diet cover story in Stern, I realized how deceptive this feeling of health can be. A researcher told him in a conversation with me: "I see people in my practice every day who think they are healthy because they are slim. Then we look at the blood values ​​and they are really sick." But with my decision, I immediately had doubts: Can I keep it up? Never again gummy bears - terrible!

Sugar is a false friend. It sweetens our lives - but we pay a high price. Many scientists now consider it to be an addictive substance. Especially the table sugar that we consume so often and in so many quantities. Chemically it is called sucrose and consists of two types of sugar, glucose and fructose. When we eat sugar, the two substances are processed differently in our bodies. The compound known as fructose in particular is suspected of increasing the risk of fatty liver disease. This is feared by doctors because fatty liver disease increases the risk of diabetes and liver cell cancer.

These used to be diseases of old age, but today they are observed in younger and younger people and even children. Fatty liver can also be an early sign of metabolic syndrome, a whole host of diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Sugar is also a substance that activates the reward center in the brain particularly well and quickly. It makes us happy in the short term, but in the long term we always want more. A vicious cycle. There is also the assumption that bacteria live within us that can control our cravings for sugar. So it seems possible that the body's energy needs have long been met, but this one group of bacteria wants even more - and makes us keep eating. Preference for sugary foods. Because these bacteria need fuel to survive and multiply. So it's no surprise that overweight people have a completely different stomach and intestinal colonization with bacteria than people of normal weight.

Two months have now passed for me with almost no sugar. Now I always look at the ingredients list in the supermarket. If there is sugar there, the things go back on the shelf. Sometimes it's really hard for me, but most of the time it works. And quite often I've stood there and complained: "Why does so much sugar have to be mixed into this muesli? And why do we let the industry mix in this harmful stuff everywhere?"

In the morning we now have unsweetened natural yogurt with oatmeal. My fruit no longer comes from a can, but fresh from the market. I take carrots and sliced ​​fennel to the office every day. Instead of chocolate, I snack on almonds and all kinds of nuts. Because contrary to what has long been assumed, they are very healthy. Mainly because of the high content of B vitamins. I completely avoid white bread. I prefer to eat whole grain bread. Tea tastes good even without sugar. I just can't get used to espresso without sweetness, which is why I'm avoiding it completely. This is the hardest part so far. Recently while strolling through the city, I wanted to take a quick break at a coffee shop. But the only drink on the menu without sugar was still water. Then I left again.

But overall, giving up sugar is a small change in my life. Which is often tiring because there are many hidden traps. But it's worth it. Unfortunately, I didn't weigh myself before I started my experiment, but last week I bought a new pair of pants. It is two sizes smaller than before. I can feel, especially in my stomach, how I have lost some of my size. A few colleagues have already asked me about it. Of course that motivates me. And I'm a little proud too.

I also run much faster now. On my last lap I specifically turned on the stopwatch. It was a few minutes that I got out of it. I feel fresher, more alert and my muscles tire much more slowly. Overall, I'm significantly less hungry. Between breakfast and lunch I go completely without snacks. I don't know that from before. On the contrary. Especially in stressful situations - and we women are particularly vulnerable to this - I reached for sweets.

I allow myself a “cheat day” once a week. Just like I know from many professional athletes. A day where I simply eat whatever I feel like. Now I have almost no cravings for sugary foods on those days. I also have a secret weapon against cravings: dark chocolate with a cocoa content of over 75 percent. It is delicious, contains almost no sugar - but contains flavanoids. These are antioxidants, i.e. the substances that render radicals in the cells harmless. And this in turn protects against a variety of diseases.

From February 18th to March 24th, presenter Dieter Könnes invites viewers of “stern TV am Sonntag” to work together to reduce sugar consumption in just five weeks under the motto “Simply Sugar Free”. They receive prominent support from actress Tina Ruland, who, together with two other colleagues, dares to quit sugar cold. “stern TV am Sonntag” runs on February 18th at 11 p.m. on RTL and parallel on RTL.

Transparency note: The star is part of RTL Deutschland.