From an overweight teenager to a sugar free diet
If you look at me today, you might find it hard to believe, but when I was 10 years old I weighed about 15 kg (33 lb) more than I do today. At that age, my diet included a lot of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta and sugar-loaded soft drinks such as Coca Cola and Rivella. At the same time, I lead quite a sedentary lifestyle. I spent most of my time in front of the television and computer and exercised maybe once a week at best.
Starvation diet: I lost 20 kg (45 lb) and grew 20 cm (8 in) in about a year
I went on a diet when I was 13 in order to loose the weight that I had put on in the previous years. My dietician prescribed me a low-calorie diet of about 1200 calories a day. I became so encouraged by the initial weight loss though that I became a little over-enthusiastic and soon went on a starvation diet of about 800 calories a day.
Back then I was counting calories all day, something that haven’t done since I quit eating sugar. At the same time, I was not on a sugar free diet or even a healthy diet. I made sure I didn’t drink sugary soft drinks anymore, but I was still eating a lot refined carbohydrates and products with added sugars, as long as my calorie intake didn’t surpass 800 calories a day.
At the same time, being in my early teens, I suddenly grew a lot taller. Within a year, I lost about 20 kg (45 lb) and grew about 20 cm (8 in) and became one of the skinniest kids in my class.
Yo-yo effect: back to chubby
I was watching my calorie intake closely, but I didn’t look much at what I was eating. Most of my calories were still coming from refined carbs and I was still more or less sedentary. I still had a long way to go to a sugar free diet!
It’s not surprising to me now that after a few skinny years I quickly became chubby again as I started to let go of my low caloric diet and ate again until I was full while still spending most of my time in front of a computer.
A birthday gift to myself: I became vegan
At the time I was reading a lot about animal rights and it was on my 18th birthday that I decided to become vegan. My birthday celebration meal was, like every year, a big pizza with ham and salami, and as I was eating it I thought: this is going to be the last time I ever eat meat. And it was!
I stopped eating meat immediately after the pizza was finished and became completely vegan about 3 weeks later. Back then I was mostly concerned about animal rights, not so much about the health benefits of being vegan. I believed it was wrong to hold and even kill animals for their meat, milk or eggs and therefore decided to stop eating animal products altogether.
I started reading a lot about nutrition and this made my diet a lot healthier as well. For example, I incorporated nuts into my diet, starting eating more vitamin and mineral-loaded vegetables and tried to eat whole-grain bread as much as I could.
Italy: cheese and eggs
When I was studying, I moved to Italy for one year to do my Erasmus and I found it increasingly difficult to nourish myself properly on a vegan diet and on a budget. Besides that, Italy is not one of the easiest countries to be vegan in. Especially back in the days, it was already hard enough to find a vegetarian dish in the university restaurant most of the time.
This is why I allowed cheese, eggs and later also sometimes fish back into my diet.
Health problems: first steps to a sugar free diet
I went to Africa in 2011 and came back with some stomach problems. I suffered from pains in my upper abdomen, acid reflux and general fatigue. That is when I picked up the Food Hourglass by Dr. Kris Verburgh at the airport. His diet recommendations and especially his chapters about the dangers of sugar ended up greatly impacting my eating habits.
Besides sugar, Verburgh’s diet also excludes all types of grains except oatmeal, such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes, cow milk and cow cheese. When I tried the diet, I quickly noticed a weight loss of about 1 kg (2.2 lb) per week. After 3 months, I had lost about 12 kg (26.5 lb).
The funny thing about the Food Hourglass diet is that I noticed I was probably eating more than ever. I constantly felt hungry throughout the day and stuffed myself continuously with vegetables, nuts, salads and all kinds of other healthy foods. After 3 months and 12 kg I thought that it was probably a bit too much for my active lifestyle to not eat grains and I included whole grains back into my sugar free diet.
Since this day in December 2012 my diet has remained almost the same. I consume nothing that contains added sugars, I eat whole grains, vegetables, eggs, and sometimes dairy products such as milk and cheese. My sugar free diet didn’t cure my acid reflux and stomach pains by the way. Those only went away years later when I started taking vitamin C supplements.