Don't Say Cannot: Life still sweet for Singaporean woman who has lived without sugar for more than a year

"How bad can cutting sugar out from my diet be for my health?" was the question Rebecca Seow, 37, asked herself after being diagnosed with gallstones after a gallbladder attack in September 2017.

Her digestion issues were frequent despite her low-calorie, low-fat, low-salt and low-oil diet. The attack was a wake-up call for her to re-examine her diet, as her doctor had warned it may develop into pancreatitis in the long run.

Moreover, she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her second pregnancy, and her chances of developing type 2 diabetes was 50 per cent in the following decade.

Rebecca before embarking on a sugar-free diet.Photo: Rebecca Seow

In desperation, Rebecca went on a search for a natural remedy for gallbladder attacks and stumbled on a low-sugar diet. A book that her husband's fitness coach passed to her emphasised a low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat diet -- and she gave it a shot.

For 15 months now, Rebecca has been eating real, unprocessed food and cutting back almost completely on sugar and starch. She has replaced rice, noodles, bread, pasta and starchy vegetables with green leafy vegetables and meat.

On a typical day, her breakfast would consist of:

  • Pressed coffee with whipping cream, collagen powder and sea salt
  • Three eggs scrambled with a slab of butter
  • Stir-fried vegetables

Lunch would be:

  • Stir fried vegetables
  • Air-fried herbed chicken thigh
  • Cream cheese
A typical lunch menu: Cauliflower rice and herbed air-fried chicken.Photo: AsiaOne

And for dinner:

  • Cauliflower rice with paprika, turmeric, black pepper and sea salt
  • A fried egg
  • Fried belly sukiyaki and cream cheese

In between meals, she would snack on food containing healthy fats such as almonds, macadamia and milk kefir. Her favourite snack, which would seem highly unusual to most of us, is a slab of butter, some cream cheese and a teaspoon of nut spread.

The home tutor had initially expected her household grocery bill to increase drastically, but it has actually reduced, because they are now eating more home-cooked food instead of eating out.

Rebecca has also become very mindful of the food stored in her kitchen. Her children have also noticed her change in diet and having witnessed his mother's surgery, her six-year-old has also voluntarily given up his stash of comfort (read: sweet) food.

When eating out, Rebecca would choose food with minimal sauces which may contain hidden sugar, patronising stalls that sell dishes that are unlikely to have added sugar, like roasted pork, roasted/steamed chicken, prawn omelette, chicken wings or sliced fish soup.

"Many friends have expressed concern that I'm excluding grains and starches from my diet and are worried that I'm not eating balanced meals. I assure them that I eat till I am full and eating a low-sugar diet helps me eat more from other food groups such as meat, green leafy vegetables and healthy fats," said Rebecca. "Some friends were keen to try what a typical low-sugar meal tastes like and I have invited a few friends over for a home-cooked meal."

Cutting sugar from her diet has not only helped Rebecca shed 10kg in 15 months, but also stabilised her mood. No more being "hangry" when her sugar level runs low. No more gastritis or bloating for her either. In fact, going low sugar has helped reverse her prediabetic status, as confirmed by her blood test results.

Rebecca as a kid.Photo: Rebecca Seow

"I used to not be able to walk past a cake shop without getting something," Rebecca admitted. "But now, I feel liberated from the clutches of sugar addiction and am able to put my sugar cravings under good control."

3 EASY-PEASY WAYS TO CUT YOUR SUGAR INTAKE TODAY:

  1. Replace the intake of all sugary beverages (including kopi siu-dai, fruit juice, energy drinks) with water, black coffee or black tea
  2. Request for a smaller portion of rice/noodles/pasta (half of a small bowl) when eating out. If not possible, then try out eating ¼ of the given portion of rice/noodles/pasta, and top up with more meat or green leafy vegetables
  3. Practice out-of-sight, out-of-mind for sweet food. Place these sugary items in a high cupboard that is out of easy reach. Leave food that satiates and are low in sugar within reach -think cheese slices, cut cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, nuts and seeds

asiaone@mm2entertainment.com

Don't Say Cannot is an original AsiaOne series that shines the spotlight on people like you and me - average Singaporeans - who have stepped out of their comfort zones to do something positive for themselves or others.