One of the recurring themes of living your best life is to take excellent care of your body and mind. This often means facing your habits and transforming the bad habits into good, healthy habits.
I admit I have a sugar habit. I’d been thinking about this habit for a while, trying to figure out if I felt ready to do anything about it, and if it would be worth changing. While reading Daniel Amen’s Use Your Brain to Change Your Age, I learned more ugly truths about sugar’s status as an “anti-nutrient.” Aside from increasing inflammation in your body, sugar causes a high followed by a crash, which leads to low moods. Sugar also causes erratic brain cell firing. As if staying present and not letting our thoughts clutter our experience of life isn’t hard enough already! This last bit of bad press for sugar motivated me to finally confront this habit to see if breaking it will improve my life.
I decided to give up sugar in my diet for 30 days to see what an impact it will have on my health, energy, mood, etc. I’ve been wanting to start doing some 30 day challenges to flex my self-discipline muscle, and giving up sugar for a month is just tough enough to qualify as a challenge. So May is sugar-free month! It is not just the white stuff I’m giving up, but any kind of added sugar – including maple syrup, honey, and even the posh agave. I am still allowed to have fruit.
The reader should know that giving up sugar is going to be a fairly noticeable change of habit for me. A typical week consists of a few strolls down to the local ice cream parlor, several dark chocolate candy bars (at least one per day usually), quite possibly a batch of cookies baked one eve or maybe a loaf of gooey chocolate chip pumpkin pudding bread, and probably pancakes for breakfast (with maple syrup, of course) at least one day. So I’m cutting out quite a few treats by trying this 30 day no sugar diet.
We’re now twelve days into May as I begin to write this article. Why the delay? Why not start writing on day 1? At first, I wasn’t sure that giving up sugar for a month would be worth writing about. I figured I should wait and see how the trial unfolds before deciding if it was blog-worthy. I now think it’s been enough of a challenge that I’d like to share the experience.
30 Day No Sugar Diet – Week 1
The first six days were easy. I had no cravings or side effects worth noting.
30 Day Sugar-Free Challenge – Week 2
Eating no sugar for a month started to get more challenging on day 7. For the whole second week, I experienced a slightly lower mood along with more cravings. Although I can’t be certain that a low mood can be blamed on sugar withdrawal, I definitely felt much better in the last few weeks than I did this week. I’m having a slightly harder time swatting away the cravings (I found myself wanting to eat a steak and chocolate cake by 9am the other day) but I am still not giving in.
I also raised the bar this week by choosing foods that have a lower glycemic load. That meant the kamut puffs had to go away for a while, with steel-cut oats filling in while they’re gone. (Foods with a high glycemic load are rapidly converted into sugar, causing basically the same reactions in our body as if we ate sugar directly. Choosing foods with a lower glycemic load means I’m not “cheating” on the no-sugar diet by eating things that the body reacts to just like sugar.)
One thing I definitely noticed this second week without sugar is that I feel less satisfied with the food I am eating. This is strange, because aside from abstaining from an evening bowl of kamut puffs and all the sweets I used to eat, the meals I am eating haven’t changed. Yet I seem to feel less “full” and almost always hungry. Before this trial I wasn’t adding sugar to my meals, I was just eating dessert here and there. So how would the missing desserts cause the meals to be less satisfying? I think the hunger I am feeling is really just me “wanting something” and I used to reach for a chocolaty, sugary treat when I felt that way. I suspect this may be some sort of withdrawal stage where the addictive side of sugar is shining through. Sugar is trying to trick me into thinking that if I don’t eat it, I will always be hungry . . .
On a positive note, I think my taste buds are adjusting to this new reality. Fruit and nuts are getting sweeter! I’m noticing that apples, almonds, and cashews seem a lot sweeter than they used to be.