I'm the kind of person who takes coffee without sugar, almost never drinks carbonated drinks and does not buy biscuits, snacks or chocolates. So I’ve not ever really thought of myself as being in need of a “sugar cure.”
I fill the cart with healthy stuff and I cook willingly at home. That being said, when I’m out and about and visiting with friends, I won’t say no to a slice of cake or a bit of chocolate. While I don’t go out of my way to seek out treats, I do have a bit of a sweet tooth. So, since I like sweets, I decided to challenge myself: no sugar for a month.
DAY 1, 1 JANUARY
I opted for scrambled eggs with avocado, bacon and tomatoes for breakfast (a normal breakfast for me). We're on the right path. But the day after New Year celebrations, it’s normal to find empty wine bottles and leftover chocolates from the night before. I put the chocolate away for another day – a day 30 days away, to be precise. At least, that was my plan, but before I even realized I was doing it, I had broken off a piece of chocolate and eaten it. Of course, I don’t normally eat chocolate for breakfast, but I had chosen a poor day to start my challenge: my new pact had not even lasted 30 minutes. It was a bad start, but I was determined to try again. The next day was a Monday, and that’s a good a day to start (over) as any.
DAY 1, SECOND ATTEMPT
I went to bed a little later than normal, and woke up tired and unmotivated to start my challenge. Breakfast was strictly without sugar: porridge with berries and flax seeds. I did not prepare anything in advance, so things were a little more difficult than they needed to be. For lunch, I opted for sushi, but while waiting in line I realize that rice has sugar in it. I went for sashimi in the end. Work was tiring and difficult, and I never stopped to snack. Usually, on such days, I would take some time out and have a bit of chocolate, but on this day I forced myself to settle for a few walnuts. Later in the day I wanted to go for a run, another time I would sometimes eat something sweet for a boost of energy. Not this time: salmon, green beans and sweet potatoes is all I allowed myself. And so ended my first sugarless day.
Again, I did not prepare lunch. I went to the supermarket looking mackerel and peas. Unfortunately, they did not have fresh peas. I looked for canned peas, going through the chocolate department twice, and read the ingredients on the label: peas, water and ... sugar! Why should there be sugar in peas? Apparently there is sugar in any canned food. It seems that beans are safe: the label reports only beans and water. I also picked up a fillet of trout and went back to the office. I realized it was not so hard to improvise a meal without sugar.
At this point it seemed to me the trick to avoiding sugar was to cook in advance, so I started rigorously planning all my meals for the month. In company, the challenge of avoiding sugar becomes harder, but the secret is to eat first and refuse sweets when offered. Being surrounded by people who support you is just as important. Fortunately, working with Runtastic, it was easy to find supportive friends who encourage you not to give up. Recently, avoiding sugar has become rather fashionable, but it is not an easy choice. To keep my spirits high, I watched several documentaries about sugar during my sugarless month. It really opened my eyes and helped to keep me motivated.
Why is sugar so dangerous?
It is everywhere, in at least 80% of pre-packaged foods. It creates addiction and causes disarray in our bodies, sending energy levels all over the place and messing with our hormones. Over time, these fluctuations create a long-term issue. When we take in sugar, insulin from the pancreas is released to remove glucose from the blood. Eventually, with this continued heightened demand from all our sugar intake, the pancreas starts to produce less and less insulin. The consequence is insulin resistance, the precursor of diabetes. Additionally, if the energy gained from sugar is not burned off immediately, it accumulates in the form of fat in the body.
Sugar and weight loss
During this time I lost 3 kg (I admit I started after Christmas which is the period where more sweets are consumed). Apart from that, I continued to practice running and eating what I wanted (without sugar of course). After 2 weeks I had a more defined body. I wonder what kind of fat we remove from our body when we start a sugar-free diet. At the same time, analyzing my diet, I realized that it was high in fat and moderate in carbohydrate and protein consumption. Nuts, cheese, avocado and peanut butter were my snacks and many meals were made of carbohydrates, vegetables, meat and fish. This allowed me to burn fat to get energy instead of sugar or glucose.
5 things I discovered living without sugar
1. Sugar is everywhere
Sugar hides everywhere. When you go shopping, pay attention: read the labels and you will find sugar listed among the ingredients of almost every product. It also hides in various forms: sugar may not appear directly on a list of ingredients, but items ending in -ose always contain sugar. A "healthy" breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, fruit and a glass of orange juice can contain 14 teaspoons of sugar (the recommended daily maximum is 7).
2. I felt more focused…eventually
The first two weeks I felt a little weak. I had a few sleepless nights and the days at work seemed endless, but it was a different feeling from my usual fatigue. After the first two weeks, things changed and I felt much more focused.
3. I was more energetic
My energy levels became noticeably higher when I got off sugar. I woke up regenerated and with more energy, and that energy stayed with me for longer throughout the day. My three-o-clock lull disappeared, as did my need to take in sugar to deal with it.
4. I got better skin
I noticed my skin got much better. Specifically, I no longer had an oily “T-zone.” Excess sugar fattens the skin, and can also cause blemishes and accentuate wrinkles. Instead of focusing on how to treat skin from the outside, one can try to act from within.
5. I started enjoying cooking
I regained my love for the kitchen. I always liked cooking and I always prepared healthy dishes, but having to eliminate so many ingredients forced me to get creative. I had to start from scratch or completely re-think old recipes. It's nice to know what you're eating because you cooked it!
Will I eat sugary foods again? Yes. If someone brings a birthday cake to the office or if there is a tiramisu on a restaurant dessert menu, I will not say no. But I will definitely keep a much closer eye on my overall sugar intake.