So, my 10 day no sugar challenge is officially over!
Now comes the part where I brain dump on you about it. Excited??
The end was actually really anticlimactic. I thought I was going to wake up to angels singing and mounds of golden chocolate in the living room, but it was kinda just another day. We still didn’t have anything sweet in the house, and I wasn’t very motivated to go get anything, sooo… nothing really changed.
Don’t worry: I had a pumpkin beer last night (after staring at it in the fridge for a WEEK) and I’m planning a run to Trader Joe’s that will definitely involve the buying of some kind of sweet thing (things?). But I’m thrilled to find that my cravings really are more under control now. I feel no desire to dive into that box of Oreos I would have KILLED for a week ago.
Case in point: yesterday morning (aka Day 1 of Freedom), I met with my mom group at church, and there were (no exaggeration) TEN different kinds of pie there, in honor of Thanksgiving. (I think? or maybe just in honor of pie?) I picked some kind of French silk, took one wildly sugartastic bite (like—woah), and I kid you not, the thing sat there on my plate the rest of the morning and I eventually just threw it away.
WHO AM I??
I don’t know if it was some kind of subconscious guilt for eating a “forbidden” food again, but regardless, I do know this: sugar detoxes WORK.
For one thing, I was finally able to get the scale to budge a little. I lost 3 pounds in 10 days (keep in mind that I still have baby weight to lose—that might not be typical) and am feeling this awesome FREE feeling. Finally, sugar doesn’t own me!
It’s not that the cravings have completely disappeared—I still think about having something sweet after meals, and especially after dinner. But one of my goals for the challenge was to teach myself to accept less sweet things as sweet enough, and two nights ago, I saw it happen. I was wanting something sweet (probably partially because I’d just gotten back from the gym and my body was desperate for carbs), so I reached for an apple, and I was surprised that it was enough.
I honestly never thought I’d be ok with fruit as a dessert, but I really was—and not even in a “because I have no choice” way. My favorite tea (which is pretty sweet tasting) has actually been really satisfying in the evenings too.
To be clear: I wasn’t perfect on the detox. I told you I had wine, but there were a few other little things too. Nothing major, but I did let some things with 1-2g of sugar sneak in here and there—mostly for convenience (I found cooking sugar-free to be exhausting!) and because I was confident they wouldn’t sabotage me.
Anyway, I wanted to share a few details about my experience, along with my overall thoughts on the challenge:
What it was like
For me, the beginning and the end were pretty easy, but the few days in the middle were TOUGH. There are a few different reasons I can think of to explain that…
–I started on a Monday, aka the universal Let’s Start New Things day. I felt motivated and prepared, and my cravings weren’t bad at all. I knew better than to think the whole thing was going to be a breeze, but I felt like I was off to a decent start.
–I happened to also get a cold on Monday (luckily, I was already starting to get it over the weekend—otherwise I might have blamed it on the detox). This was actually super helpful because it crushed my appetite. Nothing that wasn’t soup sounded that appealing, even chocolate. (I know.)
So if you’re thinking about doing a detox, I recommend waiting until your next cold. (Just kidding…kind of…)
–I think it’s a good time of year for a detox. The cold weather lends itself better to nourishing foods made in the oven or slow cooker (which I think are the easiest to make sugar-free) and the pre-holiday timing is helpful. I’m pretty sure I would have struggled a lot more with a summer detox, since there’s usually more going on (and more opportunities to indulge).
–Day 5 was the worst, probably largely because it was Friday, aka the universal Day of Indulgence. Brent and I have been known to get takeout and enjoy some adult beverages on Friday nights, but that was a no-go on the challenge.
–The weekend was not easy, but also not as hard as Friday night. The biggest problem at that point was that I was sick of COOKING. I usually slack off in the cooking department on the weekends, but there are basically zero convenience foods that don’t have added sugar, so the meat + veggies train had to roll on.
–Once we got back into the week, my confidence bounced back and the cravings disappeared. I didn’t really even need my sugar-free treats anymore. I call this the “OMG this is pretty awesome” phase.
What I learned about sugar
–Labels are confusing. I found several foods that said Sugars: 0g on the label, but still had a word that meant sugar in the ingredient list. (Often, it was an artificial sugar.)
I also saw the reverse: no sugar words in the ingredients, but a couple grams of sugar in the nutrition facts (typically from naturally occurring sugars—even veggies, like corn and carrots, have sugar in the them).
So it was tricky deciding where to draw the line, which is why I ended up allowing a few super low sugar items.
–The only way to truly avoid sugar is to make things yourself. (But even my homemade tomato sauce had some sugar in it from the tomatoes…)
P.S. I did finally find a sugar-free bacon, thanks to Becky—Market Pantry brand at Target!
–It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re not consuming much sugar just because you’re limiting desserts. But that stuff is eeeverywhere. Try glancing at the gram total of sugar on the nutrition facts of your main foods for a few days—you might find some surprises!
What I learned about myself
–I’m not an eggs-for-breakfast girl. I’m not even a food-for-breakfast girl, really (I’d much rather have a smoothie). I tried. I really tried. I know that eggs are super healthy and they’re an awesome choice for breakfast, but I just couldn’t get into it.
–After meals and evenings are the hardest times of the day for my sugar cravings. I think it’s a good idea to find ways to “take the edge off” with something like fruit, tea, or a low-sugar hard candy at some of those times, rather than always going for the treat (even when treats are “allowed”). You might have to train your body to accept these lower sugar alternatives, but it can be done!
–I’m not a fan of sugar-free cooking. I’m not a huge fan of cooking in general, so the sugar-free angle just makes everything even more tedious. I didn’t realize how much sugar = convenience.
–Moderation is not enough for weight loss. My postpartum weight loss journey has been super slow, despite working out and “eating pretty healthy” (most subjective phrase ever). It was eye-opening to see what I had to do to actually lose a little weight (keeping in mind that I’m still not getting the sleep I need and my hormones are probably not quite balanced yet—two big weight loss sabotagers).
General detox thoughts
–I’ve said this before, but I think a 10-day no sugar challenge like the one suggested in the documentary Fed Up is extremely aggressive for the average family. It’s just really really hard, even for people who don’t eat a ton of sugar to begin with.
However, the lessons learned and knowledge gained from even the most epic failure would still be super valuable (even if it’s just “wow, I do eat a lot of sugar”). And I agree that an all-or-nothing approach is the only way to really learn those lessons. The hard part would be convincing people to recognize that, in this case, even failing is still winning.
–I feel that a 95% detox is JUST as valuable as a picture perfect 100% (meaning, a few low-sugar things sneak in, but you’re mostly shooting for an all-or-nothing detox). I don’t know all the science behind it (would my cravings be even more resolved if I’d been 100% clean?), but at least psychologically, I think almost perfect is just as good, if not better, than perfect.
–The question now is: what comes after the detox? It doesn’t seem smart to go back to the exact same way I was eating before, but I definitely have zero intentions of extending the challenge (umm, it’s Thanksgiving week??).
So my plan is to:
- Cling to my new skill of accepting-less-sweet-things-as-sweet by opting for those “take the edge off” options after meals and in the evenings.
- Focus more on going low carb, which will automatically block some of the added sugars and (hopefully) help keep the weight loss going.
- Keep an eye on the desserts and stop making sweet snacks like energy balls (which are delicious, but sadly loaded with sugar and irresistible to me).
The last 10 days were tough, but I’m so glad I did this challenge! And I could see myself doing it again—maybe I should make it an annual pre-holiday thing?
If anyone out there is struggling with uncontrollable sugar cravings, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you CAN get rid of them. The bad news is that there’s only one way, and it’s zero tolerance. Goodbye sugar. (For a little while.)
Now, it’s time for the real test: THANKSGIVING. Will I be back at square one by this time next week?
TO BE CONTINUED…