Reflections on the 10 day no sugar challenge

by Kim on November 21, 2014

So, my 10 day no sugar challenge is officially over!

Now comes the part where I brain dump on you about it. Excited??

sugar

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).

Final thoughts

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…

(haha)

xo

Kim

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizzie @ The Magic Tree November 24, 2014 at 9:09 am

Congrats on finishing strong! I also started a no-sugar challenge last week. I just knew I was consuming too much because I had all the tell tail signs: major cravings, poor sleep, waking up lethargic. I agree that it got easier. Day 3 was the worst for me!
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:32 am

Good luck with the rest of the challenge! I hope it continues to get easier!

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Bonnie McKnight November 22, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I found your blog at the PERFECT time! I am doing a 21 day detox, which ends Monday.(thank goodness). I have lost about 7 pounds from it. It wasn’t about losing weight (although that’s a nice secondary effect), it was about restartng my habits. I learned how valuable meal Prep can really be throughout this experience, but it’s quite hard to cook with final exams right around the corner.

Fortunately, my boyfriend is doing it with me so I have someone to be accountable to. I LOVE that you included a section on where you plan to go next! I don’t think I can sustain a no sugar lifestyle long term so I appreciated your plan for the future, especially with the holidays around the corner. Thanks for your posts! I love them!

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Kim November 24, 2014 at 11:04 am

Way to go, Bonnie! 21 days is super impressive! And wow, 7 pounds, awesome! Yeah, the big question is definitely “now what?” I know I’ll indulge over the holidays, but I think the detox is going to help me avoid going ALL out. I’m just going to try to focus on eating as many real, whole foods as possible, and like I said in the post, going easy on the carbs. Good luck on your transition, whatever you decide, and happy holidays!!

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Jessica @ Prayers and Apples November 21, 2014 at 6:23 pm

I love that you did this – I’ve been wanting to for so long, but I never take enough time to get organized.. And I feel ya on the eggs thing: I actually like eggs and since they’re so good for you, I’m constantly trying to make them part of my morning routine – but after 3 days (4 max) I’m like, I can’t do this.. I’m majorly in need of a detox though (since I’ve been on that whole gut microbiota kick lately, I’m all about trying to do healthy things for my little microbiome!) so we’ll see if I can get organized this weekend! Thanks for the inspiration! :)
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:33 am

Organization/prep is definitely key! There’s no hiding the fact that it’s a huge hassle, but really worth it of course. :) I love eggs too–just not so much first thing in the AM. (Wish I did!)

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Katie @ running4cupcakes November 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Nice work!! I liked reading all your thoughts and found myself agreeing with a lot of them. The AdvoCare 24 day challenge seems similar to what you went thru – natural foods with no added sugar and clean-eating. Fridays were always the worst and the weekends were just tough in general – but the feeling of accomplishment and to be free of those cravings are totally worth it. I’ll be interested to hear how things go and evolve over the next few weeks!
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:35 am

24 days sounds like an eternity after doing only 10! :) It’s funny though, I’ve actually lost another pound even after adding sugar back in, so it looks like the benefits are lasting at least a little!

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Caroline @ The Little Things November 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I definitely crave sweet things after meals, especially dinner! I can’t even imagine making it through a “simple” 10 days, so congrats to you!
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:36 am

Thanks–I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to either, but it definitely got easier after the first few days. Happy to be done though, haha. :)
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Becky @ Olives n Wine November 21, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Glad you found the bacon! ;) And I think, as far as my perspective goes, “natural” sugars like those in fruits and veggies would be okay in my book. I’d probably just try to avoid all of the products that have added sugar for no reason… like bacon and tomato sauce and mac ‘n cheese and all that jazz. Awesome job, with kiddos that could not have been easy!
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:39 am

Thanks again for the bacon tip! I don’t know how you and Katie do those 24 day AdvoCare challenges–phew!! Are you finding any increase in sugar/carb cravings with pregnancy? I struggled with that big time!

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Becky @ Olives n Wine November 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

Sugar not so much – Sweet stuff kind of makes me gag but I am starting to want chocolate again which is good :) Carbs and cheese though… that’s a different story! I’m working on trying to maintain a good balance but it isn’t easy when you never know what your body is going to want!
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:59 am

Good for you! It’s super tough. Haha to wanting chocolate again “which is good”–love it. :) Have a great week!

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Ashley Pitt @ A Lady Goes West November 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Hi Kim, Congratulations. It’s pretty awesome you did it. And I guess it’s to be expected that it’s much harder than you would have thought, but also takes much more work. I agree that healthy moderation and checking labels is probably a more sustainable approach from here on out. Thanks for sharing. And keep us posted on your sugar cravings. :)
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Kim November 24, 2014 at 10:42 am

Isn’t it kind of sad/crazy that avoiding added sugars is unrealistic and unsustainable in our world? But it really is! And I think my biggest ah-ha moment was realizing how much it contributes to convenience–I’m so sick of all the extra cooking/food prep! :)

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