I'll admit I'm a little surprised by how this whole month of resolutions flashed by so quickly. An entire month of sugar free living? I've done it in the past (with varying levels of success) but I never expected this year's challenge to race by me, and I certainly planned on my temptations looking at least a little bit different this time around. Here's how the second half of my sugar free adventure went, plus the details on what a month without added sugars taught me about myself and my relationship with my occasionally irrepressible sweet tooth.
Detox truffles are good, but not as good as regular truffles.
I'll be traveling in the upcoming week, so I spend my evening in a pre-trip frenzy considering possible snacks at the grocery store. Should I take a package of sugar-free apple chips? A bag of bison jerky? What if there is no food without sugar in it anywhere to be found?
Travel is so much easier than expected. I don't even have time to think about food. Like, at all. Instead, I'm making conscientious decisions (salmon! peppermint tea! butternut squash!) on the fly because there isn't a half-consumed bag of dried mango ten feet away. Why can't all my sugar-free time be travel time?
It's possible my trip changed me. But it's also possible that a few days without fruit and added sugar have helped break my emotional dependence on dessert down a little further. Instead of an extra clementine after dinner I find myself reaching for a mug of rooibos tea and it's perfect.
I fell off the wagon by accident, but I didn't climb back up right away. And by right away, I mean that when I realized I had just taken a bite of pizza crust dipped in honey (I was at Beau Jo's. What can I say—it's what you do.) I finished the crust, honey and all, before pulling myself together with the help of a nice long drink of water.
Last week was a good start to my less fruit-focused approach to sugar freedom, but this week I'm vowing to be all about vegetables. For me, this means some proactive meal planning and a ready-to-consume box of herbal tea just in case I need to stave off sudden cravings (does anyone else notice caffeine intake making sugar cravings so much worse?). Tonight's menu? Roasted Brussels sprouts, beets and butternut squash... possibly with a side of bacon.
"I'm kind of excited to eat a cookie, but overall, I'm not really considering jumping back into my former sugar-by-the-spoonful consumption."
I realize mid day that I've been doing this sugar free thing for almost a whole month, and we're really close to the end of this challenge. I'm kind of excited to eat a cookie, but overall, I'm not really considering jumping back into my former sugar-by-the-spoonful consumption. At this point, I'm in the groove of planning balanced meals and being better about healthful snacks, all of which seems to be contributing to a general sense of calmness about my next source of food and my decision to opt out of added and refined sugar consumption.
I love eating vegetables. Why don't I eat vegetables always?
Okay I take it back. I love eating coconut milk ice cream. Also vegetables. But ice cream. Suddenly the end of my month-long resolution is in sight and the realization has me pondering the possibilities.
So, How Did the Whole Thing Go?
Oh wow, where to start? I think I did pretty well. If I'm giving myself a grade based solely on my adherence to the rules of my resolution (no added natural or refined sugars in my food, but fruit is fine), I probably deserve an A-. I had some accidental slip ups (and the honey on that way too tempting pizza crust) but overall I managed to go a whole month without sugar. Which feels like a pretty cool accomplishment.
Ultimately, I feel like so much of the challenge for me was mental. I spent so much time just thinking about sugar. What was I going to eat at the end of January? Should I just give up now and eat it today instead? My post-dinner inner monologues were always the same: me either trying to rationalize my way into bailing on the challenge and just eating something sweet already or trying to think up a naturally sweet food that would fit the bill. (My husband would like me to take this moment to bring up the 28 oz bag of dried mango I devoured almost single-handedly in four days during week two.) But the tricky part is that while cutting out sugar made me feel different—a little more energetic, happier with my skin—I didn't really start to see legitimate changes in the way I felt until I added something else to my diet: all the vegetables.
"While cutting out sugar made me feel different—a little more energetic, happier with my skin—I didn't really start to see legitimate changes in the way I felt until I added something else to my diet: all the vegetables."
What I Learned
My biggest struggles of the challenge were were definitely rooted in the emotional aspect of my eating habits—like the fact that my first instinct after a long day at work or a stressful interaction was to turn straight to bar of chocolate or a stack of cookies. But I was also completely caught off guard by how sweeteners are so firmly ingrained in my daily habits and how many sources of sugar I wasn't even aware of: My favorite bread, my favorite dressing, my favorite morning concoction of lemon, honey and cayenne pepper (it definitely didn't taste the same without the spoonful of honey—I stopped trying after day three). Sugar is a part of my life, no question.
That last lesson is especially interesting to me, because something else I learned along the way is that, generally, my friends' perceptions of my eating habits are that I don't really eat much sugar. (My college roommate would likely disagree: she was witness to the frozen yogurt and Lucky Charms consumption I mentioned in my first post.) The more I think about it, the more I realize this is probably because of my food allergies. People don't see me eating mass amounts of sugar on a normal basis because it's hard to find gluten-, dairy- and nut-free food in easily accessible locations. But consume it I do.
Where I Will Go From Here
Cutting out sugar was equal parts liberating and stress-inducing. I missed it. I really, really missed it. It also made finding "safe" food a little more challenging, at least at first while I was still getting a handle on all the places sugar likes to hide. But it felt great to be giving it up entirely, at least for a while. Having the accountability of writing about it throughout the month and sharing my progress on this resolution with the world was kind of amazing and certainly helped to keep me on track (in fact, I highly recommend getting as public as you can with your toughest goals).
Still, I'm excited to move on. Not just because there's a small part of my brain that still cries out for sugar (even though it's gotten quieter each week). Mostly, it's because I think I can apply what I've learned this month without putting pressure on myself to attain food perfection. I've learned that I feel better when I'm eating so many vegetables I feel a little bit ridiculous about it. And that I also feel better when I opt for a warm mug of tea after dinner instead of a cookie. Does that mean I'll turn down the cookie next time I'm offered one? Probably not. But it does mean that I've gained a little more insight into the kinds of foods that make me feel happier, healthier and more energetic. And feeling that way is worth reigning in my sweet tooth for a little while, even if I'm not cutting it out entirely.
To read the final resolution posts from our other writers, click here.
Kicking a Coffee Habit
Part I: I'm Giving Up Coffee—Cold Turkey—for One Month
Part II: Here's What Happens the First Two Weeks After Giving Up Coffee
Part III: Three Weeks Without Coffee Transformed My Relationship with Caffeine
Checking Out of Social Media
Part I: I'm Signing Out of Social Media for the Month of January
Part II: I'm Halfway Through My Social Media Fast and It's Been Eye-Opening
Part III: I Successfully Went One Month Without Logging Into Social Media
Making Meditating a Daily Habit
Abstaining from Alcohol
Part I: I'm Making a Dryuary Resolution to Not Drink in January
Part II: I'm Doing Dry January and It's Giving Me a New Perspective on Alcohol
Part III: Here's What I've Learned About Drinking at the End of Dry January
Cutting Out Sugar
Using Painting as Therapy
Part I: I'm Using Painting as Therapy to Treat My Seasonal Affective Disorder
Part II: This Year, I'm Coping With SAD by Painting and Here's How It's Going
Part III: I Spent a Month Using Painting as Therapy and Here's What I Learned