I’m Taking on a Month of Sugar-Free Living

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Marharyta Kovalenko)

Anne Momber is one of six people tracking their resolutions with Apartment Therapy in real time.

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I’ll admit it. I’m totally a resolution person. This is something I not only look forward to, but something I love: evaluating and re-evaluating my habits, making lists, setting goals and writing them down. I don’t even like to limit myself to the New Year (although that is admittedly my favorite time for these kinds of considerations)—I’m just as likely to be found mid-June, notebook or iPhone in hand, contemplating a new resolution.

But while I’m all over making resolutions, I’m not always as great at completing them. I’d say my success rate is somewhere around 75%. Giving up Target for an entire season? Done and done. Picking up a daily yoga practice? Didn’t work out quite as well. This time though, I’m trying something new—or, rather, trying to give up something that I have a pretty sweet relationship with: sugar.

My History With Sugar

My relationship with sugar is compulsive at best. I still remember starting college and discovering the magic of frozen yogurt with Lucky Charms for dessert. The thought of that particular sugar rush makes me shudder today, but it may provide you with a little insight into my lifelong desire to appease my sweet tooth.

I gave it up entirely for about a year at one point, but my Mom’s famous cutout cookies tempted me back down the slippery slope to sugar dependence. (Seriously, these things are amazing. They’re the kind of cookies you find yourself swapping out for your regularly scheduled breakfast of eggs and green smoothies the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s.) Since then, I’ve never so much as hesitated when offered a treat—or three—even though my own particular cocktail of health challenges might be best supported by a reduction in sweets. Just ask the box of peppermint Joe Joe’s sitting half-consumed on my pantry shelf.

Why I’m Giving it Up

I love sugar. But the jury’s still out on whether it feels the same way about me. Evidence (and research) might suggest that we’re pretty well locked in an unhealthy relationship. Although I’m definitely the one dealing with all the negative consequences. It’s been a long time since I worked up the courage to spend some time without my favorite section of any menu (yes, I’m talking about dessert). The obvious blood sugar swings—better known in our home as “hanger”—and brain fog I experience on a regular basis have left me wondering if maybe, just maybe, there’s some link between my favorite food group (“candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup”) and my body’s overall lack of energy.

“I love sugar. But the jury’s still out on whether it feels the same way about me.”

In all honesty, I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting out sugar for months now, but the allure of those cutout cookies always had me setting the idea aside before it had the chance to form itself into a full-fledged resolution. What better time to clean up my diet than right after the holidays? Especially when I’ve likely just finished eating so much sugar I don’t want to even think about dessert for a while.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

My Rules

Since I first made the decision to take on a month of sugar-free living, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time contemplating “the rules.” As I’ve mentioned once before, I already have a few food restrictions so it’s really important to me that eating sugar-free doesn’t have a negative impact on my occasionally challenging relationship with food, and that I don’t put myself in a position where it’s even more difficult to enjoy meals with friends or eating out when those occasions arise.

With these variables in mind, I’ve decided to cut out all added sugar and sweeteners—this means natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup too—and avoid any items that are obviously made with them. I’ll be reading labels and checking ingredients when I make or purchase food, but I’m not going to stress over smaller amounts of sugar that may slip into prepared meals outside my home. Again, that still means I’ll be making sugar-free choices when I order food or have options, taking into consideration that many dressings, sauces and marinades are home to hidden sugar. For example, instead of ordering my salmon, veggie and rice go-to at the nearby Tokyo Joe’s with their extra-sweet, gluten free teriyaki sauce (sugar city), I’ll opt for a curry sauce or possibly even skip it altogether. I’ll still be eating fruit and other natural sources of sugar, but if it’s on the ingredients list, I’m out. I’ll miss you, snowman-shaped sugar cookies.

What I’m Expecting

I think this is going to be tough. Like, really tough. It may seem like a small thing to give up: It’s only sugar, after all—we’re not talking about Netflix here. But I’m expecting the first few days to involve some sort of detox reaction. (Holidays. Snowmen cookies. Repeat.)

After that, I’m really hoping for a couple things. First, to get a better handle on and awareness of my relationship with sugar and the way it impacts my body. Second, boundless energy. That’s the dream, right? And third, the confidence and courage to be able to decide how much sugar my body can really tolerate and make the call when it’s time to take a break in the future. It’s been a while since I went through a day without a dessert or two, but if the vague memory of my past sugar-free experiences are accurate, I think I’ll finish this month feeling healthier, happier and much more in control of my physical and emotional reactions to food.

Anne will be checking in mid-way through January, and again at the end of the month to share her journey of going sugar-free. Until then, follow along with our other writers’ resolutions.

(Image credit: Margaret Lee)

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