For those of you who know me, reading this title must be very shocking. I have had a huge sweet tooth since I was little and have always been a huge sugar lover. Cookies, brownies, cakes, candies…you name it, I LOVE it. Whether it was a piece of candy for an “atta girl” in school, a cupcake to celebrate one of my friends’ birthdays, a popsicle to welcome summer, or a heart shaped brownie on Valentines Day, sweets and desserts were always associated with celebrations, rewards and just good times in general.
My friends and family always looked at my sweet tooth as an endearing quality. I follow a pretty healthy diet but can easily follow it up by demolishing a box of cookies. When T knows I’ve had a hard day or have a reason to celebrate, he usually brings me home some sort of dessert. While I have all these positive memories of desserts and sugar, I have realized that my relationship with sugar has turned into an unhealthy one the past few years.
I think it began in college, where I belonged to a sorority and ate on the sorority meal plan. The sorority meal provided dessert for both lunch and dinner. I, of course, ate dessert at every meal and also indulged in late night Midnight Cookies (my personal favorite Gainesville spot), Krispy Kreme or ice cream runs with my sorority sisters. I started noticing that I would get a craving for a dessert and feel really antsy if I didn’t have one. After I graduated from college, I continued my love affair with all things sweets. When I started living with T, I noticed what a large problem it had become. T enjoys a good milkshake or some ice cream from time to time but could really care less if he has dessert. His attitude about dessert was in stark contrast to mine.
Around that time I had also started realizing how badly sugar was making my body feel. I noticed my heart started to race and headaches became much more frequent when I ate sugar. If I ate sugar too close to bedtime, I would have a hard time falling and staying asleep, regardless of how tired I was. Even though I knew sugar was making me feel horrible, I continued to eat it.
When I realized I was addicted to sugar (yes, it’s an addiction), it was a huge wakeup call and it was a part of me I really didn’t like. After looking back at the past 7 years, I decided sugar and I needed a “break”.
First, I decided to stay away from sugar during the week and only enjoy desserts on the weekend. I kept hearing “moderation is key” and “keep balance in your life”. But for me, this didn’t work with sugar. If I had dessert on Saturday and Sunday, I would have an intense sugar craving again on Monday and Tuesday. Each week it was a massive struggle to get a handle on the craving, and each weekend it would go out the window. I constantly felt like I was taking one step forward and then two steps back.
After a few months on this hamster wheel, I read this article by Gretchen Rubin about moderators and abstainers and realized I was an abstainer. So why was I trying to act like a moderator? To successfully cut my habit, I needed to completely abstain. I then thought about how long I would need to abstain to get my sugar addiction under control. I started doing research online and found Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub.
Eve and her family quit sugar for an entire year. And by sugar, I mean ALL sugar. Even sugar in things you wouldn’t think there is sugar in like ketchup, soups and salad dressings. Eve explains that refined sugar is made up of fructose and glucose. Glucose is something that the body needs and can digest. Your body makes glucose from a variety of foods and stores it for when you need energy. Fructose…not so much. Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and can’t be used for energy by your body’s cells. Fructose is completely useless for our bodies and can cause a myriad of health issues including obesity, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.
I was shocked to learn that even the type of sugar I considered “natural”, like honey or maple syrup, also contains fructose and therefore is still not very good for humans to consume. Fruit also has fructose and glucose, but the fiber in fruit helps limit the effect of the fructose.
I decided to follow Eve’s lead and thought a year was the perfect amount of time to get myself under control. A year would allow me to go through birthdays, holidays, and special events that I am used to celebrating with desserts, and force me to look at these events in a new way. So, I decided to give up refined sugar starting on September 1st for an entire year.
Below is the list of rules I made for my year of no sugar.
- I am giving up all forms of added sugar (including honey and maple syrup).
- When I eat at home and when I go grocery shopping, I will make a conscious effort to eat and buy foods that don’t contain sugar.
- I will try my best when traveling or out at restaurants (I do not want this experiment to affect my social life. When I am out to dinner with T or friends, I am going to politely decline dessert but will not grill the waiter about if there is sugar in my pasta).
- I will enjoy one dessert a month. The monthly dessert will be a “healthier” dessert sweetened with honey or maple syrup.
- I will still consume alcohol (I found out that most hard liquors don’t contain sugars – I just need to be careful about what I mix with it).
I have been at it for almost a month now, so be on the lookout for another post about how my first month went. I am going to post about my progress throughout the year so you all know about my successes and failures, and know what to expect if you ever decide to take on the challenge. I believe most things in life should be consumed in moderation and I think a dessert every once in a while is absolutely fine. I’m just sharing my personal experiences and what works best for me. If any of you struggle with sugar and are interested in joining me, send me an email or DM me on Instagram! It’s way more fun to take on a challenge like this with someone else than go at it alone!
Do any of you have any bad habits you’d like to kick? Tell me about them in the comment section below!