After a long 31 days, I completed a no-sugar month challenge. As I wrote in the last post, I was in the midst of a month-long elimination of added sugars. While I could eat fruit, I did not eat any added sugars – natural or artificial – which meant no sugar, honey, agave, stevia, or similar. I carefully checked ingredients of everything at the store before buying and barely ate any food besides what I had purchased at the grocery store.
My goals for the month included resetting my sugary palate, seeing positive changes in my body, finding more even energy levels, and learning about the food I put in my body. I’d say I accomplished most of these goals and learned a lot during this past month about myself and about food. It was absolutely a worthwhile experiment and one I hope to learn from the rest of my life.
One thing that helped me complete this challenge was my support group. I enlisted the help of a few friends who came along on this journey with me. We sent messages to each other daily which kept us all encouraged and provided the support we needed to get through the month.
I won’t lie – this month was very challenging and included a lot of preparation. Every day I would bring breakfast, lunch and snacks to work, and I would have a game plan for dinner so that I could whip something up that was both quick, sugar free, and filling. I never let myself get too hungry as this was not about deprivation, it was about health.
When I “Cheated”
There were a few occasions where, despite my best efforts, I ended up breaking some of the rules. However, I did not let this stop me from moving forward in the challenge, and learned from them.
- I stayed with family for a few days, and while I brought my own snacks and read labels, it is possible that some of the prepared food had sugar.
- I had a bite of a cupcake during a birthday celebration.
- My original goal of not having any artificial sweeteners was thwarted a few times when I was at work and didn’t pack enough food, so I turned to some gum I had stashed in my desk which contained artificial sweeteners.
- While I tried to order food at restaurants that did not contain sugar, sometimes I was not sure if the waitstaff understood my questions so it is possible some of the food contained sugar.
- Towards the end I bought some no-sugar added fruit juice to make smoothies, although I had originally planned not to have any fruit juice.
Where I Succeeded
The month was definitely an overall success. I lost about 5 pounds, my skin definitely is clearer, and overall my cravings for sugary foods had decreased. Not too shabby!
There were a few moments I wanted to highlight that were more difficult than others, especially due to ‘peer pressure’ where everyone else was partaking in sugar and I too wanted some. Fortunately no one really pressured me once I told them about my challenge!
- I did not have a slice of the glorious chocolate cake my aunt brought to a family party. Instead I had mint tea and many slices of watermelon. Also did not have another chocolate cake slice at another birthday celebrations!
- During a colleagues’ birthday celebration I stuck to the fruit and crackers.
- At restaurants, I did my best to order meals that wouldn’t contain sugar.
- I went twice into one of my favorite bakeries but didn’t order any sweets. (Coffee with just milk!)
Food I Would Buy Again
This month definitely began my love affair with Whole Foods, and I’ll be back for the following products:
- Bread Alone Peasant Bread or Rye Sourdough – no sugar and very few ingredients.
- 365 Veggie Chips – salty and delicious and no sugar
- 365 Organic Mini Pretzels – the one pretzel with no sugar/malt anything.
- Lundberg Family Farms Organic Brown Rice Cake – a great base for almond butter and banana, or as a standalone crunchy snack
- Unsweetened almond or soymilk – any brand, I realized I don’t need the sugar added!
- Erewhon Corn Flakes – literally corn and salt
What I Learned, and Advice if you try a Sugar Free Month
- There is always an occasion to celebrate. Do you really want to use that as an excuse to eat sweets? Perhaps decide in advance what you REALLY want, and eat that when you want rather than settling for a donut someone brought into work or some leftover cookies.
- Find good substitutes – my new favorite added sugar-free smoothie is banana, unsweetened milk substitute, ice, and cacao powder. I will forever love veggie chips – I did before the challenge, I did during the challenge, and I have a bag in the apartment right now…
- PREPARATION = SUCCESS. If you plan in advance, you won’t need to eat some sugar-laden food from a vending machine. If you do end up buying food from a vending machine in a pinch, check ingredients online before you pop in the dollar. Nuts are usually a safe option. Baked Lays, on the other hand, are not.
- You can do it – gather a reliable support group to hold you accountable and go through the challenge with you.
On September 1, the challenge was finally over. I had a Groupon that expired that very day, so I went to redeem the Groupon and pick up the following breakfast and lunch items:
- Iced coffee with milk and SUGAR
- Egg and cheese on a roll
- Fruit salad
- Smoked salmon club sandwich
Overall not a bad takeaway when there were literal brownies on the counter by the register I could have popped in the bag.
I am hoping to continue eating with less sugar, while of course I will indulge in sweets from time to time. This month showed me that I absolutely can commit to my health and find positive results as long as I am prepared and supported.
Would you be able to do a sugar free month?