Day 1 of my 30 Day No Sugar Challenge and my post-lunch sugar cravings have just started to kick in. I want something sweet and because I am now fixating on not having sugar, I REALLY want something sweet. I know there is Ben & Jerrys in the freezer, there is a lone Easter bunny waiting patiently in a kitchen drawer for when I give in and there are two Rolo desserts in the fridge from earlier this week before I started on this Challenge. I eat well, I honestly do. I love my vegetables and my whole foods. I spend hours with my clients going through their food diaries trying to get them as excited as I am about eating ‘clean’. But, and there is always a but; I am addicted to sugar. I crave it. As soon as I have finished eating lunch or dinner my thoughts immediately turn to where I can get my sugar hit from. I will try and control myself, but like now all I can really think about is eating the chocolate bunny, or diving into the ice-cream. Until I get my ‘hit’ I can’t really concentrate, I am jittery and my mind flits from one sugary daydream to the next.
I would just like to point out at this stage that I don’t constantly eat sugar throughout the day. I know full well it is bad for me. I know it adds on the kilos, that it dulls my skin, that it rots my teeth, can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure and has no nutritional value whatsoever. Most of the day I can control myself, my low points seem to be after I have eaten a main meal and if I am tired and / or stressed. When this happens my willpower takes a nose dive to rock bottom and it is bye bye chocolate bunny. There might be some people out there who have the ability to calm their sugar cravings with one small square of dark chocolate; not me. I don’t even like dark chocolate, it just tastes bitter and my attempts to force myself to like it have never succeeded.
Over the past couple of weeks I seem to have been getting worse and a sugary treat at least once, if not twice or three times a day has become the norm. Yesterday, I realised that I had eaten ice-cream 5 days in a row. I live in North Scotland, it is still winter here and I can’t even blame sunny summers days for the temptation. The worst thing is I always feel awful once I have given in to my cravings. I never feel good, or happy that I have done it. I feel like I have poisoned my body that in all other respects I work so hard to keep fit and healthy.
So after ice-cream number 5 I realised that enough was enough and that drastic measures needed to be taken. I happened to be chatting to a friend who told me that he had cut out sugar altogether and was feeling absolutely brilliant and I felt a pang of jealousy. I wanted to be able to achieve that, I wanted to know that I am strong enough not to give in to my cravings and that my belief in the wellbeing of my body is genuine. He suggested trying a 30 day sugar free Challenge, I agreed.
1. Commit the Challenge to paper
The more people see it the better Writing down somewhere that you are doing the Challenge makes you more committed and more likely to see it through. The more people who see it, the more accountable you feel. I posted it on Facebook for the whole of social media to see.
2. No processed / added sugar
This eliminates a lot of food as I am finding out. My morning wholemeal bread has sugar added to it and the fajita mix I was going to add to my chicken has sugar added to it. It is all about reading labels and checking ingredients. In the general, the fewer the ingredients the better and definitely NO sugar. For breakfast this morning I had muesli with no added sugar and natural yogurt, with a kiwi and I have bought some Rye bread for lunch which is an acquired taste but does not have sugar in.
3. Fruit is allowed.
Phew! At least this is one way to get my sugar hit if I need it. I have been to the supermarket and stocked up on berries, kiwis and mango that I will add to green veg and make into a smoothie once a day.
4. One social cheat treat a week is allowed.
This is NOT a cheat day! This might be some popcorn at the cinema, a dessert at dinner with friends, or a piece of your colleague’s birthday cake. It is not a whole cheat day. Once you have had the one treat that is it, it is straight back on the no sugar wagon until the following week.
5. Alcohol in moderation is allowed
You may decide to cut it out completely as it does contain lots of sugar and this all depends on you. I very rarely drink and I therefore don’t feel the need to cut out the glass of wine that I might enjoy occasionally on a night out. I would suggest that if you are someone that drinks a couple of bottles of wine a week, followed with a few cocktails for good measure then this is something you can try and cut out completely. It will dramatically decrease your sugar and calorie intake and help you drop weight a lot faster than not cutting it out.
So there we have it. It sounds simple enough. It is certainly a sensible enough concept, however, if you are like me then it is going to be tough. Last night in my yoga class, I was hearing horror stories of week-long withdrawal symptoms and mood swings as your body comes to terms with not getting the sugar hit it has come to rely on. I am ready for it. I know it will be tough but I can do it.
The question is, can you do it too?
NOTE: For further reading on the horrors of sugar here are a couple of good articles: http://greatist.com/eat/reasons-to-cut-back-on-sugar http://authoritynutrition.com/9-reasons-to-avoid-sugar/