As many of you know, I just finished a 10-day sugar free challenge. Only natural sugar from fruits and other foods were allowed into my diet. This meant no artificial sweeteners, no alcohol, no nothing. I knew I'd had to give up coffee (since it's not worth drinking without sugar) so I weaned myself off of it before the challenge started. My only caffeine came in the form of unsweetened green tea. I started this journey to prove to myself that I didn't need these foods. I didn't do it for weight loss or for a cleanse, but just to see if I could do it.
How hard was it?
I'll be honest, when the challenge started June 1st, I'd only told one person. I think I was afraid I might fail and that's why I didn't want anyone to know. If I started cheating, who was gonna find out? The first couple of days were easy, except I did cheat once. The first day after work, I decided to run home instead of drive. I was ill prepared for the heat and started worrying about getting dehydrated, so I stopped off for a G2 gatorade. I was mad at myself for failing so early in the challenge, but I also did not want to faint. I didn't even finish half the bottle, but I thought about quitting the challenge since I'd already screwed up on the first day.
But why quit just because I made one mistake?
Instead, I started telling people around me so they could help keep me accountable. Sure, I wanted sugar and sweet stuff, but it wasn't a dire need. I managed to get through a full day birthday party with everyone drinking around me and me only consuming water. At least there wasn't birthday cake to torture me.
Was it hard?
I had to watch what I ate, but it wasn't really hard, it just required more work. I had to buy new bread, new peanut butter, etc because the brands I had contained some form of sugar. For breakfast, I ate more eggs instead of bagels or breakfast bars that are full of sugar and I found myself more full than eating the normal junk. My lunches and dinners did not change much, except I could no longer eat Subway - all of their breads contain sugar. I ate more salads (with oil and vinegar only) instead.
Did I experience withdrawls?
Yes, the headaches started Sunday night. I had a terrible one, but I didn't take anything for it. I assumed it was from the sugar (or lack of). For the next week, I still had headaches, but they would come and go, not lasting very long. When I had sugar cravings, I substituted them for other things, like pretzels or pickles (and no, my sodium intake did not increase from usual). When work stressed me out, I wanted to go home to a glass of wine but I just chose not to. Water, green tea and milk were my only liquids for the last 10 days.
What have I learned?
I learned that I can stick to a challenge. That even if something seems hard, if you really want it, it can be done. I never cheated again after that first day. Yes, I wanted cupcakes and wine and all the other things that I couldn't have, but I didn't need them. I learned that producers hide sugar in almost everything! I even found sugar in my soy sauce and in a few jars of my pickles.
How did I feel?
I noticed my energy levels rising. I was more productive at the office. I wanted to do more than just lay on the couch after work. I had more energy to work out. I stayed up later than usual. I slept sounder. I lost 3 pounds.
Am I going to keep going?
No. I know a sugar free life is attainable, but I've decided it's not for me. Yes, I want to continue to limit sugars in certain foods that don't need it. If it isn't sweet, there shouldn't be sweeteners in it. I also want to try to cut out fake sugars in general. No high fructose corn syrup or splenda or anything else. Just real sugar or maple syrup or honey, but all in moderation of course. I want to look into more natural ways to fuel my body for my workouts instead of relying on Gus or shotblocks. But I like sugar and I like sweets and there's no reason I can't indulge myself in a cupcake, cookie or frozen yogurt every once in a while.
Do I recommend you try it?
Yes. I love the way I feel right now and had no idea that it would have made such a difference. If you are interested, I would definately encourage you to try it.
So now that it's over, what am I doing on my first day off my challenge?
Going to a beer festival of course!