I gave up sugar for 30 Days: WHY I did it and What happened!
Wondering how to quit sugar? Have you noticed that refined sugar has a hold on you? I did, so I challenged myself to give up refined sugar for 30 days. I set my own parameters, faced some serious pitfalls and discovered something amazing while giving up sugar!
Giving up Sugar for 30 Days: Why I did it, What I faced and What’s Next
- Why I decided to do it
- My Self-Imposed Parameters
- Did I enlist help?
- What exactly I gave up (and what I didn’t)
- Challenges & Situations I faced
- The Results & What’s Next
Giving up Sugar for 30 Days – Why I decided to do it
I’ve ALWAYS had a sweet tooth – always! I blame my dad – he’s skinny as a rail and lives off ice cream and Pepsi. Me on the other hand – I would like to think that I eat pretty healthily – or at least so I thought.
A little background on me: in high school I was a state-champion 3-sport athlete. I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. Once entering college, and foregoing my athletic career, I almost immediately gained weight. I didn’t put on the “Freshman 15” it was more like the Freshman 30. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t lose the weight, but instead just packed on more pounds.
After graduating college, and getting a desk-job, I put on even more weight. I got married, and a few years later had a baby. At my highest weight, I was over 100 lbs heavier than when I graduated high school.
After having my son, something clicked. I didn’t recognize the person I was. I had let bad habits and poor choices run my life. I had dug myself a hole so far deep that I wasn’t sure I could ever get out of, or worse yet, survive.
I made the conscious choice to lose weight. I enlisted help, and through the course of years (not weeks or months, YEARS) I lost the weight. For the record, I did not “diet” to lose all of my weight – DIETS DON’T WORK. I did it through moderation, educating myself on nutrition, portion control, journaling (logging/tracking what I ate), re-learning how to cook in a healthy way, meal prep and regular grocery shopping (duh!).
It took me over 3 years, but I lost a little over 100lbs. I am now – 25 years after high school – close to the weight of what I was at 18. This is a good, healthy weight for me. I’ve been able to successfully maintain my 100 lb weight loss for about 4 1/2 years.
Why I decided to give up sugar NOW: This was something that in all my years of failures and successes with weight loss, I had never really addressed. Refined sugar was still present in my life (I never gave ANYTHING up during my weight loss journey). I learned how to deal with everything in my environment. However, I knew the negative, toxic effects of sugar – and it was become more and more obvious.
Specifically, I had noticed that during the late afternoon I would hit extreme fatigue due to glucose highs and lows. I was not only unproductive and lacked basic functionality, it was affecting my mood and demeanor (aka – I morphed into SUPER-BITCH!). To “self-medicate” this, I would constantly crave more sweet stuff, thus triggering the never-ending cycle of those ebbs and flows of glucose. (Not healthy!) Worst yet, my husband and son were getting the worst of me – not the best. Something needed to change.
MY parameters of Giving Up Sugar: Because it had to be on MY terms if it was going to work
At the beginning of October I began participating in the #last90dayschallenge through author Rachel Hollis. There are 5 components to this challenge: 1) drinking 1/2 your body weight in water each day, 2) waking up 1 hour earlier every day, 3) daily gratitude practice, 4) moving your body/some type of workout, and 5) giving up 1 food/drink category for 30 days.
The entire point of giving up something is to prove that you can keep a promise to yourself. All of us, especially women, go out of our way to come through for everyone else. Yet, we are the first people in our lives that we let down. We constantly break promises to ourselves. This had to be something that we were willing to fulfill and not break.
Immediately at the beginning of October I knew I needed to give up sugar, but it scared the HELL out of me. I wasn’t ready. So, for the month of October, I gave up alcohol. I did it – not a drop of booze for an entire month! #SoberOctober was a success and I proved to myself that I could abstain from something, anything for 31 days.
November was now here. I was ready to tackle sugar (at least for 30 days). It first started as the following:
- No candy (PS – this included the POUNDS of Halloween candy in my house. It’s still here.)
- No chocolate
- No sugary garbage (not specific)
After the first couple of days, I proved to myself that I could do this. I bought-in and was committed for the duration, so I expanded my “rules” to the following:
- No candy or chocolate
- No cookies, cakes, brownies, donuts, muffins, pastries (basically anything that’s its primary ingredient is refined sugar)
- No ice cream or milk shakes
- No sugary drinks: Starbucks drinks (outside of basic coffee), soda, diet soda, juices, cocktails, or hot chocolate
- No pie on Thanksgiving. (Yep, I could have given myself an out on this one, but I decided that honoring my commitment was far more important than pie on one day.)
- No artificially sweetened stuff: things like powdered drink mixes and protein shakes. If I wanted a protein drink – I made my own. I can make WAY better stuff from my book The Protein Smoothie Bible.
What I did NOT give up:
- Whole, fresh fruit
- Wine (I didn’t do any cocktails, as many of these contain refined sugar) I didn’t have much, maybe 5 glasses for the entire month.
- Dairy (I’m good with lactose, which is the naturally occurring sugar proteins in dairy products) – so I kept milk, cream, yogurt and cheese.
- Honey and Maple Syrup – in VERY small amounts. Because these are not refined, have a low glycemic index and are natural, I kept these on the table. I recall consuming these just twice in the course of the 30 days.
Did I enlist Help in quitting sugar?
A few days into November I received an e-mail from Coach Thomas Mayhugh, professional Health and Fitness coach. (I know Thomas from his days coaching me and the rest of us fitness weirdos at Orange Theory Fitness.) In his e-mail he was offering accountability for any type of goal that you were trying to achieve. Given the depth of what I was trying to accomplish with sugar, I thought this might an opportunity I needed to seize – someone was offering to HELP me! It would be wise if I took this kind soul up on his offer.
Thomas offered to occasionally check in during #noSugarNovember. Did he do the work? Oh, hell no – this was ALL on me. But, I will say that to have someone randomly check-in was very helpful from an accountability standpoint.
Another thing that is really helpful in giving up sugar: tell your family and friends what you’re doing. Not only is it another avenue of accountability, but those close people in your life will encourage you – they want to see you succeed. Don’t try to hide or limit your exposure to social situations – this will make things even harder than they already are.
How to Quit Sugar: The Challenges I faced
- Baking is literally my job: You guys – I’m a food blogger. My job is to write, create, test and develop recipes. This time of year (October through December) is my busiest and the time when I make money from “holiday food.” My most profitable recipes are pumpkin cake, fudge and Christmas cookies. It’s also my job to also write and photograph these for clients and brands. This meant I had to bake sugary treats when I GAVE UP SUGAR. (smh!!!) I baked all the stuff and made copious amounts of cream cheese frosting. There was eggnog cheese cake that smelled insanely delicious and Christmas cookies loaded with sprinkles. I was the professional that I needed to be and didn’t have a morsel. Honoring the commitment to myself was of paramount importance. I knew that keeping this promise was the only thing getting me to the finish line.
- Thanksgiving: This was tough. Although, I will say I made it much more of a big deal in my head than it actually was. (This is usually the case in almost all situations!) The day before Thanksgiving I made myself a sugar-free pumpkin cheesecake. I wanted to have it on hand, should I feel I wanted dessert. I had a piece – it was so-so. But honestly, I could have gone without even that. Dessert was not a big deal, and I would have been fine going without even the sugar-free option.
- A Weekend Getaway with Friends: Our friends planned a fantastic weekend getaway in a beautiful ski lodge in Pennsylvania. We all brought food and drink. There was loads of cookies, pie, s’mores and fresh cinnamon rolls. It was there, right in front of me, but I chose to NOT have any. Again, the commitment I made to myself was what got me through.
- A Birthday Party: Damn, you birthday cake!! I took my son to a birthday party for one of his friends. They had homemade red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting (not the store-bought crap, the GOOD stuff!) I smelled what my son had on his plate, and promptly went to talk to someone else. This WAS HARD, but I made it out successfully. It was more important to me to honor my commitment versus having a piece of cake.
Underlying Theme from these four situations: I made a COMMITMENT to myself to NOT consume refined sugar for just 30 days. I was going to KEEP this promise to MYSELF!
The Final Results of how I quit sugar for 30 Days:
I made it through 30 days of not consuming refined sugar and I’m living to tell about it. I feel good – great, in fact – physically, mentally and emotionally. Here’s how things shook out:
- The hard stuff: First and foremost, I feel really confident that if I can give up sugar, I can do pretty much anything! Sticking with this commitment to myself, was monumental in so many ways. I would like to say that it wasn’t hard, but that would be a lie. It was fucking difficult. It was just as hard as I thought it would be. But, I proved that I can rely on myself – I proved that I can do HARD THINGS! (don’t make that dirty, okay) 😉
- I lost 5.8 pounds in the month of November: Um, yeah. I was NOT expecting this. But how I treated sugar before November(random handfuls of M&M’s, a donut before school drop-off, a couple of cookies after dinner) was likely equating to 400-600 calories a day. Weight loss was NOT my objective for this, but merely a side-effect of my improved diet.
- Super-Bitch is gone: Yep, those glucose ebbs and flows have all but disappeared. I no longer have mid-afternoon fatigue, and my only source of irritability is related to my husbands buffoonery, understandably so. 😉
- Improved Energy and Mental Function: My overall ability to get through the day with energy and sustained stamina has dramatically improved. I can work on tasks that need sustained mental focus with ease. My overall focus has improved as well.
- Better, more Effective Workouts: I’m not sure how I could measure this, but I feel like my workout performance has improved. I have greater energy through the course of my 1-hour Orange Theory workout (these workouts are no joke!). I feel like my stamina is greater sustained during jogging and rowing and my ability to lift heavier weights has improved.
How I’m moving forward
#NoSugarNovember is over. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how to move forward. Giving up or back-tracking on all of the progress I made is not what I want. Feeling healthy, alert and focused has some serious benefits. I will likely continue my no-sugar commitment for the foreseeable future, with the exception of special events and holidays. Because life is always better with birthday cake!
Sugar is still everywhere – it’s all over the stores, in the check-out line, most of Starbucks menu is loaded with the sweet stuff. My editorial calendar still has sweet recipes in it, and there are multiple events coming up in the next few weeks that are guaranteed to have loads of sugar present. But just like November, I will continue to show up.
Here’s the thing you guys, I/we have to be willing to live our lives on our own terms – with or without sugar. Same goes for alcohol, decadent food an all the other not-so-good stuff. We have to be willing to go out, have fun, and enjoy the people in our lives. Relationship are always worth cultivating, regardless of what is surrounding us. If we hide or avoid those situations, just to avoid the food that accompanies those events, it is 100% NOT worth even considering giving up.
If you chose to omit sugar (or any other food group) from your life, do it for the right reasons. I chose to do it for my health and a commitment to myself.
Know that it will be tough, and know that there will be all types of obstacles and situations waiting to derail you. But also know that you are stronger than that. If you make the CHOICE to honor yourself, you’ll feel unstoppable!
Could you use some recipes and snack ideas that don’t include refined sugar? Check out these recipes:
Black Bean Brownie Recipe – these are incredibly fudgy & delicious!