11.22.2014

Our November Challenge: 21 Days Sugar-Free

The husband and I got into a sugar rut in October. Maybe you noticed--after all, we did post 4 treat recipes in that month. By Halloween, things were out of hand. We had to do something. We were eating way too much junk, and it had to stop. So we challenged ourselves to 21 days of no sugar. I've heard of sugar-free challenges that involve no fruit or juice. We ate lots of fruit and drank a bit of orange juice in green smoothies sometimes. We also had trace amounts of sugar in bread we ate as well as other things. So, in other words, this was not a strict anti-sugar diet. It was more of a challenge to eliminate extra sugar--treats, syrups, dessert, as well as any and all junk food, whether it had sugar or not. Our challenge also included exercise and sleep goals. Our hope was that 21 days of making better choices would result in us each feeling better physically, emotionally and spiritually.

November 1 was the first day of our challenge. It wasn't bad at all. Frankly, I was so sick of sugar, the thought of eating another candy bar made my stomach lurch. After that first day though, we both began craving sugar. The second and third days were hard for both of us. Sometimes all I could think about was how much I wanted a bowl of ice cream. My head hurt. I felt grumpy and sluggish and tired. Shaun began getting headaches too. We kept each other motivated to keep going, knowing that having headaches and sugar cravings meant this was something we needed to see through. We snacked on lots of nuts--by the way I'm obsessed with Costco's fancy unsalted mixed nuts--and lots of clementines, apples, carrots, string cheese. Many days we drank green smoothies for a meal. Many days we ate giant salads. We bought lots of healthy foods that we really love.

By the end of the first week we both felt great. Not immune to wanting to eat junk, but we were both going strong, and had not slipped up at all. The second week I missed still missed sweets, but did not find myself craving them like before. When I was hungry, rather than thinking "I wish I could bake cookies" I found myself grabbing a handful of cashews instead, not even entertaining the idea of making something indulgent.

As we entered the last week of our challenge I realized that Pinterest was an incredibly dangerous place to browse. Pictures of decadent food were everywhere, and it took much more willpower to avoid chocolate chips at the grocery store after browsing recipes for gingerbread chocolate chip cookies than it would have if I hadn't seen such an interesting and beautiful treat. But--we did it! Both Shaun and I successfully completed the challenge!

I've heard some say that sugar is the new drug. I can see the thought process behind this statement but it strikes me as pretty nonsensical. A person struggling with drug addiction is dealing with something far deeper than many of us comprehend. So I won't compare sugar with drugs. I don't think that's a completely fair comparison. However, I do feel like it is so easy to mindlessly consume food that is not helping our bodies. I would even agree that much of this junk food is intentionally engineered to be craved and consumed at unhealthy rates. I think it's fine to eat sugar occasionally, in moderation. It is easy for some people, like myself, to get out of control with sweets. Ultimately, I think the important thing is eating in a way where you are in control of your own body, where your willpower has control over whether you eat an orange or binge on oreos. I felt like I was getting to a point where I needed to remind myself that I have control over what goes in my body, hence the reason I didn't eat sugar for 3 weeks. It was a great experience for me. Shaun feels great about it as well. We're both ridiculously proud of ourselves (and also very glad it's over ;) ) As we end the challenge and look forward to eating some birthday cake and pie in the next few days, it's a good reminder to us that we don't need junk food, and that we do need to exercise the control our minds have over our bodies to maintain that control.

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