If you are not yet convinced that excessive amounts of sugar consumption is harmful, this blog post is not for you. But if you are in the process of cutting down on the intake of sugar in your diet, keep on reading.
Having read a lot about processed sugar and how it can lead to numerous health issues, I am currently on a mission to eliminate it from our diet altogether.
The first step was to replace white sugar with cane sugar. This went pretty well I must say and nowadays I mostly consume white sugar from baked goods that I buy occasionally. But I wanted to take it one step further and challenge myself to take a break from sugar for one month and just see what would happen.
I was curious to see:
-if I could do it
-for how long I could stay “sugar-free”
-which sweet alternatives I could find for my sweet cravings
The truth is I never really had to go on a diet in my life and I never felt that a specific food category was forbidden -well, except for the last month of my pregnancy when my doctor advised to cut down on sweets, oops – and this fact made the challenge seem more difficult. So, I kept postponing my sugar-free month.
Until last February when I read a Facebook post from Korina, the founder of the blog The Saucha Life -a blog where we get most of our healthy living inspiration lately- where she wrote that February was officially a Sugar-free month and if anyone felt like it, she would be happy to join her for the challenge.
This was the calling I was searching for. Thanos, my husband and Eriketti, my sister were on board as well.
So here is what I learned from this challenge:
Sugar is not necessary to feel happy
Almost every day, I would seek at some point something sweet to eat. That was my main concern while starting out my sugar-free month, I thought that I wouldn’t resist this urge of mine for long. But I was wrong.
Honey, maple syrup and dates can do the trick
Since it was our first time experimenting with a sugar-free month, we decided not to opt-in for the “ninja” programme which involved not consuming any sweeteners either, such as honey or maple syrup. We prepared some sweet bites such as these delicious tahini-chocolate bites (it’s in Greek but it’s so simple that a google trasnlation should do the trick for you) and when we felt we really needed something sweet, we had them handy. Honestly, they didn’t lack anything from a traditional sweet.
It is said that your energy levels are actually higher when not consuming sugar but frankly speaking, I didn’t feel any difference. This might be due to the fact that our 1.5 year- old keeps us on our toes all day long!
Ever since I was a teenager, I had severe issues with acne and I never really got rid of it entirely but lately, it was hardly an issue. After I gave birth, however, it got worse probably due to hormonal imbalance which often happens, as my doctor told me. On February though, during our sugar-free month, I noticed a huge improvement on my skin which stopped to break out like crazy. I am pretty sure that reducing the sugar intake played a pivotal role in this as well.
How consistent was I?
No reason to lie here, I did consume a few sweets during this month. This was partially due to my job -it’s a hard job and someone has to do it after all! – but also to the fact that I didn’t feel obliged to prove anything to anyone. So in February, I ate one chocolate éclair -which had, by the way, minimal amount of sugar and it was absolutely delicious – , 2 mini cupcakes -because I attended a creative workshop where they offered cupcakes as well and it just felt right to indulge- and a few bites of dark chocolate while visiting a historic chocolatier in Lausanne for an interview. In general, dark chocolate also contains sugar but there are some brands that use other sweeteners. For example, Lovechock, an organic raw chocolate brand, uses coconut blossom nectar.
I think I did pretty well for a self-acclaimed chocolate addict.
Always read the food labels.
Did you know that most loaves of bread in the supermarket and the canned tomato sauce you are using most probably contain sugar? Or that even some natural remedies you get from the pharmacy have sugar? If you are going to consume it and it’s ready-made, always, ALWAYS, read the label. If you want to consume sugar, do it consciously.
A sugar-free diet is a viable option
If I could do it for a month -well, almost-, I can do it for life. It’s just a decision.
Sugar-free sweets is a reality
And they can also be delicious! I wouldn’t believe it myself if I hadn’t tried those recipes, and there are many more out there. Every change is difficult because it gets you out of your comfort zone, it requires forming new habits, it requires effort. But if you know that it’s worth it, you will go the extra mile to make it happen.
Consume sweets more consciously
Even though at the moment I do consume traditional sweets with sugar, I have found myself being more conscious about the sweets I select to eat. If it’s too sweet and industrial made, it is no longer tempting. On the other hand, if it’s homemade and prepared with love I grant myself the right to indulge every now and then.
Accountability is vital
If my husband and sister weren’t taking this challenge with me, I don’t know if I would be as disciplined. It’s very important to find like-minded people who will support you while trying to change your habits, to start eating healthier, to pay closer attention to the food you consume. This can make or break your entire effort.
So now tell me. Have you ever considered trying a sugar-free month yourself? If yes, what is stopping you? What is your biggest fear? What is one little step you could take today towards this goal?