I just finished an honorable attempt to be sugar free for 90 days. The better part of myself made this goal - the part that wants to exercise at the crack of dawn and meditate three hours a day. The trouble is, it’s impossible to be the better part of ourselves all the time. It’s called “better” because there’s something underneath it, something it’s better than. That “something” for me is a hairy little creature that eats a whole box of ice cream sandwiches at 9:37 pm. #noregrets.
I have a major sweet tooth so this has always been an issue. Prior to recent experiences, the longest I’d gone sugar free was about two weeks. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but I knew myself, I needed longer - hence the 90 days. This 90-day challenge forced me to shake things up. Whether I was successful or not is a matter of opinion, what I want to share are the things I wasn’t expecting.
I suddenly became a master of the loophole. Like a dirty saleswoman, I schmoozed my way into believing that since something was “sugar free” or less than five grams of sugar I was technically okie dokie. This led me to eat an entire bag of sugar free gummy bears when I just had to have something sweet. If you’ve ever had a bag of anything sugar free, you understand why I couldn’t sleep that night.
I kept track of everything on a calendar but made the mistake of presenting the results in black and white. Was I sugar free that day? Yes or no. If I ever ate something that was on the fence, I would feel guilty and deem it a “no.” The problem was, I’d then consider it a “bad day” and proceed to have that Almond Joy I’d been dreaming about, missing the entire point of the cleanse – to be healthier.
I got to a pretty level place about sugar after a couple of weeks, but it wasn’t until the first 30 days that I realized I was eating more bread than ever. I was always good about keeping meals low carb, but all of a sudden I caught myself eating slices of bread in the morning, sandwiches for lunch, and a grainy dish that evening. Since carbs turn to sugar, I was disappointed to learn I would just have to eat more salads.
Sometimes we don’t notice things until they’ve left or changed. Stopping something can really bring awareness into why it was there in the first place. I realized that I had a nasty habit of always having something sweet after a meal. I was sneaky about it, though. I wasn’t pulling out chocolate cake, but ate little bits of candy here and there, then some dried fruit, maybe a cookie with my coffee – which of course had cream and sugar. I needed my fix. If I didn’t have something sweet after lunch it felt like I wasn’t living! And that’s when I fell in love with cinnamon gum...
Gum was the real hero - Trident sugar-free, cinnamon gum. It has a powerful punch of flavor that tells my brain I’m sticking with my habit. Because I had a habit. I needed it, chemically and routinely. The most surprising thing was this habit was as difficult to break as the actual sugar craving. So instead of eliminating one evil, I had a twofer on my hands.
Just Scream "No!"
As the topic arose, I told most people in my day-to-day life that I was taking a break from sugar. I didn’t make a big deal about it, in fact I find those people painstakingly annoying. We all have that friend who loves telling you exactly what their diet is, why it’s that way, and why you should be just like them. It’s an eye roller and I made a point to keep it brief.
Of all the people I talked to, two character types came out and most everyone fell to one extreme.
The Cheerleader. The people who wanted to do it, had done it, or were currently doing it.
The Roaster. The people that thought they were on a Comedy Central Roast, cracking jokes and tempting me every chance they got. They also had an underlying sense of disappointment and annoyance.
I was really surprised with some friends. “Oh come on! Are you trying to lose weight? Live a little!" I got defensive. This cleanse was important for my wellbeing and mental clarity. I didn’t want to need sweets. But some people belittled my efforts and twisted things around so I would feel insecure and give in.
Now I didn’t yell or tell them I was angry, but I got firm. When they saw I wouldn’t budge they honestly got annoyed. My advice here is if people have the nerve to tell you what to do, you have every right to tell them you're not going to do it. And if you have to keep telling them, take your sugar free booty and get to steppin’.
This is nothing new, but MAN, what we hear about water is true. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted something sweet, usually in the evening, then realized I needed water. When I sucked it up and had a glass the craving went away - so I started carrying around a water bottle instead of a chocolate bar.
The biggest thing I realized was how important sugar was in my life. It honest to goodness made me happy. I would treat myself to it after a bad day, turn to it when I was bored, or have some for energy. There’s nothing wrong with it in moderation, but my “treats” always turned into a burning craving when I didn’t get it consistently. That can't be healthy.
We’re all wired differently and after reading a stack of books about what sugar does to us mentally, I’ve realized that I got the short end of the stick and have one of those super addictive triggers in my brain with sugar. If you’re someone who can have two bites of cake and walk away. A) I hate you. And B) Have a bit for me.
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