My Life Without Sugar and a Challenge for You

20121005_a_Geoff_5D2__MG_0304_RMToday I want to share something a little bit personal in hopes of inspiring you. This week is my two year anniversary of life without sugar. No cupcakes, no hot fudge sundaes, no blueberry pancakes covered in syrup, no french apple pie, no three musketeers, no just-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies for me.

Crazy, right? I bet I know exactly what you are thinking right now-that you could never, ever do that.

It's something I never thought I could do either. And here's the thing-I love sugar; more than anyone I know. I have extremely detailed (and lengthy) fantasies involving Mrs. Fields cookies.

For some of us, sugar is like crack

Some people can have just a piece of chocolate or just a bite and feel satisfied. And then there are those of us who pretty much need to stuff as many pieces of cake/candy/pie as possible into our mouths when no one is looking. I'm talking about when everyone else helped themselves to one cookie; you've helped yourself to six (and you're thinking about sneaking one in your purse for later). For those of us in this particular hell, sugar represents an unbelievably good high that our bodies are constantly craving. Each bit, each slice is another attempt to get that feeling, that rush of joy.

no sugar dietI have always been this way. At one point back in in 2008 I even tried acupuncture to deal with chocolate cravings, and in fact that worked quite well for a while. If you are interested, you can read about that here. Eventually though, I was back to my old habits.

In 2010 I read about someone from Google (Matt Cutts actually) doing a 30-day no sugar challenge, and the idea appealed to me. After a party featuring my favorite cake (chocolate cake, raspberry filling, vanilla buttercream frosting) I committed to 30 days without sugar. It was hard, no doubt about it. During this time I researched all the damaging things sugar does to a human body to help me stay focused.

sugar free dietOnce I got over the intense withdrawal cravings, I really liked that I was free from this constant, constant need to get more sugar, find more treats, run errands (so I could get candy). I regularly embarrassed myself at the grocery store by eating those stale donuts from the bakery section. To justify eating two, I'd eat the tops only (the frosting part of course). It was kind of pathetic to tell the cashier, “oh, and two donuts, please. I already ate them.” I'd actually try to hand over the grimy wax paper wrapper to the cashier, who typically gave me a dirty look, or worse, a look of pity. So yeah, you can see where I was coming from.

My results

After completing the 30 day challenge I kept it up for 52 days while I decided what I wanted to do moving forward. Basically, I wanted to set up some rules in my life, such as only on special occasions or only at afternoon tea (my most favorite thing in the world). On day 52, I went out for afternoon tea and enjoyed a scone covered in delicious lemon curd and sweet whipped cream. Before I had even finished it, I felt absolutely horrible. Nauseous and shaky. My body had a violent negative reaction to putting sugar in my stomach.

Driving home, I made the decision that I was done with sugar. My body didn’t want it, and I knew there was no way I could control myself with a “special occasions only” rule (it's my birthday, it's your birthday, it's PhotoMint's birthday, it's the waiter's birthday…).

How has it been these past two years without sugar? It took a while to adjust. I still get my sweet fix by eating lots of fruit. I had to figure out what was off limits and what was OK for me. After more than a year I introduced honey in very small quantities. I eat ketchup, which usually has sugar in it, but I stay away from sweetened salad dressings etc. I don't allow myself the pure fruit jam, it would be my gateway drug. I'd be having toast and jam every night. Then I'd be having (healthy) peanut butter and real fruit jam sandwiches every day for lunch. Soon, I swear to god, I'd start having those pb & j sandwiches for breakfast too. So no, I cannot handle pure fruit jam in my life. Sad, but I know my limits.

I feel more balanced, more focused and my energy is more consistent. I lost almost 30 pounds, but I also started eating much healthier. It wasn't easy, but it has given me confidence in my own abilities and what I can personally accomplish. Every time I tell someone about this, and they say they could never do it, I feel more proud of myself for what I have done. It truly is a badge of honor for me. If I can do this, I can probably do anything, I tell myself.

The challenge to you

If you are inspired by this post, I want you to know that you can do anything you set your mind to. You don’t have to give up sugar completely; maybe you choose one thing like soda. Or maybe you challenge yourself to an exercise program for 30 days. Maybe you want to challenge yourself to stop checking email and Facebook on your phone after work hours.

Is there some roadblock to your health, happiness or productivity? Rather than taking it on forever, let's just commit to take it on for 30 days, see what happens. Anyone can give up any bad habit for 30 days. What's great about a 30 day challenge, is you are not committed to anything beyond 30 days. You can try out life without your bad habit for one tiny month and see how it feels. It's YOUR challenge to yourself. You own it.

What kind of 30 day challenge would you like to embark on? Let's do this as a group! I'll start. I have always struggled with starting my day early, even though I feel it is one of the key ingredients of my productivity. Starting today, I challenge myself to 30 days of getting up at 6:30am or earlier. When I do this, I'm so much more productive and happy. It's just the actual getting out of bed part that can be tricky. So that's gonna be my thing.

What about you? What's your 30 day challenge to yourself? What's the one thing holding you back? Are you ready to conquer it?

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