6 Lessons quitting sugar taught me

So as you might know, I recently completed the 8 week I QUIT SUGAR challenge.
This is my reflection of the experience:

1. Sugar is in everything

If you have ever attempted a challenge like this then you know what I mean. It is a shocking revelation and an eye opening experience to start really noticing what is in our every day foods. It is expected to have to give up deserts and a few breakfast options, but I started asking restaurants and cafes what I could eat on their dinner menu and would walk out with no options. Sugar, in your risotto? Really? In your curries? Even in your sausage rolls? What is wrong with you? What is wrong with our society? Even the ‘healthy vegan’ restaurants I went to struggled to serve me something without sugar in it. 
And you can forget easy home cooked dinners, want to make a stir fry? I hope you don’t plan using soy or chilli sauce. Pizza? No tomato paste for you.
Everything has to be made from scratch, and while might be the appeal for some people, you need to be very prepared and be happy to put in the extra effort.

2. You need support.

I don’t have the best relationship with cooking. I never really have. Sometimes I have bouts of inspiration where I can be found whipping up delicious and nutritious meals with joy and ease. But lets be honest, that’s quite rare. A lot of the time I’m suffering from a complete lack of cooking motivation –which isn’t so bad if you are happy to go out and pay for dinner. But this isn’t a possibility when you can’t eat sugar.
I am very lucky to live with someone who loves cooking and doesn’t mind looking after me when I’m in a hangry slump. -Thank goodness for that.

I couldn’t have done it on my own, it would have been a crash and burn situation. Support is so vital during these big (or small) changes, even just emotional support –It’s amazing how alienated you can feel while doing something like this.

3. Strong willpower may not be your best friend after all

This is an interesting one, because on one hand I succeeded and am very proud of myself. But on the other hand, I was neglecting my health in some regards and that’s not what the purpose of this challenge was.
Here’s why: My willpower to complete this zero sugar challenge overpowered my normal instincts to look after myself, especially during the 3 weeks of no fruit or sweeteners of any kind. For example as a snack I would have gluten free toast with Vegemite and butter or ham and cheese- both pretty void of nutrients. Just because I felt so restricted and had no idea what else I could eat (and was feeling super sluggish). Prior to the challenge I might have eaten fruit and nuts with yogurt and honey, or some vegetable-laden leftover stir-fry made with sauce from a jar (yes it has sugar). Obviously my new toast diet was less nutritious, so on one hand I was winning but on the other hand I really wasn’t.

Example 2. If I was out somewhere and became super hungry, I didn’t allow myself to get any food because just about everything around me had at least trace amounts of sugar in it. I didn’t trust cafes and would just wallow in an increasing hanger until I got home, even if that was half a day. –That might not sound like a big deal but I’m one of those people with hypoglycemic tendencies who “need food now, OR ELSE!”

4. People are strange and unpredictable.

I got very mixed reactions from others, which was interesting because although I think reducing sugar is great, I was conscious not to push my ideas onto anyone else. Most people were really lovely and supportive when they found out what I was doing, some grew angry and defensive and some people were genuinely clueless about why sugar should be minimised.

5. It changes your whole lifestyle 

To some it sounds really hard, to others it might sound pretty simple -you just stop eating a donut after lunch and drink coffee without sugar right? But no, it is so much more than that. Quitting sugar changed my whole lifestyle; it’s amazing how many social events revolve around food. I obviously couldn’t eat out anymore which is something liked to do fairly often. I couldn’t buy a quick lunch at school, which was located in a laneway with the biggest variety of yummy food options, including the most delicious bagels in Melbourne. I couldn’t do breakfast or dinner dates with friends, couldn’t get a bite on the way home when I was hungry. I had to say no to my mates cooking. I turned down everything food-wise that friends offered me, sometimes feeling a bit rude. I would get weird remarks or looks when I said I couldn’t eat fruit and developed trust issues with just about every café in Melbourne.
It is seriously such a big lifestyle change that is hard to relate to unless you have done something similar. And that’s without mentioning all the moody detox grief that goes on.

6. It will affect your mood more than you expect

When your body goes through a detox, all sorts of emotions like to show their faces: it is an emotional detox as well. A lot of us share an emotional attachment to food and that really becomes evident when all your (possibly unrecognised) comfort foods are removed. I was tired and ‘hangry,’ but the major factor for me was feeling deprived.
When you go through a detox it is normal to feel ‘sick,’ but the cold, flu or fever is just your body purging its system. But this can be worrying if you aren’t expecting this to happen.

Just to add to this, I started the challenge just as winter was starting. I advise you not to do this, it would be so much easier to start in spring or summer when its not so damn cold!!!

I have a lot of respect for everyone who has shown a commitment to their health and has taken on a challenge like this -and even more for those who have completed it. This experiment has opened my eyes so much and I will definitely be taking lessons from these eight weeks along with me for the long haul.

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