Monday, February 16, 2015

Sugar: The Epic Breakup

I set myself a 3-week goal. I figured that I could handle 3 weeks completely free of added sugars. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so that was what I was working on. The first few days absolutely sucked. While I didn't have to miss any dinner plans, I did have to skip out on the ice cream stops we would make afterwards. Days 4 through maybe 10 were rough, but I didn't have the same physical need; it was a little easier to say "no" if I was offered something sweet. I kept reminding myself that "when this is all over, I can reward myself with ice cream or a donut!" and I was really holding on to that thought throughout. By the end of week 3, I realized I didn't even really want the reward I had mentally promised myself!

For this 3 week period, I went without: ice cream, candy, soda in my cocktails (I don't really drink it any other time), juice, bread items, and pastries. I'm sure there were other smaller things I skipped out on, but those were the major items.

I did allow myself: a little honey for my coffee, crackers, 72% dark chocolate, and a proportionally-less amount of alcohol (2-4 drinks per week, versus the 5-7)

I noticed 3 MAJOR changes after the 3 sugarless weeks:
+ I had successfully "reprogrammed" the way my brain reacted to the sight of/thought of sweet treats,
+ I trusted myself more when I did reach for a treat.
+ The 'sweet level' of foods I had enjoyed prior to my sugar-free weeks was absolutely off the charts. This one was a surprise.

Top steps I took:
(1) I did research the week before. Knowing where the sneaky sugar hides is absolutely crucial.

(2) I read the labels of absolutely everything at the market.

(3) I started making smoothies. I used a lot of fruit and yogurt... this is also when I began adding vegetables into my concoctions.

(4) I was HIGHLY aware of the random simple carbohydrates I was consuming. I previously said I allowed myself crackers, but (on my first sugar hiatus) it was like 2 crackers as a snack once a day- if that. Rice (again, first time) was at an absolute minimum. Because I wanted to eat the school lunches from time to time, rice had to remain in my diet.

(5) I had to be a little bit of an asshole. I had 1 or 2 people the first time around that were really obnoxiously not supportive. If they wanted to get a sweet treat and I didn't, I would be taunted and asked "why don't you treat yourself?" At one point, I snapped back, "Well, because you know I'm doing this no sugar thing.... and I don't want (treat name)."

(6) I talked/blogged/instagrammed about it. I feel that it keeps me accountable. 

Road blocks and allowances:
My first sug-purge was in Korea where I didn't have full knowledge of what I was consuming- especially if I didn't make it myself. I know that there was sugar in marinades and sauces, and I kept that in the back of my mind. I did not let it dictate whether or not I ate the item, but if I suspected sugar was an ingredient, I consumed it sparingly.

In the U.S., I face the temptation of all the products I grew up on, but I have the ability to read the nutrition labels (there is only so much Korean I understood on the labels there!). I would say my biggest hurdle here is.... everything. I struggle with the product availability. 

Other things that helped me through the sugar-free time and tricks I employ now:
(1) Exercise. YES, exercise! I think it has to do with the endorphin rush putting me in a better head-space. Also feeling like "well, I did a great job at the gym today and I don't want to screw it up with that 2nd cookie." With keeping my food in check and regular activity, I see more positive results and don't want to screw it up. Its a great cycle to get into.

(2) I use extra dark chocolate to stave off my crazy chocolate cravings. It has the same chocolate-quality that I want, without all the extra sugar that keeps me feeling like I need "just one more bite."

(3) The two-bite trick. If its something particularly "bad" (and by "bad" I mean something I know I can't typically trust myself around), I take out 2ish bites worth. Eat the first, have a small glass of water, and then have the second. Usually, I'm satisfied after that.

(4) Keep your eye on the prize! I mentioned The Brownie Dessert in a previous post. There is one last piece waiting for me in the freezer. On a day that I manage to get all my fruits and veg, AND successfully avoid other added sugars, that frozen masterpiece will be mine. I budget the unhealthy foods in a few times each week so I never feel like I'm missing out on something I love.

(5) If I screw up, and I do screw up, and binge on craptastic food, I don't get too down on myself. I think that is really important. It's too easy to have one mishap and then think, "oh, I can't do this! " and then scrap it altogether. Don't worry. Even the healthiest of health nuts have the occasional pig-out or sweet treat (and if they say they don't..... they're lying and you need to find another health nut to follow.)

(6) Sweet and creative smoothies. I usually go for the SarahFit Green Monster Smoothie, my orange/mango/papaya/carrot smoothie, or chocolatey, after-dinner Craving Crusher smoothie.

(7) Absolutely avoiding added sugar before lunch. I find if I have even something as simple as cereal (most cereals  have sugar added) for breakfast, that tiny bit of sugar in the morning sets me up for cravings all day. That makes it more difficult to resist for the rest of the day.

It IS possible to reprogram your brain and taste buds. I wouldn't say it was if I hadn't done it myself. It takes a a little time, a medium amount of self control, and a lot of knowledge. If you set yourself up with the knowledge and the support beforehand, it is absolutely possible to alter your relationship with sugar. It works with other stuff too; but in my opinion, sugar is an addictive substance that isn't regulated and you didn't even know you were falling down its delicious rabbit hole.

No comments:

Post a Comment