As the new year started, I wanted to go back to my monthly challenges, which I gave up half-way through last year.
I don’t drink any soft drinks or juices, nor do I add sugar to my coffee, and you won’t find any biscuits in my kitchen, but I still have a sweet tooth. When there is chocolate or cake around me, I jump on it. And I can’t stop.
I took notes of the major events throughout this month and present you now my successes, fails and takeaways.
What is a 30-day no-sugar challenge?
The name of the no-sugar challenge speaks for itself, however, where is the limit?
Sugar can be found everywhere, from a bottle of ketchup, ready to eat tomato sauce, to muesli or industrial bread.
Luckily, I stopped buying and eating these products a while ago. I try to buy as much unprocessed food as I can and the only tomato sauce cans I get are sugar-free.
But what about beers? Beer contains refined sugar. And what above the agave sirup I just bought? It’s a natural sweetener. I still ponder the question.
I agreed that this no sugar challenge will apply to refined sugar such as sweets, candies, pastries, chocolate, but not beer.
What do I expect from this one-month challenge?
Defining expectations is important. I like to refer to it as the ”Why”, this is the why that keeps you going. From my end:
- I want to detoxify my body from refined sugar, especially after December and the Christmas period that was on full-on sugar month;
- The other dimension of this challenge is to train my discipline muscle (my only one and big project for this year).
The first week of my no-sugar challenge
I failed on the first day, worst I did so within the first hours, and I didn’t feel any shame.
Let me set the context before judging me: I stayed home with my partner for the 31st, falling asleep while watching The Lord of the Ring, and didn’t see January coming.
It’s only the day after that I realised I shouldn’t eat sugar for the whole month. You see, I didn’t even say goodbye to my dear friend.
And so, when my partner invited me to our regular Sicilian coffee place, I couldn’t resist ordering my usual Cannoli 😉
The second day was ok. I bought chocolate but … 99% cacao.
On day 4, I went back to the office where the kitchen cupboard is full of Oreos and Kinder Buenos. I resisted, I didn’t even really feel tempted.
However, on that same day, while I home I felt a sense of frustration and wanted something sweet. I resisted again and took some action instead of just waiting for it to pass: I prepared my cocoa infusion and drunk it with my 99% cacao dark chocolate. Another success.
On day 5, I took a coffee break with one of my colleagues who ate Oreos, sorry, dipped Oreos in his coffee. It was 9 am. I found myself both envious of him not giving a F, and shocked at the same time.
The first week was okay, I felt it was somewhat easy. My craving kicked in the middle of the afternoon, when I used to get a sweet, and after diner. I picked fruit or drank an infusion instead and usually the trick did the job.
The second week of my no-sugar challenge: the end of the honeymoon
It’s day 13 and I failed.
Some partners of my company sent some chocolates and sweets two days in a row. I failed on the second day. The box was full of chocolates of all kinds (tablets, truffles, biscuits, etc.).
That day, I lost control. And because I lost control, I didn’t eat “just one” chocolate, no I let myself go all in. If I had to fail for one day, at least I should fail properly.
The day after, the pandora box was open. Because I failed one day. Another one would just be a second fail. Not a big deal.
After two days of ”feasting”, the craving was back on the third day and reminded me that I was a failure (no, it’s wasn’t self-talk full of love and compassion).
First challenge, first month and I failed. I didn’t even bother to go half-way through the month. I wondered: is this year going to be any different than the previous ones if I’m so little committed from the beginning?
Learnings half-way through my no-sugar challenge
This episode reminded me that it’s never a one-time thing. If you’re serious about your project, whatever it is, one deviation can go a long way.
I read from the book You are a badass by Jen Sincero that when you stop smoking, you don’t negotiate with yourself whether you can have a puff or not. There’s no room for negotiation since you don’t smoke anymore.
It’s the same with whatever we want to achieve: we are what we do on a regular basis. If I want to be a person who doesn’t eat refined sugar, then I don’t eat refined sugar. Period.
I’m really fed up with me falling into this excuse trap. I’ve been there so many times, and if I want to change my life, it has to be different.
The days that followed, I got tempted, but I managed. Working in an environment full of temptations isn’t easy.
Last week and finish line of my no-sugar challenge
It was day 23 and I ate a cake and not a sugar-free one. That’s right. You read it correctly. BUT, because there’s a but of course: I did it in the most unintentional way.
I understand that you need some more context to ponder whether my excuse is valid or not. SO, here we go:
We were on a hike my partner and I, in the middle of mother nature when it suddenly started to rain. Small drops, manageable, but we still looked for a place to find shelter in case it got worse.
It happened that we were close to a place selling veggies and fruits. I was hoping to eat something there, so when we arrived and the girl in the garden invited us inside saying ”we have coffee and cakes”, I replied “great!” in the most natural and genuine way.
I’d been walking in the rain for the past 5 minutes imagining the worst-case scenario of me ending up all soaked.
This place seemed like an oasis in the middle of the desert and coffee and cake seem just what I needed at that moment.
The cake was sweet, delicious but very sweet, and it’s only a few hours later that I realised my mistake 😀
Thinking again at that moment, I feel I went on auto-pilot mode, hijacked by my subconscious. I also realised the big mistake my subconscious made by associating a farmer, an organic place selling vegan products to ”everything they sell is healthy”.
I’m still amazed by the short cut my brain took.
The last days went on where I deviated one last time following a strong emotion and I allowed myself to have some cookies as comfort food.
After 4 way too sweet cookies, I experienced a stomach ache, which was a good lesson for the end of my no-sugar month challenge.
My takeaways from this first monthly challenge
About the sugar and the effects on my body and energy
I would like to tell you that I felt much energised, my skin improved and I slept much better.
The truth is that there are so many other factors influencing our physiology and I wasn’t hyper duper strict about that challenge either.
- My skin looks better, but I have also started a new skincare routine (that I’m still struggling to implement).
- I feel my tummy is leaner, but again, I started to go back to the gym.
- As for the sleep, I feel more tired in the morning and I’m often tempted to snooze, but it’s winter, days are colder. I also increased my coffee intake to compensate my regular afternoon treat.
- The only one change I’m certain of is the gain of energy. No sugar drop in my bloodstream and tiredness after my afternoon sweet.
Whatever the physical benefits, I’m sure that this detox was beneficial in other aspects I can’t witness from the outside, and even if I failed a couple of time, I cut off on my sugar intake and I’m really about it 🙂
About the challenge and my discipline
Looking at the bigger picture of committing to a challenge, I got reminded that:
- There is no room for negotiation;
- It’s easy to fall back to your ”default mode”, be alert.
- Your environment influences your success. Create one that will support your new habit and/or behavior;
- Preparation is key. Whenever you feel you’re about to give up, having a back-up plan helps you to stay on track;
- Let people know about what you’re up to. They will probably show some support and you will also feel more accountable.
Next challenge: no coffee for a month
This no-coffee challenge starts tomorrow and I feel confident. The advantage is that this one is really straightforward. Nothing to ponder or question. What a relief!
I’m almost excited to get started, partly to apply what I learnt or got reminded of, and also because my intake increased again in the past weeks.
How about you? Have you challenged yourself this month or do you plan to start one in February?
Let me know about it in the comments, and don’t forget that we can support each other on this adventure 🙂