Saturday, June 30, 2012

No Sugar... No problem?

A month has passed on my attempt to reduce my sugar consumption. I'd love to say: "Look how well I did" but if I rocked it from the start, I likely didn't have a sugar problem to begin with.

I could quote academic journals on the differences between the refined sugars and the "natural" sugars I've been trying to allow myself, but this is the internet, where I don't feel the need to support my claims with proper evidence and scholastic support. I'm not trying to persuade you my way is the right way. It's just my experience on getting over my sugar addiction. I wanted to reduce my consumption of sugar, and I thought the easiest way to do that is to select only certain sugars to consume and force myself to get create at avoiding the others.

Again, what I've been allowing myself:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Honey
  • Treats on special occassions. 

(So pretty much "sugar as God created it" and "weekends off". We had a lot of special occasions. And yes, if I had access to sugar cane, I would have totally chewed up that bad boy).

How did it go?

The successes
  • I love my smoothie recipe. As soon as we stock up on watermelon again (which fortunately goes on sale regularly, though still not as cheap as Regina, where they wear it as hats. Google it, people. Google it). 
  • My granola bar recipe was a good start, but needs some work (mostly so I won't destroy my keyboard with its crumbliness). (Watch for recipes of both the smoothie and the granola bar coming soon)
  • My concern about giving up ketchup in the middle of hamburger season was unfounded. Load on the tomatoes (a food which I just recently started eating)!
  • Given the expense of honey, I certainly found myself using less and less
  • I discovered how sweet many foods are once your taste buds adjust
  • Most mornings were much smoother, not only in not having a "sugar hang over" but also in just being able to jump out of bed and go. Having pre-made my breakfast also helped a lot too!
  • Starbucks Shaked Iced Passion Tea (unsweetened) makes a great summer treat

The Setbacks
 - I used "Special occasions" loosely
  • My friend got married! (And I chose to eat half of the dessert table myself)
  • My grandparents celebrated their 60th anniversary (limited myself to one dessert at the dinner, but may have gone cray on cookies and ice cream at the lunch the next day)
  • My MA was conferred! (And I got sweet breakfast treats, afternoon ice cream and a big dollop of ketchup on my hot dog)
  • My mom made cookies! (I may have eaten at least a dozen in 24 hours)
  • My husband was on vacation! (I couldn't deprive him of a case of Coke for that... but I could deprive him of half of it)
  • My department helped organize convocation! (Being at work before you're usually awake some how equates to a very sugar-laden Starbucks)
  • My coffee was only 25 cents! (Starbucks anniversary meant 25 scoops of sugar with it... mostly kidding)
  • My car died! (And to make up for not finding the ginger snap I wanted to buy, I got 2 chocolate chip cookies)

Believe me - after every one of those legitimate and illegitimate indulgences, I felt the effects. Lethargy, early morning headaches, stuffy nose (ok, that may be due to the fact our office is about 65 degrees on a good day).

What I found most interesting in this experiment was not how easy it was to avoid sugar (which I did do very well at times, despite the above list), but rather what other addictions it created or fostered:
  • Can't have a cold can of coke at the end of a long, hot bus ride? Why choose water when there is beer?
  • Can't run out for ice cream when the evening "snackies" hit? Why not have something overly salty? 

Where do I go from here?

I can't go back to "life as normal" after experiencing waking up WITHOUT a headache. I think (sigh) I may have to turn this month's experiment into a lifestyle. This last month allowed me to see both how easy it is to limit sugar, but also how easy it is to form new "food addictions". So going forward, for the next month my goals are this:
  • Establish a better granola bar recipe (I think the afternoon run-to-the-caf-for-a-cookie routine was the hardest to give up)
  • Work on increasing water consumption without increasing boredom by adding lime, cucumber, or herbal tea
  • This one is key: develop the skill of treating myself without over-indulging
 I'll post my latest smoothie recipe hopefully this coming week, and my granola one once it's "perfected". I don't know if I'll check in mid-month (accountability: good. Only posting about food: bad), but hopefully I'll make it to the end of July!


  1. Great post. Thanks not only for the report but for the interesting observations you make. We can't know what change will be like until we do take the steps you're taking.

    I've been mulling a cutback on my sugar-intake too, for health reasons. I previously did similar cutbacks on meat and dairy, both of which were very successful. Once we get used to a new "normal", sticking to it isn't hard. Now, if I eat a big piece of cheese, my body feels bad.

    Good luck!

  2. If you're into tea - may I suggest looking into loose tea? I really like the Valentine blend from naturally sweet with flavors of chocolate and strawberry. Also pure dried peppermint leaves make the BEST tea. It doesn't need to be sweetened or anything.

    Sugar and sugar substitutes are hard to quit. I've tried to decrease sugar, and remove substitutes as much as possible. I've definitely gained a new appreciation for water. I still have a vanilla coke in the morning, only because I can't quit the caffeine completely cold turkey - it does cause migraines to cut it out.

    Arming yourself with a good arsenal of recipes and, like Ally said, finding a new "normal" is what will make the change stick.

  3. There's nothing like a smoothie to start the day- I have one with bananas, kale, strawberries & chia seeds (that is until my blender broke- grr!) Congrats Cara- taking this step is so important for your health and one I struggle with as I have such a sweet tooth, I have cut out milk chocolate, honey (not that I really used it) and processed candies on my new vegan diet but I have a few squares of dark chocolate a day which hits the craving for me. You should try cherry flavoured L'Arabar, no sugar (just natural) and it's a whole food so incredibly healthy!


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