On February 10th, I gave up sugar.*
(In case you just want the conclusion – It’s been remarkable, not that hard to do, and I highly recommend it to everyone)
*I defined giving up sugar as eliminating foods that had added sugar of more than 1g (1 gram of sugar = 4 calories). This obviously means all sweets but it also means most breads, pretty much every snack that exists, salad dressings, pre-made and/or frozen food, cereal, soup, juice, nutrition bars, yogurt, jam (no more PB&J), and the list goes on and on and on. There is sugar in EVERYTHING.
I did not give up fruits (or veggies) with natural sugar. Giving up fruit, which – along with veggies – has been the core of my diet forever, seemed dumb and unnecessary. However, I did give up dried fruit. There is no real logic there. Just felt like dried fruit was cheating because the sugar is so concentrated and the flavor so sweet.
Oh, and anything that says “sugar free” when it shouldn’t be – like a candy bar or ice cream – I have been skipping. For two reasons, I don’t want to add into my body whatever they are using to make it sweet and because part of this process is to stop your body from craving sugar. My theory (based on no research at all) is that I should be cutting out the taste of sweets if I want to not crave sweets. I don’t want to trick myself into thinking I am eating sugar when I am trying to eliminate it.
So what’s left to eat?
I’m basically down to a consistent set of foods: bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, and blackberries; eggs; brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, avocado, peppers, lettuce; tortillas (you can get them with just one gram of sugar); cheese; tofu; coffee, water, wine and the occasional diet coke. No meat as I am a vegetarian, the cheating kind.
It hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought.
I read a couple blogs so I’d know what to expect and how to think about it. I started using the awesome app MyFitnessPal to track all my food and make sure I wasn’t messing up. And on February 10th (the first day of Lent) I went all in. It wasn’t a gradual process. I went the cold turkey route.
The hardest part is probably at work when I am hungry because our entire snack pantry involves sugar. The food, in theory, is healthy. We have almonds and raisins, but they are covered in chocolate. We have protein bars, also covered in chocolate. We have dried fruit, with added sugar. There is literally nothing in our snack closet I can eat. Luckily, we also keep cheese, apples and hard boiled eggs in the refrigerator, but that’s it. And they get old.
The second hard part has been chocolate and ice cream. As an ultra marathoner, you have the luxury of eating such things without worry about calories. A little piece of chocolate to make your sweet tooth happy is welcome and delicious. And the occasional ice cream sundae for dinner. Bravo! Haven’t had either since Feb. 10th.
Although, twice I did lick a piece of chocolate and then throw the morsel away. My teenagers gave my a See’s candy box for Valentine’s Day. Four days after I gave up on the sweet stuff. TORTURE. So I licked a couple. And then I packed two pieces a day per kid into their lunches. Hey, they didn’t give up sugar. Just me. They don’t need to suffer and I need to get the box of candy out of my house.
The third hard part has been cereal. I love it. I eat it like 5 times a week. It’s the best quick dinner I know. Sadly, cereal. Out. While I no longer really crave chocolate or ice cream, just last night I wanted a bowl of cereal after TRX. Even Grape Nuts have too much added sugar.
The results have been better than expected.
I never went through a withdraw phase where I was grumpy or had headaches or anything like that. I am not sure if it’s because I still eat fruit. I don’t have another explanation.
I have to cook or prepare most of my meals. On day two at work, I realized I couldn’t just go buy lunch at one of our local San Jose restaurants as I had no way of telling how much sugar was in anything. I don’t think I’ve eaten out for lunch once since I started this.
I’ve had to restrict eating out for dinner but I still do it 1-2 times a week and I try not to worry about it. I don’t get dessert, I don’t eat the bread, and I try to order intelligently. But I don’t ask the waiter or waitress to tell me how much sugar is in everything. Because that would make me obnoxious, put undo stress on my server, and would be embarrassing for my significant other and kids.
Here’s the best part, and maybe should have been in the lead paragraph, my energy and sleep have significantly improved. I do not have that regular afternoon drop. My energy stays constant throughout the entire day, which is frankly, amazing.
I have been sleeping like a rock and waking up refreshed. In fact, I haven’t had trouble getting out of bed at all. It’s kind of a miracle. I don’t really know all the science behind it (like I mentioned, I only read two pieces about giving up sugar before I went all in) but it’s something about how hard it is for your body to keep your sugar levels balanced when you are consuming refined sugar and that interrupts your sleep. Or something like that. You can Google it.
I plan to keep it up.
My sugar deal started for Lent (as I mentioned in a prior post, no idea how sugar and Jesus are related, but whatever) but I plan to continue. Will I have the occasional See’s candy? Absolutely. But will I reintroduce all the sugary foods back into my regular diet. No. There is no point. By excluding those foods I am forced to only eat healthy things. I feel better. I sleep better. I mainly eat things that occur in nature.
Why would I go back?