In 2015, I started trying to be more conscious of the way different foods make my body feel. I’ve always been anti-diet but like many women have fallen prey to popular diet fads at different times in my life. As time passed and I’ve become more aware of various forms of "food hangovers,” I decided it was finally time to stop and listen to my body.
What I know is this; I will never completely eliminate any category of food from my diet. It's not realistic or healthy to be so restrictive but I knew I needed to learn how to love smaller portions of certain things and eat much cleaner.
The most success I ever had losing weight was when I counted calories. It's an arduous task and pretty annoying, but it worked for me. But one thing I never paid attention to was my sugar intake. I thought if I was within my calorie limits, it didn't matter.
When my friend challenged me and others to consume no more than 25g of sugar each day for 5 consecutive days, I knew I wanted to give it a shot.
There were a few more rules though. Those 25 grams needed to come from natural sources like fruits and vegetables and we couldn't use artificial sweeteners.
What seemed like an easy task became quite challenging when I realized one apple contains half the daily sugar allowance. According to the American Heart Association, 25-30g of sugar is the daily recommendation, not just some number pulled out of the air. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I thought, it’s just five days. How hard could it be?
Five things I learned by cutting sugar
- I stopped feeling hungry. This was by and large the biggest light-bulb moment of the week. I prepared my meals. I ate my meals. I was satisfied with my meals. There were several days when I wasn't even hungry for the snack I’d prepared in advance. I realized that without my normal cravings, my brain finally understood the difference between hunger and habit.
- I had a lot more energy. I’ve cut calories before, which often left me exhausted. I'll be honest and say I didn't get to the gym during the challenge, but it’s not for a lack of energy. I just wanted to focus on one thing at a time.
- I got a nice productivity boost. My challenge fell during a particularly trying and busy work-week. I found that when there were fires to put out, I was able to focus on the task at hand and get it done more efficiently. I was also quicker to make decisions.
- Sugar is added to a LOT of products. I already have a habit of reading labels, but never really paid attention to sugar. For the challenge, I switched to using unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my coffee and that was probably the biggest adjustment for me. Cereal bars and granola bars were the other processed sugar giants that I used to lean on. They may be low in calories, but they are LOADED with sugar along with other foods like bread, pasta sauces and salad dressing.
- I like eating real food. Cutting sugar does not mean eating diet food. In fact, it's more expensive to buy prepackaged program bars or special breads than to eat real whole foods that are in season. Instead of leaning on special foods or cutting breads entirely, I reduced my portions of certain items, like eating sandwiches open-faced with one slice of bread instead of two or using oil and vinegar to mix my own dressing rather than something premade.
The bottom line is eating less sugar was not only sustainable, it was actually enjoyable. It didn’t take long at all for my taste buds to adjust and I felt much better with less sugar in my system.
So I am passing on the challenge. If you haven’t tried the 5-day no added sugar challenge, the New Year is a great time to start. I mean, it’s only one work-week.
How hard could it be?
Andrea Updyke is a self-proclaimed social media nerd. Updyke's personal mission is to celebrate the big and the small in parenting young children. Visit her blog, and follow her on Twitter @AndreaUpdyke.