Saturday, February 2, 2013

My So Called Sugar Free Life

The good stuff

This is a post I've been wanting to write since the inception of this blog, but as I said in my last post, there's a reason why the first word in the title of the blog is "busy". Anywho, here goes. Last month I did something I never thought I'd do. Something big. And a little crazy.

I quit sugar.

No more of these:

Lofthouse frosted sugar cookies. So. Good.

Or any of these:
You mean, not even honey?? Or agave? Or Stevia???

That's right. No sugar, and no sugar substitutes. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Now when I say I quit sugar, I don't mean, I quit sugar forever. I don't even mean I quit sugar for a year, or a seemingly significant amount of time. I quit sugar for exactly two weeks. Two LONG weeks. And I purposely chose to start this challenge after the holidays (I started January second), and after my, ahem, monthly visitor. Mama knows not to set herself up for failure, thank you very much.
This was something I had wanted to do for a long time but had never had the, for lack of a better word, balls to do so. I admit it: I was scared. How could I live without any sugar or at least a substitute for an extended period of time? I was going to have to change my entire way of life. And to be honest, I'm not even that much of a sweets kinda gal. With the exception of cake, particularly birthday cake, you know, the sheet kind with the buttercream frosting (I've been known to buy the birthday cakes for one they sell in the grocery store), and those Lofthouse cookies above, there really aren't many sugary treats in the world that I can't easily turn down or cut out of my life entirely. Except maybe Mint Milanos. Okay, add that to the list. But other than that...
The reason I was scared is because I knew that sugar, and sugar substitutes were in so many things that I regularly consumed. For instance, honey. I love honey in my tea. Especially chai tea. Chai tea with honey and a little almond milk is the way I wrap up most of my nights at home, before drifting off to a blissful, warm, belly full of milk and honey dream state. I also use honey or agave in some of my green smoothies, or mix them in with yogurt and fruit and walnuts. Delicious! Stevia is not a huge part of my diet, but I do like to use their flavored drops to mix with seltzer water or use in my coffee on occasion. And speaking of coffee, that's kind of what started the madness.
I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but this year I made a small one. I wanted to quit using flavored creamer in my coffee. I know, I know, first world problems. But I really did want to quit them. I have had a love affair with flavored creamers for years. So much so, that when the seasonal flavors come out for winter - pumpkin, peppermint mocha, etc.,  I call up my mom and BFF to let them know which ones are out and which ones I bought. Then they tell me which ones they found and I inevitably go out and buy those flavors too. Eggnog. Salted Caramel. I'm salavating as I type. Anyway, I wanted to quit the coffee creamers because they were really messing with my fat and sugar goals. I'm a borderline obsessed user of my fitness pal (in a good way) and I just love it when all my numbers line up. So I was consistently frustrated when my daily goals for fat and sugar intake were just over the mark and I could look right at my food diary and pinpoint the fact that if I just hadn't had that cup of coffee with creamer at breakfast (and mid-morning), the little numbers would have been perfect! Yes, I am a numbers dork. I will own that. I just wished I knew how to quit the creamers (insert Brokeback Mountain joke here). And then I saw it: "The No Sugar Challenge".
The plan I followed can be found here. I also kept a daily blog on my fitness pal during my two weeks which can be found here. Since this post has already gotten a little wordy for my taste, I will do my best to summarize what I learned. First and foremost, there is sugar in everything. Everything that comes in a package or can or jar contains sugar or a sugar substitute (of which there are multiple names I can't always pronounce). Whether it belongs there or not, it's there. For instance, in turkey bacon. Why? And in almond butter (unless you buy the raw variety, which I ended up doing). And in roasted red peppers and chewable vitamin C tablets, and on and on. Now, you may be thinking, duh! But I was genuinely surprised by this. I expected to find it in all the cereals, and breads and protein bars, but not my beloved turkey bacon! You may also be saying, in your snide little way, "then don't eat processed food". And the truth is, I don't eat that much processed food. But again, I am a busy wife and mom, and sometimes, I make quinoa from a package. And I don't always roast my own red peppers. And I eat bread, and not always Ezekiel Bread, which is the only brand I found without sugar. Bottom line: a sugar free diet is more limiting than I imagined, and that may be why people have a lot of success losing weight with these types of plans. They're pretty darn restrictive.
I also learned that if you are planning to eat sugar free, don't plan to eat out. At all. Again, I don't eat out all that much. But it does happen. And it happened when I participated in the no sugar challenge. If I had planned better, I would have eaten something at home before we went out or brought myself a snack. But for some reason I didn't on these occasions. And I am a borderline obsessed planner (in a good way), particularly when it comes to eating. But there were a couple times it just didn't happen: once at a Bruegger's Bagels we stopped at after my daughter got her braces removed and was "starving"; and once at the mall, where we went on a cold rainy day out of desperation to let my little one burn off some energy at the little play area. Both times, my hunt for a sugar free option did not go well. When you ask cashier's at fast food restaurants what they have on the menu with no sugar, they look at you like you have two heads. Or like you are the most annoying person on earth. They're happy to tell you about their gluten free options. But I actually had one woman tell me (unapologetically) that she flat out could not tell me what did and did not contain sugar on the menu. At Bruegger's, I ended up ordering a spinach and ham omelet bagel sandwich, and gave the bagel to the little one. At the mall, I finally found chicken street tacos at Rubio's (the fish tacos had sugar). And yes, if I had a smarty smart phone, I probably could have looked up menus myself, but I have a blackberry. Nuff said.
Overall though, the benefits of the no sugar challenge far outweighed the pains of having to become a neurotic label checker and deal with lackluster service at food joints. For instance, I feel like my taste buds have been reset, so to speak. Before the challenge, I read that by cutting out sugar for even two weeks, your taste buds would learn to better detect the natural sweetness in foods. And it's totally true! I don't need honey or agave in my yogurt anymore. Just fruit. And sometimes a little vanilla bean powder, which is an amazing little product I discovered during the challenge (you can find it in bulk food sections of health food stores). And raw almond butter is just as good on toast as the kind that's sweetened with organic cane syrup. I don't need sugar or sugar substitutes like I thought I did. And while I was doing the challenge, a woman I take a boot camp class with at the gym actually told me "you look healthier, your eyes look brighter, it's amazing!" And I had sooooo much energy. The first few days were a little rough and I was irritable. But my energy levels were incredible and I never crashed. I almost always crash in the afternoon. But once I removed sugar from my body, it just didn't happen anymore.
Alright, I'm getting the signal to wrap it up...
I highly recommend participating in a no sugar challenge. It was a great learning experience and I am still eating far less sugar than I was before. But I have to admit, when it was over, I couldn't wait to eat something... anything, with a little sweetener in it. The first thing I ate: a homemade dark chocolate peanut butter muffin made with honey. And it wasn't nearly as satisfying as I had hoped. Since the challenge, I have elected to choose a few days a week where I eat sugar free. I initially thought I could keep up with eating sugar free most of the week, and limit my sugar and sugar substitute consumption to weekends. That didn't work out so well. BUT, I am still off the flavored creamer wagon! Or is it on the wagon? Anyway, I don't buy it or drink it (often). Since the challenge, I have used flavored exactly creamer twice, when I had coffee on the way to, and just before I ran in The Color Run. But all of the other coffee in my system has gone in black. That's right, I drink black coffee now. Like a man. Who am I???


  1. And to think it all started with flavored creamer! Why you gotta hate on flavored creamer? Haters gonna hate. But seriously, you've got me maybe, possibly, slightly, considering reducing my sugar intake. {typing as I'm drinking my coffee with flavored creamer.}

  2. I found this really interesting! I'm not sure I could even go two weeks without sugar but I think I might have to try reducing my sugar intake...or at maybe possibly a week without it.

    1. You can do it! Even one week will make a difference. And once you make it through the week, you may decide you can make it through another!