Thoughts on 10 Days, No Sugar

Tonight is the final night in which I’ve resolved to eat no added sugar for ten days (also known as the Fed Up Challenge). While I don’t believe in dieting or needlessly restricting/eliminating certain foods and food groups from one’s diet, I don’t think doing a brief reset every once in a while is a terrible thing. Here’s what the challenge looked like for me:

  • No added sugars for 10 days. This included artificial sweeteners and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. All sugars came from fruit.
  • No simple white carbohydrates (white rice, white bread, etc.). Whole grains, including oatmeal, were okay.
  • I didn’t give up alcohol, though many do while doing this challenge. I’ve done a dry month before and found no benefit or detriment from doing so.
  • If I was hungry, I ate. The point of this challenge wasn’t to restrict my eating.

This was a nice way to reset after the holidays, where most of us consume way more sugar than usual, and I felt like it helped me learn a lot about my dietary needs. These lessons included:

1. I definitely don’t eat a lot of added sugar normally.

One of the things you’ll read about when you look at others’ accounts of this challenge are how terrible the first few days are. Mood swings, weird dreams, etc. I never dealt with any of this. In fact, I really didn’t feel like I was drastically changing my normal eating habits at all. I slept fine and didn’t feel any crankier than usual, and the only thing I really craved was chocolate. I never had any problems with my energy, and, in fact, I generally felt more energetic in the afternoons than I normally do otherwise. More on that below.

2. This is not a sustainable long-term way to eat.

I definitely understand going through life with a highly-reduced sugar intake. Maybe you’re diabetic, maybe a lot of sugar doesn’t agree with your body in some way. That’s fine. But reflecting back on it on Day 10, I believe that cutting out all added sugar forever is at best impractical and, at worst, dangerous. Putting yourself in a constant restrictive mindset is not healthy. Food isn’t just about physical nourishment, it’s also about mental nourishment. Plus, a little added sugar here and there won’t kill you.

I also have yet to understand why maple syrup and honey aren’t allowed as part of this challenge. It might be to keep people from adding loads of maple syrup and honey to replace white sugar, but c’mon, they’re found in nature. They’re no less natural than sugar we find in fruit.

3. My body does best with different nutrients at different times of day.

This was actually one of the most interesting parts of the challenge to me! I feel like doing this gave me some real insight into my nutritional needs.

For example, the days I felt the best and stayed full the longest were the days I had oatmeal for breakfast. Apparently eggs and homemade veggie sausage won’t do it for more than a couple hours, but oatmeal (or smoothies with oats) kept me going until lunch time no problem. I also realized I haven’t been getting enough protein at lunch. We were formerly doing veggie and hummus wraps for lunch, but last week we ate this hatch chile egg bake for lunch, subbing sweet potatoes for regular, and it definitely kept me going strong all day. Lastly, having some fat with my last meal of the day seems to be key. I made a lot of smoothies for dessert, and the ones with the higher fat content were better at getting me through the night.

I’ll definitely be taking these lessons and applying them to my meals going forward. This was what I felt like made this challenge worth it, because otherwise…

4. The meal prep for this is absolutely bonkers.

It’s pretty much true what they say: sugar IS in everything. The only prepared foods I ate on this challenge were plain yogurt (if you can count that), Larabars, and some falafel patties I found. This meant that I was doing a crazy amount of meal preparation every couple of days. There wasn’t any added expense to doing this (I’d say we didn’t spend any more money than usual by not eating out), but the time! There was one day I spent literally three hours preparing things to eat, and it would be another hour or so every three or four days. Kudos to y’all who do hardcore meal prep like this every week. I love to cook, but I could not do this all the time.

5. No matter how hard you try and hope, cocoa powder is not chocolate.

This was the only thing I had a hardcore, terrible craving for while doing this challenge. Donuts at work? I’ll pass. Box of croissants on someone’s desk? Nah, they looked pretty sad anyway. But chocolate! Man, on Days 5 and 6, I was ready to kill someone for a piece of dark chocolate. The days after that, I basically accepted that there was no chocolate coming, but that didn’t make me want it any less.

In the end, I think this was worth doing, as it taught me a lot about my regular diet. I think if I did something similar again, I would include maple syrup and honey as part of it. If any one has any questions, feel free to comment!

 

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