In an attempt to make myself a better person in the least drastic way possible, I tried out Pinch of Yum’s Sugar Free January to see what it would be like to cut refined sugar from my diet for a month. If you are interested in learning more you can read the linked article, but it is overall a pretty flexible initiative that you structure around your personal goals. I’ve summarized my experience throughout the month and what I have learned from it. I will say that I did not turn into a cranky sugar-deprived she-demon as I had predicted I would.
what did going sugar-free entail?
Sugar Free January was a month-long challenge led by the bloggers at Pinch of Yum. Their basic guidelines are to cut out refined sugar for 30 days and focus on eating more whole foods. Each individual can make their own rules; some people may decide to still eat foods with natural sugars like fruit, for example, while others may want to cut out all foods that contain sugars. They also include the option to focus on eating more whole grains instead of refined flours.
Really, if you want to cut out sugar for a month you don’t exactly need a blogger to tell you to do it, but their guidelines, recipes, and meal planning resources provided on their page can be pretty helpful.
my goals for cutting out sugar
My main goals for participating in eating sugar-free for a month were:
- To “reset” my palate and see if my taste buds became more sensitive
- To feel healthier and less sluggish overall by putting less sugar in my body
Each individual comes up with their own “rules” for themselves. Mine were a little flexible:
- Sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Sodas/flavored beverages
- Really sweet fruits
- Alcohol, except for red wine (can make an exception on my birthday, because birthday)
- Honey as a sweetener when needed
- Soy sauce, salsa, and condiments that have minimal amounts of sugar (less than 1 gram of sugar per serving)
what i learned
i became a more conscious consumer
Sugar is in… like, everything. Okay, not everything. But there are a lot of foods that contain added sugars that I never thought to pay attention to, like salsa, ranch, pasta sauce, etc. And some foods that are marketed as healthy can still have quite a bit of added sugars (Ahem KIND granola bars). Sugar isn’t necessarily a bad thing altogether, but I realized how often I used to overlook how much sugar was in the foods I was eating.
i cut down on snacking overall
Once I paid attention to how many foods had added sugars in them, I started staying away from the random snacks set out in the office and wasn’t buying as many while grocery shopping. I focused more energy on the meals I was cooking and less on excessive snacking throughout the day.
i drank more water
And peed. So. Much.
Even though I don’t drink a ton of soda, I often drink sparkling water or sweetened lattes. I thought I would get really cranky without having anything other than tea, coffee, and water, but after the second week or so I just naturally poured myself water when I wanted a drink without thinking about it.
i saved money
I still allowed myself to buy my usual Friday morning matcha lattes (they sweeten them with honey, so technically not breaking my “rules”), but there were quite a few times where I would pass a coffee shop and resist going in for a latte or a snack. Not only did I save myself from putting more sugar in my body, but I saved 5 or 6 bucks every time. I wouldn’t buy random pints of ice cream or snacks at the grocery store either.
cutting out alcohol really does make a difference
Not all alcohols have sugars in them, so I mostly stayed away from mixed drinks. Although I still allowed for the occasional drink when out with friends, I restricted the total amount of alcohol I consumed. After being more selective of the alcohols I was drinking I must say my skin and body feel quite a bit healthier.
it was easier than i thought it would be
I thought saying no to certain sweets would be difficult, but it really wasn’t overall. It made a lot of the decisions I usually go back and forth over (Do I eat the free brownies at work or no?!?! Do I go back for more of the free brownies at work or no?!?!) much easier to just say no to. There were a couple times where I made an exception or slipped up (like when I ate raspberry jam and it didn’t dawn on me until a full day later that I wasn’t supposed to eat that), but I was pretty happy with the general awareness I had throughout the month. Maybe it was quite easy because I knew there was an end in sight, but I found that I didn’t really miss the items I chose not to eat later on.
how i feel after the month is over
My palate does feel more sensitive to sweet foods when I eat them, and I feel like I don’t need as much sugar to feel satisfied. Candy and desserts actually start to taste too cloyingly sweet after a few bites.
It wasn’t until I started eating sugar again that I realized how good I felt, both mentally and physically, when I wasn’t eating foods with added sugar. This is probably due in part to the fact that I had quite a few sweets around my birthday (which is on the 28th so I kind of ended it a few days early) so my body was like WHAT IS ALL THIS F*CKING SUGAR ALL AT ONCE?!
Overall I think this was a good exercise in becoming a more informed consumer and making healthier choices in my life going forward. If this is something that interests you I definitely suggest you try it out! The worst that can happen is you decide you want to stop.