You guys. It’s May 31. Which means our 30-day sugar-free experiment — our first monthly experiment! — is officially over. The last 30 days were filled with ups and downs, lessons learned, goals met and not, and more.
The parameters for the challenge were pretty loose —
- Cut out added sugar
- Be committed but not strict or shaming
- Make my own choices
The first couple of weeks, I really stuck with it, opting for whole foods and reading nutrition labels to remove any and all added sugars. Once the cravings started to subside and I felt much more aware of what I was eating, I started to loosen the reigns.
Below are a few thoughts about what this balanced-yet-flexible approach to going sugar-free was like for the last 30 days.
What I learned
- I use sugary treats to cope with stress + anxiety. This isn’t a new discovery, but I did find out just how deep the need for sugar goes. These last 30 days have had a dew stress- and anxiety-inducing moments, and oh how I craved cookies + ice cream — sometimes to the point of losing sight of why I was doing this challenge in the first place. Fortunately, I was able to come back to my Why and push through.
- There’s added sugar in nearly everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Pretty much anything you can find in the middle aisles of the supermarket has added sugar in some form, and it’s sneaky! It’s not always called sugar on the ingredients list. What I did find helpful were packages that listed total sugar content and then how much of that came from added sugars.
- Packaged foods with absolutely NO sugar can be more expensive. Think bread and peanut butter, two staples in our house. Finding alternatives to these and a few other packaged go-tos with zero added sugar was tricky, and even a bit pricey.
Did I reach my goals?
Before beginning this experiment, I listed the reasons why I wanted to take on this challenge — changes I hoped to see at the end of the 30 days. Here’s how things turned out:
- Feel more energetic: I can’t say I felt any less tired than I did before. But I wouldn’t discount this as a benefit of removing added sugars. I am 36 weeks pregnant after all and chasing a toddler around = tired by default, sugar or no sugar.
- Strengthen my ability to make good choices: Yep! It took some time, but after a couple weeks it was easier to reach for an apple after dinner instead of sulking about not being able to have a cookie.
- Be able to enjoy sugar occasionally without going overboard: Yes. I did indulge in dessert for Mother’s Day and a few dark chocolate chips sprinkled here and there throughout. I even had a donut yesterday at an office party! But I didn’t feel the need to finish every bite every time. In fact, just the other morning a few chocolate chips were still on the living room table where I’d set them while working on a weaving project. That would have NEVER happened before this challenge.
Surprising benefits of going sugar-free:
This experiment ended up having a couple unexpected benefits for me:
- I found healthier ways to cope. Rather than reaching for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s when I felt overwhelmed, I started opening up to Kristian sooner and more frequently — talking things through instead of keeping them bottled up. I also moved my body more, going for almost daily family walks and stretching more often. My new weaving hobby also became a way to find calm and re-center in the evenings.
- I allowed myself a bit of grace. I have a tendency to live in a world of absolutes — right or wrong, yes or no, 100% in or not. Throughout this experiment, I challenged myself to soften the edges a bit, to find a better balance and to not beat myself up if I “slipped.” I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to carry this experience into other areas of my life too.
What about the things I was curious about?
- How will this affect our grocery budget? Increased a bit, but not too much. Sugar-free snacks that are grab-and-go but low-prep tended to be more expensive than our usual granola bars. But I enjoyed having dried fruit and nuts at work every day.
- What does a pantry + fridge clean out look like without being wasteful? Didn’t throw anything out! Kept eating the few things that would expire and held onto the things that wouldn’t.
- How will I feel the first few days? Ooof, the first week was tough. Then there were days towards the end that were stressful that left me needing to come back to my original post to remember why I was doing this thing anyways. But we made it through, and overall it was worth the exercise.
- What could I do to lessen or take the edge off of sugar cravings? Staying hydrated, distraction (reading, weaving, yardwork), eating a piece of fruit, having dates with peanut butter all helped a lot.
- What things do I reach for consistently that I need to plan substitutions for? I ended up substituting nuts and dried fruit for granola bars, and finding recipes for sugar-free muffins (Ethan hates them haha).
Will I keep it up?
To a degree. I appreciate the awareness this challenge brought, to the different ways added sugars can sneak in. It made me more mindful of how much sugar I’m eating every day or every week, as well as how what I’m putting into my body affects my mood. Living without ANY added sugars is not something I’m interested in, but I will try my best to maintain the awareness and moderation.
Did you take the sugar-free challenge? How did you feel? What were your high points and your challenges? What did you learn about yourself along the way? I’d love to hear all about it!
This weekend, I’ll announce June’s experiment. Kristian and I are both really excited about this one.
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