Well y’all, I can happily say that I went a full 30 days with *basically* no added sugar. I say basically because I did have a few things with added sugar in them like bbq sauce, but it was less than a hand full of times over the 30 days.
The way I decided to do it was I would only eat things with naturally occurring sugar, like fruit. I couldn’t have any kind of traditional desserts and nothing with added sugar or sugar listed in the ingredients. I allowed myself 1 exception which was my coffee creamer that I’m obsessed with.
WHAT STARTED THIS?
I decided to try going without sugar for 30 days after reading Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub. I read the book to give me some inspiration. I knew I didn’t want to do a full year, but I did want a reset. August was my birthday month and came PACKED with sweet treats. I’m talking way overboard. So it was a great time to start.
My co-workers, whom I love, brought me special donuts (my favorite sweet treat) and a cake to celebrate, while my sister had gourmet cupcakes delivered right to my desk. Jake took me to dinner where of course, I had a lovely free dessert that was a blessed chocolate overload. That day alone, I probably had my sugar quota for a YEAR. And I woke up the next day feeling it. It was no bueno.
But it didn’t end there! It wasn’t only my birthday in August, but THREE other people I work with. And we make a big deal out of birthdays at my office, so over the next two weeks, it was more treats and sluggishness to follow. After all of this, I decided I needed a BREAK.
I’ve always had a pretty strong sweet tooth. My grandma used to tell us in our family, we have a second stomach for dessert because it never mattered how full we were from dinner, we could still make room for dessert. So this has been a life-long love affair I was choosing to face head on because I knew it was becoming a problem.
Over the last few months, I started gaining weight and noticing my clothes fit differently. I knew I needed to make a change. That change was going to be a month of no added sugar. I wanted to see how my body would react, if I would lose weight, how it would affect me, etc.
Along with the recap, I also wanted to share some of the recipes that helped me get through it because it was rough going in the beginning!
HOW’D IT GO?
Week 1 was just rough. I was constantly thinking about it because, of course, I couldn’t have it. And we all want what we can’t have.
Sugar is actually addictive in our bodies. This was another reason I knew I needed a break. I CRAVED it. I had real, actual cravings for sweet things. There are tons of studies on how sugar affects the brain and many show that it lights up the same area as cocaine. Not ideal.
Because sugar is treated like a drug in our bodies, you can actually experience withdrawal symptoms. I experienced pretty harsh mood swings (my poor husband took the brunt of this) and moderate headaches that lasted hours even after taking ibuprofen. I’m happy to report this part only lasted for a 3-4 days.
The longer I went, the better and easier it got. My husband doesn’t like sweet things at all really, so it’s not like I was constantly surrounded by treats. There were a few times at events or outings that I had to choose to not eat a treat when I normally would have had more than one, but it was rare I was put in that situation (thankfully!)
In the early weeks, I craved something sweet after my meals. To make this better, I got creative with my desserts. I’ll share more on this in a minute. By week 3, those cravings were gone and I completely forgot about having dessert.
WERE THERE ANY BIG CHANGES?
I’m happy to report that YES, I did notice actual changes as a result of this challenge! Without my cravings and sugar binging, I was less tired throughout the day. I lost 5 lbs over the month with no other changes to my routine, which was a nice perk. But the biggest difference (and my personal favorite) was my SKIN!
I’ve always struggled with my skin, ever since high school. I’ve tried every skin care product you can probably imagine, looked up all the Pinterest hacks, done DIYs, you name it. Nothing has worked for an extended period. It’s like my skin would clear up for 1-2 days (maybe), then get used to whatever I was doing and go back to it’s old ways.
By the third week of no sugar, I noticed I had no new break outs and that my old scars and pimples were going away much faster. Now, after the 30 days, my skin is 100% clear. THIS is a small miracle and has literally never happened in my adult life.
Apparently, this isn’t news to the rest of the world (see here), but it was to me! I had no idea that the amount of sugar I was consuming was what was causing my skin to break out. Mind. Blown.
The other big perk here is that I no longer desire sweet things. This is a huge win because I used to crave sweet things multiple times a day. Now I don’t really want ANY! And the two times I have had sweet things since the 30 days ended, I was fine after 1 serving. The old me would want 2-3 donuts, but I ate one the other day and had no desire for another one. This is something I’ve heard from a lot of other people who have cut sugar out. Once you go without for a while, you just don’t want it anymore.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART?
Realizing that there is sugar in basically everything we eat, even things we think are healthy!! Thankfully I don’t like soda so this one wasn’t an issue for me, but it is for a lot of people! Soda is FULL of sugar. Diet soda also has sugar in the form of aspartame which is actually worse for you than regular sugar.
I learned to read labels and ingredient lists very well. I didn’t have anything with added sugars or sugar in the ingredient list. This includes things like salad dressing, yogurt, pasta sauce, condiments, cereal, bread, granola bars…the list goes on. So many things we eat all the time are packed with sugar and we don’t even know it. Learning to look for it really showed me how blind I’ve been to it for so long.
Our bodies have trouble breaking down a lot of sugar and when we overload it (which is very common because of how much hidden sugar everything has!). Our bodies can’t process it all and it stores the excess as fat. This is where the quick weight gain comes from.
Juice is also a terrible culprit that no one realizes. I was allowed to eat fruit in my 30 days because fruit has naturally occurring sugar. Fruit also has a ton of different beneficial nutrients. It’s not hard on our bodies because it’s accompanied by fiber and other goodies which compensate for the sugar. Juice on the other hand is fruit with ALL of the fiber and nutrients removed, making it 100% sugar. I drank *a lot* of juice for YEARS not knowing this and thinking it was a healthier option for me and coming to find out I was very wrong. I’m hoping by sharing this someone else learns from my mistakes!
Just by paying a little more attention, it made a huge difference in how I felt about what I was eating. The awareness became something I was sort of proud of myself for because I had been so unaware before and now I was suddenly acutely aware and actively making a change to correct it.
WHAT DID YOU EAT?
I tried to eat as many whole foods as I could! Just straight veggies, fruit, and meat. We started going to the farmers market in an effort to get local stuff, too. I did limit my dairy as some dairy has sugar in it (and whole milk has a TON!). Thankfully cheese is not included in that.
Here are a few of my favorite no sugar dinner options:
- Home made Ramen
- Tuscan Spaghetti Squash
- Broccoli casserole (we add rice or quinoa to this recipe!)
- Zuppa Toscana Soup
- Cauliflower pizza (a personal fav!)
- Cheesy garlic parm spinach spaghetti squash
- Turkey sweet potato skillet
- Butternut Squash Soup (THE PERFECT FALL RECIPE!!! I substituted the sugar)
I got very creative with my desserts and want to share my favorite options that got me through!
- Frozen grapes and string cheese (it sounds weird but they’re great together!)
- Cottage cheese with mandarin oranges or peaches
- Strawberry cheesecake fro-yo popsicles
- Chocolate banana nice cream (my absolute FAVORITE!)
- Strawberry banana nice cream
- Frozen banana & peanut butter minis (sliced bananas sandwiched with peanut butter in the middle. CHECK your peanut butter for sugar!)
- Smoothies (be careful with this one, these can contain a ton of sugar, too!)
The cool thing is I actually got more into cooking because of this little experiment and I started to really enjoy it because it felt more meaningful. Making dessert was something fun to do and I didn’t feel any guilt afterward.
I learned a lot over the 30 days about how I had been treating my body and why I wanted to change that. When you learn about it in depth like that, it makes it way easier to say no.
I also learned that if a recipe calls for sugar, you can typically just leave it out and never even notice it. Obviously don’t try this with baking, but with general cooking, it was really easy!
I do plan on continuing to limit my sugar intake, but I’m not going to deprive myself altogether. I think one of the best parts of life is food, so I enjoy indulging. But I am going to work on being more responsible with my sugar consumption and not getting back to my old ways of eating SO much.
Do you think you could go an entire month without sugar? Or a full year? At least I know if I ever get carried away again, I can give myself a break!
Let me know your thoughts/questions in the comments below!