Living a year without the sweet stuff: Sugar-free 2017
Sugar. Where should I begin to describe these white and innocent looking crystals that have become a fundamental part of our culture and daily life. Can you imagine Christmas, Halloween or your birthday without any cookies, cakes or candy? If you say yes, good for you, but you are one in a million.
Like it or not. Believe it or ignore it, but sugar is highly addictive and the drug of choice of most of our population today. To get your sugar fix, you don’t have to be 21, need to drive to a state controlled “sugar store” or secretly buy it from your trused street dealer. In fact, it is the opposite: parents will happily gift it to you for any type of celebration, convienence stores and vending machines make it available 24/7 and the price is so low you could eat sugar til your teeth fall out! That is our reality, people!
Studies have shown multiple times that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. And as little as I want to admit it, I am among the first to raise my hand to say “I’m addicted”. Since I was a child chocolate (especiall nutella!) and anything sweet and creamy has been my downfall. As a kid I would eat it as a treat while my partents still watched the amounts I ate. But later in school and college when life became more independent, but also stressful and unpredictable I turned to sweets as my stress reliefer and comforter. Consuming sugary foods (chocolate and nutella for the most part) gave me a comforting feeling that brought back childhood memories, a rich and creamy taste and so much dopamine that my brain could shut out all the stress, deadlines and insecurities that school and life dumped on me. But after every high there is a fall back to reality. Of course my stomach rebelled after binging on so much candy, but the worst part was feeling extremely guilty, fear of gaining 10lb overnight and always the question “Why am I doing this when I know and care so much about health and nutrition?” Case in point: My body being a slave to the addiction.
I tried many strategies to get away from this addicting behavior: only a few pieces, only on weekends, no sugar at all…..but truth is if life is a complete mess and full of stress the best strategy is doomed to fail! That’s why it was only after college when this huge load of stress finally lifted and I could sort my life and relation to sugar. Don’t get me wrong I ate healthy (plant-based) mostly during collage except from the occasional chocolate binge. This took a large toll on me mentally, but that is another story.
I managed to stay of sugary sweets and focused on fruits and other yummy plant foods. So far so good. But everytime I started eating chocolate, cookies etc. again, it was ok at first. My body wasnt used to such a sweet taste and didnt want more. So one piece of chocolate of all I wanted. Nicely done! But come next day, my body would turn crazy. I felt like some damm broke and all my body wanted and all my brain thought about was s-u-g-a-r as much and as fast as possible. I remeber days at work where I could not concentrate on my tasks, because my brain was thinking about where to get some chocolate from. It was horrible and I felt controlled by some force that was not myself.
I am very tired of the up and down of phases where I feel in control and not addicted and times where I feel sugary foods are the center of my life and I just cannot let go. It also affects my self-esteem when I dont feel in control, ignore all my nutrition priciples I believe in and perfrom poorly at my workouts.
All this let me to say NO MORE! No more ups and downs. No more addictive behavior. No more lying to myself. I want to be free and at peace with myself. I want to take on the challenge to live sugar-free in 2017 (and thereafter). I know it won’t be a piece of cake (pun intended!), but I am determined and (hopefully) prepared well. I want share my journey and will post a weekly update how I am doing, what I have learnt and how to stay off sugar in everyday life (the real challenge!)
What do I mean by sugar-free? For me this means avioding the following in 2017:
- Avoiding all refinded sugars (table sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, raw cane sugar, and all the other names that only describe the same thing)
- Use Maple syrup and honey very sparingly (I will use them very sparingly, but generally try not to inculde them in any recipe as they are very similar to sugar only with some more nutrients)
- Dates and dried fruits: In the first few months I will not eat them to get used to a diet that is less sweet. But I think they are generally fine when eaten in moderate amounts.
I will allow myself the option to have one treat of whatever I like once a month. This is to take out the “OMG, I cannot have this for the whole year!” feeling and dealing better with celebrations and other holidays. I don’t say I have to have “an exception” every month, but I could if I wanted. It’s just an option.
With my decision to avoid sugar for the next year, I hope to gain some benefits in the process.
- Beating the addiction. I don’t want to be a slave to sugary foods anymore. I don’t want to feel guilty and most of all I don’t want sugar to be my go-to comfort when I’m having a stressful moment. I simply want to be free!
- A sharper, clearer and more focused mind. Being off sugar is often related with the ability to concentrate better. I’m eager to see how that works on me.
- Clearer skin and less redness. I can tell that my skin always looks worse after eating generous portions of sweets for a few days in a row. I would be more than happy, if my skin problems better without the sugar.
- Better performance at the gym. Without sugar and processed foods in my system, I believe my body will be able to train and recover in a better way.
- Enjoying all the benefits of a truely plant-based diet. I want to feel light and satified with the foods I eat. Food should be my fuel to a happy and healthy life.