I made it. I lived through 10 entire days of no added sugars or artificial sweeteners in my diet. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t actually that terrible. I think I am a relatively healthy eater to begin with, so a lot of the changes I had to make over the past ten days were not drastic or unfamiliar, but there is always room for improvement in anyone’s diet, so it was a welcome change and an interesting challenge.
I didn’t actually decide to do the challenge right after I watched the documentary. It was the next morning, after breakfast, when I decided to challenge myself. After all, 10 days isn’t that long. My breakfast had no added sugar in it so I figured there was no better time to start than right at that moment. When I brought it up on the bus ride to school, my brother asked me, “What is your goal doing this?”
It was a super valid question. I hadn’t really considered it, I just knew it was something I wanted to do but when he asked that simple question it made me think. My goal was to become aware of hidden sugar, to understand that my body can survive and potentially thrive without excessive amounts of added sugar, and to inspire myself to make everything homemade and from scratch.
The challenge went really well and the ten days flew by. It wasn’t a huge adjustment to my normal routine, I just had to be a little more vigilant reading labels. It is actually really handy to have this little challenge going on because anytime I was tempted to reach for a little trail mix or pour a bowl of cereal I had to stop and it was a prime opportunity to ask myself if I was truly hungry or if I was just bored/tired/stressed/out of habit.
Just to throw in this disclaimer again: I DID eat fruit. I did not cut out ALL sources of sugar but not one gram of ADDED sugar entered my body over the past ten days. I probably consume 3-5 servings of fruit a day so cutting that out would be crazy talk 😉
10 days is not a long time. 10 days won’t change you in a significant way, but in my opinion it was enough time to discover a few things that happen when you eliminate added sugar from your diet. Besides the fact that I can now recite all of the different forms of sugar, it is really interesting what happened when I cut my sugar intake back.
I started eating a lot of grain products that resemble cardboard.
My cereals of choice became Shredded wheat and bran (Ingredients: wheat and bran), and puffed wheat (Ingredients: wheat). My cracker of choice became Triscuits (Ingredients: wheat, soybean oil, sea salt) or rye crackers (Ingredients: rye). My bread of choice became Silver Hills Squirrelly bread (Ingredients: a bunch of seeds and wheats that squirrels would eat).
I was constantly hungry for three days.
Who knows if this was hormonal or due to stress or other random environmental factors, but for the first three days after I started the challenge, I was hungry a lot. I think I was craving sweets and it just translated in my brain to hunger.
After, I had a better understanding of my hunger.
That one might sound weird. I know that because when I said this to my mom, she looked at me like I was crazy, but I swear it is true. I really felt I didn’t get hangry as much and I had a more steady blood sugar level throughout the entire day. I know you can’t feel your blood sugar level, but I honestly felt that I could better understand whether I was hungry or thirsty throughout the day during this last week.
I was never bloated at the end of the night.
I thought it was salt and water that did this, but maybe sugar is the culprit. If someone asked you to squeeze into your favourite skinny jeans at the end of the night, would you be enthusiastically willing to do so? If you had asked me 10 days ago I would have said no. Probably like most people, by the end of the night I am filled with food and water and tea and feeling a little more bloated at the end of the night than I was in the morning. Throughout this challenge, I have felt almost the same at night as I do in the morning… weird.
I missed gum.
I am a gum addict. I’m not afraid to admit it. Giving up added sugar and artificial sweeteners meant giving up my beloved Excel Bubblemint sucralose sweetened gum. I had to drive to school and work with a cupholder container FULL of it sitting beside me. I was strong, and survived, but never have I brushed my teeth so much than during this challenge. Fresh breath is important to me. Admittedly, this is likely the one thing that will creep back into my diet first now that the challenge is over.
I became a LOT more aware of sugar in food.
This is an obvious one but it was still crazy to me. Salsa. Bread. Crackers. Salad dressing. Granola. Yogurt. The super healthy foods that are always in your house, which you know are technically “processed and packaged” but what is the alternative? Spending hours on a Sunday afternoon baking crackers for your family for the week? Convenience has found its way into even the pantries of the healthiest people. It was an eyeopening challenge and one that made me very aware of the food I put into my body.
My nutrition professor says that people can always give you an answer when you ask them, “WHAT did you eat?” but it is a little harder when you ask them “WHY?” If you broke down the ingredients of everything you ate and asked yourself why you were eating it, besides being a very time consuming process, it might also make you think twice about what you are putting into your body and why. Maltodextrin? Molasses? High fructose corn syrup? If there is absolutely no reason to put these in our body, then why are we?
In case you wanted to know what exactly I ate for the 10 days, here is a lovely table of my meals and snacks. Yes that font is like size 1.2 so good luck reading it. If you want a copy sent to you that you can actually read, just email me!
For those who have the vision of a hawk on the hunt (or an animal with good vision, I’m not a zoologist), I do in fact eat the same breakfast every morning. And that won’t change for a while because it is too damn delicious. Oatmeal with flax seed, egg whites cooked in, topped with peanut butter.
Where do I go from here?
I stated in the beginning that this wasn’t a crash diet or some weird fad, and that I was mostly doing it out of curiosity, but that begs the question of whether I will continue eating like this or not. The answer is yes and no. Glad we cleared things up.
In all honestly, I am going to continue a lot of the trends and foods that I ate and made during this challenge BUT I am not going to be crazy strict about not eating a gram of added sugar because as I discovered, our current food environment is setting us up for failure with regards to that. I feel great after 10 days of no added sugar and that really says something to me about how much those little things in our diet can affect us. I loved the idea of eating whole, unprocessed, homemade foods, and I really became aware of just how much everything is processed.
I hope this all made sense, and that even if you don’t want to try the 10-Day No Sugar Challenge, you can read the things that I learned and try little steps to reducing added sugar intake 🙂