Last Sunday, while casually browsing the Internet, I chanced upon this article in Quartz: This is what happens to your brain when you stop eating sugar. Curious, I continued to read through. An alarmist content header comes up on my screen. Sugar addiction is real.
After I finished the article, I realized that I was probably addicted to sugar. 50% of my caloric intake is probably some form of sweets; I unabashedly eat cookies for breakfast, I snack on Kinder Buenos in the afternoon… Yeah, I’m probably super addicted to sugar. I’ve always justified my unhealthy diet (and remained relatively slim) by following this rule of thumb: avoid savory carbs (e.g. pasta, bread, rice) in favor of having dessert.
In effect, I’d eat around the mashed potatoes on my entree, and then order a dessert. Or order a burger, discard the bun, and have a milkshake. Sometimes I even forgo a proper meal altogether and just eat a slice of cake. So far it’s worked for me. I get in my necessary macronutrients, fulfill my sweet tooth, and still stay kinda skinny. But I didn’t like how frequently I craved something sweet. I don’t like that I could be addicted to something. I’m not an addict!
The next day, I commenced my sugar-free journey for 40 days. Here’s what I’m denying myself of:
- Refined sugars
Yeah, that’s it. I’m eating fruit, white bread, pasta, potatoes and other high-GI foods, but simply not anything with refined sugar of high fructose corn syrup in it. (Honey and agave was suggested as alternatives, but I never really used those sweeteners and I don’t intend to start.) What my restriction rules out is:
- Ice cream
I never had a soda habit, so at least there’s one less thing to contend with. But baked goods, my god. I’ve never stepped into a Panera Bread, but on Day 3 of my sugar fast (the worst day), I found myself rubbernecking at the breakfast pastries at Panera Bread while on the way to work. I don’t really care for breakfast pastries (after all, they mostly don’t have my favorite dessert ingredient – chocolate), but the urge was real.
I’m on Day 6 of my sugar fast, and it’s definitely gotten easier. Day 3 was for sure the worst. It got to a point where I wasn’t craving any specific sweet (I have a weakness for Kinder Bueno and chocolate chip cookies), but I wasn’t sated by my meals and felt a distinct sense of wanting. It’s a very peculiar sensation, to feel wanting but to not have a specific thing in mind. I think my mind had rationally accepted that sugar was a no-go zone, but my body hadn’t, hence the disconnect between the desire and an object of desire.
I also had a client meeting on Day 3, and I was so irritable and on edge prior to the meeting. Fortunately my professional demeanor kicked in when I was actually at the meeting, so the sugar cravings were quelled a little bit.
As a solve for my desire for something to munch on, I’ve been eating more carbs. It really isn’t ideal, and I don’t think subbing in potato chips for sweets is perfect either (and I get way less enjoyment out of a pack of chips than a cookie), but I’m trying to add some more nutritious foods into my diet now that I’m cutting out sugar. I bought some granola and Greek yogurt and I’m eating more fruits, so that’s a start. I hope that the couple of pounds I’ve put on in the past week will go away eventually with better eating habits.
My primary goal for my sugar fast is so I’m not an addict. So far I haven’t really experienced any positive effects like better skin or better sleep or weight loss. It’s unusual that I’m motivated so strongly by NOT being something, but I really hate the thought of being reliant on something. Rationally speaking though, the other things I’m hoping to get out of this experiment is:
- Lose weight
- Reset my brain chemistry
- Be grossed out by how sweet my favorite chocolate chip cookie trifle pudding from Sugar Sweet Sunshine is
I’ve also now publically announced that I’m giving up sugar, so there’s greater incentive to press on, right?
Grr! I will persevere.