I have a little problem with sugar. Two problems, actually.
The first problem is that I know that added sugar is not good for you, especially in high quantity. It contributes to disease, weight gain and makes our cells age more rapidly. Yet added sugar is everywhere, from tempting sweets at meetings and check-out aisles of stores, to sugar that manufacturers add to our pasta sauces, salad dressings, salsa, and bread to make them taste better. In fact, 80% of packaged foods at supermarkets have added sugar!
The second problem is with me. I find it hard to stop eating sugar. I’m an addict! Sugar is highly addictive to many people, including me. The way it works is that our brains get a little hit of the feel good hormone dopamine when we have sugar, but that makes us crave more and more once we start eating it. Before long, we can’t stop thinking about or eating sugar-filled foods. For me, I know I’ve crossed way over the edge when I start eating marshmallows or brown sugar directly out of the bag late at night when no one is around. It’s disgusting, it’s embarrassing, but I’m trying to keep it real here so I’m confessing that this actually happens to me.
Recently I was in one of those cycles where I started to notice that I was craving more and more sugar. First I’d have a square of dark chocolate in the afternoon. Then, a second. Then maybe a few dark chocolate covered almonds.
But as my cravings increased, I’d scan the pantry late at night for hidden candy or eat Nutella straight out of the jar with a spoon. Temptations were everywhere and I was finding it hard to resist them. The day after I hit rock bottom, I decided that I needed to get sugar out of my life for a while to get my cravings under control.
On January 29 I posted this on Facebook:
About a dozen friends decided to join me. (There are good studies that show that tackling a behavioral change is easier if we state our intentions publicly and have social support.) We agreed to eliminate added sugar (fruit and other natural sources of sugar were fine) and even artificial sweetener from our diets for 10 days and check in with each other daily via Facebook. We lost a couple people along the way, several of us had slip-ups, but by the end of day 10, there were 10 of us who had completed it, including me.
I think this sugar detox had a big impact on each of us. I want to share several notes I received from members of our sugar detox group.
From Julie Garel (our sons used to play music together):
Aviva, First of all I want to say thank you for leading the charge. I am not certain whether I could have been as successful with this goal absent the peer group you created. Having champions, even remote, electronic ones, made a huge difference. They became adjunct members of my conscience as I walked past temptation.
I embarked upon a sugar detox in order to significantly reduce high fasting blood sugar levels that have been present for a number of years. I am the lowest healthy BMI on the planet. I exercise an hour each day. Yet, my genetics plus our food system plus my love of dessert created a problem. I am committed to avoiding diabetes, so here I am. I did not sign up for simply a 10-day detox, but rather I am changing my lifestyle. Your program simply got me started.
I learned that perfection is the enemy of great performance. One should never consider a nibble or even a day of indulgence as failure. There is always a tomorrow. Forgiveness is the most important ingredient in program resumption. SO, here I am still mostly sugar free.
And this from Six O’Clock Scramble recipe tester Nancy Bolen:
My sugar detox started before you did the challenge. I had decided to choose a word to define my year and that word is “DONE.” I was so done with many aspects of my life that needed improving. I, too, am a sugar addict. And the ironic part is that my body does not handle sugar well. So I decided to do a low-carb (no sugar) eating plan (I was DONE with sugar and white flour). I did this because I have done it before and have always felt better. I am now on the 3rd or 4th week. Yes, I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times, I cannot lie. BUT I have gotten right back on the plan and not beaten myself up about the slip-ups. I can say that since I have done the low-carb/no sugar plan, I am sleeping better and have had almost no hot flashes.
And this one from my close friend Sherri Holdridge:
I did the sugar detox on a whim after a cold walk in the woods with you. I am always up for a challenge and knowing that I had you as an accountability partner made me so much stronger. Although it was a decision made in the moment, it turned out to be a reason to change some bad habits that I have acquired over the years. I have always eaten way too much sugar–sugar has become habitual in my day-to-day routines. So the detox helped me break those daily bad “sugar” habits. And now 2 weeks after the first day of detox I can say that I no longer crave that Reese’s Peanut Butter cup at the grocery store or that afternoon soda for a pick me up…and I have eliminated my candy stash at home. So thank you dear friend for the challenge.
Knowing that we had a group of people to be accountable to somehow made it so much easier for all of us to avoid sweets for 10 days. I don’t know if it was a feeling of being empowered by the group or fear of disappointing them if I slipped up, but for whatever reason, it worked.
Some people ask me if I feel better when I don’t eat sugar and the truth is no, I don’t feel any different physically. I still have my moods and energy dips and my weight is the same. The only difference I notice is that I rarely have cravings for sugar and don’t feel I need something sweet after lunch and dinner or when my energy sags in the afternoon or evening. So I guess I feel more in control of my diet.
So where do we go from here? I’ve decided to continue to avoid added sugar indefinitely unless there is a special occasion or a particularly delicious looking dessert. On day 11, I went to a homemade pizza party at a fellow food blogger’s house (Laura Kumin of Mother Would Know). She had special-ordered cannoli from the famous Vaccaro’s for dessert and had baked rugulach. I had one of each. But in the 6 days since then, I haven’t had any more sugary treats!
I don’t want to be so naïve to say my sugar addiction is tamed for good. I’m sure I’ll hit a point when sweets reenter my life on a daily basis, and will probably have to repeat the sugar detox to conquer my cravings once again. But at least now I know I can do it and that it’s not all that painful or difficult.
So tell me, is sugar a problem for you, and if it is, would you be willing to commit to a 10-day sugar detox?