When I first started writing this post I realized there is so much information I wanted to share, it was going to turn into The Easy No Sugar Challenge book! Maybe in the future, but not today. Today I want to share with you my experience in calming down my sugar addiction with some helpful tips to get you started. So I will not be writing about the harmful effects of sugar on our health. Anyway, you probably know all about it or you wouldn’t be reading this post.
Before we go any further…let me explain what this no sugar challenge won’t be!
It’s not a diet. There is no calorie restriction. You may gain weight, lose weight…but most likely your weight won’t change. But definitely do not lower your food intake. This can trigger hunger and lower energy levels which can lead to sugar cravings which we are trying to avoid.
It’s not low-carb. You can have fruits and whole-grains.
A way to remove sugar out of your life forever. It’s natural to want sweet foods in our life. The same way we crave salty, bitter and sour foods, our body will also crave sweet.
So who can this no sugar challenge benefit? It’s for those of you who want to…
stop consuming refined sugar
recalibrate your taste buds to enjoy the natural sweetness in foods
have more balanced blood sugar levels
have better skin
switch to only low-sugar and naturally sweetened treats going forward
avoid the health risks associated with a high consumption of sugar such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and lower immunity. And let’s not forget the health of our teeth!
Before you read on…maybe you are wondering why you should listen to my advice? I’m not a nutritionist or doctor.
First of all, I’m not giving any medical or nutritional advice, except what is general knowledge.
Secondly, I am speaking from my own experience. And boy do I have a lot of that! I am a recovering sugar addict and forever will be.
Thirdly, I’m being totally realistic here. Eliminating sugar out of our life is close to impossible. But because of its addictive nature, you can’t have a little and be satisfied. Overtime you need more and more. So doing a challenge like this one from time to time helps tame the sugar monster.
One more thing! It’s important to consider your personality type…
There are generally two types of people – abstainers and moderators (thanks Gretchen Rubin!). If you’re a moderator and don’t like restriction or strict dietary guidelines, then having an occasional sweet treat makes it more likely that you will stick to your low sugar lifestyle. You’re an abstainer if you have trouble stopping something if you get started (box of Oreos, a tub of ice cream?) and are not tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits.
This method works best for moderators rather than abstainers. Abstainers might do best staying in stage 1 for example.
The 3-stage Process
The stages and what is allowed/not allowed are listed in the chart below. And you can download your own here.
In stage 1 fresh and frozen whole fruits will be your only form of sweet food. Yes, you can have high sugar fruits such as banana, pineapple, and mango. But don’t go overboard making 6 banana smoothies. Remember your goal to recalibrate your taste buds. No fruit juice at all, except lemon. And no dried fruit.
In stage 2 you will be able to introduce dried fruits (YAY DATES!) but in moderation of approximately 30g per day. This is the only change from stage 1.
In stage 3 you can slowly introduce natural sweeteners such as honey and coconut sugar, but again in moderation. It is recommended not to exceed more than 30g of added sugar per day.
For more ideas on what to eat in each stage and what 30g of sugar a day looks like, check out this post (coming soon!).
And I will say this once…NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS! No diet drinks. These need to be out of your life FOREVER. Guys…ladies please we are in 2020. It’s like telling someone in the 90s that cigarettes are bad for you. We are way past that. You can read more about that here. Stevia is allowed by stage 3, but please use it sparingly, like you would the other sweeteners.
My recommendation is to start with stage 1 and move on to stage 2 and 3. For those that have a very strong addiction to sugar may need to go backward, starting with 3 and ending with 1. How long you stay in each stage is up to you. But start with a minimum of 5 days. 7 days is great. 10 days in each stage would be ideal.
For tips to get through the challenge the easy way, read this post (coming soon).
The challenge is over…now what?
Ideally, we should all stay in Stage 3 forever. But let’s be realistic here…30g of sugar a day is not a lot. Plus who wants to keep count? Not me. I’m far from ideal with my sugar consumption or even my food in general. I try my best to eat well, listen to my body and give it what it needs. Sometimes that would be a slice of pecan pie WITH ice cream, and other times its fresh figs and walnuts. If we demonize a certain food or categorize it as “bad” it can become even more special to us, and if we ever have some of it we eat way more than we would if that food was “neutral” in our mind.
Now take away from this experience the positives that you can carry forward with you in your day to day life. It might be that you now enjoy your coffee without sugar, or that you have a new appreciation for a certain herbal tea, or that you finally enjoy having green smoothies. It will be different for each one of us and know that you can always do the challenge again if you feel you are consuming too much sugar.
Any questions? Have you tried quitting sugar before? Share your experience and insights below.