Although it struck fear into my heart, I recently decided to enroll in Nicole‘s 30-Day Sugar Detox program, and boy am I glad I did. It launched at the beginning of June, so I’ve been working my way through the materials for just over a week now, and it’s been rather eye-opening.
I am a bit of a sugar fiend. I have a terrible sweet tooth – heck, my catch phrase is that I like a little coffee with my sugar and cream! I have gotten into the habit over recent years of having a “treat” every day, sometimes more than once a day: a muffin here, a piece of chocolate there, a danish for breakfast on a day that I’m running late. It’s not really a treat anymore if you’re eating it all the time, is it?
Most of the time if I indulge in a sugary treat, I feel like I can’t help myself. And with certain particular items, I feel like I can’t stop at one, either. (TIM TAMS, I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU). I was aware that when Nicole kicked the sugar habit, she went whole hog and basically eats 100% sugar-free now, but this wasn’t really my goal… I just wanted to avoid obvious sources of sugar for the month and kick the cravings. I wasn’t concerned about added sugar in non-obvious places.
The first phase of the program was focused on our connection with food – really delving into why we eat the way we do, where patterns of sugar-eating formed, and creating alternative coping mechanisms for those instances. One of my most interesting takeaways was remembering a family dinner tradition from my childhood: my mum served dessert of some sort almost every day (even though most of the time it was just fruit or yogurt, it was still a sweet flavour), but my parents told us we had to “qualify” for dessert by finishing some arbitrary amount of our main entree before we could move on to dessert. I had never made the link before, but there it was glaring me in the face. I had learned to equate sweets as a reward. And I do that to this day. Make a big sale? Cake! Finished an intensive study course? Ice cream! Had a super productive weekend? Pie!
I also realized how often I eat crap just because I’m bored, and especially if I’m bored and lonely or stressed. So, the coping mechanisms I came up with when I start craving sweets were the following:
- Take a walk
- Call a friend, and if I’m upset or stressed, vent
- Do something on my to-do list… preferably not something at the computer or at my desk.
- Play a fun song and dance it out
I’m now in the second phase, which is the education phase of the program, and this got really interesting for me. You’ll remember that I had no intention of cutting out added sugars in non-obvious places, but I also didn’t think that they were in so many non-obvious places! Nicole gave us a list of all the different names used in ingredient lists for various types of sugar additives. I don’t even think the list was comprehensive, but boy howdy, it was a long list. And after comparing every pantry item in my kitchen against that list, there were some nasty surprises. Rice vinegar! Canned olives! Chicken stock! Black beans! Mayonnaise! My beloved lemongrass had no less than FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES of sugar additives. And I nearly cried to see sugar as the second ingredient in sriracha. (Thankfully, I was also happy to learn that dill pickles, marmite, and my particular brand of salsa, crackers and dijon mustard were safe.)
So, I’m still not giving up my beloved sriracha, but it got me thinking that maybe there are some easy switches I can make that will reduce my sugar consumption without even noticing. First things first, it’s probably time to start soaking and cooking my own beans and chicken/vegetable stock instead of relying so heavily on pre-packaged varieties. I will probably commit to the switch from processed to natural peanut butter. And in some cases, a simple brand change is all it will take… did you guys know that most commercially made mayonnaise has added sugar, but Trader Joe’s brand doesn’t? (Sidebar: I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s and want to start crossing the border every few weeks for a grocery stocking trip, so I’m TOTALLY FINE with another excuse to hit them up). I will be reading ingredient lists on food packaging much more carefully in the future.
The best part? I haven’t even avoided obvious sugar 100% since June 1, but I have definitely reduced it dramatically and I’m pretty sure I’ve kicked the daily cravings. Also? I’ve been breaking through a weight loss plateau without increasing my activity level!
Stay tuned for more about this as the month goes on.