I just finished 30 days of eating only “real” whole foods, and no sugar.
The first few days were the hardest, especially when a coworker brought a bunch of homemade cookies to work and they were out in a bowl all day. I know this feat would have been impossible if I were merely resisting out of sheer will power, so I made sure to have solid motivation before I started. My goal was not to lose weight or look a certain way, my goal was “to feel good”. And when those strong urges which said “Yeah but it’s free! And it’s your favorite kind of cookie! And ooh look how soft and fresh they are, one bite won’t hurt!” I gently reminded myself that a) this was not forever, only 30 days and b) cookies would not make me feel good (for more than a few seconds). I took the long view.
After a while, I got used to the idea that I just didn’t eat sugar, and stopped thinking about what sweet treat to have. I did give myself free reign to eat fruit (and even feast on it when I felt close to getting icecream). Things began to taste sweeter as my tastebuds grew more accustomed to natural sweetness.
So what did I eat? I ate only foods that exist naturally, without processing, and without ingredients which I cannot pronounce.
I didn’t have to change my entire regime, but I did give up some of my favorite things like honey and packaged flavored oatmeal. Instead, a day of eating would look like this: blended salad for breakfast (cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, carrots, beets, spinach, olive oil); roasted veggies, sausage, and quinoa for lunch; bananas and apples with peanut butter for snack; and eggs, bacon, and a hashbrown for dinner (yes I know these are generally breakfast items ;) )
I did “cheat” on my birthday (decadent chocolate cake, ice cream, and frozen yogurt), but this was a planned cheat from the very beginning. I also ate a tbsp of ketchup on several days, which, while a “simple” version of ketchup (no corn syrup or fake ingredients), still contains sugar. I also had honey in the first week, before deciding to exclude it from the regime.
Not only did I choose different foods, I also decided to eat more mindfully–chewing each bite until it became a paste, putting my fork down between bites helped me savor the flavor and become fuller faster.
I was also mindful in the preparation of my food most days–I batch cooked large amounts of vegetables on the weekends to make choosing these foods a no brainer–they were already ready so I had no excuse. I also took care in preparing them and making them tasty, using seasonings and trying new recipes made it fun.
I was recommended a book called Food Rules by Michael Pollan which went along nicely with my plan for the month, inspiring some of the approaches I used. It’s a simple book
What Did I Find?
I found small changes and ways that I feel better. Nothing monumental, just a few simple, small, yet powerful changes. My energy is more consistent throughout the day–no big ups and downs like after a heavy meal with lots of processed bread and sugar. My mood still fluctuates, but I am more willing and able to move past it, to carry on rather than get wrapped up in it. I lost 3.5 pounds, with less exercise than previous months (yoga 2x week, bellydancing 1x week, occasional walks). My skin is clearer, though still not free from acne.
Well, “food” was the first month-long experiment for me this year. Each month, I will focus on an area I’d like to grow in. While I told myself (and meant it) that I only had to eat this way for the month of January, I enjoy it and elect to retain it, for the most part. I think the biggest thing I’m taking away from the experience is that it IS possible for me to say no to sugar. I have control, not it. And with that control and power, I can make wiser choices. Or at least, choose more mindfully. I plan to have a big scoop of icecream today (maybe two!) and hop back on the wagon. I intend to eat sugar when it’s a real treat, not as an every day occurrence. And even if it’s free, I can still say no. I make the decision.