Got a sweet tooth or just love a little treat at the end of every meal? Me too! So why the hell would I want to do a 4 week no sugar challenge? Well, why not! With all the information out there about the effects of sugar on the body and the brain, I wanted to see if I could be free of my addiction.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a doctor or a dietitian. The information I provide is based on my personal experience. Any recommendations I may make within this post should be discussed between you and your doctor before you commence any changes to your diet. The information you receive below does not take the place of professional medical advice.
Over the years, I’ve given up a lot of things I believed I couldn’t live without. The truth is I could and I did – once I made a true commitment. So why not set the bar even higher. This month I’m giving up one of my greatest pleasures, by doing a 4 Week No Sugar Challenge.
Most of the positive habits I’ve developed since turning forty, have started with me setting a challenge for myself. From giving up cigarettes, not eating meat or following an intermittent fasting protocol. Each challenge has helped create a totally different identity for myself. Pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me more confident to attempt bigger goals.
So what better way to kick off a new month than set a challenge which could break my addiction and enhance my overall health and vitality?
But let’s get real – I’m not expecting this to be easy. I have such a sweet tooth! My kitchen cupboards are full of sweet, delicious treats. I love biscuits, cakes and chocolate. Not to mention all the other foods which, up to this point, I had no idea contained so much sugar. (Even some of my ‘healthy’ food swaps are over the recommended daily sugar intake!)
So why sugar and why now?
My 4 Week No Sugar Challenge
I’ve made so much progress with my health over the years. From losing weight, gaining muscle, getting my blood pressure down and having more energy everyday. But still, my sugar cravings run rampant throughout my daily life. If I really want to take control of the things I can control – sugar is the next thing on my hit list.
I’ve watched YouTube videos and read so many articles on the effects of too much sugar in your diet. Below are some of the common problems that kept coming up:
- Causes weight gain
- May increase risk of heart disease
- Accelerates the skin aging process
- Increases risk of type 2 diabetes
- Drains your energy
- Causes tooth decay
- Can impact your memory
There were hundreds more, with the overwhelming consensus that too much sugar has a negative impact on both our physical body and brain health. After starting the year with my mantra ‘Control The Controllables’, my sugar intake is one thing I could (try) to control! Who doesn’t want improved memory, better skin and a body not predisposed to disease!
Simple, But Not Easy!
Did you know, the recommended daily sugar intake for adults is 30 grams in the UK? This is the equivalent of 7 sugar cubes. For the whole day!!! One can of coke will pushed you over your total daily intake by 9 grams.
I had no idea how much sugar I was actually eating – especially the hidden sugars in the things I considered healthy.
The problem is sugar is my reward! Had a bad day – eat a biscuit. Want to treat yourself – buy a cake. Just eaten a healthy dinner – congratulate yourself with a piece of chocolate. My intention is to only have one biscuit, one slice of cake or one chunk of chocolate. However, the dopamine and serotine rush is so good, I can’t override the chemical signals and keep going back for more. Just like any addiction, I know how I will feel once the treat passes my lips and I look forward to it!
So how do I plan to give up my daily (hourly) fix?
Breaking the Habit – My Action Plan
My sugar free challenge is not about weight loss. The aim is to relieve my body of the long term negative effects of sugar, whilst breaking the chemical and phycological addiction to the feelings it gives me. However, sugar is everywhere and found in many guises. Did you know there are over 60 different words for sugar? All hidden in some of the most basics of foods.
Obviously I’m not planning to have cucumbers and water for the next 4 weeks. I’m not concerned about the natural sugar found in fruits, vegetables and grains. My main focus will be eliminating my ‘refined sugar’ intake. Mainly staying away from the following items:
- Ready cooked meals
- Shop bought pasta sauces
- Biscuits, cakes and chocolate
- White bread, rice and pasta
- Fruit juices and fizzy drinks
- Packaged snacking foods
Basically, any item which has processed sugar added.
To help prevent my craving from becoming too much to bare, I plan to increase my intake of meat free protein and ‘good fats’, in the effort to stay fuller for longer. (I’ve also been searching YouTube on how to make sugar free cookies – A girl needs a backup plan when things get too tuff to handle!)
The Real Callenge
Remember earlier when I said my relationship with sugar is like an addiction? Apparently, experts repeated suggest sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. So, as my main focus is to eliminate my intake of refined sugar usually found in all the things above, I investigated the common symptoms of withdrawal. These included:
- Intense cravings for something sweet
- Intense cravings for carbohydrates
- A depressed mood
- Lack of energy
And these are just the good ones!! Luckily, the symptoms only last for the week at the most. (A week!!)
The real challenge over the next 4 weeks will be riding the waves as my body fights for a sugar fix. From previous experience of getting out of my comfort zone to create a different identity for myself, I know the hardest battle is with my mind. So the added push back from my body may be one of the biggest fights I’ve had to face.
I never thought I could give up cigarettes, eating meat or drinking milk – but I did. So now it’s time to rise to the one of the biggest challenges of my journey to better health and freedom. (Of course I will be giving you an update at the end of the month. Let’s hope I last that long. In the mean time follow me on Instagram to get any updates I post.)
Wish me luck!!