Last month’s blogging hiatus was brought to you by the following excuses:
- Moving (even though I hired movers, which I highly recommend, moving suuuuucks)
- Settling into new apartment and basking in it’s natural light.
- And, I suppose some fun was had as well.
Through all that fun, I can tell you one thing I was not doing in August (but I will call it a valid excuse for not blogging because, why not). Eating sugar! If you are one of my most loyal readers, you may remember I gave up alcohol in January as a post-holiday season experiment (recap of the 28-day cleanse here). Now fast forward to July 31. My lid came across “5 Ways Quitting Sugar Changed My Entire Existence” — and we decided to kick off our own 30 Day Challenge with another friend the next day. Now, I didn’t expect it to be as life-changing as the author of that article made it out to be (mostly because the no alcohol experiment didn’t change any habits long-term), but I figured I would at least learn something.
You may be asking, what counts as sugar? We are talking about added sugars found in processed foods that your body doesn’t know how to digest. A.K.A. the above bag of artificially-flavored Muddy Buddies, the constant donuts and cookies that inevitably show up around the office, candy, chocolate, and yes, my beloved fro-yo. Homemade baked goods are okay if they’re made with maple syrup, honey, agave, etc. instead of white or brown sugar. Fruit is a-okay; juice and fruit-flavored shave ice are not.
Another question people asked a lot: does alcohol count as sugar? I’m thinking technically it should definitely be on the no-no list, but in our experiment alcohol got a pass (hey – it’s summer in Milwaukee). However I did get yelled at for drinking numerous Old Fashioned’s throughout the month (which have 7-UP or Sprite in it…) and for my afternoon diet soda concoctions from the SUPER FUN touch-screen machine at work. Sue me. I’m sure the pitchers of sangria over tapas weren’t kosher either.
Before I get into my takeaways from this cleanse, I’ll preface it with this: I consider myself a very healthy person, and more knowledgeable about nutrition, compared to your average 24-year old. I exercise 5-6 times a week, cook healthy meals and bring my own lunch to work by and large, and typically eat out only on the weekends or on special occasions. I don’t buy baked goods, rarely bake them myself and don’t eat candy unless it’s on top of a $6 swirl of fro-yo. That said, I have a sweet tooth, a fro-yo trip is a weekly occurrence, and if there are homemade goodies around I have a very hard time saying no. Except for cake – cake sucks.
So, here’s what 30-days of laying off the sweets taught me about myself and those addictive, tiny white granules that find their way into everything. Many takeaways were things I already knew, but just reinforced over the past month.
The office is the enemy. Every office has an area that has evolved into the spot people leave their baking experiment from the evening before. Whether it’s to be nice or to make the giver feel better about not eating the entire batch themselves doesn’t matter. I realized just how constant the flow of baked goods is Monday – Friday, and just how much a non-occasion is needed for an afternoon e-mail announcing cookies on the second floor. This is where willpower really came in to play. Most notably, I was very proud of myself for saying no to the adorable heart-shaped peach pies, and the “just because” donuts from the recently opened Holey Moley. This brings me to my next point…
Willpower builds over time. Every week that went by, I looked back on all I had successfully turned down. Come Friday night, did it really matter that I couldn’t have that free pastry earlier in the week? Nope. If anything, my insides loved me for not putting it in my body. Where before the sight of sugar suddenly sparked a craving I couldn’t ignore, I can now say no and go on with my day. OR, have a bite or two and be satisfied without going overboard or into a coma. However, to prove there is always an exception to the rule, I may have almost cried the night my boyfriend and I watched his family dig into homemade turtle cheesecake with homemade chocolate sauce. We had amazing gluten-free banana muffins instead, but, there was no comparison.
Dessert isn’t diet-friendly for a reason. Obviously I knew this, but it really hit home when my clothes started fitting better halfway through the month. This was likely unnoticeable to anyone else, but without making any other deliberate changes in my lifestyle I am enjoying a great (albeit superficial) benefit. This is probably the most important takeaway of the experiment for me, because I now know just how much the little sweets here and there affect my body. And that’s just on the outside! I’m sure it’s ultimately different for everyone, but the other challengers reported similar results.
The post-dinner craving can be tamed. Frozen fruit is your friend. And popcorn.
The Minnesota State Fair is the perfect spot to end a cleanse. How’s that for some irony? Here we are on September 8 and I’m free to indulge as I please. Yet, I haven’t made the trek to my favorite fro-yo spot once, and I’m not whipping up batches up puppy chow. Why not? An outing to the Great Minnesota Get Together on August 31 taught me a lot. Among the savory french fries and bleu cheese corn fritters (O.M.G.) we ended the cleanse with a few of Sweet Martha’s famous chocolate chip cookies and an apple caramel malt. Upon arriving home, I just felt off (although I would hope nobody feels GOOD when they return from the Fair), but I chalk it up to the sugar. Too much too soon! I felt anxious and lethargic, but was so thankful I didn’t also have my favorite fried apple pie with cinnamon ice cream settling in my stomach. How’s that for some willpower?
The Next Challenge
Now back to that article and the attention-grabbing headline that started this all. Quitting sugar for 30 days did not change my entire existence, but the effects are definitely long lasting. It’s a case of “you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.”
Stronger willpower? Check.
Feeling healthier both inside and out? Check.
New-found appreciation for frozen grapes? Check.
I haven’t yet decided what my next experiment will be yet (cutting out Big Gulps or a 30 day blogging challenge, perhaps?). In the meantime, if I want a cookie I’ll eat one, but now I’m off to enjoy a peanut butter banana muffin (made with maple syrup!) and unpack this apartment before my lease is up. No excuses.