I’ve been wanting to do this challenge after seeing Goodful’s “We Try Quitting Sugar For A Month” video. However, I was faced with a little challenge: I do not have a kitchen in my accommodation.
You see, back when I was working in Ghana, I lived in a hotel room. I do not cook any of my meals. I usually eat at the hotel’s restaurant or at the staff cafeteria. I once spoke to the Executive Chef, my colleague, to request for a No Sugar Meal, but he could not help unless I present a prescription from a nutritionist. I understood and decided to do this challenge when I’m home, in the Philippines.
As soon as I landed last October 2020, I started planning on when to take this challenge. Finally, I am set to do it as my 2nd challenge for 2021, after the 30 days of No Complaining.
I do not have a sweet tooth, so I thought it would be easy. Little did I know, almost all the food out there has sugar! Even the once I thought that hasn’t because they are savory! Apparently, sugar is used to enhance the flavor, the texture and the color of foods. It is also used for food preservation like in jams and jellies, balance acidity in food, and is a key component to fuel fermentation (1). In short, unless I eat completely organic and cook my food, it would be impossible to win victory over this challenge.
Tough one, right? Well, let’s see how I did:
Week 1 was rough. On day 1, I woke up with a bad headache! Same like a hangover. But since I watched Goodful’s video, it was not a surprise to me. I also felt a bit down for some reason.
I did some research on this. Apparently, the brain’s activity when taking sugar is the same when using drugs. Hence, removing it from my diet triggered a “sugar withdrawal” headache. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood and motivation, also decreased when I changed my diet. As per a 2016 study, the brain produces more dopamine when it’s exposed to high levels of sucrose, a type of sugar (2). That explains the mood I was feeling.
The following day, my headache’s gone but I stared craving for sugar. Luckily, we had fruits available so I munch on those. Fruits come in handy especially when you have annoying siblings teasing you with chocolate mousse cake. I badly want to take a bite but I don’t want to redo this challenge.
Experienced a hitch on day 3. Can you guess how? There was sugar on the margarine I used to cook cheesy broccoli. Funny that I checked the cheese’s label but not the margarine. I was so upset. I don’t want to have a headache again for starting over! Since then, I duly check my labels. I also sorted our pantry and separated the sugar-free items from not.
The next day, I had another headache but it’s more manageable. I was still craving for sugar and I continue to drink a lot of water and ate a lot of fruits.
I was getting used to eating no sugar in week 2, but the members of my family aren’t. They kept complaining that our meals lack flavor. They hated that they were affected by my diet change. You see, after discovering that even flavoring mixes contain sugar, I banned everyone from using them. Everyone was convincing me to ditch the no sugar challenge because they were suffering. I carried on with the dare anyway but I did compromise. I will continue with my dare but I will have a different dish from them. “I can do that,” I thought to myself. But seeing them eat sinigang, sisig and chocolate mousse when I eat daing na bangus made me second guess if I should continue.
Lucky for me, week 2 was our grocery week. Sure, I’ll be able to find sugar-free products that would satisfy my cravings, right? WRONG! Grocery shopping was a disaster! My mom and I took hours circling the store only to get a handful of items with no sugar. That was my queue that I just have to make all my meals from scratch.
What would you do if your mom is celebrating her 50th birthday in buffet restaurant? Would rather eat out and break a commitment, or refuse to join and miss the important event?
This has an obvious answer, but when I was faced with this question, I had a dilemma. I enjoyed the food alright, but I’m not comfortable choosing between the two options. I wish it is possible to do both. With this, I feel for those who follows strict diet for health reasons.
Another hitch I experienced this week was when I had to do product testing for my online food business (@mirienda). I had to taste seven donut fillings for my Valentines special edition donuts.
I was positive to end the week well, but on the last day I had hyperacidity after indulging with chicharron and vinegar. I was hopeful that it will go away when I ignore it, but it persisted. To neutralize it, I took candies. In a good note, my hyperacidity went away.
I no longer crave for sugar or anything sweet in particular. My body feels superb, my skin is unusually smooth and glowing, my hair’s shiny, and I can’t remember the last time I got bloated. My family has also gotten used to the diet. Everyone is eating more fruits and vegetables than ever.
END OF THE CHALLENGE
This challenge is definitely difficult specially because sugar is found in majority of the food and drinks. Eating out is not an option when you are in a no sugar diet. Food preparation and grocery shopping take time. It also takes an effort to check on each food and drink labels.
On the flip side, I felt healthier than ever! I didn’t miss sugar at all. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep track of my expenses during this challenge so I cannot compare whether it is more economical. I will definitely do this challenge again, possibly adapt the diet permanently.
Tips to go sugar-free without getting crazy:
- Skip eating out, desserts and alcohol! There is no way for you to tell whether your food has sugar or not. Experiment in the kitchen and discover your inner chef.
- Duly read the labels. Non-negotiable.
- Stack up on fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables will be your friends when you’re craving for sugar.
- List down your sugar-free products. This will come in handy during grocery shopping.
- This is not a punishment, so stop thinking that it is. This challenge is really though. Viewing it like a punishment is not going to help. Rather, think of the benefits you’ll get out of this like clearer skin and feeling healthy.
- Clear your pantry from products with sugar. Need I say more?
- Involve the people around you. Notify them with your diet change, especially when you are not doing your own grocery. Aside from their support and encouragement, they will help you be accountable.
- Make yourself familiar with the sugar codes. Good rule of thumb, all that ends with -ose are usually forms of sugar.
- Manage your stress. Often, we crave for sugary treats when we are stressed. This is because cortisol (stress hormone) is released and by taking in some sugary treats, our body produces serotonin (calming and relaxing hormone) (3)
- Consult your doctor whether this diet is applicable to you. Before deciding to board on a new diet or any fitness program, it’s better to consult a doctor. Any lifestyle modification might result to potential health issue. It’s better safe than sorry.
- Functions of sugars in food and drinks. (2021). Sugar Nutrition Resource Center. https://www.sugarnutritionresource.org/the-basics/functions-of-sugars-in-food
- Villines, Z., & Sampson, S. (2020, June 14). Can you get a headache from sugar? Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320464%23sugar-withdrawal
- Capretto, L. (2014, August 20). The Science Behind Why You Crave Sugar When You’re Stressed (VIDEO). Huffpost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-you-crave-sugar-rebecca-scritchfield_n_5694675