Hi, I am April and I am a sugar addict.
Shh, most people think I am ultra healthy, but sugar is my reward and comfort. It’s there when I am feeling down, bored, happy, you name it, sugar goes with it for me.
But sugar isn’t always so sweet anymore. I have very little freedom around it. I constantly fight cravings and often just give in. I suspect my sugar intake for ongoing inflammation issues. I have 10 lbs that, even while training for a 10k, won’t budge. So, the week before my 50th birthday, I am breaking up with sugar.
It’s not you, it’s me. Really, you’ve been great. Always there when I needed you, but I still have feelings for my health.
In the past, I have successfully removed sugar from my diet. Doing so helped me to lose weight and was an important factor in curing my perioral dermatitis (POD), but knowing I should do something and doing it, are not the same. I desperately want to give up sugar, but without an embarrassing rash to motivate me, I need some outside help.
Eric’s program begins with the lowdown on how food manufacturers use sugar and marketing to influence our food choices.
Did you know, 74% of packaged food has some sort of sugar in it?
The food industry is sneaky:
- It uses sugar to take advantage of our natural programming. We biologically crave sugar. Sugar tastes good and triggers hunger. Even when we are full, sugar stimulates us to eat more.
- It employs clever marketing to reinforce our cultural conditioning to associate celebrations with sweets. Most holidays or special occasions wouldn’t be the same without a good dose of sugar. Watch any food commercial – sugary food makes everything better and more fun!
Food manufacturers are in business to generate profit for themselves, not nutrition for consumers. Buyer beware.
Not only did I remove sugar from my diet during this challenge, but I discovered valuable truths and some surprising thought patterns around eating.
Sugar-Free Diet Day 1: The sugar-free cleanse starts with… sugar?
Eric: Give up nothing and notice the emotions you have before you eat. What else could you use to generate those emotions?
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 1:
- Eat whatever you want and especially things you’ve been trying to avoid and be aware of how they make you feel.
- Watch your food timeline from the first bite, to the last, and beyond.
There weren’t any forbidden foods in my house, including sugar; I had been trying to be “good”. Do you ever beat yourself up like that? As if what we eat makes us good or bad.
Although I love cake, I avoid it. I want to be “good”, so I’ll be “bad”. Once I introduce the possibility of chocolate cake, it plays on my mind throughout the day. I feel guilty about buying it.
In the car, I open the plastic box and feel the deep happy anticipation in the pit of my stomach. The first bite is not as good as I’d imagined. It is artificial tasting – maybe marshmallowy? Pretty soon I don’t notice the funny taste. I come to the last 2 bites and feel disappointed. The fun is ending.
Even though this is a piece of cake, the serving size is… half a cake?!? Oh my, 78g of sugar.
Interesting Fact: 4g of sugar = 1 tsp. of sugar.
78g/4 = 19 ½ tsp or 6 ½ Tbl of sugar.
And sugar has over 56 names.
Sugar is the #1 ingredient in the cake and there are no tricky names for it. I see it three more times in the long list. Well, Eric said I could have it and I am riding that chocolate/sugar high. Now to destroy the evidence before I pick the kids up from practice.
- 30 min. in and I feel light headed. I pass a McDonald’s. I bet a Big Mac has sugar in it and those caramel sundaes certainly do...
Chocolate cake hasn’t satisfied my sugar cravings but stimulated them.
- 40 min: I feel jittery.
- 2 hrs: My stomach hurts and my head aches.
- Dinner time: I have a ‘healthy’ bunless barbecue bacon burger, but the barbecue sauce alone has 5 types of sugar and the 2 Tbsp serving size contains 15 g sugar. Although the turkey bacon label claims to contain 0 grams of sugar, it does list sugar as the 4th ingredient. The food manufacturers are allowed to claim 0 for all values less than 1 gram. Tricky!
- I consider myself an informed consumer but am surprised by how much sugar is in most processed foods. I must read the ingredient label even on ‘healthy’ foods.
- Giving in to my sugar cravings, don’t make them go away.
- Anticipating sugar is fun, but overeating it is sickening.
Sugar-Free Diet Day 2: More sugar?
Eric: Inside of us, we all have a food angel (FA) and a food devil (FD). Your food devil has strategies for manipulating your food choices. Giving in to your food devil is your opportunity to understand its tactics.
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 2:
- Eat fruit first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
- Monitor your food dialog. How does your devil sell you sugar?
Yesterday, I bought chocolate chips and brown sugar to make cookies for a grieving neighbor. I was going to make them last night but ended up feeling too ill and tired from the chocolate cake.
SO glad I waited! Now, I won’t have to fight the urge to eat chocolate chip cookie dough.
As I get ready to wake the kids, I feel exhausted.
Food Devil: ” Mmm, chocolate chips would ‘pick-you-up’.”
I watch my dialog. ’Just do it’, seems to be our motto. I look in the goodie drawer.
Food Devil: “Oh, yes, milk chocolate!”
My insides melt along with the chips in my mouth. My small handful disappears after 3 pinches. I savor the flavor, but right before the last pinch, disappointment sets in again.
Food Devil: “The bags open now.”
My disappointment turns to devilish thoughts of…
Food Devil: “Just one more handful. There will be plenty left for the cookies.”
Later that day, I eat cookie dough while making the cookies, until I feel ill. I’m down to the last bit of dough and don’t have enough to make a full cookie.
Food Devil: “Just eat it and then you won’t have to figure out what to do with it.”
When the cookies are out of the oven, one falls in the sink.
Food Devil: “Better eat that.”
Food Angel: “Wait, what are you a garbage disposal?”
Too late, I eat it.
Food Devil: ”That cookie looks a little underdone and the one over there is broke. Better eat those too.”
My food devil comes up with endless reasons to keep eating sweets.
By the end of the evening, I am not hungry for dinner. My husband suggests fruit and the thought turns my stomach. Avoiding sugar has to be easier than this!
- When I eat sugar in excess, I tend to skip nutritious meals.
- My food devil and I are BFFs and my food angel is a third wheel; who we ignore when we want to eat treats.
Sugar-Free Day 3: Removing Sugar
Eric: Have you binged a little? That’s okay, I gave you permission (And Eric, I took it!). Keep paying attention to your dialog. When you say, “No,” the food devil may whine and complain. Be diligent.
“Moderate sugar consumption usually equates to moderate health.”
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 3:
- Eat raw fruits on an empty stomach only in the morning.
- Eliminate all refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.
I start the day with grapefruit. Then enjoy my usual eggs and veggies with cheese. Sometimes after a healthy breakfast, I crave something sweet, but not today. Perfectly satisfied. My food devil is quiet.
- Sometimes, it is easier for me to just say, “No,” because if sugary treats are subject to debate, the food devil almost always wins.
Sugar-Free Diet Day 4: No More Excuses
Eric: Have you ever noticed yourself making multiple exceptions to your rules around healthy eating? – Vacation, special dinners, holidays. Instead of exceptions once in a great while, they become once a week and then every day. Giving in gives it strength.
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 4:
- Fruit only in the morning.
- No sugar or sugar substitutes.
- Watch for your Food Devil’s ‘exceptions’.
Half-way through the day while running errands with my son, I start to have a happy feeling knowing I could pick up a ‘treat’ for us.
Food Devil: “It will be fun and yummy, Eric can’t tell you what to do and it isn’t that bad. You can start over tomorrow”
Food Angel: “But you did want to see this through.”
I equate any kind of travel as opportunities to have ‘fun food’. Even though there isn’t much sugar at home, there is plenty around town. Eating sugar away from the house is one of my rule exceptions.
- I think if I eat it away from the house, it doesn’t count.
- I mistakenly think indulging my sweet tooth is having fun.
- The food devil is quick to remind me, I can always be healthy at the next meal, tomorrow, on Monday, next month, etc., etc., etc.
- Constantly going off plan a little bit, keeps me a little bit overweight.
Sugar-Free Diet Day 5: Sugar withdrawal and addiction
Eric: Sugar is addictive and it rarely satisfies. There is nothing in our DNA that says to ignore sugar. See food? Eat food…to survive. Unlike our ancestors, calories in abundance are available to us with little effort involved in obtaining them. Be willing to be that annoying person who says no to sugar and treats.
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 5:
- No fruit
- Be diligent and don’t argue with the food devil. Decide and follow through.
By midday, I keep coming up with sugar-free dessert ideas but was determined to go substitute sugar-free for at least this day. My sugar withdrawals are real. I have a headache and my mind searches for some sort of treat all day. I am desperate for a sweet fix.
My biggest temptation of the day is a family dinner: roast chicken with potato salad and brownies. I decide to bring a vegetable salad to be on the safe side.
I knew the brownies were out, but the potato salad had sugar in it too.
While I help prepare dinner, I take a bite of potato salad. It isn’t until I start chewing that I remember I wasn’t going to eat it.
After dinner, I am offered brownies. A “No, thank you,” gets a funny look, but no questions.
- I am often on autopilot with my food intake. Most of my choices are made by habit and ‘that sounds good.’
- Saying, “No, thank you,” isn’t so terrible.
- Mottos can help keep me on track. Tomorrow mine is, “Start the day determined and go to bed satisfied.”
Sugar-Free Diet Day 6: Temptations
Eric: This is your chance to catch every sales technique your food devil has, ‘Just one bite. Well, done! Let’s celebrate!’. A strategy known is a strategy blown.
No Sugar Diet Meal Plan Day 6:
- No fruit or sugar
- Pay attention to emotional feelings and dialog.
Grocery shopping is a huge temptation because I know my special treat in every store. Plus, I have had a challenging day and desire some stress relief.
Food Devil: “Look! The chocolate bars that you love. You’ve been good for the last few days and deserve a reward.”
I do a tiny happy dance inside.
Food Angel: ”Full of sugar.”
At the last store, I want strawberries for dessert.
Food Angel: “But you’re not eating fruit today.”
Food Devil: ”That’s a healthy treat. Which box has the freshest ones?”
I start looking.
What am I, an easily distracted toddler? Who makes the decisions around here, me or the food devil? I head towards the checkout line without the strawberries.
- The best reward is to be healthy and feel good.
- The food devil may tempt me, but I decide what I will do.
- Desserts don’t decrease my stress, I do.
Sugar-Free Diet Day 7: Standing firm while playing weak.
Eric: One more day! Pretend the food angel and you are weak; that you might give in. The food devil will amplify your emotions to tempt you.
Today, I am in the store again (I have teenage boys!). I pretend I might buy a sugar-free chocolate bar and feel a wall of determination.
Food Angel: “Not interested.”
Nice. I continue to imagine the deliciousness.
Food Devil: “If you are hungry, go for it. That’s a healthy treat. Just this one time, no big deal.”
- The food devil tempts me with, “This one time won’t be that bad,” multiple times a day, turning, “Just this once,” into, “All. The. Time.”
While I didn’t cover every aspect of the challenge, I hope my journey will give you plenty of tips to have your own breakthroughs with sugar. After all, your food devil knows what best triggers you.
Stay tuned so you don’t miss my breaking up with sugar 3-month update and…
Weight loss is a side effect of healthy living which makes healthy ways – shapely ways.
Thank you for being here and chatting with me about all things health! I love and appreciate you more than you know!