Last month I talked about how I am trying to be more conscious of the way different foods make my body feel. For years, I have been anti-diet yet I have fallen prey to popular fads from time to time. But as I get older I am starting to feel various forms of “food hangovers” and I decided it was finally time to stop and listen to my body.
What I know is I will never completely eliminate any category of food from my diet. It’s not realistic or healthy in my opinion.I just need to learn to love smaller portions of certain things.
I’ve been using the My Fitness Pal app off and on for the past year or so. I love data so it’s interesting for me to track calories and other information. The most success I have ever had losing weight has been when I counted calories. It’s an arduous task and pretty annoying, but it worked for me. But one thing I never paid attention to was my sugar intake. I figured, if I was within my calorie limits, it didn’t matter.
Last week, my friend Erin challenged me and others to consume no more than 25g of sugar daily for 5 consecutive days. Those 25g needed to also come from natural sources like fruits and vegetables and we couldn’t use artificial sweeteners either. It seems like an easy task until you realize one apple contains half the daily sugar allowance. And just so you know, 25-30g of sugar is the American Heart Association’s recommendation, not just some number Erin pulled out of the air.
So I thought, why not? It’s basically just my workweek. I have already started to cut back on processed foods, so cutting sugar shouldn’t be that hard. And in many ways it wasn’t! Here is what I learned by cutting sugar for a week.
5 things I learned by cutting sugar
- I stopped feeling hungry. This was by and large the biggest light-bulb moment of the week. I prepared my meals. I ate my meals. I was satisfied with my meals. There were several days when I wasn’t even hungry for the snack I had prepared in advance and even one day when I had to force myself to meet my 1200 calorie minimum. Please understand something; this is NOT me. I LOVE to eat. But without my normal cravings, my brain finally understood when I didn’t NEED to eat.
- I have a lot more energy. I have cut calories before, which often left me exhausted. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t get to the gym this week, but as I am trying to be more consistent with my exercise, I can actually see it happening now.
- I got a nice productivity boost. This was a particularly trying and busy work-week. I found that when there were fires to put out, I was able to focus on the task at hand and get it done. I was more efficient and quicker to make decisions.
- Sugar is added to a LOT of products. I already have a habit of reading labels, but like I said, I never really paid attention to sugar. I switched to using unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my coffee and that was probably the biggest adjustment for me. Cereal bars and granola bars were the other processed sugar giants that I used to lean on. They may be low in calories, but they are LOADED with sugar.
- I like eating real food. Cutting sugar does not mean I am eating diet food. I refuse to do that. It’s more expensive to buy prepackaged program bars or special breads. Instead of doing that or cutting breads entirely, I just reduced the amount of certain items. For instance, I now eat my sandwiches open-faced with one slice of bread instead of two. I love dips so it was not a huge deal to switch from crackers and hummus to carrots and hummus. What I want is the hummus so I don’t actually care what carries it into my mouth 🙂
I can sustain this, you guys. I think that is the biggest takeaway for me. Last night we went out for sushi and I started to eat a salad with ginger dressing. It was so sweet I couldn’t even take more than a couple bites so I switched to miso soup. We typically go out to eat on Fridays so I knew I would probably have some sugar. But I have to say I am really happy with our dinner. We shared the Sushi-for-Two and then a delicious dessert. But what I found was just a few bites was plenty. I didn’t need more, I didn’t need my own. This is a big deal.
I had originally thought I would take weekends off, but I feel so good, I just want to keep going. Today I was back to my normal breakfast and my coffee with vanilla almond milk. I had no idea sugar was responsible for so much of what ailed me!