Learnings from a Sugar Free Month

I’ll admit that I was relieved when my month of no sugar ended.  I missed dark chocolate the most, and raw cacao nibs just didn’t fit the bill, though Chocolate Banana Ice Cream worked wonders in getting me through a rough couple of days.

Since we have a corn allergy in the family, we don’t keep food products containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the house.  So I’m used to scanning labels for HFCS, corn syrup, corn starch, and animal products like eggs, milk, whey, etc.  which is why I was surprised to realized that many of the sauces I regularly use had sugar- like teriyaki sauce, ketchup, and most of my low/no oil store-bought salad dressings.  Sugar is so pervasive throughout our diets that we don’t even realize it.  This is why planning meals and snacks as mentioned last week is critical, so you can read labels, make meals in advanced (or at least have recipes ready), and have healthy food always available.

Learnings from a Sugar Free Month:

  1. I was snacking to take a break from work.  I am naturally a snacker anyway, but taking away my easy go-to snack options made me realize that I wasn’t always hungry but did need breaks from my work.  With this realization, I began using my 5-10 minute breaks to read (setting a timer as to not get carried away) or stretch or step outside to help with vitamin D.
  2. I was stress eating.  Similar to #1, I realized that I was eating while my mind was churning- not being in the present.  If I was in the present then I would have been eating mindfully and enjoying each bite.  To combat stress eating, I incorporated more mindful breathing in my day, and I practiced being comfortable with a craving- acknowledging and feeling the craving, giving it space to be, and then letting it go without acting on it.
  3. I needed more variety in my snacks.  Planning was critical.  By the end of the 30 days, I had developed quite a list of snacks, but I didn’t start out the month that way.  Also I will likely conduct a similar ‘sugar reset’ each spring and again in early fall, taking advantage of the bountiful fruits available.
  4. I was eating “occasional” foods more often than occasionally (refer back to this post where I listed some of the sweet indulgences I had been making).  I was also eating sugar regularly in less conspicuous things, like dark chocolate almond milk, non-dairy yogurt, dark chocolate, granola, jam, and lightly sweetened vitamin B12 fortified cereal.

Armed with this information, I was able to reintegrate myself into our sugar-laden society more carefully.  I’ve continued to eat lots of fruit and an occasional piece of dark chocolate.  By planning and prepping my meals in advance, I took the time to make teriyaki sauce (with pineapple instead of brown sugar) instead of using bottled.  I’m enjoying my extra reading time and the weather has been warm and beautiful, so stepping outside for fresh air has also been a pleasant break.   As far as stress eating and anything stress-related, it comes down to mindful breathing.  So I am still practicing.  Striving to live in the moment, with an empty mind.

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.

― Shunryu Suzuki