30-day Challenge Part 1: The No Sugar Challenge
I have decided that 2020 will be the year that I make drastic changes to my life. Whether it be my diet, workouts, or mindset, frankly, I want to improve all of it. So I’ve decided to take on 30 day challenges that target those areas, and I’ll be taking you on this journey with me. For the next 12 months, I will embark on an adventure in which I will turn my entire lifestyle upside down. After each month, I will write a post that documents how this challenge went, what has changed, and whether or not those changes will be engraved into my routine.
Are you excited? I know I am!
Challenge #1: Sugar
As long as I remember, I have been a sugar addict. I remember I had to go to a doctor once because I wouldn’t eat anything, and my response was that I eat a Nutella sandwich every day, which means I eat. I would skip dinner and get right to dessert. Ice cream was my weakness. Iced coffee was an addiction that everyone knew me by. I’d sacrifice being on time to class in order to stop and get a coffee. I had a problem.
I tackled the coffee addiction in 2019, and I will write about that as well, but this post is all about sugar.
I was out of control when I moved out for college. After all, I had no one cooking dinners, or doing grocery shopping, it was all me. That turned into me eating something sweet, or a few something sweets every single day. I decided that 2020 will be the year I challenge that addiction.
Why is sugar bad?
If you haven’t heard of the dangers of sugar yet, let me explain to you why it is probably the worst thing you can put in your body. But first, let me clarify, that the sugar I am cutting out is added sugars, which involves things like chocolate, soda, candy, etc. I am not cutting out natural sugars that you find in fruit or vegetables.
Sugar is horrible for your body and mind for the following reasons:
- Sugar is inflammatory
- It is addictive
- It causes tooth decay
- It causes premature aging
- It increases your cortisol (stress hormone) levels
- It increases risk of depression
- Can cause breakouts
- Causes weight gain
Although there are many reasons why someone would want to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet, I had my own. I wanted to improve my skin quality, reduce my stress levels, and balance out my mood. I found that when my diet was consisting mainly of sugar, I looked and felt horrible, so it was time to make a change.
I began the challenge on January 1st, as most people did with their resolutions. Although this wasn’t one of my 2020 resolutions officially, it has been something I was thinking about for a long time, and I decided that 30 days should be enough to notice a difference in how I looked and felt.
To make things easier, I decided to do the challenge with a friend. An accountability partner of some sort. It gave me the comfort of knowing I’m not on this journey alone. We did weekly check-ins, talked about our struggles and triumphs, and analyzed what we could or would do differently next time.
To make things bearable we had a limit: Max 10g of added sugar per day
This may sound like a lot, but considering than an average American consumes more than 90 grams per day, this is quite a reduction.
Because of how important this was for me, I knew that I can’t allow myself to have sweets, so I resorted to less that 5g of added sugars, most came from dark chocolate (I’m talking bitter dark, charcoal tasting dark chocolate).
I am not going to lie to you, the first few days were HARD. I found myself frantically searching the pantry to find something remotely sweet. I had to avoid the snack sections of the grocery store, and suffered as I watched my boyfriend happily eating his Hershey bar. It was torture. But I was determined.
There are a few things I noticed:
- I was moody. PMS type moody.
- I lacked energy. I napped almost every single day the first week.
- I had ridiculous cravings for something sweet.
- I had a headache every single day for the first week.
- I was eating a LOT, but nothing satisfied my hunger.
After the initial few days, avoiding sugar became easier. I consciously avoided the sweets in the grocery stores, I no longer scoured the pantry in search of something sweet, the headaches went away, and my mood improved.
A fun thing that happened was that the fruit that I ate suddenly became much sweeter. It was funny, I kept raving about these tomatoes we got and how perfectly ripe and sweet they were, but now that I think back to it, it wasn’t the tomato that was different, it was my taste buds.
Suddenly I had way more energy than before, and since I quit coffee 3 months prior to this challenge, I know it wasn’t that. Watching people eat their sugary snacks no longer bothered me, and in fact, I just thought about how bad that is for them and how they would feel much better if they’d just replace that doughnut with an apple or orange.
My hormonal breakouts were decreasing and my skin wasn’t as red or inflamed. I was not as oily throughout the day, and my usually congested skin was smooth. I was ecstatic to see what a whole month will do for my skin.
I thought that I’d fail at this challenge, with all honesty, I gave myself a week. But I was determined to see a change and I definitely did. As I am writing this, it is mid-February and I have yet to fall back to my old patterns. During the challenge, I resorted to “I’m on a diet” when people offered me sweet things, now I don’t have a reason, I just don’t want any.
I will say that I do not stop myself from having an occasional treat since this challenge has been over. My one day of indulgence was Valentine’s Day, in which I had one slice of cheesecake. Other than that, I have been basically added sugar-free, still sticking to less than 10 grams a day.
It feels quite amazing, knowing that you have beat something that was such a huge part of your life. I classified myself as a sugar addict before this, and now, I am in total control of what I eat. It isn’t my cravings that control me, I control my cravings.
My mood has improved significantly, I am no longer going through the highs and the lows of the sugar high. My blood sugar levels are stable for the most part, and I no longer nap during the day (that’s another story for next month). My PMS symptoms are not as intense as they once were, I haven’t had a headache since that first week, and I have not binged. I feel overall healthier.
I saw the biggest change in my skin. I started January with a ridiculous breakout. My skin was red, inflamed, and irritated. I had hormonal breakouts, scarring, and congestion. Towards the end of the month, however, all that was gone.
I have not had a single hormonal pimple the entirety of the month. It took a while for the existing ones to heal up, but once they did, nothing more popped up (no pun intended). My skin was smoother, less oily and less irritated.
Like I mentioned previously since I no longer crave sweets the way I used to, I intend on continuing to stick to the lower amount of added sugar with an occasional treat here and there. I enjoy that I am able to make this part of my lifestyle rather than binge the minute February 1st hit. I think that I made a long-term change and my body will thank me for it.
I am currently in the midst of the second challenge, and I will write about it as soon as it’s completed. Stay tuned for what major change I made to my lifestyle in February.
Can you guess what it is I am currently improving?
Do you have any suggestions for future challenges?
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