Monday, March 16, 2009

No sugar challenge and the aftermath

So here was the plan. Sagan at Living Healthy in the Real World took on the challenge of a week with no added sugar. When I read her first post about her intentions I thought ‘wow that’s so cool, I always wanted to try that’ and what better incentive than when someone else has set the guidelines! I figured I could manage a week, from Sunday to Sunday without too much trouble. And true in spirit to limiting anything in life, on Saturday I indulged guilt free in a delicious dessert figuring that I will more than compensate with a whole week of no sugar.

Sunday morning clicked around and what was my first thought when I woke (apart from ‘I wonder what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks today, tomorrow and the rest of the week’)? ‘Hmmm no sugar for a week…that’s gonna be tough….that means like, no chocolate powder on my cappuccino at breakfast….or cranberry juice…or piece of chocolate at random intervals throughout the day!!! But I NEED sugar… cravings…..think of my cravings…..I’m going to turn into a deprived lonely….probably today….or definitely tomorrow…’ So within about 30 seconds of waking I decided to ditch the sugar challenge! The same thing happened on Monday morning and then Tuesday came around.

By Tuesday I was equally freaked out by the idea of limiting my sugar intake, but at breakfast I figured I would survive without the aforementioned chocolate on my cappuccino. So, one meal down 20 to go. With lunch fast approaching, I again convinced myself that I could go without any sugar for this meal and again succeeded. Finally, after dinner I declined dessert, instead opting for a rooibos tea, which is quite a sweet tasting tea so it was moderately satisfying. In any case, I was proud that I had made it through a whole day with no sugar!

After the usual panic on Wednesday morning, I attempted the same approach, dealing with the sugar issue at each meal and not focusing on a whole week or even a whole day without sugar. Little baby steps took me through that day, Thursday and Friday. The challenge was going well, albeit a little delayed, until Saturday unleashed the three year old in me.

Weekends always take my best laid plans down and this one was no exception. It was a friend’s three year old’s birthday party. I was most impressed that all the party food was really healthy (think little dark bread sandwiches with veggie toppings) and I thought that with a bit of determination I could even turn down the cake. Until it came out that is. It was a volcano shaped cake with ‘lava’ pouring down the side and little chocolate coated ‘rocks’ at the base. I should’ve planned ahead better I know, because the cakes at this kids parties are always so awesome that the three year old in me shrieks with delight (on the inside of course!) and crowds in with all the kids watching hawkeyed to make sure I get my fair share. Well, chocolate cake with chocolate covered rocks was no exception. And that was how my sugar challenge ended after only 4 days! Just to remind me of my broken promise to myself, I had a bad headache for the rest of the day and some of the following and I was utterly exhausted. Hello sugar hangover….again!

Nonetheless, I have been very pleased at the good humour I have displayed toward myself when in breach of the goals I have set for myself and this weekend was no exception. I think this stems from the fact that I aim to learn something each time I fall down. This has been really helpful whenever a similar situation has come up because I have acquired some piece of wisdom previously and therefore been able to better deal with the situation. So what did I learn through this sugar challenge:

  1. Break down each new habit I want to form so that progress can occur in little steps rather than focusing on the enormity of the change required
  2. Find a healthy replacement for your cravings if possible
  3. Learn something each time you fall down
  4. Volcano shaped chocolate cake is beyond my powers of self control

This week I am planning to take this step by step approach in limiting the amount of wine I drink. I spoke with my mom about the study indicating that women increase their chance of cancer by drinking alcohol. Despite the study she has come to the conclusion that perhaps she should drink less and as she said this a tiny voice inside my head screamed ‘no this can’t be happening….if my mom believes that she should drink less, that means I should too….and I know I should study or no study. At this point I do feel the need to clarify that I only have ½ to 1 glass of wine per night. The problem is that wine drinking is a very powerful habit that means I drink every night despite the fact that alcohol free days are advised. In her very healthy approach my mom decided that she simply needed to replace wine with another drink and changing her habit wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve thought the same, however I hadn’t found a healthy alternative. In her all knowledgeable healthy ways, she suggested mineral water which she has already used to decrease her wine intake. Some people make it look so easy! So cheers to a week with no wine.


  1. No wine week! That is a good idea. I could definitely use a detox week. Ok, but it will have to be in a couple weeks because I'm off to Italy this weekend and who can resist the vino of Italia?

  2. I am totally with you on the weekend issue. No matter how well I do (or don't do) during the week, I always falter on the weekends. I think it's the social aspect. Going out is so much harder on the diet than staying in!

    Good job though! I'm impressed that you managed three days. And I really like the "lessons learned" I'm going to apply a few of those to my own diet plans.

  3. I find that #2 on your list of strategies has been a big help to me. It's tough at first to find healthy alternatives but I try to think of what quality I so enjoy about the 'unhealthy' original - is it the crunch? If so, instead of potato chips, I might do an unsweetened cereal flakes. The chocolate-y flavor in hot cocoa? I'll make it with water instead of milk. Little changes but so far so good.

  4. Rupal - I totally agree!
    Meg - Socialising is hard and I think will lead me to write a post on that in the future. For now, I guess you just have to live and enjoy it!
    Tangled Noodle - Little changes are the way to go. All at once does not work!

  5. Thanks for the shout out! That's so awesome that you gave it a shot and I love how you've laid down here what you learned from the experience. Looking forward to seeing how your wine-free week goes :)

    - Sagan



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