After 10 days, I finally got to dig out my stash …
I had some coupons for my favorite dark chocolate bars that expired at the end of October, so I stocked up and then packed them away until after the challenge. Because as of yesterday morning, I am eating sugar again.
I came out the other side of the sugar free challenge conflicted about sugar. For ten days, I had to avoid some of my favorite foods. Not just the chocolate, but beef jerky, bacon, smoked salmon, Thai food (pad Thai, curry, peanut sauce, and cucumber salad, all my Thai food favorites, are most always made with sugar).
Sugar free meal: salmon, roasted sweet peppers, brown rice.
My conflict is this: because I’m gluten-free, lots of people tell me about their stomach problems and that they know they shouldn’t eat wheat. They just eat it and resign themselves to feeling less than awesome because they can’t bear the thought of giving up their favorite foods. I try to encourage and tell them after a while, they won’t miss wheat at all, they’ll find new favorites, and they’ll feel so much better.
But here I am saying exactly the same thing about sugar!
Since I wasn’t eating sugar, I ended up making a lot of less than stellar food choices simply for the fact that they were sugar free – lots of cheese, frozen meals, and tortilla chips – all things that I, for the most part, avoid. In the first few days of the challenge, I also tried to appease my sweet tooth with tons of fruit, which just does not agree with my body. As far as fruit goes, I really only like apples and berries, and coincidentally, those seem to be the only ones my body tolerates.
But I had some really great, revelatory moments during the sugar free challenge as well. The candy jar at work was full all week, and had I not been doing the challenge, I would have eaten candy every day, just because it was there. So while I was sad to turn down Snickers bars, the sugar free challenge definitely kept me out of the hard candies that I don’t even like. The other thing was, on Tuesday as I was preparing for several tests, I was hit with sugar cravings. When I stopped to listen to them, I wasn’t hungry for sugar at all, what I really wanted was something to soothe my stress. After I made that distinction, I was able to dismiss the craving and buckle down on my studying.
So while I do want to continue to eat less sugar than I was before the challenge, I did feel deprived of my favorite foods. Also, with my stress levels as high as they are right now, I know that this just isn’t a good time for me to focus on completely eliminating sugar from my diet. But there are some lessons that I’ll take away from the challenge.
- There are things that do not need any sweetener. These include coffee, nut butter, and yogurt. I usually eat plain unsweetened yogurt, but with something sweet on it, like cereal or a muffin. It turned out to be just as tasty with ground flax, a sprinkle of cinnamon, some nuts or nut butter.
- It’s okay to turn down treats. This is something that I really struggle with – a lot of people, after they know I can’t eat gluten, will see boxes of gluten-free cookies or crackers at the store and buy a package for me. While I really appreciate the thought, I don’t buy those things, either because I think the ingredients are a bunch of crap or I’ve tried them and don’t like them. I still haven’t come up with a gracious way to say “thanks, but no thanks,” but having the sugar free challenge as an excuse did give me a boost of confidence in refusing food.
- I can live without diet soda. One of my goals in October was to cut back on diet soda – I went from one or two every day to one or two each week. Since I’d already cut back, I didn’t miss it at all the past ten days, and plan to stay off it for now.
- Watching Joel celebrate ice cream Saturday without me, two weeks in a row, really stunk. Full disclosure, this Saturday I snuck a bite of his ice cream. And it was delicious.
And ice cream Saturday brings me to an interesting point – our weekly tradition was born of overindulgence. Last winter, we were buying big half gallon cartons of ice cream and each eating a bowl almost nightly. But we were both experiencing some gastrointestinal distress, and one of us would often polish off the carton without leaving any for the other … okay, it was usually me. So we decided to cut back and eat ice cream only once a week – we each get a pint of ice cream, so we can each pick our own flavor, and we don’t have ice cream sitting around the house tempting us … okay, me. Instead of feeling ice cream deprived, it’s a fun ritual that we can both look forward to.
So that’s the mentality I hope to bring to eating less sugar – to make it a special treat, not a daily indulgence. I don’t plan to give it up for good, but to choose treats that I truly want. Here’s an example – my dad has already ordered gluten-free pies for Thanksgiving dinner, and I am already looking forward to them! In previous years, when I was trying to eat low fat/low calorie, I went with pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Not my favorite, but that way I got to eat more. This year, I have every intention of going with pecan pie and ice cream, because that’s my pie preference. By choosing the one I really want, I’ll be more satisfied and less likely to have cravings afterwards.
Sugar free breakfast: hard boiled eggs with pesto and a blob of sundried tomato and basil goat cheese.
Phew, that turned out to be a lot longer than I thought! I’m grateful to have been a part of the sugar free challenge – I learned a lot (obviously) and while it wasn’t always easy, it was most definitely worthwhile. But I’m also grateful that it’s over, and I can go back to some of my much-missed favorites!