Does anyone remember the challenge I set out a while ago? Going sugar-free for 30 days – added sugar (as in cakes, cookies, toasts, and so on) and natural sweeteners (such as honey) – leaving out food where sugar is naturally present, such as fruit. The goal? To understand my body’s reaction, the effects in my humour/overall mood and the impact in my daily life. Well: I said goodbye to sugar with two slices of my grandmother’s cinnamon cake and I started paying special attention to each and every label.

One month later: challenge almost achieved. My friends and family are witnesses. I have refused the most diverse delicacies in their presence for a month – however I had a little moment of totally unintentional failure. I used Cabify for a little trip in Lisbon, I believe in the middle of the challenge, and in a moment of total distraction I accepted the little candy they usually offer on each trip. I assure it was the only moment of weakness – that left me quite annoyed since I am not a big fan of candies (I would rather have lost myself with something more decadent).

But focusing on the challenge: I highlight three main “difficulties” in its impact in my daily life, related with the lack of knowledge of equivalent solutions, lack of homework (in the sense of prevention) and social moments. In detail:

  • Lack of knowledge of equivalent solutions: sugar is very much present in our food and it was not easy (in the sense of shock) to perceive, for example, at the first breakfast of the challenge that simple bread or yogurt (even organic ones) contained sugar. I knew it vaguely but never paid careful attention to the labels. Result: my breakfast that day – bananas (which also have sugar, yet naturally present, not added). Solution: to go to the supermarket for sugar-free breakfast solutions (ready-made, like bread, or for home-made options, like oats for granola).
  • Lack of homework (and sudden appetites): this “difficulty” is closely related to the previous one. I tend to have several meals throughout the day, snacks here and there, and sometimes I am in a “I have nothing at home” or “I did not put anything appropriate in my bag” situation and there are only those chocolate wafers that my better half insists on buying or nearby pastries with not recommendable snacks. Solution: always have healthy snacks at home (ready or frozen) and do not leave the house without healthy snacks in your bag (such as nuts, which are great allies: they will pleaseyou quickly and are very nutritious).
  • Social moments: when we are with friends or family we want to enjoy the moment. We drink one more glass of wine, we eat a little moreand we taste our friend’s cake and our sister’s pie, maybe even both. We are happy and want to enjoy life. There’s nothing wrong with that, more of that to everyone – but I think that’s where I felt greater difficulty. My attitude: I am not a radical person and outside the challenge I have been living in a balanced way. If on a daily basis I have a nutritious diet (besides being physically active) I do not see why I should not have a moment of gastronomic happiness here and there, without overdrawing.

Two reservations to the previous point: (i) it is possible to be gastronomically happy with healthy options – healthy cooking, besides being nutritious, is and can be delicious, satisfying and fulfilling (in the sense that it gives the satisfaction and comfort we look for in sweet options); (ii) the body breaks the habit of having sugar and starts “asking” less. It is an addiction, like any other. In that sense, the first week of the challenge was the most difficult – due to lack of preparation and some craving for a dessert on the weekend – but in the meantime my body got used to it and I confess that in my everyday life I did not even remember (except in social moments, as mentioned above).

As I noticed in the first article I did not have the habit of having sugar on a daily basis before the challenge, so probably it was easy for my body to adapt to the absence of a sweet stimulus here and there – until started “asking for less”. In physical terms I did not notice any significant differences. I know, for example, that if I avoid chocolate I have a more beautifulskin and it probably applies to anything with sugar – but in my case it is only clear with chocolate. To what relates to humour or mood: besides the frustration in the first days, of not having replacement options in hand, I can only point out that it is gratifying to feel that I am taking better care of myself.

The challenge caused curiosity among two distinct groups in my Facebook circle of friends: people increasingly interested in assuming healthier eating habits on a constant basis, in search for parallel solutions; and people completely surprised with the ability (or possibility) of spending so much (so much?) time without eating sugar – which confirms that refined sugar is present on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day, in the lives of many people. It is the result of the consumption trends of the last decades but can be fought – in any age – without being associated with a sad and tasteless diet.

On the contrary! Here are some irresistible suggestions:

 

This post was originally written in Portuguese. Click here to read the Portuguese version.