Monday, March 22, 2010

Still Sugar-Free and Insanely Happy

It's been exactly 2 years, 2 months and 22 days since I gave up the white stuff. I don't enjoy saying it like that, though, because it doesn't feel like I have given anything up. It feels like I have been given energy, happiness, good moods, more time (less time sleeping/napping), better health, and a greater understanding of this little devilish, overly processed grain of nutrition-less sweet.

What started out as a test of my willpower became much, much more. At first I missed and craved sugar in all it's sweet and fattening forms. Oreos became the object of my lust, as did giant mochas and whipped cream, brownies and Ben & Jerry's. Thing is, when I began feeling wonderful and going through my day without any sugar crashes, I realized that I was happier than a taste in my mouth could ever make me. The taste was so temporary but the feeling of being energized lasted and built up my confidence. I don't question whether I have willpower anymore. I've proven to myself that I can do anything since I did what I set out believing was impossible.

People ask me all the time whether I miss things like cookies and donuts. Sure I do. Sometimes. But most of the time I'm not obsessing over food anymore. I don't fantasize about getting my sugar fix. The cravings have hugely subsided and when I do get a hankering for something sweet, the slightest sweet in my mouth satisfies me.

Overcoming such a difficult behavior to control (my former sugar addiction) is the best. Nothing I've ever put in my mouth compares to feeling in control and happy and healthy. I used to think all this was impossible. I read books and heard stories about people who had given up sugar and I kind of didn't believe them. Surely they had hidden stashes of donut holes or midnight runs to Mickey D's for chocolate shakes. No one can really go without sugar, I used to think. Now, it's a way of life for me and lots of others who have dared to test the limits of their willpower.

With the growing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other medical issues, I don't care to go back to sugar. I love a little drop of honey in my tea, and my date- and molasses-sweetened cookies or my rich and creamy peanut butter cups. All in moderation, which is now something I can do. Hooked on the white stuff, I could never understand the concept of moderation.

Instead of saying I've "given up" sugar, I need to start saying that I've streamlined my eating habits to reduce needless calories. Giving something up is what people do for lent. It no longer makes sense for me to use this phrase. It's quite a treat being satisfied with a juicy piece of fruit. I no longer worry about extra calories, which before always came in the form of something sweet.

I don't know if this is at all inspiring in any way. I hope it is. I just wanted to give a personal update and reiterate that being sugar-free is one of the greatest gifts I have ever given to myself. It's not only doable, it's packed with rewards.

(Thank you Marc and Angel for posting my article, "9 Timeless Nutrition Tips for Any Age" on their blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life.)

18 comments:

Samantha Angela said...

congratulations on "streamlining your eating". you are definitely inspirational.

Andrea Cherie said...

Hi! I just want to tell you how much your blog encourages me! My husband and I did "100 days with no sugar" - well that ended mid February- and I've eaten sugar here and there a bit since then, nothing crazy. We've come to the conclusion though, we are just going to continue NO SUGAR AT ALL. Like you've said, there is no moderation. Oh and the crashes midday have been awful. That right there has been the most noticeable thing, and frankly, being SHARP all day every day is far more wonderful than any girl scout cookie! Thanks so much for all your recipes too, your blog is a fantastic resource!

Carbzilla said...

Thanks for being such an inspiration - I'm keeping all sugars to 15 grams a day no matter what their source, and it can be done. Yes, the freedom is so worth it!

Amber Shea said...

This was DEFINITELY inspiring! You should absolutely be proud of yourself.

Sizzle said...

I'm a year into being sugar free and your blog has definitely helped me. Thank you! Whenever I have fallen off the wagon, I've instantly regretted it and have felt the negative repercussions of it almost instantly.

Ariana Anderson said...

Thanks so much! I still don't know how you do it. I have been sugar-free for a few years and have been using honey etc instead of "white stuff" for a while but find I still gouge and binge myself on those sweet foods and anything that breaks down into sugar----even whole wheat bread. Does that happen to you (or anyone else who reads this?) Any suggestions? Thanks! Ari

Alisa said...

Congratulations! That is an awesome accomplishment.

I think the hardest part for me is eating out and my husband's white sugar cravings. I just haven't been able to switch him over. Oh and all of those Go Dairy Free review requests, oi! It is hard because I know viewers want to know about certain products, but they aren't ones I should be eating myself!

Farty Girl said...

Great news that you are still feeling tops eating no sugar. You give so many excellent reasons for why it's important to give it up. My favorite is the freedom from counting calories. You know you NEED what you are putting into your body. There's no excess to trim. Smarty!!! Your story helps remind me why it's important to keep sugar out of my diet. It also helps me feel less alone, considering I'm the ONLY person in my real, non-online life, who eats so healthy. Thanks!

Iris said...

Congratulations! I know that you still eat treats with natural sugars in moderation. Did you find that it took time for you to be able to eat them in moderation? I find that whether it's white sugar, dates, molasses, agave nectar, etc. I still go overboard. I'm wondering if that would subside over time or if I would just have to cut it ALL out.

cathryn said...

Question for ya: How long were you off sugar before you started feeling better/different/healthier? It's been about 36 days for me so far and, honestly, it's difficult for me to tell a difference in sleep behavior, energy, digestion, etc.

It could be that the changes are so gradual that I'm just not noticing them, or maybe I just ate SO much sugar before that my body will take longer to "heal" and feel the benefits of no sugar.

Either way, just wondering what your experience was. And I have no intention of resorting to the massive amounts of sugar I used to eat even if I NEVER feel any significant changes.

My Year Without said...

Samantha-Thanks!

Andrea-That's fantastic that you guys decided to continue the no sugar thing. I agree that the midday crash is so NOT worth it!

Carbzilla-Wow! 15 grams is about 9 grams LESS than the AHA recommends....which is 6 teaspoons (24 grams). I think that limiting sugars, no matter their source, is the best case scenario, esp. considering how easy it is to overindulge in naturally sweetened goodies. Good for you!

Amber-Thanks!

Sizzle-It's comments like this that keep me "on" the wagon. I fear that regret, especially now that I've taken it this far for so long. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on your year!

Ariana-When I first went sugar-free, I still overindulged. Actually, it wasn't until somewhat recently that I realized that I was probably not much better off just because I switched the kind of sugar to overindulge on. What has helped me the most: drinking tea in place of eating (esp. when I'm not hungry but want to put something in my mouth), keeping busy (idle hands....), drinking more water, keeping delicious fruit accessible and ready to eat. Hope this helps some.

Alisa-My husband is a chocolate front-runner. Somehow, though, I seem to enjoy living vicariously through his sugar indulgences and enjoy baking for him using all sorts of refined sugars. He is NOT interested in being sugar-free, either!

Farty-I, too, love that I have online support with nutritional issues. Most of my family thinks I'm crazy for giving up sugar, and want me to eat it again. Watching everybody else enjoy birthday cake and ice cream, for example, is tough. I wish I could describe how great I feel in a way that was tangible to those people who are not even considering giving up sugar. To many, the mere concept is preposterous.

Iris-Like I was saying to Ariana, it did subside over time. I'm not immune to it every happening again, but I really only feel good about eating when I'm hungry and I absolutely HATE feeling overstuffed. I'm trying to respect my body and I think over-stuffing myself is just as bad as eating terrible junk food. I see all goodies as temptations, and usually I have to decide ahead of time what will happen. I'm getting better at eating only 1 or 2 or 3 cookies, rather than half the box, but it takes so much discipline. "Mindless Eating" and "The End of Overeating" are fantastic reads that address this issue and provide guidance.

My Year Without said...

Cathryn-First of all, congratulations on 36 days (more by now!) without the white stuff!

To answer your questions, when I gave up sugar, much of how I felt was both psychological AND physical. Psychologically speaking, I felt more confident in myself, proud of myself for keeping my commitment, and I realized I have more willpower than I thought, originally.

Physically, I didn't experience the sugar crashes or midday downers that accompanied almost each and every day. My endurance increased and I didn't (and don't) get fatigued as easily. I'm awake and sharp and then my body actually stopped craving sugar. I still have a sweet tooth, but fruits can now satisfy that, whereas before, hooked on sugar, I had to have the pure white stuff to satisfy. I also don't get that stuffed/bloated feeling that I always got after eating brownies and ice cream or the like. I'm sure there are many more physical symptoms to speak of but they are not coming to me right now.

Strange that you don't detect a difference. I wonder how much sugar you were eating on a daily basis? Are you still consuming a lot of "natural" sugars? Hmmmm...

pastore5 said...

I just came across your blog while Googling some information on brown rice syrup - I wanted to congratulate you on making the decision to give up sugar, and for staying committed to it! I stopped eating all sweeteners when I was 20 - I'm 46 now - time flies! I remember how difficult it was, but so worth it. Over the years I found that I could tolerate some natural sweeteners in moderation. It's very nice to be able to celebrate holidays and special occasions with a little something sweet and still feel clear-headed, stable and energetic. Again - Congratulations!

Amy said...

I'm on day two of no sugar..your blog inspires me. I am determined to give it up..it is so hard these first few days..weeks. Addiction sucks! lol

Kathleen said...

Congrats on your 2 years, 22 days. I went off in Oct. 2007 -- and it's been great.

Lynn said...

You are definitely an inspiration! (And so are all the other commentators who are sugar-free.)
I am in the middle of a "I want to poke my eyes out or at least take a long nappy" crash right now actually. The more I read, the more I realize how addicted I must really be. And yes, I'm worried I will get bored. I'm also worried I won't be able to do it. I keep postponing a start date. Any advice?

My Year Without said...

pastore5-Thanks! Wow, how fabulous to hear from someone who has been sugar-free for over 20 years! Now that is proof that it can be done long-term.

Amy-It's been a little over a week, now since you gave up sugar. How goes it--are you hanging in there?

Kathleen-Hey-you gave up sugar 3 months before I did! What a fun coincidence! Glad to hear it's great for you, too.

Lynn-First of all, thanks for sharing. I totally know that crash feeling after loading up on sugars. It's the worst, but it will pass. One of the greatest benefits of giving up sugar is not berating myself anymore. No more Oreo binges or entire pints of Ben & Jerry's n one sitting, and I'm telling you, witnessing my own willpower is way more satisfying than eating an Oreo. But, it takes the first step.

For me, it was all about stocking up on foods that I COULD eat and enjoy in place of sugary goodies. I did not give myself a budget. Those too-expensive teas? I treated myself to them.

Perhaps you could give yourself a start AND end date for no-sugar. This could achieve two things: giving up sugar for a time being (so that you know you can do it) and giving yourself the opportunity to stick with it past that end date. Just a suggestion. My end date was a year later, but when the time came, I found I was so much happier without sugar, that I decided to keep it out of my diet.

Please let me know what you decide to do. Maybe I'll interview you for all the other folks out there who also fear that start date.....

Dims Throw said...

I am impressed. Dignified, well-written, informative, and soulful blog that makes cyberspace a better place...and the Earthlings who travel here are more equipped with knowledge and therefore, wiser. Thank-you.