Last night, I dreamt about cookies. I’m not kidding. Chocolate chip cookies. Fudge striped cookies. Vegan m&m’s (not really cookies, but those were on my mind too.) I woke up in the middle of the night and it took a lot of willpower to stop myself from getting up to raid the cupboards.
The only reason I didn’t is that my mind won’t let me sleep for at least 4-5 hours after eating sugar, and I needed my sleep.
I did really well for most of the day. When the cravings got too bad, I decided to grab a green smoothie. Surely that would help. Unfortunately for me, it was very bitter, and now my cravings are even worse.
Here’s the truth:
I told myself I had good reasons for it.
- I started the challenge bit haphazardly, and I didn’t want to waste the cookies I already had. (Impulsivity, anyone?)
- My last-cookies argument felt really convincing. What if these are the last cookies I ever have? (Unlikely, but hey. You never know.)
- At my partner’s request, we’re eating Beyond burgers and fries tonight, so today isn’t going to be a healthy day anyway. (Really? That’s the excuse you’re going with?)
- I told myself I wanted to test how eating sugar really makes me feel, so I might be more motivated to cut it out in the long run. After two days without sugar, this could be an interesting moment to find out what it does to my body. (This is actually quite smart, I think.)
In reality, my cravings were crazy, I was hungry and tired, and my smoothie (the only barrier between me and chocolate) was bitter and disappointing.
That said, this is what happened.
The Sugar Experiment:
15:58 – I got two fudge striped cookies from the cupboard. They feel very unsubstantial. The sugar seems to dissolve in my mouth almost immediately. WHERE DID THEY GO?! (Are American cookies somehow different?) I’m craving the sugar rush (my body hasn’t adapted yet), but the flavour is not overwhelmingly awesome, to be honest. It’s not as good as I remembered. That’s what I was hoping for.
16:39 – “Fuck it, I got two cookies, I might as well eat them both.” I regret it already. It’s growing on me. The second one tastes better than the first, somehow. I could easily mindlessly eat the whole package, but I probably shouldn’t.
17:02 – This is probably a placebo effect, but I’d swear I feel more awake already.
17:18 – Okay, I waited for almost 20 minutes (I know – hero-level willpower) and now I’m going to taste-test the chocolate chip cookies. By which I mean I will be eating them because I’m hungry.
17:19 – I’m starting to understand that it’s not really the flavour I’m craving. I’m eating these things because I’m hungry, because they give me a sugar rush, and because they are very very easy to eat. If I slow down and I’m mindful about them, most of these things are not that great.
17:31 – I had another sip of my bitter kale smoothie to try to clean my palate. I’ll let you know if it works.
17:43 – I’m eating vegan m&m’s, so… I guess that’s a no?
17:47 – I feel like the sugary foods are starting to saturate my tastebuds. It doesn’t taste amazing, but I keep craving it, even though my body really doesn’t like it any more. My head hurts and I really want something healthy. Instead, I just squished another handful of chocolate into my mouth.
17:49 – I’m going to ask my partner to take the snacks away. I’m like a toddler in a candy store. I have no impulse control, and I’m making bad decisions.
17:52 – I did it. I gave him the snacks, and told him he can eat them or give them away, but I don’t want them anymore. (He’s so supportive, and it’s the sweetest thing.)
17:57 – Wow, I feel like shit. I’m never having sugar again. I suddenly got really hot, and I’m nauseous. This sucks. I’m not putting myself through this again. I’d much rather have some fruit and a healthy body. Why do I do this to myself?
18:55 – I could sleep right now. I’m so tired. I’m trying to cook and I’m having trouble getting through all the steps. My mind is foggy, and it’s getting harder to read. I’m trying to wake myself up by sipping my ultra healthy green smoothie, but it’s not quite sweet enough to make a real difference after all the crap foods. Oh well… I brought this upon myself. It’s probably for the best. The worse I feel tonight, the more motivated I’ll be tomorrow.
Now that we’re here, I think it’s time to actually define the parameters of this experiment, and set some rules around the Sugar Challenge. (One of the things I skipped at the beginning when I impulsively began.)
What am I doing exactly?
- Avoiding refined sugar (or added sugar)
- I will be able to eat all fruit, vegetables (including root vegetables), and smoothies
- I’ll be discerning about juices (to be fair, I rarely drink them, but considering that I also don’t drink coffee or alcohol – or soda, obviously – I’d like to have a backup option if I meet somebody for drinks, even though it’s more likely I’ll end up just having water or tea*.)
- I’d consider trying less refined options (like maple syrup) later on, but for now I want to avoid it all. (Compared to white table sugar, maple syrup is slightly “healthier”, but the impact of the sugar is pretty much the same.)
*Note from Future Flora: “it’s even more likely you won’t meet anybody for drinks at all. I like your optimism, but let’s be realistic here.”
Having defined the rules, I think it might also be useful to give myself some tools to do better in the future (and hopefully not cave again). I will develop and share more tools on the blog as the challenge goes on, so stay tuned if you’re curious.
How to stick to it:
- Replacements. It seems to help me to have sweet sugar replacements on hand. Dates, fresh fruit, and (non-bitter) smoothies all seem to help me satisfy the cravings.
- Don’t go hungry. I didn’t eat for hours today, and that made it much harder to resist, because I was actually hungry. (Not just snack-y.) Also – sugary foods never make me less hungry. They just make me crave more sugary foods and the underlying hunger is never solved. So, have more regular meals.
- Exercise. Being active makes me want to be healthier. (I’m not going through all this trouble to immediately undo the effort. Once I feel good, I’d like to keep feeling good.)
- Motivation. Keep my reasons close. I’m doing this to improve my mental and physical health. I know I’ll feel better once I get through the first few days (without cheating!). Let’s focus on that.
I’m ready to do better tomorrow.
See you then!