Whoohoo! Today marks six months since I started my no-added-sweeteners-of-any-kind journey on January 1, 2017. All the details are in this post, but in a nutshell, I’ve been avoiding all added sweeteners, including honey, stevia, maple syrup and more — even in my vitamins, even in my toothpaste.
To mark this milestone, here are some common questions I get:
Do you eat fruit?
This is the most popular question by far, often asked with a look of horror, or phrased as “But you still eat fruit, right?”
Actually, I think our modern fruit is mostly too large and too sweet, and I think many people eat too much of it. However, I enjoy berries and I’ll eat bananas, especially if I have an upset stomach. I’ve been avoiding dried fruit since January 1, though, because it triggers my sugar cravings.
Does it take a lot of willpower?
Not after the initial adjustment period. For me this was only a couple of days, because I was eating a mostly-low-carb diet anyway, and low-carb makes sugar-free waaaay easier (see Step 5 in my post How to quit sugar).
Also, as I always say, it’s easier to eat none than to just eat a little!
For about the first 6 – 8 weeks, I didn’t consciously crave sugar, but it sometimes featured in my dreams. During those weeks, my mouth would also water when I thought about sugar or smelled something sweet.
Since then, though, neither of these things happen.
I don’t crave sweets – I don’t even think about them, really. This is why I think a one-month “cleanse” is not long enough (at least based on my experience). For me, it took longer for those changes to occur.
When writing this post, I asked myself, “What sweet food do I miss the most?” and what came to mind was …. nothing. A blank. I even forced myself to think about cheesecake to see what would happen, and my reaction was, “Meh.”
Strange…but a powerful indicator that sugar has really lost its hold on me.
Do you feel any different? What changes have you noticed?
I see one big psychological change, and one big physical one:
Psychological: I’m no longer controlled by sugar cravings. I LOVE this, maybe even more than I love the physical changes. As I described in my two-weeks-in update, my evenings after my husband went to bed used to revolve around sugar cravings. I usually found a way to talk myself into giving in to them, and I always woke up puffy and regretful the next day.
Partway through January, I actually sat on the couch one night and thought, “So what do I do now?”
The answer? Lots of things! It’s great to have the mental space and energy freed up for more positive evening activities, such as reading or walking.
Physical: I’ve definitely only hungry when I actually need to eat. I noticed this in 2000 too when I switched to a Paleo diet, but cutting out sugar takes it to a new level.
After a solid meal, the thought of more food of any kind — whether sweet or savoury — is actually repugnant for an hour or two. I remember this from my childhood, and I think this is the way it should be. I think a lot of our “hunger” today in the industrialized world is false hunger triggered by sugar and processed carbs.
Oh, and also: My skin continues in its improved state (much less adult acne, no more bumpy skin on upper arms). Yayyy! My energy also continues to be insanely high.
Weight loss: Weight loss was not a goal. I was lucky enough to be at a normal weight anyway, thanks to being on a low-carb Paleo diet for many years (see My story for the before-and-after pics).
Since the end of January, my weight has gone up by about 2 pounds (1 kg) but my waist size has decreased 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) – unusual for a fifty-something woman. This is great, because it means I’m losing fat and adding muscle — exactly what I want!
To be fair, this has probably been helped along by the even lower-carb diet (almost ketogenic) that I’ve adopted recently.
Have you been successful so far?
Overall, definitely yes. No cake, no cookies, no ice cream, etc. Not even a bite.
As I said above, it’s easy once you entirely eliminate sweeteners – you end up not wanting them any more. It doesn’t take a lot of willpower. I know, because I definitely don’t have a lot!
There have been two slips, though, one definite, one possible, plus an unknown number of times I probably ate sugar without realizing it, despite my best efforts. The details:
Definite slip: In the spring, I was travelling and had an attack of restless legs (grrr) in the middle of the night. Tylenol (acetaminophen) helps with this. Without turning on the light, I fumbled for my little travel tube of Tylenol and swallowed one. As it was going down, I realized, too late, that it was covered in a red sugary coating ….arghhghg. When packing, I had tossed the tube into my luggage without opening it. Lesson learned. When I got home, I replaced them with the un-coated kind.
Possible slip: The Shrimp Toast Incident (see my One-month update). Basically, I took one bite of some shrimp toast at a potluck, even though I’d been told it contained Asian fish sauce and Sambal sauce, and I knew some brands of those sauces contain sugar. It didn’t taste at all sweet, but it was a humbling lesson on how susceptible I am to the lure of a new and interesting dish, and the importance of being careful in social situations.
Unknown random sugar consumption: I realized in about February that because regular table salt contains sugar (yes!), pretty much any time I eat at a restaurant, I’m probably eating sugar in the salt (unless, of course, it’s a high-end restaurant that only uses sea salt). Also, meats are often marinated in a sugar-salt solution; for this reason, I avoid restaurant chicken.
That’s it for the 6-month update.
As always, thanks for reading, and let me know if have any other questions!