The Year of No Sugar

I'm no stranger to year long challenges. No spend years, year-long decluttering challenges, even down to my January 1st goal setting. I do have to say, I'm not used to setting them to begin on anything other than the first of a new year or a new month, but first time for everything, I guess? Because I started a new challenge - my year of no sugar - on July 5th. At least it was a Monday. And it's John's birthday, so it'll be very easy to remember when my year is over!


You might have seen me post my breakfast yesterday over on Instagram and yes, a year of no sugar. No added sugar, I should say, because some whole foods are perfectly healthy for you but contain sugar (fruit! quinoa!) and are not off the table this year. But everything else is, because sugar, namely fructose, is poison. Don't believe me? You simply must watch the most interesting hour and a half video on YouTube. There are so many obesity related diseases rampant in America and no matter how many no carb, no fat, no meat, no ___ diets people try, Americans are still fatter and more unhealthy than ever. And it's directly correlated with sugar. (And seed oils, but I don't eat much of those anyway so one problem at a time.)

The No Sugar Science

Sugar, namely fructose, is highly addicting. The more you eat, the more you want to eat - the average American eats half a cup of sugar a day. Drinking something with fructose (juice or soda) before a meal actually makes you eat more. Unlike drinking a glass of water which fills the stomach the same way, but makes you eat less. So sugar itself may not be highly fattening, but it encourages you to eat so much more, leading to weight gain. And the cycle only gets worse because, like any other drug, the more you consume sugar, the more you need to get the same high and satisfy the craving. Which is why quitting cold turkey for an extended period of time makes the most sense - it's hard to just limit intake on addicting substances.

Sugar also lowers your immune system, increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol,  heart attacks, certain cancers, fatty liver disease, depression, dementia, and Alzheimers. I'm sure there's more - it's poison.

There's a lot of science behind why the glucose in fruit is necessary for humans and why fructose absolutely isn't and blocks insulin but again, I recommend watching the video because science major I am not.

My Own Sugar Issues

Here's the thing I already know - added sugar makes me feel awful. It's an absolute migraine trigger for me, which I figured out through process of elimination when happy hour starting giving me instant headaches. I know, I know, most people would attribute it to the alcohol and stop drinking but vodka had never given me a headache before (not like hoppy beers, those devils), and I was just totally unwilling to accept that Absolut and I needed to part ways. Not until I exhausted all other possibilities, like gluten issues or something in the mixers. And it was something in the mixers - the fructose. Because Absolut on the rocks? No issues. Smirnoff sugar free infusions with plain water? Perfectly fine.

I started paying much closer attention to sugar in other areas in the last two months. Vegan brownies made from dates? Delicious and pain free. Conventional brownies? Sugar crash, including pounding headache, within 30 minutes. It became clear that my issues were all associated with consuming added sugar. And looking back at 2020, when I couldn't seem to get headaches under control, they were highly correlated with sugar intake. When I intentionally started losing weight and eating better (October 2020), the headaches subsided, but it still took me until June of this year to make the direct sugar connection.

One of my 2021 goals has been to lose 50 lbs. I've been doing well with that and it absolutely involved cutting back on sugar. It wasn't intentional, but I knew I need to start skipping dessert if I wanted to lose weight. But I never cut them out completely, so once in awhile, I'd have that ice cream. And the next night? I wanted it again. I hadn't had ice cream in 2 weeks, hadn't thought about dessert at all, but once I had it one time, I thought about it again every night that week. That's a problem

The added sugar in just about everything makes it really complicated. Bread, ketchup, pizza, tacos, salad dressing, frozen foods, etc etc - everything has hidden added sugar. Because that's what makes it taste good and keep you buying more, so companies keep on adding more. And I need to quit it.

My No Sugar Year Rules

What would a challenge be without real rules to follow? I'm a rule follower by nature (enneagram Type 1 here! and an ESTJ), so I have to have a list to refer to. I'm also an obliger and extrinsically motivated, which means I need to post about it here and have other people read it in order to remain accountable. (Side note: if you don't know what most of that means or what you are in those various types and acronyms, I highly suggest you take the quizzes and find out because it's essential for achieving goals.) So here's what I came up with:

1. No added sugar. It sounds simple enough but sugar really is in everything, and under sneaky chemical names, so it can be tough when determining whether something processed fits the bill. It almost never does, so that means real food. Eating out is pretty much over. So no sugar means: white and brown sugar, cane sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, maple syrup, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane syrup, honey, agave, fruit juice, sugar alcohols, and artificial sweeteners. I'm sure there's more I forgot.

2. Fruit is fine. Fruit is real, whole food, and it's good for you. It has fiber and nutrients that negate the bad effects of fructose, and fills you up before you even hit danger levels of sugar. And like I said, a lot of whole, real foods have sugar, like quinoa. That's okay. Fruit juice is still the devil's drink though, no fruit juice.

3. One dessert is allowed per month. There are just some occasions that call for partaking in sugar - the the tradition John and I have of making delicious apple cider for driving around looking at Halloween decor, or the hot chocolate version for looking at Christmas lights. Plus, by checking in once a month, I can see exactly how my taste buds are changing and how it makes me feel. I'm reserving the right to make it one exception per month, rather than a true dessert - like a veggie burger with bun from an actual restaurant. Most bread has sugar!

4. I must report back. I don't know how often I'll do updates on my project, because I don't know when I'll gain any useful insights. If nothing else, I'll report back in a year, but I imagine I'll check in sooner than that.

Let me know if you think there are any hurdles or details I forgot about, so I can include them into my rules list. I love starting with a well-thought out plan.

So here's to my year of 'no' sugar, to randomly starting a project on a whim, to starting it on a completely arbitrary date, and to using my whims and struggles as blog fodder.

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