no sugar challenge

My Experience with a 30 Day No Sugar Challenge

Today, I will dive into my experience with a 30 day no sugar challenge!

Ah, sugar. I have a love hate relationship with this sneaky little ingredient. It tastes SO good, yet I feel terrible after I eat it (after the initial high and taste bud explosion of course). And I know that is contributing to some general constitutional symptoms I experience like mood swings (related to my hunger), bloating, low energy, and more.

Since the average American eats over 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day (WAY above the recommended 6 teaspoons)- I know I’m not the only one that has a bad relationship with sugar.

That’s why I decided to do a 30 day no sugar challenge for the month of October. I’ve done a no sugar challenge a few times in the past for Lent or when I told myself “enough is enough.” Sometimes I was successful and other times I failed miserably. Regardless of my success, I always learned a lot about myself .

no sugar challenge

Overall, here’s what I’ve learned from my past no sugar challenges:

  • I have NO self control when it comes to refined sugar
    • Baked goods, candy, or anything purposely made to be a sweet- I literally cannot have just one unless someone hides all the goodies after I have one 
    • But, from research I’ve learned this isn’t my fault! We are genetically designed to seek out and enjoy sweet stuff because it’s dense with energy (even thought it’s nutrient void). This was important when we were cave men- but not now!
  • Often, I replace my cravings for sweets when I do a challenge with some other junk- aka bread and potatoe chips for me! 
  • There are certain “sweet” foods that I can have just one (or two) of,
    • Baked goods with applesauce or coconut sugar
    • Date balls
    • Fruit
  • I normally eat A LOT of sugar
    • I say I’ll just have one and then eat an entire bags of goodies or bar of chocolate
    • When I eat sugar, I feel hungry 30 minutes later and repeat 
    • I wake up starving in the morning
    • I find myself craving sweets after Every. Single. Meal. 
    • I am SO bloated at the end of everyday with these eating habits
    • SO many empty calories- and it seemed the more I ate the more I wanted… it was getting worse and worse! 

Related read: 6 Simple Reasons You Are Experiencing a Fitness or Weight Loss Plateau

no sugar challenge

Common Symptoms of Sugar Overconsumption

As I’ve mentioned, I’m feeling great this month with 30 days of no sugar. As one last reminder, here’s are some of the most common symptoms you can ditch when you give up sugar:

  • Poor Skin Health
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood swings- particularly associated with hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Constant hunger or cravings
  • Poor Gut Health
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Joint pain
  • Brain fog
  • Bloating
  • Feeling unmotivated to exercise
  • Weak immune system

Related read: 8 Facts About Sugar that Will Shock You

What finally helped- addressing those underlying issues

When I’m completely addicted and stuck in a cycle of eating sweets, it can feel impossible to make a change.

I’d feel like crap and I know something needs to change. Yet, then I’d go to the grocery store or someone would bring in some goodies to work and my resolve would instantly desolve. Even if I tried for a while not to eat something, if I knew it was in vicinity I’d become obsessed with it.

What I realized is that I had a lot of pre-conditioning surrounding sweets that I needed to address before I could sustainably quit sugar.  Here are the issues I have worked through in the past 2 years with reflection, journaling, writing, and meditations.

  • Saying no to food is wasteful and selfish
    • I was always more concerned about offending others rather than my own health
  • Everyone else is doing it, why can’t I?
    • Of course I CAN, but since our world in a state of denial about health, with growing obesity and chronic issues- it isn’t exactly the best gauge.
  • I exercise a lot so I can eat what I want
    • I’ve been lucky enough to be active and fit my whole life- I based my health on my size rather than many of the other issues I was facing that told me I should make a change. 
  • I eat pretty well- so some sugar won’t hurt
    • In my head, eating a salad gave me permission to eat junk all night after dinner. This didn’t even include the hidden sugar I was gobbling up in granola bars, crackers, bread, and more! 
  • Eating sweets is a special occasion, so when it’s around I should eat as much as I can.
    • Except that it wasn’t- this was true when I was growing up but not as an adult. I have 24-7 access to sweets that I’d eat all day long. 

As I brought awareness to these issues this year, I FINALLY felt I had control over my eating habits (most days anyways)- rather than the opposite. So I challenge you to stop and think… What beliefs are sabotaging your health and eating habits?

If you want to do some deep work around these issues and other health related issues, you can get a ton of guidance from my Consistent Healthy Habits Guide (use cold “gethealthy” for a 50% discount as a thanks for reading this post!). 

Related read: How to Stop Eating Junk Food: Practical Tips

no sugar challenge- alternatives!

What I replaced my sweet tooth with

Outside of addressing these deeply seated beliefs, I also now have some go to snacks that help satiate my hunger and cravings during my no sugar challenge. 

  • If I truly want something sweet, I reach for a piece of fruit or fruit mash up such as,
    • A smoothie
    • Homemade fruit popsicle
    • Nice cream with banana, avocado, and other fruits
  • Healthy fats have made a huge difference in my cravings
    • Nuts- my favs are almonds and walnuts
    • Nut butters
    • Avocado
  • Other times, I found I was just thirsty so I’d have
    • Herb tea
    • Sparkling water with lemon
    • Good ol’ water

Relate readFood Trivia: A Nutrition Quiz to Test Your Knowledge

The all or nothing conundrum 

As I’ve chatted with people about no sugar challenges, I’ve come to realize there are two different types of people. The ones that can eat in moderation and the ones that can’t. You know those people that can have a candy drawer at their desk and only have one piece every day or two? Yes, they do exist. But they are definitely not me! And there are a lot of people out there that struggle like me. Or maybe you can moderate for a while until life gets complicated and it leads to stress eating all of your favorite treats. 

If you are like me, it’s significantly easier to go all in at 100% no sugar. Then, you don’t even have to think about whether or not you should eat certain foods. It’s not even on your radar. You simply don’t eat it. Because decision fatigue (and willpower fatigue) is a real thing- so if you simply know you don’t eat sweets then it’s no longer an issue. It sounds simple but it works magically!

Suddenly, you are someone that doesn’t eat sweets because you know how much better you feel without it. Rather than being someone that can’t eat sugar, because you’re restricting. This small mindset shift has made A HUGE difference for me this year. 

Related read: Reshaping Your Health: How to Make Healthy Habits

accountability partner

Having an accountability partner 

If I’m being honest, I was always blaming my husband or extended family for having no control around sugar. Because if he was still eating it how could I resist? Well- it turns out with the right resolve, kitchen set up, and cues I am just fine.

But the real last part of the equation is having accountability. Having a friend or group that you can share your triumphs and struggles with is a game changer. It’s exactly why I created the Consistent Healthy Habits group on Facebook. And with it, I know that there are 200+ others trying to do the same thing I am and that makes putting in my best efforts feel so important!

I want to be authentic in this group, and it’s why I’m sharing this article with you too. To show that healthy choices aren’t always easy, but with the right mindset shift they CAN be totally doable and get easier with time. And it’s all worth it when something clicks and you start living healthy life that you feel in control of.

Related read: How a Virtual Accountability Partner Can Keep You Motivated

successful no sugar challenge

The Bottom Line

My husband asked me two days ago if I was counting down my days to the end of this sugar challenge. I then realized I haven’t even given it a second thought. For me, that truly is a miracle.

I feel so great and I’ve completely re-written my habits that I feel totally satiated when I grab a piece of fruit for a snack. So I don’t actually have a plan to stop… because I know that my sugar addiction is a slippery slope. So I will experiment with striking a balance to enjoying sweets when I really want to- this will be important with the holidays coming up!

I will continue to share what I’ve learned and what I’ve struggled with. I’d love to hear what works best for you to feel your healthiest and what you’re struggling with.  Have you ever done a 30 day challenge related to food? You can do anything if you put your mind to it. 

Reply below to share what works (and doesn’t work) for you.

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