I quit sugar for 10 days, and in all honesty, it wasn’t too bad. According to a Sydney University study, over 50% of Australians consume more than the maximum recommended daily intake of added sugars. Based on studies by the World Health Organisation, they recommend that the average person should consume approximately 25g of sugar each day, which equates to six teaspoons. To put this in perspective, a fruit yoghurt has around 30g of sugar.
We’re all aware of the standard names for sugars e.g. glucose, corn syrup, fructose etc. But when a friend posted a picture online that showed sugar actually had 56 other hidden names, I was speechless. So that’s when I decided to join the Fed Up Challenge, a 10-day no sugar detox. I got three other friends on board for support, and off we went.
DAY ONE: Note to Self: Meal Planning is Key
“What have I got myself into”, I thought. The night before, we had inhaled sugar left, right and centre as a last hurrah, which looking back, the sugar content of our ‘treats’ probably exceeded the daily recommended amount for at least 15 days – lucky we were about to detox.
In general, I don’t usually contain that much sugar (excluding the previous night). I try to keep my sugar intake to fruits and vegetables as much as possible but was still worried about the next 10 days.
My breakfast of choice on a typical day is a green smoothie. I add banana, spinach, berries, protein powder, oats, yogurt and either water or almond milk – red flags all around. Although fruits have natural sugars and were allowed in the challenge, I chose to really cut down on them. So between the banana, berries, protein powder, oats and milk, my typical healthy breakfast was off limits.
My lack of meal planning in advance had gotten the better of me. What I thought was a healthy breakfast had sugar in it, sugar that wasn’t allowed. So by the time I finished procrastinating over my meal-prep disaster, breakfast was long gone. I ended up eating a vegetable omelette consisting of two eggs, capsicum, spinach and mushrooms for brunch.
Between running around for the rest of the day, I didn’t stop to snack and was still full from my omelette. Dinner was a lean piece of salmon with a salad on the side – lemon juice, salt and pepper as the dressing.
“I can do this”, I thought as day one came to an end. All I needed was to meal plan as the notion that sugar is in everything started to become a scary reality.
DAY TWO: Are You Feeling Alright?
Started the day with another vegetable omelette (something that would be my go to for the remainder of the challenge), which kept me full until lunch. My Grandma is like any typical grandmother. Her pantry, fridge and freezer is stocked with everything, and by everything I mean everything that you shouldn’t be eating – especially on a 10-day no-sugar journey. When I said no to the biscuits she especially stocked up for me and the 4L tub of ice-cream that was taking up all her freezer space, she thought I was sick and needed to see a doctor. But thank the heavens for my healthy Grandpa who had his supply of roasted vegetables stocked up – lunch was sorted.
It was a busy day again where snacking didn’t even cross my mind. Dinner for the second day in a row was a fresh piece of salmon and a salad.
DAY THREE: Lollies, Lollies, Lollies
I was worried about going to work. Working in retail, and dealing with some not-so-nice customers can be gruelling. So to help us get through the day, there’s always an endless amount of chips and lollies out the back to provide that moral support and energy burst that we so badly need. I don’t ever crave those sorts of things, but once I have one, game over – I can’t stop.
So day three was all about self restraint and determination. As long as I didn’t touch it, I’d be fine. So along I came to work with some cucumber and carrot sticks – the only green that was seen in the work fridge and I with that, I managed to hold my game.
Even though the lollies were right in my face with the container quickly diminishing every time I looked, I didn’t budge and was so proud of myself. I really should’ve got an award for that one.
DAY FOUR: The No-Sugar Headache
I’d conquered one day of no-sugar at work, it was now time for day two. The only difference was today being Saturday and the weather was horrible outside – if you’ve worked in retail, you know if there’s any day to eat sugar, today was the day.
But before I even got a chance to crave sugar, I got a bad headache. Ah yes, I remembered. While doing my no-sugar research I read that a day four headache was a common side-effect from eliminating sugar. Strange, I know. It was actually really confronting to think if I'm someone who doesn't consume that much added and artificial sugars and I'm getting a bad headache as a legitimate withdrawal symptom, imagine how others with major addictions are feeling. Crazy right? It really put the whole thing into a confronting perspective.
Whether it was my headache or not I’m still not sure, but I wasn’t hungry at all today.
DAY FIVE: Don’t C(r)ave Now
Sunday Funday and half way there. My friends and I decided to throw a dinner party tonight, no particular reason other than the fact that we’re all major foodies. With Sunday afternoon usually being a cheese and wine bonanza, this Sunday was no different – other than the fact that I couldn’t drink the wine. But to my amazement, a lot of the cheeses didn’t have sugar in them – hallelujah I sang.
Dinner was filled with an array of salads where dressings were kindly on the side to accommodate my challenge. But just as I thought I had very thoughtful friends, out came the dessert. Not going to lie, I had to sit on my hands for a good 30 minutes while I watched them delve into ice-cream (only my favourite food in the world) while I continued to sip on nothing but my glass of water.
DAY SIX & SEVEN: I’ve Got This
It was all downhill from here. The half-way mark was over and I was getting the hang of things. Yes, I snuck in a sneaky slice (or two) of bread on both days but it said <1g of sugar so I let it slide.
DAY EIGHT: I Need Sugar and I Need It Now
Yes, I’m Australian and no, by no means am I political, but on day eight the US election was all I could think about. As my eyes were glued to the live stream and the results were moving further and further away from what I and all the people I know in the US had hoped, I found myself not just wanting but needing sugar. That’s when it occurred to me that it’s a natural instinct (A.K.A. a bad habit) that when things aren’t perfect, I and I’m sure many others too, crave sugar. When I saw my mum, who was also participating in the challenge reach for the sugar after the shocking result, I decided to say no and I felt pretty good about it.
I went out for sushi with friends for dinner and ordered a plain avocado roll with no sauces. Let me put it this way, my plate completely ruined all our beautiful looking Instagram pictures! Clean eating ain’t always pretty.
DAY NINE: On The Home Stretch
I was on the home-run and nothing was going to stop me now. I blitzed through breakfast and lunch but by the afternoon was starving and was craving sugar. I reached for an apple – the first piece of fruit I’d eaten in nine days. Suddenly a simple apple felt like the sweetest thing I’d ever eaten. Even after one bite, I wasn’t sure if I could finish it, it was that sweet. It just showed me how much my body had changed in just over a week. But after that I was satisfied and thought to myself, just one more day.
DAY TEN: DONE!
Day ten and done. Went out for dinner again and even though I knew the challenge would be over in a few hours, I didn’t cave, and suddenly just like that eating with no sugar became so easy to achieve. It was no longer, “what can I eat? I can’t eat anything” – there were so many ways to work around it, all it took was some time to learn and feel it out.
In the end, out of my three friends and myself, two lost approximately 3kg each, my other friend and myself managed to shed about 1kg. Over the 10 days, each of our weights fluctuated, but the two who lost the most, lost it quite early on and managed to maintain that over the challenge.
But it wasn’t about weight loss, it was about educating ourselves on the amount of sugar we unknowingly consume each day. Yes, it was challenging in the beginning but after I got in the groove of things, it became second nature.
A few weeks on, I have had sugar again but I’m trying to minimize my intake. Not only does it test your willpower and determination, but teaches you how your body reacts to sugar and its effects.
I’m sure I’ll do it again in the future but for now it’s your turn. I challenge you.