January, for better or worse, is the month when most of us strive to make changes. Whether that’s dissolving a bad habit or picking up a good one, resolving to be a better person can look differently for each of us.
For me, it was quitting added sugar cold turkey for the first 31 days of 2023.
You may be thinking, “Cute for you but cold turkey, girl? Why such a hardcore approach?” Before we go into some high (and low) lights of the past month, allow me to introduce you to a typical day in my pre-detox life (you can also read more details about the first time I tried to conquer my sugar addiction in 2021 here):
- 6am: Wake up for an hour of yoga
- 7am: Wake up the kids, kiss my husband, & hit the shower
- 8am: Drop off kids, pull up my Dunkin app to order:
- a large Charli Cold Foam with whip & extra cinnamon sugar sprinkle
- a Egg & Bacon Wake Up Wrap
- two maple frosted donuts
- 9am: Get to work & scarf down all of the above (minus one donut) within an hour
- 11am: First sugar-induced slump of the day; pop two pieces of sugar-free gum & drink a second (third?) cup of black coffee
- Noon: Lunchtime! If I’m feeling healthy (read: guilty about a previous sugar binge), it might be dinner leftovers – but more than likely it’s either…
- Dunkin (…again)
- Chorizo cheese fries from Jalepeno’s (an appetizer-sized serving)
- Jimmy John’s
- a slice from Casey’s (Yes…I willingly ate pizza from a gas station.)
- 2pm: Second sugar-induced slump of the day; eats second donut with a side of whatever’s on the work snack table (read: more sugar)
- 4pm: Third sugar-induced slump of the day; eats SkinnyPop with water (because the guilt is REALLY kicking in now)
- 6pm: A pescatarian, gluten-free dinner (the most nutritious meal I’ve had all day, thanks to my much healthier spouse’s diet)
- 8pm: An apple to tie me over until bedtime, a fallacy I tell myself, because after the kids go to bed…
- 10pm: A handful (LIES! A whole bag) of Trolli Sour Gummi Worms with a cup of hibiscus tea
- 11pm: Yoga before bed, followed by roughly 5-6 hours of inevitably interrupted sleep
Just recounting my former day-to-day diet brings tears to my eyes, for real. After working so hard on getting sober, I allowed sugar to wreak the same havoc in my life. I ignored the connection between my multiple sleepy slumps at work and my excessive sugar consumption. I didn’t want to see the link between my nightly gummy worm habit and my fitful sleep. The way I was truly treating my body like shit didn’t become clear to me until it began to show up in and on my body.
Similar to the epiphany I had about booze in 2019, I looked in the mirror one November 2022 morning after a sugar binge and hated what I saw. My skin was dry and flaky, painful with chin acne. I was bloated & tired. It was a mess! Once upon a time (i.e. before grad school), I was an intermittent fasting machine whose sweet tooth was prevalent but under control. When the pressures of being a working student hit, I coped with sugar. BIG TIME. That cold morning, I knew then I had to change.
So I started reading – really studying! – about the mental, emotional, and physiological impacts of sugar. After my semester ended, I spent winter break watching documentaries & TED Talks about the sugar industry. I looked at different detox plans and landed on The Sugar Detox: a 30-day commitment to eliminate added sugar from my diet.
I won’t go into all of the details of the plan (you’ll have to buy the book for that, which I highly recommend you do), but here’s a summary:
- The first three days are zero sugar – added OR natural. That means no refined sugar or white food, but also no fruit, dairy, or starchy veggies. (Yes, this was painful but it was only three days.)
- Each week thereafter, Brooke adds a little more to your menu: some fruit, a couple of servings of dairy, some whole grains, and – if you stick with it – a daily dose of dark chocolate and some red wine for your troubles (kombucha for me!)
- The non-negotiables for the entire month: no artificial sweeteners, no foods/drinks with added sugars, no white flour, and no white rice. (Silver Lining: You will learn how to read TF out of a nutrition label.)
So, how’d I do? Here’s the absolutely good, a very particular bad, and some ugly truths I discovered about myself from my 31 days of being sugar-free(ish):
- THE GOOD: After the first three days of no sugar, I stopped crying over the loss of my precious sour gummi worms long enough to notice that my belly had shrunk. It was amazing, as I’ve struggled with digestive and bloating issues for years. Also, my energy was through the roof after the first week. I no longer have sleepy slumps, a condition I’ve caffeinated my way through every workday since I graduated college over twenty years ago. After a month of cutting drastically back on sugar, everything is lit: the sleep, the sex, the yoga, the focus, holy shit, THE FOCUS. No longer weighed down by the highs and crashes of sugar, my concentration on one task at a time is unrivaled and unprecedented. Overall, my quality of life has improved substantially over the past month…but shit happens.
- THE BAD: On Day 12, I attended a networking party with all intentions of being a good sugar-free girl. I knew the event site (a popular bar & grill) was known for their yummy deep dish pizzas, so I expertly avoided the array of pies in the catered spread. Then, at the end of the serving table, I encountered the nacho bar. Holy carbs! It was unexpected and, Goddess forgive me, I went TF in! Tortilla chips aren’t all that bad but they were NOT allowed, as the corn ultimately becomes sugar. I even had a Diet Dr. Pepper to top it all off (you’ll recall that artificial sweeteners were a non-negosh). Ugh, not my most shining moment of the month, but man listen: it tasted great! By the morning of Day 13, though, I was back on the no-sugar wagon…for a while anyway.
- THE UGLY: I’m just going to preface this confession by saying I have a tween and a teen. They are fabulous & gorgeous children who give my husband and I minimal grief. I love them more than life itself, but on Day 28, they collectively decided to give me sibling rivalry hell. So I went to the crackhouse known as McDonald’s, pulled up my app (yes, I have apps for Dunkin’ and Mickey D’s on my phone), and ordered a small fry and a small Diet Coke. *sigh* I was so close to the finish line! But, based on my pre-detox diet, a small fry was a vast improvement from 28 days ago. I had to give myself grace for once.
My biggest takeaway from this humbling experience is accepting that sugar is one of my responses to emotional triggers – and that it’s OK as long as I am aware of it. That said, the detox made me better at picking my emotional battles with the white stuff now. I understand that most days I will have the inner strength to respond to conflict without sugar – and other times, I’m going to have a donut when I get pissed off. Either day, I’m good in any hood.
As for my post-detox plans, I will continue to limit my sugar consumption with Brooke’s Diet Detox maintenance plan, which allows for one Intentional Indulgence per week. I also have another go at this detox scheduled mid-year in June, so I’m excited to see the progress I make in Round Two. I think about sugar a lot less and my cravings only rear their ugly head when I’m stressed. I’m glad I’ve finally made that connection. Knowing is half the battle, beloved.