It’s been three weeks since I signed up for the Fed Up movie challenge. The challenge was no added sugars for 10 days and when I signed up, I didn’t know if I would make it the entire 10 days because I love honey and cereal and an occasional sweet treat. I was also skeptical of this challenge because I am not an advocate of eliminating entire food groups. I don’t believe restrticive dieting is sustainable. To me, healthy eating is not an event, it’s a process that you have to work on every single day. I really mean that when I say it because every single day we are faced with food choices and we make so many of them mindlessly.
I thought this challenge would make me frustrated, and moody, and that I’d have some kind of rude awakening or harsh reality to face but the opposite actually occurred. I realized that even when I’m not conscientiously avoiding added sugars, I do quite well, most days at least. I felt better without the added sugar and found that after a few days I didn’t even crave it. I also had a friend go through the challenge with me, so that was helpful too. It’s always more fun when someone else can empathize with you and how badly you want that bowl of cereal.
So what major realizations did I have during my sugar sabbatical? Many, actually. I learned that avoiding added sugars is more than just saying no to the candy dish at work or the temptation to bake cookies when I’m bored. This challenge helped me realize that added sugars are in so many foods I eat and furthermore, they’re in so many of the “healthy foods” found at the “healthy stores” I frequent. If you really start to look closely at ingredient lists, you’ll notice that many unsuspecting foods include some form of sugar. Sugar can be listed as agave, honey, corn syrup, barley malt, cane juice, dextran, diatase, and more. I actually had to brush up on all the names sugar goes by to get through this challenge.
Is this lifestyle sustainable? Absolutely not, at least not for me. I enjoy having a doughnut once in a while. I will dip my grilled cheese in tomato soup from time to time. What I have taken away from this experience is that there is always room for improvement, no matter how healthy you think you are. Now that I know added sugars are lurking in some of my go-to foods, I will think about whether or not I really want or need them. Like pretzels, I don’t even like them all that much so why do I eat them? I’m sure there are healthier alternatives and I will now seek to find them.
I know you’re wondering if I made it? Well, I’ll tell you the truth. I did not make it 10 days. Towards the end of the challenge, day eight or so, I was invited to my friend Leslie’s place to celebrate her birthday. She had the sous chef from a local restaurant, Proof, over to cook for a few of her close friends. I repeat, the sous chef from Proof was in her kitchen, cooking for us! I went to this party knowing full well that I’d break my sugar sabbatical. I also didn’t really care because what was more important at that moment was celebrating and enjoying my friend’s birthday. In case you’re wondering, the fried ice cream was so delicious I will remember it for the rest of my life. I’m not joking.
After the birthday party I resumed my challenge for the remainder of the 10 days, plus a couple more just for the fun of it. What was the first thing I had after the challenge was up? A bowl of Grape Nuts, my favorite cereal. Guess what though? It was actually kind of disappointing and I don’t think I’ve had a bowl since. Today I’ve had some added sugar and tomorrow I might as well. I am definitely making better decisions, however, so the challenge was time well spent.
I encourage you to at least go through your kitchen and identify anything with added sugars and think twice as to why you’re using that as fuel for your body. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, go one day without added sugars. It will make you leave your food comfort zone and it will cause you to be more mindful about what you put in the shopping cart and what you put in your body. Give it a try, for a few days at least! Remember, big changes are the result of small improvements.