Today is the 30th and final day of my no sugar challenge. I am proud to say that I only cheated once...and I learned a lot about myself, my eating habits, and what I want to do for the future.
Here's a list of the things I've learned:
1. Most processed food has (processed, cane) sugar in it. Even if it's vegan, even if it's labeled as "healthy"--it probably has sugar in it. This whole process was a huge eye-opener, making me read labels in different ways and really making me examine what's in the food I eat.
2. Even if a food doesn't have sugar in it, it doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. Lay's potato chips don't have sugar in them...but they still make my tummy freak. Alicia's chocolate peanut butter cups don't have sugar in them...but they are still filled with fat. In that vein....
3. Everything in moderation. I've discovered that even though I successfully cut out sugar, I still have a tendency to binge on other foods if I feel deprived. In the beginning of my challenge, I used salt instead of sugar. Your mind wants to compensate. I may have been cutting my sugary calories, but I noticed at the end of my challenge that I was eating way more fats than I usually do.
4. I am an emotional eater. The challenge really made me realize this. I had time to contemplate why I wanted something, because I had to make it instead of simply open a package. "Why do I want chocolate peanut butter cups? Did I not eat enough fats today? Or did I have a bad day and want to reward myself, or make myself feel better?" Emotional eating is difficult. People use food to reward themselves, and they also associate certain foods with happy occasions, such as birthdays, parties, and getting together with friends. One of my closest friends and former college roommates would make this amazing ice cream cake for birthdays. I clearly remember summer evenings as a child, sitting on the front porch with my family and eating Dairy Queen. You can tell yourself over and over that food is simply fuel, but it's much, much more than that. It's emotional, social, even spiritual. Recognizing that and asking yourself, "Why do I want to eat that?" can really lead to some self-awareness. Even if you eat it, you know that much more about yourself.
5. Eating whole foods helps you listen to your body better. When I read Alicia's book and she talked about feeling "lighter" once she cut out animal products and simple carbs, I was skeptical. Then one day, mid-challenge, I had to run for the bus, and I felt like I was flying! This was even before I started going to the gym. I started paying really close attention to how I felt after eating certain foods. I realized that people into macrobiotics don't tout brown rice for nothing--it really does help you feel more balanced.
6. Even if you eat well and exercise, you're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't get enough sleep. I need those eight hours. My body needs to rest and heal, and my mind does, too.
7. I really miss ketchup. I thought I'd miss ice cream more, or chocolate...but I could sub smoothies and grain-sweetened chocolate if I really wanted it. There is no substitute for ketchup, people.
8. I still need to eat more veggies. I am doing great with getting enough fruit and protein...but I'm only getting about 4 servings of veggies a day, mostly in the form of baby greens salad. It's more than I used to get, but I need to ramp it up a bit more. I might try green smoothies (if I could get my little guy to drink those, that would be fantastic!) with a wheat grass powder or something.
9. What I eat definitely affects how I feel. When I cheated with that delicious frozen lemonade, I felt it the day after. I was super grumpy because I was craving more, and extra exhausted. Not eating sugar, however, has helped me out--my son caught a summer cold and I didn't catch it from him. This child gives me ALL his germs. He has never once gotten sick without me getting the same thing. My immune system is definitely stronger when I eat unprocessed foods.
I'll talk about number 10 in my next blog, and also some of my goals....stay tuned!