I’m so pleased to announce that Sugar Free February is officially over!!
Keep reading to see what happened when I gave up sugar for 28 days.
The first week was definitely the hardest and I accidentally cheated a few times– for example ordering a cappuccino that had hot chocolate powder on it and eating food at the UNiDAYS event that might have had sugar in. After these incidents I received quite a few comments on my twitter/facebook/blog post saying that I shouldn’t really think of these as cheating and I’ve got to say I agree. I think that tearing into a bar of chocolate is cheating, but the examples above were just mistakes or things I had no control over. So if things like that happened at other times I didn’t mention it on my blog.
Since this was the first week I was really diligent about looking on packets for added sugars. I spent at least 10 minutes picking up every soup in Waitrose – only 2 out of at least 20 had no sugar or dairy in!! But if you’re looking for healthier choices, at least this is something that you only have to do once and then you can remember which item to grab next time.
What about sugar cravings you ask?
I was definitely feeling my sweet tooth after dinner in the first week and it was hard not to give in. Especially when I knew I had some sugary goodies in my flat! But I received lots of support from my friends on social media, which helped me to stay strong. Also, I feel that making this a challenge and raising money for meals for the homeless has really helped keep me on track – I said I would pay £5 each time I cheated and so I really didn’t want to be paying out a lot for cheating (I have paid £10 for the mistakes I just mentioned).
However, when I was craving sugary foods after dinner I just turned to my jar of peanut butter instead… or should I say jars. I got through A LOT of peanut butter in the first week!
On week 2 I decided I should rein in my peanut butter consumption. Firstly, I feel really sluggish and bloated if I eat too much peanut butter (although that doesn’t stop me hahaha!). Secondly, one of the reasons that I wanted to take part in Sugar Free February was to break out of the habit of eating when I feel upset or bored– turning to peanut butter wasn’t helping me to do that. Instead I started having a nice warm drink after dinner (e.g. my beetroot latte, without the date syrup) and maybe some popcorn, a small sweet potato or another snack if I was actually hungry.
I started to get incredibly emotional in week 2, especially about my PhD work and I even cried one day because I saw some sheep on a bridge and I thought it was funny. I’m pretty sure that’s not a normal thing to do! I was also feeling an energy slump and really struggled to force myself into the gym, which is quite unlike me because usually I really enjoy exercise. I’m not sure if the two things above were related to sugar or maybe stress in general.
During Sugar Free February I had to swap my protein powder. Usually I use Vivolife Perform, but that it sweetened with stevia so I started using 100% hemp protein instead. I don’t mind the taste of hemp protein powder but it’s nothing too special. At the end of the week I was really happy to receive some brown rice and cacao protein powder from That Protein, which tasted great in a smoothie (e.g. protein powder, frozen spinach, 1/2 a banana and rice milk) or mixed with yoghurt and it really helped with my sweet cravings.
By week 3 I was getting the hang of snacking on veggies and actually started to enjoy carrot sticks and sugar snap peas- they’re so refreshing. I was still emotional this week and feeling low energy. But I was happy that my skin seemed to be looking clearer.
I think the most exciting thing to happen in week 3 was that I found some Montezuma’s 100% dark chocolate in Sainsbury’s! It was very strong and I could only eat a tiny bit at a time, but it was great to have chocolate! (I’ve also since seen Willies 100% chocolate in Waitrose).
Also in week 3 I went out to pizza express for dinner and I didn’t find it hard to pick something with no sugar. I ordered the Bosco salad and swapped the cheese and dough sticks for cucumber and olives. There’s obviously no way to know that some of the ingredients didn’t contain sugar but I had better things to do than spend my time worrying about that.
Finally by week 4 I felt like I was getting the hang of the no sugar thing!
When I got tempted I asked myself if it would really be worth cheating and the answer was always no.
I went to a kid’s birthday party and successfully avoided any sugary snacks. Luckily there were some sliced vegetables to snack on and to be honest I wouldn’t have eaten the cake under normal circumstances anyway because even though it was homemade it wasn’t vegan and it had refined sugar in.
By the end of the week I was thinking about what sugary snacks I would be able to eat afterwards, but actually, I wasn’t that strongly tempted by any of them.
Also this week I realised that I hadn’t really put much effort into my campaign to raise money to buy meals from the homeless. I was pleased to receive donations from my boyfriend, Jonathan from Savvy and Tony from Cookie-Mix. But I realise that isn’t a lot! SO I decide to extend the date of the campaign and make a Sugar Free Snacks E-Book as a perk for donating (read more here).
What I learnt from Sugar Free February
28 days without sugar did remind me of something very important – balance and moderation is key to a happy life. I think that it’s unhealthy to eat too much sugar and that we should try and cut down where we can BUT it’s impossible to avoid sugar altogether. It’s important not to get too caught up in avoiding sugar because if you’re obsessing over foods (especially when you don’t have control over it when you go out) it is totally defeating the point of trying to reduce sugar in order to be healthier.
I’ve also learnt that sometimes food with added sugar in doesn’t taste as good as we think it’s going to. After Sugar-Free February I have eaten ketchup and treated myself to a soya-latte (which used sweentened milk) and actually I didn’t like either of them! I think of taste buds can change depending on what we eat– so we might find that we don’t like the tings we used to anymore.
That said. I had a chocolate brownie made by Leitchy Creates and it was the most amazing thing ever!! So dense and fudgy!
So in conclusion
- It was interesting to take part in Sugar Free February but I will be including some sugars back into my diet going forward.
- I did experience some health benefits, such as clearer skin, but felt like I had less energy and was getting quite emotional in weeks 2 and 3.
- My Sugar Free Snacks Ebook is on sale as a ‘perk’ for donating £5 to my campaign to buy meals for the homless. You will get 25 healthy sugary free snack ideas – all vegan with gluten-free options. UPPDATE: The e-book is no longer available – but check out this post for lots of SUGAR FREE DESSERTS + SNACKS
Thanks for reading.
I hope this has helped if you’re thinking of taking the challenge and reducing your sugar intake.
If you’ve got any more questions then let me know in the comments.