Well, it’s been exactly two weeks since my little Sugaring-Off experiment ended. And how do I feel now? As R.E.M. would say, I thought going off sugar would be “the end of the world as we know it”, but now I feel fine. Really, I feel wonderful, with a new attitude towards sweets. So what did I really learn? As I’ve had time to slowly assess what sugaring off and then sugaring back on has meant to me, I think I can sum it all up in seven simple lessons:
1) Take baby steps.
The first two or three days re-introducing sweet items back into my diet were a bit rough, as I experienced headaches within a few hours of eating my first few sweets. I guess the body needed to adjust to the fluctuations in blood sugar level; just as I’d felt grumpy and weak in the first few days when I went off sugar, I felt unwell when I suddenly went back on. So the next time I do something like this, I won’t just decide to go on my sugar fast at midnight cold-turkey, and then jump back in suddenly at the midnight bell. I will come off the sugar slowly a few days at a time, and then come back on slowly.
2) Don’t fill things in with a substitute addiction.
There were a few times when I was dangerously close to replacing my sugar dependency with a salt dependency. I think I just needed something to make me feel like I was filling up, be it chips or pretzels or salty, spicy snacks. The Beloved Husband did notice it too: “You bought four bags of salty snacks today?” (I think it was very nice of him to not have requested that I go on a salt fast as well.) So I had to cut that bad habit out quickly, and remind myself not to fill my addiction with something else. Thank goodness I didn’t pick up drinking or smoking or any other nasty habits.
3) Recognise what the dependency represented, and get rid of it.
For me, eating sweets started at a painful time in my life, so popping candies into my mouth originally started as a comfort to me. But from there, it just evolved into either a comfort food—to make me think of something happy—or a distraction—something to do while I was reading or working on something stressful. As soon as I could recognise that I was absentmindedly chewing on gummy candies all the time when I should have distracted myself otherwise, I could cut it out. I haven’t eaten a gummy candy since Day 1 of my post-sugar-fast (PSF).
4) Stop when it is no longer satisfying.
I guess that was my original problem: I usually wouldn’t stop, even when I felt sick (because of my stomach and my guilt). Getting those headaches once I came off my fast sure helped me stop. But even once the headaches disappeared (around Day 4 PSF), I realised that stopping early was crucial. Now that I could finally admit that I was eating sweets absentmindedly, and not getting any more satisfaction out of it, I had to will myself to stop. And stopping early is slowly leading to not starting at all. Like I said, I haven’t had a gummy candy since Day 1 PSF.
5) Recognise that eating something sweet isn’t a sin.
In the two weeks since I’ve started eating sweet things again, I’ve accepted something that I always knew deep down, but had to reiterate to myself (or have reiterated to me): All things in moderation. I know that it’s natural to want something sweet every once in a while. And I know that it’s not “bad” to want it. I just had to recognise that I didn’t need to want it all the time. I could have something sweet for dessert every once in a while, but I sure don’t want dessert all the time. And when I do want a sweet, as long as I’m overdoing it (which I never do anyway), it shouldn’t make me feel awful. I was only feeling awful because I was eating it unnecessarily, and uncontrollably.
6) There are “good” sweets, and “bad” sweets.
Yes, I’ve been told by several people that if I had to treat myself to a sweet, it would be better to go with something a little more natural than not. So I don’t feel bad now about eating a nice dessert that I’ve made myself, knowing what the ingredients are, or a pastry made with natural ingredients such as cream, butter, and sugar. (Yes, I’ve had some lovely cheesecake, cream pastries, and cookies since coming off my fast.) But the artificially-flavoured and -coloured candies and confectioneries with chemical additives—those, I don’t need. Funny how sometimes parents have one set of rules for their children and another for themselves; I’ve always set those parameters for my kids, and here I was, eating my icky candies, and thus slowly introducing these to my kids. I think that I won’t swear all candies completely out of my life, but I’ve finally realised that I just don’t want them the way I used to.
7) Boy, are commercially-made sweets ever sweet!
You don’t realise how sweet things are made, until you’ve reduced your level of sugar. Then once you take that first bite again—wow, it hits you like a real punch in the taste buds. I remember when the BH first started reducing salt from his diet, and of course, I did too because we were sharing meals. Then when we ate out at certain chain restaurants, we were shocked by how salty everything seemed. That was how it was when I tasted my first Tim Horton’s doughnut (a cruller, my favourite), PSF. It took me about ten minutes to finish it. I said to myself that day that unless it’s an old-fashioned plain, my kids won’t be getting a whole doughnut to themselves for a long time.
Lesson #7 brought home to me a basic, crucial point: It took 30 days of cleansing my palate and starting at zero, to realise how much sugar I was ingesting all this time. Sugaring Off was a great thing to have done, and I guess I need to thank the BH for that. It’s something that I recommend everyone try at least once in their life. I’ll probably be trying it again, but this time, I won’t be complaining at all.