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What I Learned from a Sugar-Free January

At first, I was sure that I didn’t need a sugar-free month. It goes against my current values, as I want my diet to be without these kinds of restrictions. Instead of quitting things cold turkey, I’d rather find the balance.

I want to eat what makes me feel good, and therefore I usually go without sugar in most of what I do.

I would have never done a sugar-free month without the Bad Yogi community and one of my best friends doing this as well. I started this simply to support her.

Also, I thought it was an interesting experiment!

And it was! And I learned more than I thought I would.

Sugar is hidden everywhere.

After starting the sugar-free month, I found out that there was sugar added to the hummus I love! (why???). And to the bread I eat. And let’s not even start talking about the sweet chili sauce I put in absolutely everything.

Point is: I was eating much more sugar than I thought I was eating. And taking a break from it, allowed me to analyze where my sugar was actually coming from.

Eating sugar is mostly built on habits.

By quitting sugar, I could easily see where I would usually be triggered to get some candy or other sweets. I saw all the different triggers and situations, where eating sweets has nothing to do with what I want, and more to do with the pattern I have created over the years.

Not eating sugar while babysitting was one of the most difficult parts, as well as going without sugar on a long school day. Now, I know when I’ve conditioned myself to want candy, even though I don’t need it.

Quitting sugar was so much easier than I expected!

I have done this a few times. Quitting sugar. And it is often such a huge struggle.

I think however, that this is the first time I cut out sugar from absolutely everything. And I will tell you this, it has been so easy.

It is not that I don’t get the cravings. I do. At the same time, I know that this isn’t the end of the world. I know that I am only doing this for a limited time. And I know, that going without sugar has never affected me badly.

That is why I know for sure, that no matter what I crave, I won’t eat any of it.

Once again, it’s built on the habits. And by being mindful, I can ignore the cravings and move on from them.

Seriously, willpower is a muscle you can strengthen! And mine has grown so much in the past few years.

Sugar is completely unnecessary in my life.

I think one of the biggest factors in how easy this was, is how far I’ve already come in my healthy diet. I know that I only eat the best quality, what I love the most, when I have sugar. And I know that even though I do that, I rarely feel good after eating sugar.

I know that sugar is completely unnecessary. That I have never ever needed it.

I also know that the more I eat of healthy food, the better I can handle the sugar. And at the same time, I know that the less I eat of sugar, the sweeter it gets. It gets way too sweet. And I stop liking it!

When I quit sugar, I tried satisfying my cravings with other “bad” food.

This one here is the bad effect of quitting sugar for me. Because I only have the “no sugar” rule, it gives me permission to eat some of the things I usually do not eat. I have had more dairy and more bread since going sugar-free. And those things, could be influencing me as badly – or even worse – than sugar.

It feels as when the cravings go overboard, I fulfill them with something sugar-free. And that thing isn’t always healthy.

Realizing that the chips I like contain sugar, I desperately searched for chips without sugar. And ate them all.

I’ve also had more cheese!

Sugar is social.

The most difficult part of going sugar-free are the social settings. Are you going to a birthday party? Meeting a friend? Did you grandmother bake a cake?

I have found that sugar consumption is tied to a lot of social settings, to meetings with my friends, to enjoying somebody else’s company. It often feels that you can’t go to meet your best friend, unless you get ice cream together. When you invite people over, you bake them a cake. And when your little cousins makes sweets, you want to taste them.

So in full disclosure, I did make one exception for when I invited people over for pancakes. I know that I could have gone without the sugar, and I learned a lot from that one day of a bit of sugar. It strengthened me in my sugar-free endeavours.

So, this brings me back to the reason I don’t like the restrictions. They cause me to lose balance.

When I take absolutely all sugar out of my diet, I put back into it other “comfort food” that also affects me badly.

I know, therefore, that at the end of this month, I will have a little bit of sugar. Even less than before though.

I have learned when I’m triggered to have sugar. And I know that ignoring these cravings is just as good as acting up on them.

I know that even though I believe this, I do not need candy to perform well at school. Or study at home.

I know that eating sweets leaves absolutely nothing behind, other than cravings for more.

I know that I can go without it. I know healthy alternatives I can use instead.

And I know how much better I feel, when skipping the sugar.

That is why, I will now go to bake a delicious cake. Sugar-free of course.

A part of me wants to take this challenge to the next level, to go sugar-free for the whole of this year. To never ever eat sugar again.

That is not the part of me that has chocolate mint avocado ice cream, waiting in the freezer, to be eaten on the 1st of February.

Did you do a sugar-free January? How did it go and what did you learn?

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3 Comments

  1. Federica Cusumano

    Federica Cusumano

    February 1, 2018 at 8:15 am

    Great article Pála !.
    I still have 9 days going sugar free so I am almost done.
    I am not such a sweet tooth, indeed the sugar I was intaking was mostly in the Arabic tea I usually make home and savor in cold afternoons or after dining with my boyfriend. In fact, the Syrian way of making tea requires you to put some sugar into the water until it boiles. The result is an absolutely (I thought like this until one month ago) amazing tea that you get addicted to and end up drinking everyday ( sometimes twiceper day!).
    But the truth is that you get addicted to sugar, nor the tea. I am a regular espresso drinker since ever an I drink it black without sugar first thing in the morning. Beside, tea has never been part of my cultural background so I got to discover it lately since I’ve been living in the Middle East. To date, if I have to chose between a pizza or a chocolate cake, I will always go for a pizza. However, in the weekend I tried to have something sweet too as a way to celebrate the holidays . What I’ve found out is that my intake of sugar was beyong the reasonable consumption that I should have. So, I quit the sugar in the tea and from now on until forever I will drink my tea sugar free. Even if I want to fall into past habits I could not because the tea i used to have before, now it tastes way too sweet to me !. At the beginning of my sugar free challenge I thought it would have been little bit difficult to renounce completely to any king of dessert: so I allowed myself, in case any crucial sugar cravings occurred, a small piece of chocolate (preferably 70% dark) after dinner. In the first week I had it twice after my dinner and then I totally stop desiring it.
    I just found out that sugar make me feel bloated and indeed since I quit having it my digestion has significantly improved. I tried, during this last month, to eat more responsibly and cook home as much as possible because I know well that food at restaurants is often too heavy for me to handle. Beside this, I enjoyed occasional sushi, and i ate twice this month pizza. I re-introduced in my diet healthy carbs such as whole grain pasta and rice that I consume in alternate day and cook in light sauces in order not to overload my digestive tract. In other words, I switch to a more balanced diet than the one I was having before (skipping small amount of healthy carbs caused me sugar cravings that I used to satisfy with sugary products and/or chocolate) ; a diet that I made it sure it will sustain my body not just for one months but for a longer period.
    Thanks for sharing your experience !. I am a big reader of your blog and I wish you all the best in your resolutions for this year😉

    1. Pála Margrét

      Pála Margrét

      February 1, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      Thank you for a wonderful comment Federica! You have sure learned a lot from this sugar-free time and I am sure that we will both move onto this year with much less sugar and healthier habits 🙂

  2. Federica Cusumano

    Federica Cusumano

    February 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Balanced living: we are already making it happen 😉 /_\

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