Sugar Awareness Week: How to Triumph a Sugar-Free Diet

sugar-500-476096840You might have joined us earlier as we participated in Sugar Awareness Week. Our useful posts are still available on Facebook.

Eating excessively sugary foods can cause tooth decay. But the right diet can lead to a healthy smile. This journal details what that diet might look like, as well as the challenges that might come along.

Day 1

Shopping for groceries, I began weighing what parts of my diet would work in my favor against what would work against me: One favor — I didn’t drink soda regularly. And against me — Well, I still had a box of cookies in my pantry.

I was participating in Sugar Awareness Week, which meant I had to give up sugar for an entire work week. The purpose, however, wasn’t to completely eliminate all sugar. I needed it to maintain proper blood sugar levels. The purpose was to eliminate refined sugars.

At the store, the fresh foods (meat, fruits and vegetables) were easy. But for the others, I had to eye the nutritional information. Sugar goes by a lot of different names, so I made a list to watch out for.

All in all, the first day wasn’t too bad. But I’d read accounts from people who’d accepted the challenge. “Just wait till the second day,” a lot of them had said.

Day 2

By the start of Day 2, I’d already started to notice a difference. The night before, I’d gone to bed at 10:30, earlier than usual. Generally, it takes about 20 minutes to fall asleep, but I fell asleep right away. Then, this morning, when the alarm went off, I felt wide awake, whereas it typically takes about 20 minutes for the grogginess to lift.

However, as I went through the day, I began to experience withdrawal symptoms. By mid-afternoon, I had a headache. It felt similar to going too long without coffee. Other symptoms, I had read, could include tiredness, lightheadedness, muscle aches and/or cramps.

The best place to start, I figured, was to recognize the cause for craving. Was it boredom, stress or something deeper? This was difficult to identify. I’ve always known I had a sweet tooth; I just believed I had it relatively under control. I’d once made a pack of cake squares last for a month, and I still had bags of candy bars left from Halloween.

Despite this, I was not exempt from the effects of refined sugars.

advantica-of-many-names-of-sugarDay 3

Waking up today, the headache from yesterday had subsided.

But by the afternoon, the cravings had returned. Not only did I find myself craving snacks I knew had a lot of sugar — ice cream run, anyone? — I craved simple carbohydrates, like white bread. The reason, I learned, is simple carbohydrates turn into sugar quickly once they’re in the digestive process.

That evening, friends came over, and we played board games. This helped distract me from the cravings.

Another recommended way to fight cravings is to keep a journal. Lucky for me, I’m writing a blog.

Day 4

This morning, I didn’t have time to prepare eggs, so I settled for an apple, a banana and broccoli, which I munched in the office. Yum.

Actually, as I bit into the banana, I was surprised. It tasted sweeter than a banana had ever tasted before. I almost felt like I was cheating, as if I were biting into a sugar cube. Even the banana’s body seemed to glisten with what looked like sugar crystals. Maybe four days without refined sugar had made me crazy. Or perhaps my body had officially adapted to a diet of no refined sugar. Years of eating refined sugar, it seemed, had tempered my taste buds’ perception of sweetness in fruit.

I expected the cravings to return by afternoon, because they’d struck the past two days around then. Come 3:30 p.m., they still hadn’t. Regardless, I made sure to drink lots of water, as water can help with the cravings. Without enough water in our system, we can start to feel tired. Our tendency, oftentimes, is to waken ourselves with sugar. By 4 p.m., I’d drunk about 105 ounces of water.

In the evening, a friend invited me to dinner. When the server approached the table, I asked him if he knew which items contained hidden sugars. He didn’t. What about a list of nutritional information? As it turns out, not too many people ask about hidden sugars in their food.

The server offered to do some sleuthing, but I just ordered a burger with provel cheese and no bun, and as a side, mashed potatoes. Biting into the burger, I tasted pepper. A seasoning had been applied, and seasonings are often hidden-sugar culprits. But I was also hungry, so I was willing to risk it. The burger was delicious.

Day 5

At the office, somebody dropped off an assortment of sweets: Christmas tree cakes and brownies, lollipops. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to ignore them. Today, I ate a banana instead.

Another friend suggested we do lunch. This time, I had enough advance notice to research online the menus of nearby restaurants. Even some healthy options, like salads, I found, contained sugar — usually thanks to the dressings. Nevertheless, I found a sugar-free option — a sub sandwich wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun — and suggested we go there.

By the afternoon, the office sweets began to bother me. I distracted myself with a quick physical activity, strolling the perimeter of the building.

As I completed the work week, I had a new respect for sugar awareness. I’d felt the effects of refined sugar in my system, and I hadn’t even realized it was a problem! For the future, I doubt I’ll be as rigorous (like, I’ll probably get a bun on my next hamburger), but I’ll keep an eye open for hidden sugars. Of course, one thing won’t change: I’ll keep brushing twice and flossing daily!

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