I was going to hold off until I got Infinite Money wrapped up completely, but I figured I would post a Sugar Detox update in the mean time!
It’s been two weeks. Overall, it’s been easier than I thought. The first day was the hardest because I couldn’t get my mind off of the experiment (it was like trying to no think about polar bears). After that it has been considerably easier, and it hasn’t been that hard to stick to my rules. However, I did have a few slip ups, which I’ll note below. But first, let’s go over the parts that had to do with why I originally started the experiment. After that I’ll talk about some other things I’ve been observing and thinking about.
Sugar cravings haven’t been too bad. If I see some kind of sweet dessert in front of me, I feel a pull to eat it, but it’s not that hard to resist. Other than that, I haven’t been getting many pangs for sweet things randomly during the day. Before the experiment, the main time when the sugar cravings would get the better of me was when I was getting the bus come from school, which meant that I was fairly hungry and tired. Since classes have been over, I haven’t gotten the chance to experience that yet, so I think that will be the true test.
Before, since I had not concretely decided to NOT eat sweets, I would debate with myself over whether or not I should stop and get something, and I think that made it harder. I think that since I’ve already decided, it will be easier to avoid relapsing.
An interesting thing was that I tried medjool dates at Terry’s house, since they are technically within my rules (a natural whole food) even though their sugar content is really high. While eating them, I felt that pull to “must… have… more” that I tend to experience when eating candy. And I actually got cravings for them the next day. And then I asked my mom to buy some and I ate like half of the small container (~8 dates) the same day. And I probably would have eaten more if my family didn’t eat the other half. :) I don’t get cravings/must-have-mores for the other types of fruit I eat, so it’s probably just because the sugar content in them is so high. Even though they are within my rules, it might be a good idea to steer clear of them for a bit though because my main goal with this whole experiment was to reduce cravings for things. But I’ll definitely keep them in mind for a treat in the future because they are definitely an improvement on Skittles (they actually have minerals, fiber, etc).
I haven’t really been keeping track of this explicitly, since I was kind of hoping that any differences would be pronounced enough to be noticeable. No dice. My mood and energy levels have been fairly stable I think, but I can’t tell how much of that is due to the experiment. One way I might be able to test this is to keep track of how I feel when I reintroduce sugar, and see if I feel any crazier.
Everything is the same (or within the realm of normal fluctuation).
In summary, I’m not seeing too much in terms of results yet, but again, it’s hard to tell exactly how/if things are effecting me, and I can’t just see whether my risk of cancer has increased or decreased. At least I’ve proved to myself that I can go a significant amount of time without dessert if I feel like it! I’m hoping that my desire to eat sweet things will continue to decrease as the experiment goes on.
My Experience So Far
Non-dessert foods with more than 4% (4g per 100g) sugar in them. When I originally outlined this experiment, I said I was going to try to limit these foods, but I haven’t really been. I have been checking labels more often out of curiousity, and it turns out sugar is in a lot of foods and sauces. Go figure. I decided that I’m pretty much going to ignore this rule for now, and keep it on file for if I want to make refinements to my diet later.
Orange Juice. There was that one time where I bought orange juice at QE park because they were sold out of water. I didn’t think sticking to my arbitrary rule was worth possibly getting dehydrated, so I decided to be flexible. I don’t think this was really a big deal. I actually think I would have enjoyed water more if they had it available there.
Cookie. Okay… this is my major ‘oops’. Uh, basically, a couple days ago there was a cookie on the counter and before I knew it, it was in my mouth and it was only when I was halfway finished it that I remembered “OH YEAH I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO EAT SWEETS!” Well, damn. I’m not entirely sure what happened with that. It wasn’t like I agonised over whether or not to end the experiment and eat da cookie, it was more like a temporary memory lapse. I think what made me even realise it was how shockingly sweet the cookie was. “Hey, what the heck, this tastes a lot sweeter than I remember it. … Sweet? Oh f-”. However, I’m going to keep going with the experiment. I don’t think this one incident means that I “failed”, it’s not like I expected that breaking an addiction would happen without incident. ;) And I still want to reach the goals I set out at the beginning, so I think it’s definitely better to keep going rather than give up.
Holy crow, chocolate soy milk is really sweet. It might taste sweeter to me because my tastebuds are adjusting, or it might just be because I’m focused on the sweetness when I drink it. Probably a bit of column A, a bit of column B. I’m considering buying some NesQuick chocolate syrup to I can balance the milk-to-sugar ratio myself.
Now that I’ve gone through several days, I can see that there are three main habit changes involved in this experiment.
1. Replacing sweet junk food snacks with other snacks. This one has not been so hard. I’ve been eating pretzels and a lot of fruit. Whereas before I might have grabbed an icecream sandwich as a snack, now I grab a banana. It’s okay. When you think about it, bananas have a kind of cheescakey texture. Or maybe they don’t. It’s been a while since I’ve had ‘real’ cheesecake. :)
2. Water instead of Orange Juice. My default drink at home is usually orange juice, and when eating out it’s usually sweetened ice tea. At the beginning it was kind of weird to have water with my meals, but I’m starting to get used to it. I’m finally starting to reach for the water by default.
3. Breakfast. This one continues to get me. I’m used to having something sweet at breakfast (like toast with maple syrup, or oatmeal with maple syrup… mmmm), and I still feel like I want to. I would really like to have a bowl of my favourite cereal. Instead, I’ve been having fruit, garlic toast, toast with veggie bacon, the occasional spinach smoothie, and a couple times I have had my usual oatmeal but with a bit of stevia powder instead of maple syrup. The stevia does sweeten it and it makes the dish more palatable, but it’s not quite the same. Maybe it’s just something to get used to. It might be a couple more weeks before these become my default breakfasts that I go for automatically.
Before when I ate cheese, it used to be the whole reason why I liked pasta/burgers/etc and when I first stopped having it, it was kind of like “what’s the point of eating this then?”, but now I love pasta and burgers without the cheese and it doesn’t even occur to me to add it when I make them. I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I’m missing out at all now. It took a few months, but apparently I can get used to anything. I’m hoping it will be the same way with breakfast.
Overall Diet Improvement + (Lack of) Effects Thereof
Since I’ve eliminated sweets as a possibility, I’ve more than doubled my fruit intake, and I’ve more than doubled my water intake. For perhaps the first time in my life, I would classify nearly ALL of the food I’m eating as ‘healthy’ (with the exception of some pretzels, and perhaps certain deep fried/high sodium restaurant foods). Wow. How interesting.
Of course, there are still plenty of improvements I could make depending on what ideal of nutrition you subscribe to (raw, paleo, low GI, whatever), but according to conventional standards, I suspect anyone would tell me that my diet is impeccable (unless they can’t get past the idea that I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs).
It’s just slightly discouraging that I don’t see clear evidence of any positive effects from this. It might be that the positive effects are long term and if I keep it up I’ll be healthier than your average 50 year old, but I would have liked to see more obvious benefits in the present. I have a few theories on why they seem absent.
- One is that my diet was already really healthy compared to normal before I started the experiment. Since I’m vegan, by default my diet has no cholesterol, lower than average fat content, higher than average vegetable content. Not that vegans are always healthier than omnivores, but I’m entertaining this as a possibility. I also already eat mostly whole grains at home. I’m already at what I would consider to be an ideal weight. So there’s that.
- Another possibility is that the positive effects have been gradual/gentle enough that I haven’t been able to notice them properly. An example of this is that before I went vegan, I used to get really painful stomach aches regularly. I thought it was normal for me. After I went vegan, they disappeared, but I didn’t notice that they disappeared until over a year later when I got a similar kind of stomach ache and remembered “Hey, I used to get these like multiple times a week!” When a bad thing goes away, sometimes it just falls off your radar. If I reintroduce sugar again, I might notice the bad effects return.
- Yet another possibility is that the sugar wasn’t affecting me as negatively as I suspected it was. I was pretty sure that considering how much sugar I was eating and how much real food I wasn’t eating, that my vitality must have been affected. It’s possible that I was overestimating the effects though.
- Or perhaps all of the sugar in the fruit I’m eating is preventing me from feeling the full effects of sugar reduction. It’s very possible.
Time might tell!
Filling the Void
I’ve done no-sugar and other diet related changes in the past. Before, when I did a diet limiting experiment, I would go shopping more, and when I conducted an experiment which involved spending less money, I would eat more to compensate (haha). But now that I’ve let go of pretty much any desire for recreational shopping (unless it’s just browsing with a friend), I’m left with… what?
I’m trying to direct the excess energy towards something constructive – creating stuff. But I’m also indulging by consuming lots of media. I’m not sure if it’s that much more than normal because I’ve always spent a large chunk of time consuming media (internet, blogs, games, anime, movies, educational materials, books, music, you name it). Media consumption might be one of my last ‘crutches’ to get control of before I can dive full force into creation. Right now, the amount of time I spend consuming versus creating is probably like 9:1, whereas I’d like it to be closer to 1:1.
I’ve also been thinking a bit about sugar in terms of identity. To me, desserts have to do with luxury and enjoyment, and also innocence (there’s a certain point in growing up when most people realize that eating them is probably not that good for them, but by not thinking about that you can pretend for a while that it doesn’t matter, and that you’re in some sort of alternate universe where things are simple and things that you like don’t harm you).
I know that in some of the fashion subcultures I follow(ed), sweets are idealized as they make their way into fabric prints, or being modeled as jewelry/decorations. In the quintessential lolita movie Kamikaze Girls, the heroine’s school lunch consists entirely of sweets.
I get the sense that in our culture, if you don’t eat sugar, you’re either some sort of ascetic health nut or you’re trying to look good in a bikini. It’s just not a normal thing to do, especially for a young person. But I guess being vegan sXe isn’t that normal either. ;) Is it possible to be both ascetic and a hedonist? Since I’m actually doing this in order to enjoy my life more. It’s not like experiencing cravings, moodswings and that “yuck-my-mouth-feels-fuzzy-and-hurty” feeling from eating too much sugar is enjoyable.
I have a certain preconceived idea of what a “girl who eats a lot of sweets” is like: Carefree, effortlessly maintains her figure, cheerful, youthful, someone who enjoys nice things, maybe even a bit on the spoiled side. It’s easy to see how connotations like this make it easy to slot a sugar addiction into my identity since I see that “girl who eats a lot of sweets” persona as desirable overall. Maybe it’s kind of like how some people think (on some subconscious level) that smoking makes them a badass. It’s weird how your consumption habits can get wrapped up in your identity. What kind of person would you be without them?
It’s not that I think that eating sweets (or any other behaviour) is a bad thing. I just think that if you do anything without being fully aware of and okay with why you’re doing it, it can become a bad thing.
If I don’t eat cheese, who am I? If I don’t dress this way, who am I? If my best friends aren’t around, who am I? If I don’t shop, who am I? If I don’t play videogames, who am I? If I’m not with this person, who am I? If I don’t worry about money, who am I? If I don’t care about my grades so much, who am I? If I don’t eat sweets, who am I? I think I’ve been doing a lot of this lately.
… Well. That’s it for now. Subscribe for future updates!