On 25th March 2019, I cut out processed sugar from my diet. That meant drinks, snacks and food with added sugars. For me, this meant no breakfast tea, sweet coffee & snacks with added sugar. Documented below is a week by week account of my sugar free 5 weeks, what it was like, what habits I had formed prior to starting, my motivation to check myself with this challenge, what my end goal is and the truth about calories. Enjoy the read, comment below and share with friends.
Though I knew the headache I felt when I woke up on the 26th was inevitable, it didn’t make it easier to cope with. I managed to soldier through the day some how. I drank as much water as I could, took things easy in the gym (no 10min HiiT), had an afternoon nap (this really helped), and made my husband aware that I was feeling crappy so he wouldn’t wonder why I was in a grumpy mood.
By the morning of the 27th, the headache had eased off by some, but I still felt lethargic and lacking in energy. I decided to ditch my 30min home workout and go about my daily activities in snails pace. I woke up on the 28th with no headache (yes!!!!!!) and feeling a lot better.
I usually have a cup of breakfast tea with milk and honey shortly after waking up, followed by a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon about 2 hours later. Replacing my morning tea with lemon water was tough. As soon as I opened my eyes at just before 6am, knowing what awaited me was lemon water made it difficult to get out of bed. Eventually, at about 7am, I’d drag myself up and make a cup of warm lemon infused water. By the 6th day (Saturday), I decided to have a cup of tea with honey. I missed it so much! I had another cup on Sunday morning and mentally made a note to start afresh with the warm lemon water on Monday.
The first week ended well. I ate my meals as normal, drank water and 1 cup of peppermint tea daily, snacked on nuts, or fruit or 1 small 123cal pack of Tyrrell’s hand cooked crisps. The only thing that wasn’t going well was my afternoon slump. Everyday I felt very sleepy around 2pm.
I had an eureka moment on 2nd April. It suddenly occurred to me that the reason why I’m feeling so sleepy in the afternoon is because I have stopped having my afternoon coffee. I usually have one sweet milky cup of coffee daily in the afternoon. The absence of this coffee is making me unproductive. I decided to try something I have always thought I could never do – drink black coffee. I had my first ever black cup of coffee on Thursday 4th April 2019. It was disgusting!
However, I felt a great sense of achievement, like I had climbed a mountain and reached the top, like I had done the impossible.
You see, my husband calls me “sugar ant” because I love sweets, chocolates, biscuits, cakes….. Yes! I am a sweet tooth. My palate loves the sweet which is why I go to great lengths to control myself. Several years ago, when I became aware of how toxic sugar can be and the fact that, according to scientists, sugar addiction is equally as bad as drug addiction, I started doing sugar detoxes and encouraging others to join me with the sole aim of controlling my palate and raising awareness.
Eliminating sugar from the diet is not an easy thing to do because it’s in almost EVERYTHING. Even though I’ve never been one to binge on sugary foods, not having what I usually have was tough. This week I found myself standing in my kitchen, looking sad and wanting a sweet snack. I opened the cupboard, looked at my son’s snacks and………
……. closed the cupboard and I began to think, “What am I trying to achieve? What is my goal? What could I have instead that’s natural and healthy? Who is in control? Am I hungry? Why do I want a snack?” As I began to answer all those questions in my mind, I slowly made my way out of the kitchen because I realised that the only reason I wanted the snack is because I had formed the habit of having one at that time of the day.
According to Psychologist Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University, our brain has two systems, the slow and the fast systems. The fast system makes us react quickly to how we’re feeling and the slow system is the part of our brain that is responsible for reasoning, reflecting, self control and thinking carefully. In situations like this, using the brains’s slow deliberate system is key to success. Reading about neuro and behavioural science is a current hobby of mine. Neuroscience is an area that fascinates me. The more I learn, the more I’m in awe of the creator.
My son’s birthday is on 4th April. Having some cake on that day and the day after is planned. I decided that over the course of the 5 weeks, I will make an exception on that day and the day after, so I had 2 thin slices on that day and 1 thin slice the day after.
Week 2 ended pretty well. I had 2 cups of breakfast tea, one on Saturday and the other on Sunday. It’s almost as if by the end of the week, I’m saying to myself, “worra hell, just gimme that tea!” Other than that, I stuck to plan.
Yesterday I had my second black cup of coffee for no reason other than wanting to get used to the taste. Being a Sunday, slumping in the afternoon wouldn’t have gotten in the way of any work I had planned. I drank the coffee to help me cope with the taste on Monday.
I forgot to mention that the reason I decided to do this detox in the first place was to improve my recent body fat % reading. Hopefully eventually bringing it down to about 25% from 33.8%. The scan told me that my bottom half has more subcutaneous adipose tissue than my top half. Interesting!
Subcutaneous fat is the fat that lies just under the skin and not dangerous like visceral fat that’s found in the abdominal cavity around the organs. I guess my #SteelAbs years has helped keep my visceral fat reading low. Abdominal cavity fat has been linked to the development of obesity related diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic syndrome.
The human body needs a certain % of fat (average man 18-24%, average woman 25-31%) that’s essential to maintaining life and reproduction. Women have a higher fat % because of reproduction. Anything above what is necessary can impact health negatively. In 2018, I decided to get rid of some of my non essential fat and increase my lean muscle mass. I started the year well, but fell by the way side somewhere along the way. Now I’m back on track.
The only real challenge I’ve had during this period has been the 1 cup of breakfast tea I have daily. I haven’t been able to do a 7 day stretch without having it. This week I had a cup on Friday morning, but………. on Saturday 13th April, I woke up not feeling like I had to have a cup of tea. Yay!!!!!!! Hahahahaha! It’s exactly 20 days since I started the challenge and this Saturday is the first time I’ve woken up not desperate for breakfast tea – Breakthrough!!!
This week ends with only one slip up and for the first time since I started, I’m feeling very very good.
Monday starts with a slip up, a cup of breakfast tea with some honey. Arrrrggggghhhhh!!!! However, I’m now using less honey so that’s a positive. Also, black coffee is now very drinkable, this has been the biggest win for me.
On Wednesday 17th April, my son comes home with a box of Ben’s cookies for the house. I told him I was passing on them. I was tempted to give in and have one but I decided to stay focused on my goal which is to get to the end of the month.
I’m a snacker, nuts, fruits, small salt popcorn packs, are my usual snacks and then, this year, I suddenly noticed (encouraged by my husband) that I was having a biscuit or 2 after dinner almost every day. Another thing that started happening this year is, having some squares of Lindt chocolate after dinner. David started bringing them home. A bar of creamy milk chocolate for me (my favourite) and a bar of dark chocolate with orange and hazelnuts for himself. Most nights after I’ve had some chocolate, I’d think to myself, “this has to stop”. Some nights I’d only have 2 squares, some nights I’d have 3 or even 4. The habit was getting out of hand. My husband is 6 feet 3 and I’m 5 feet 4, we don’t have the same energy requirements. He can have 2- 3 Lindt chocolate squares every night and not gain any fat. I can’t do that.
Another bad habit I formed in March is, sometimes having a protein bar for post workout protein instead of a whey protein drink or Greek yoghurt. If I’m in a hurry to do something or go somewhere after my workout, I’d quickly snack on the bar believing it was saving me time. Those bars have protein in them but also lots of sugar.
Over the years, this is what I’ve been able to successfully do – when I feel that a bad food habit is close to getting out of hand, I stop it. If the waist of my jeans starts feeling uncomfortable, then it’s time to look at my diet. This is the rule I set for myself when I lost the baby weight I gained 22yrs ago after I had my son. I’ve stuck to it for 22 yrs. It’s my check and balance.
The week ends well, only one slip up – 1 cup of breakfast tea.
Final Week (Week 5)
The week started well. I’m now starting my day with warm water and lemon with no resistance and breakfast tea cravings have disappeared. It’s taken me 4 weeks to get to this point. Once upon a time, I would reach it in a week or two. The older I get the longer it’s taking my body to adjust to dietary changes.
My diet is pretty healthy and very simple. I cook my food from scratch and mostly eat Nigerian food. I eat 2 meals a day, my first meal between 12-2pm and my second meal between 6-8pm. I usually don’t eat anything before 12. This is a habit I formed 25 years ago in my retail years when I would chose the last morning break which is 11.30 -11.50 and have breakfast then.
Twice a week I have a protein drink after my strength training session. I eat vegetables everyday, it’s usually a bowl of green leafy salad with my dinner or steamed veggies.
Breakfast is usually 2 eggs with between 0-3 slices of wholewheat toast. The 2 eggs are a constant, the toast is not. Eating bread usually depends on how much I’m working out. The days I don’t work out, I might have porridge with fruit instead.
Dinner is usually rice (white, jollof or fried rice) and salad with some protein. I stick to 1 cooked cup of rice 90% of the time. Once a week I have swallow (poundo, garri or elubo) with either Efo Riro, Okro or Ewedu soups. My swallow portion is my fist size. Sometimes I have grilled fish with potatoes and occasionally fresh Tortellini ( post Bologna addition) with a side salad.
Fluids: apart from my pre challenge morning tea and afternoon coffee, I drink water 90% of the time.
Snacks vary, a fruit or two is usually included. Look out for my next blog where I’ll be sharing the snacks I eat.
Day 29 – This is the longest I’ve done a Sugar elimination challenge and I am quite pleased with myself. Once upon a time I could go 21 days straight without any glitches, I was so militant back then. Smh. I’m a lot more relaxed now, as long as my glitches are very minuscule ones.
The week’s have not been without temptation, I’ve sat and chatted with David while he has some chocolate or biscuits, but that’s usually a mind of matter experience, once I’ve set my mind on not wanting it, I get past those days with relative ease.
This week has ended very very well, no breakfast tea. Hahahahaha!
Conclusion – The Truth About Calories
You can lose weight by eating crap.
If your daily calorie consumption is about 3000 calories and go on a 3 x 300 calorie chocolate bar diet, eating nothing but the chocolates, of course the weight will drop off. But, we must always remember that the primary purpose of food is for energy and good health. A person who lives on 3 chocolate bars a day will must likely be an unhealthy skinny fat with low energy. Food quality matters. The quality of your calories is very important for good health.
You can gain weight eating healthy food.
Yep, too much of anything is not great. If your healthy food consumption is surplus to requirements, the excess energy gets stored as fat. If you’re consuming more healthy food calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
You lose weight by creating a calorie deficit.
It doesn’t matter what diet you’re doing whether, Ketogenic, Vegan, Paleo, Aitkins, Herbalife, Cambridge etc. As long as you’re in a deficit you will lose weight along with someone who decides not to eliminate any food group but reduces calories by reducing the overall portion size of everything he/she eats. Don’t let anyone sell you a diet as being the best for weight loss. Yes, some foods keep you fuller for longer so it makes sense to make sure you include those in your meals. That saying, I’m not criticising anyone’s choices, choose the diet that you feel is best for you.
What I’ve done these last 5 weeks is simply cutting out the crap – sugar. If we all start to look at food from the angle of what is most nourishing for our bodies and having an overall diet that’s 80% nourishment and 20% enjoyment, then we can’t go wrong.
I’m not perfect and I don’t claim to be. The thing that I’ve managed to successfully do over the years is STOP, THINK and RESET, BEFORE things get out of hand. My definition of out of hand will most probably differ from yours. Out of hand for me is going up a dress size.
It’s cheaper. 😉
I’ll be doing another body scan on 26th April. I’ll share the results and my going forward plan in my next blog post. I don’t know what the scan will say, but when I look at myself in the mirror, it’s been worth it.
I hope this will encourage you to have a look at your diet and find ways to make healthy changes.
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Read about the results of my efforts: