I have just completed my second 30-day challenge: Sugar-free September. I chose this challenge for a few reasons. The first being, like most people, I have an addiction to sugar. More specifically, I have a pastry and cookie problem. The second reason, which took me a little longer to figure out, was that I realized somewhere along the line that I had replaced alcohol with sugar and was “using” it in the same way. I wouldn’t have any for a while, not even want it, but find myself unable to say no if it crossed my path. Or in more concerning ways, I would binge and make myself physically ill much like in drinking days of the past. So my intention with this particular challenge was to break the addiction and start working toward a healthier relationship with sugar.
I have done this before, lasting six months without eating sugar, and I imagined it would be similar to that experience. Years back when I decided to quit eating sugar, it felt like I had entered drug rehab. I spent a week going through withdrawals: chills, cold sweats, fatigue, headaches, and one hell of an emotional roller coaster. I was working in Student Engagement at a college and outside my door was a table of treats almost all the time, and I would cry knowing that I couldn’t leave my office without taking something from the table. I hated that feeling of having no control over myself. I wasn’t entirely ready to go through all of that again, but I also knew what to expect which provided a sense of comfort. But it also made me sad that I didn’t just stick with it and never go back to it. Even with that, I had no dreams going into this that I would never eat sugar again- I just didn’t want to feel a dependence on it in any way.
So I geared up. I started planning out what I was going to have to change in my diet in order to make sure nothing I was eating had added sugar (I still ate natural sugars in whole fruit- just no refined or added sugar). Truthfully, there wasn’t much to change since it wasn’t my meals that were the problem. It was the bingeing and the office treats that continually show up. I got it all ready and…
…nothing. Didn’t feel a single but of difference. Not one iota of withdrawal. No real cravings to speak of. And no trouble passing up all the offerings that made their way to me. As it turns out, I just needed the excuse. Being able to say I was doing a challenge gave me the oomph I needed to overcome the habit of taking. After the first week, I realized most of my consumption was out of the habit of wanting it, not from actually wanting it. Each week became easier as I was cooking more and getting into a habit of knowing what to eat. I successfully completed the month and yesterday was able to go out for breakfast and put syrup on my waffle without guilt, without overindulging, and without making myself sick. I have no desire to run out and buy a dozen donuts or make a pan of brownies, and that’s pretty exciting. I’m in no hurry to go back to any of it, but I’m also no longer afraid of it. And that was the goal.
This challenge let me know that I’m treating myself a lot better overall than I led myself to believe. I need to cut myself some slack and celebrate the good work I’m doing. I was focusing so much on the binges and treats which might make up 10% of my intake, instead of being proud of the 90% that’s pretty awesome. I’m doing a lot of great things (working out daily, eating well, meditating, etc.)- the occasional treat is not going to derail me. I’m doing well. Now I can move forward with confidence and know without a doubt that I’m good.
So, another challenge in the books and a win. Ready to embark on the next one and see what that adds to my life. One day at a time.