What started as a 30-day experiment on 2 August 2018 has escalated into a full-blown 90-day no sugar challenge. This is the story about the before and the after, and how much sugar I ended up not eating by changing my sweet-tooth, chocolate-loving ways.
Chocolate = necessity of life
Sweets = treats
Meals = sweet/savoury (half/half)
Cravings per day = 5 (usually in the morning, during long afternoons & after dinner)
Attitude = sugar will solve all my problems
How much sugar did I normally eat?
Granted, I already ate quite healthy before these 90 days. I mostly ate dark chocolate, usually added fruit to my meals, ate lots of veggies with my dinner, often added nuts to chocolate spread to improve the nutritional value and glycemic index, I hardly drank soda and only rarely drank fruit juices. Also, I happen to not like icing on cakes so I would usually scrape it off. Altogether, my sugar intake was – I thought – reasonable.
I still had a sweet tooth and found it hard to go a day without eating chocolate.
Below is an overview (honest, raw, and perhaps confronting) of what exactly my sugar intake was before the 90-day no sugar challenge.
The grams of sugar corresponding to the food and total size of the portion are listed in green. For visualisation, 4 grams = 1 cube of sugar, 40 grams = 10 cubes of sugar etc.
(amounts based on the ingredient label of the product or by Googling sugar content in similar foods)
4x rice waffle with chocolate coating (my go-to snack at the time) 32.5 grams sugar
1x half chocolate bar in evenings or at work (dark chocolate & vegan, but still) 20 grams sugar
2x cake at a cafe with a friend over coffee 80 grams sugar
3x dessert after dinner (eg. ice cream or something I baked, including seconds) 75 grams sugar
1x something on offer/bargain at the supermarket (waffles with hazelnut and chocolate, Oreos, chocolates etc.) 50 grams sugar
2x chocolate/rice waffle/cookies as a quick lunch (when busy/in a rush) 20 grams sugar
2x chocolate pastry from French bakery for breakfast 19 grams sugar
4x bread or ready-made pancake with jam or chocolate spread (vegan) 60 grams sugar
1x cake at work 40 grams sugar
1x bag of ‘borrel nootjes’ (savoury coated peanuts, a big hit in The Netherlands) or other savoury snacks with added sugars 20 grams sugar
2x dessert at fancy dinner/celebration/graduation/wedding 40 grams sugar
2x bag of chips with added sugars (paprika flavouring, Mediterranean herbs flavouring etc.) 14 grams sugar
1x hot chocolate (seasonal) 24 grams sugar
The total amount of sugar I’d eat per day =
30 days * (32.5+20) + 4 weeks * (80+75+50+20+19+60) + 1 month * (40+20+40+14+24)
= 1575 grams + 1216 grams + 138 grams = 2929 grams of sugar per month / 30 = 97.6 grams
This means that by not eating sugar for 90 days, I have avoided eating 9 kilograms of sugar that I normally would have eaten in this time (100 grams per day * 90 days = 9000 grams).
Chocolate = forgotten
Sweets = too sweet to handle
Treats = doing something fun and creative with my time
Meals = big, rich & savoury
Cravings per day = 0
Attitude = sugar will not solve any of my problems
- eat (proper, savoury) meals when hungry
- eat plenty of fruits (oranges, mineolas, mandarines, bananas, kiwis, watermelon, mango, melon, pineapple, plums, apples, pears, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, nectarines, grapefruits)
- snack on nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts), edamame beans or salted popcorn
But most importantly:
- sleep when tired
- take a break when stressed
- rest when exhausted
- read or meditate when brain fog
- go for a walk when low in energy
- entertain/distract myself (in ways more creative than walking to the fridge) when bored
and therefore stop using sweets as a remedy for low energy/bad night sleep/stressful week. Plus, a total veto on the bad habit of munching on cookies, chocolates or anything else with a ton of sugar (hello, ice cream) in front of the TV!
What I do now instead of eating sugar?
Below is an overview of my new (eating) habits and how much added sugar they contain.
2x big plant-based meals 0 grams of sugar
1x oat based cereals for breakfast incl. fruit and nuts 0 to 5 grams of sugar (healthy cereals)
5x glass of water 0 grams of sugar
3x portion of fresh fruit (snack) 0 grams of sugar
1x going for a walk 0 grams of sugar
1x 8 hours of sleep 0 grams of sugar
1x exercise 0 grams of sugar
1x meditate 0 grams of sugar
2x entertainment/doing something creative 0 grams of sugar
5x read book 0 grams of sugar
4x edamame or salted popcorn snacking 0 grams of sugar
4x handful of nuts snacking 0 grams of sugar
4x bread with hummus, red beet hummus or butter incl. some fresh veg 0 grams of sugar
2x dessert or cake at fancy occasion (wedding, graduation etc.) 80 grams of sugar
This means that my sugar intake, through this challenge, has decreased from 97.6 grams of sugar per day, to basically 0 (well, 30 * 2.5 (average of 0 to 5 grams of sugar per breakfast cereal) + 80 = 75 + 80 = 155 grams of sugar per month / 30 = 5.2 grams of sugar per day new total).
Did I lose weight?
No, I did not lose weight. I have a body mass index in the normal range and losing weight was not a reason for me to do this challenge. In fact, I made sure to eat more during meals so that I would lessen cravings for sweets between meals and in the evenings. I think this balanced out nicely with the lack of calories coming in from sweets. Noteworthy, I also did not gain weight despite eating way more food at meals.
Will I keep it up?
Yes, especially seeing that my cravings for sweets have practically disappeared, I feel very happy about continuing all the things listed above.
Are you also going to do a no sugar challenge?
Interested in curing your own sugar habit?
What I found most important is to, before even starting a no-sugar challenge, create awareness about your own sugar habits. I did this by logging how many days per month I did not eat sweets/added sugars. This turned out to be one single day out of the whole month.
Secondly, it’s important to have the right mindset.
What not eating sugar is not about: it’s not about deprivation, punishment and a ban on those good nights in front of the TV eating chocolate.
What not eating sugar is about: your health and happiness, replacing bad habits with good ones, empowerment and being creative about other ways to have fun/curb your cravings. Read my tips on getting started here.
If you want to participate in something larger scale, there will (super coincidentally!) be a national no-sugar challenge in The Netherlands from 19 to 25 November, organised by the Diabetes Fund. You can sign up for it at this link (no affiliate link, just informative).