If you are one of my lovely Instagram followers, you will know that at the start of September I decided to give up refined sugar for four weeks. Fruit and natural sugars (e.g. honey) were allowed in moderation, but any unnatural sugar was off limits for one whole month.
I didn’t fancy doing this on my own and thought there might be some others who would be interested, so I reached out to the wonderful people of Instagram and asked if anyone wanted to join. I ended up having a group of around fourteen girls and guys who joined me on the sugar detox, sharing our own opinions on the challenge and keeping each other going.
I know what you’re thinking.
Why did I give up sugar?!
I’d been wanting to do a no-sugar challenge for a while and, having spent my whole summer in Spain eating a LOT of ice cream, I thought now was the best time do it. I was intrigued to see the results it would have on my energy levels, on improving my skin and on my general health.
The kick that I needed came after watching a fascinating documentary “That Sugar Film” by Damon Gameau which highlighted the sheer amount of sugar in our diets and the ease in which we consume a frightening amount of sugar every day, even when we’re only eating the “healthy” foods. *Granola and yogurts I’m looking at you.*
Why four weeks?
The reason I chose to do it over four weeks is because our bodies naturally need a bit of time to adjust to any big change like this. The first week is never a true representation of the effects of giving up a certain food group as it will still be lingering in your system. Four weeks allows your body to get through that “detox” period and then start behaving normally.
Another reason was that, for us ladies, I always recommend doing something for at least four weeks because then you experience it through a full menstrual cycle. Our bodies, skin, hormones, appetites and cravings fluctuate so much depending on what stage of our cycle we are in, so if you only try something during a certain stage, it will be difficult to determine what is an effect of the challenge and what is an effect of your cycle. It is very hard to separate the two, so it’s best to span it over a month.
how did we get on?
We all started out well. Everyone tried it out and gave it their best shot but, by the end, most had given up or cheated on it at least once.
So why was it so difficult?
For most of us, it wasn’t actually the temptation of sugary foods that made it difficult, but the fact that we had to give up a lot of our everyday food products which, unknown to us, were full of sugar.
There’s SUGAR in my CRISPS?!
Of course we knew we were going to be going without cake, cookies and chocolate for a little while, but supermarket salsa? My favourite crisps? Gluten-free BREAD?
We didn’t see that coming.
As one of the members of the challenge, Sam, said:
“Going cold turkey on the sugar front was pretty tough. Not for cravings etc., because I actually enjoy eating simple, healthy food, but for the difficulty in finding food with no added sugar. My microwave rice that I eat regularly to save time had plenty in, the same could be said for my ‘high protein healthy yogurt’ which turned out to be a marketing ploy I fell for very badly.”
And Sam wasn’t the only one. We were all shocked to find sugar hidden away in numerous amounts of “healthy” foods.
Challenge member Zoe was having a great day on the no-sugar until she finished off her dinner and realised the pesto she’d just eaten contained sugar.
“On the whole, avoiding sugar hasn’t been too bad. My issue I’ve found is the added sugar in all small things that I don’t have too much of but don’t want to substitute, like pesto and bread!”
Only three days into the challenge, we were already so surprised at how much hidden sugar we’d found. Sugar is everywhere.
two weeks in
By week two/three, sadly a lot of my lovely challenge members had given up, finding it too hard to avoid the temptation. On a check-in with the group, everyone confessed that they hadn’t stuck to it as much as they should have, myself included (HELLO the night I had five cocktails). Some members gave up, finding that four weeks was simply too long.
But did we fail?
Certainly for myself, and for a lot of members of the group, what the no-sugar challenge did was completely open our eyes:
“To not be able to cut out sugar completely was no real surprise to me, but I was pleased to explore the change in mindset that occurred when I gave more thought to what I was eating. Simple changes from shop bought dressing to homemade vinaigrette, and from sugar on my porridge to sweetener are all easily done but can have a massive affect on your total calorie intake.
I was disappointed to not have been able to stick with the no-sugar challenge, but I am grateful for the opportunity to change my mindset toward food.” – Sam
So, while we didn’t all make it to the four week mark, there are now a little group of us who have become more aware of what goes into food and are consciously checking labels and thinking of alternatives which are less processed and more natural. This for me is a huge success. This is all I wanted. I always want to try and open people’s eyes and introduce them to new ways of thinking and living, and that’s exactly what’s happened here. And I’m so proud of every one of them.
Did i notice a difference?
I managed to stick to the challenge for four weeks but, if I’m being brutally honest, I did not notice a difference.
It pains me to say this but nothing changed. I didn’t feel I had more energy, nor did I feel more awake. I do think, however, that a huge contributor to that is the fact that I really didn’t eat a lot of sugar to begin with. I didn’t have the withdrawal effects that others, who eat a diet far higher in sugar, tend to experience when they give it up. But I would still highly recommend trying it out.
So, will I eat sugar again?
I think I speak for everyone in the group when I say that I will, of course, enjoy the odd ice cream or chocolate bar, but from now on I will avoid buying certain foods with unnecessary added sugar. This might mean that some of my favourite sauces need to go in the bin, and that I stop buying my favourite granola, but I will most certainly be cutting my sugar intake way down. And I highly suggest you try to do the same.
Thank you for reading my loves,
Want to try your own sugar detox?
Try it out! Set yourself a goal: go for two or three weeks if four sounds too daunting. Check this list to find out exactly what you need to avoid if you’re giving up unnatural sugar, and just give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose.
You can read Part TWO of this blog where I give you a look at what we ate on a no-sugar diet, providing you with tips and advice on snacks and meals and how to avoid the sugar.
Check out my Instagram to keep up-to-date and to see more of my posts on fitness and lifestyle advice. Thank you!