Have you ever heard of a no added sugar cleanse? Until recently, the thought has never occurred to me. I have always made a conscious effort to not eat a lot of sweets, but I recently learned that sugar is in more products than you think! Going one week with no added sugar was an eye opening experience. Here’s what I learned along the way.
Let’s Talk Sugar
We have known that excess sugar is danger for quite some time. Excess processed sugar in your diet can lead to an extensive list of health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
It is most likely the major culprit for your recent weight gain, constant state of exhaustion or even your worsening skin conditions. Small amounts of sugar (especially those that naturally occur in foods such as fruits) is safe to have in your diet, but as I have come to discover, you’d be surprised at how much added sugar you’re consuming each day.
So, what is a safe amount of sugar? The American Heart Association recommends for women to consume no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of added-sugar per day. For men, the limit should be 9 teaspoons (36 grams) per day. However, did you know that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons or 88 grams of sugar each day! For more information, cheek out their site: American Heart Association: Sugar 101
To get an idea how much sugar there is in some products, here are a few common ones from the grocery store:
- 12oz can of Coca-Cola = 39 grams
- 1 Cliff Bar (Banana Nut Bread) = 21 grams
- 6oz Yoplait Light Yogurt = 14 grams
- 1 serving Special K Cereal = 4 grams
Even table salt contains dextrose, which is one of the various different names assigned to our “sweet” culprit. Considering that, it’s easy to see how sugar consumption globally has tripled since 1970!
So, what IS added sugar?
Exactly what it says it is, sugar that is not naturally found within a product, so it is added to make it taste better. Whenever you look at the ingredients of a product, and anywhere in that list there is one of these 60 different names for sugar listed, then that my friends is added sugar!
I never thought I was consuming a lot of sugar each day. But when I would tell others that my fiancé and myself were taking on this challenge, I heard the same response over and over, “But you don’t even eat that much sugar”. After hearing that phrase a nauseating amount of times, I took the liberty to look discover how much sugar I consume daily.
I used MyFitness Pal to review my most recent week’s worth of meals, drinks and snacks. To my surprise, it turned out that I was consuming more than most assumed! I was consuming anywhere between 18-28 teaspoons of sugar a day! That adds up to a minimum of 125 teaspoons of sugar a week!
Let’s do this!
I learned that I was not as healthy of an individual that I thought I was. So, I needed to work on my to do list to make things happen:
- Motivated to make a change and challenge myself to try new eating habit. Done!
- Look at my current eating habits. Done!
- Find a meal plan.
My fiancé discovered an amazing article outlining a balanced meal plan that is nutritional, easy to do and of course, contains no added sugar! Here’s the post: Here’s A 7-Day No-Added-Sugar Meal Plan That’s Actually Doable. It contains the complete grocery list, recipes and meal prep plan. I say with 100% certainty that every single meal is absolutely delicious! I highly recommend checking it out!
So, have YOU decided to step up to the challenge yet? If not, check out these related posts to help learn other ways to live healthier:
The Day Before the Big Change
I decided that I didn’t only want to be healthier, but I wanted to FEEL healthier. I had just two goals that I was hoping to accomplish during this experience:
- Learn to cook new meals
- Have more energy
On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we went out for brunch where I enjoyed a pile of strawberry waffles slathered in whip cream. We treated ourselves to our favorite wrap place for lunch and pizza for dinner. Of course we had to end the day with rich, creamy sundaes. It goes without saying that we went out with a bang!
Note to the readers: In case you are planning on completely this challenge, DO NOT do what I did. Eating a month’s worth of sugar in one day made the week 10x harder.
When we went to the grocery store we followed the grocery list exactly (we did double everything since the meal plan is designed for one person) as it outlined. It also helped to have the list of different names for sugar when reading products’ ingredients list (Check it out here: I Quit Sugar For 30 Days And This Is what Happened. Most of our usual snacks and treats did not pass the test, so they sadly remained on the shelf – this was a little disheartening. However, it did feel rewarding to look in the grocery cart and see all the bright colored fruits and veggies!
Things to Keep In Mind
There were a few things that I had to consider before taking on this challenge. I knew that I needed to get used to the idea of drinking black coffee. I used add creamer but it goes without saying that that is a rule breaker. Thankfully, I have come to enjoy black coffee and I now no longer use creamer!
I also, knew that I had to say good-bye to alcohol. Although not all alcohol contains added sugar, it only made sense. If you’re trying to improve yourself and practice a healthier diet, limiting alcohol is standard practice.
Finally, I needed to inform my friends, family and coworkers. My fiancé and I are both extremely extroverted and very social people. Rather than becoming hermits for the next week, we were open about everything we were doing. We planned ahead so that we hosted the social events and provided snacks that fit our dietary requirements. We let everyone else drink alcohol, while we drank hot coffee, hot tea or water with lemon.
There’s a reason why I keep calling this experience a challenge. I’m a very competitive person and I would never let myself fail. However, it was not as easy as I thought it would be and it was really challenging.
The beginning of the week I was very motivated and excited. I exercised a fair amount and felt pretty good. By the end of day two I was convinced that it was going to be a breeze.
But by day 3 everything drastically changed. I became very lethargic, irritable and I developed a terrible headache that lasted two days. It took a lot of willpower to keep myself from cracking. I have never been a person who craves sweets, but for majority of the week all I wanted was any kind of pastry, cake or ice cream. I even had dreams about brownies and cookies!
It wasn’t until day 7 did I start to feel like a very different person. My energy started to surge and I felt the way everyone says they feel at the end of a cleanse. I really enjoyed the change that was occurring, so we decided to continue the cleanse for another week! There will be more about that on a different day.
I would say it was a success!
- Learn to cook new meals
Before this challenege I have never tried thai peanut sauce, I never considered making my own pico de gayo and I definitely have never eaten a fritatta. Without doing this challenge, I would have ever experienced any of these amazing foods and now I know how to cook them too. Goal one was a success!
- Have more energy
Goal two was a success as well! It was frustrating to not feel a change until day 7, but it was worth it! That burst of energy is why we felt inspired to keep the challenge going. We thought, “If we felt amazing after one week, what do you think we’ll feel like after two?!”