I Went Without Sugar for 30 Days: A Sugar-Free Challenge With Meaning

A few months ago, I came across a YouTube video where the vlogger had gone an entire year without sugar. I posted it on Friday Reflections. I remember thinking this is not possible. How I drew the line from that thinking to embarking on a no-sugar challenge still eludes me. I know I love a good challenge so entering into a new year, I decided to try it. So here goes, I went without sugar for 30 days. When I say “without sugar”, I mean without any added sugar or processed sugar. So of course, I still ate fruits since the sugar in fruits in naturally occurring. This challenge was a while ago in January but you know me and writing about stuff. Anyway, let’s get into it. At first, I kept a “diary” to keep track of my feelings around everything going on, but soon it became repetitive so I just stopped. That said, please excuse the fact that my tenses below are all over the place. On some days, I wrote in real time. On others, I wrote in the evening in retrospect. I could edit it to have consistent tenses, but then it would sound and feel weird and inauthentic. The alternative is to leave as is. I chose that option.

Day 1:

The biggest switch on the first day is realizing that I need to consider every single thing I put in my mouth. I am familiar with this so it’s not completely new territory. Apart from that, it is not really such a hard switch after all. So far, just eliminating things with sugar seems to work. I have my regular green smoothie for breakfast. I have a lunch of sweet potatoes. I have a dinner of eba. Dessert is navel oranges. So far so good.

Day 2:

Today was not that bad either. I just realized that a lot of my lunch options-in fact, a LOT of things-have added sugar in them. This means for lunch, sandwiches are out, chicken wraps are out. I started to get a little frustrated because too many things have sugar. For instance, for lunch today, I had beans. Beans isn’t my favorite thing in the world but oh well. Dinner was much more pleasant: rice, pepper stew, some veggies, and an egg. Breakfast was also great; a smoothie, as usual. When it came time for dessert though, I really wanted something sweet. I know I know, fruits work, but I think I wanted something [that was not health and] sweet. That said, I had some clementines and by God, they were about the most delicious clementines I have ever had. Craving satisfied! Also, it’s only day two and I have started noticing my teeth hurts less. Actually, they don’t hurt at all. Hallelujah. P.s: I miss chewing gum.

Day 3:

Ok so it’s still not too bad. I missed out on a yam pottage dinner. I had to eat rice with an ofada sauce so good I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything. But I missed dessert. My weekends and especially Friday evenings (today is Friday) are for me to relax and enjoy after [what is usually a long] week, and sugar plays a big role in this. Anyway, I had plantain chips which had no added sugar.

Day 4:

Now, this was a particularly hard day. I went to an event, and it didn’t occur to me how long it would take to actually get food. They brought out some small chops: puff puff, meat pie, chin chin, butI couldn’t eat it. My mom and sister said meat pie has no added sugar and I almost ate it, but luckily, I checked online for a meat pie recipe and found that people sometimes add about a teaspoon of sugar to the dough. Whew. So close. So, I couldn’t eat it. The sneaky ways sugar finds itself into out diet is quite interesting. I was so so so so hungry. Because it took a while for dinner to arrive, I started having a headache and wished I planned better or just didn’t attend altogether (even though I was glad I went).

That day (day 4) was so hard, it was my last day-to-day entry. I also realize it was possibly the hardest day of the entire challenge. It is almost impossible to be social when going without sugar. Fortunately, COVID has curtailed a lot of social events anyway.

Sad as I was after Day 4, I continued to go strong. Even after a few days, I did not experience any withdrawals at all. Perhaps, I just wasn’t so addicted to sugar? Or maybe my withdrawals manifested itself in a different way. For instance, about a week after I started, I almost lost my ish for-admittedly a major-something (or shall we say someone) at work. The wildest part of this incident (as I am now blogging about it) is I no longer remember what it was that made me so angry even though I literally recorded that anger as part of my challenge. For context, this is all less than three months ago! This is a lesson to not take things so seriously. Something that ruined my day, got me all worked up, and affected my emotions so much…and I can’t even remember what or who it was no matter how hard I try to rack my brain. The next time you get your panties in a bunch for something, ask, would this even matter in six months? If not, keep it moving. In any case, that evening I wrote down, “Did my sugar made my temper shorter today?” Who knows?

Another not so surprising fact is this: there are a lot of sneaky things in our food and a lot of deceit when it comes to disclosing ingredients. I mean they do disclose, but you have to read between the fine lines. Like, did you know the term sugar free doesn’t mean no sugar was added? It simply means only less than 0.5g of sugar per serving was added. Unbelievable. If it is truly without any added sugar, then the label would read “no added sugar” not “sugar free”. In addition, there are a myriad of ways to write “sugar” on the ingredients list that could delude you into thinking it has no sugar if you don’t actually see the word “sugar” on the list. I mean, how would you know high fructose corn syrup IS sugar or that crystalline fructose is sugar? Listen, how are you supposed to know maltodextrin is also sugar? So it was important to be very watchful as I really wanted to avoid sugar.

On the eighth day of this challenge I had ogi (Yoruba word for a Nigerian food called fermented cereal/corn pudding) without sugar, and frankly if God wills, I now believe I can do anything I set my mind to. I will be honest, it’s not the worst thing in the world when accompanied by the savory deliciousness that is moi moi. Yet, when I first tasted the ogi [without sugar] after it was freshly made, I was disgusted. But honestly, in sync with moi moi, they proved again that there is no better duo out there.

Now, on the the actual, most insane, and WORST part of the challenge. Some time deep in the challenge, one pesky Thursday (or was it Friday), I developed a cold and felt a sore throat coming on. And yes, it was just a common cold (those still exist). What I really needed was a cough drop (my go to one is usually Ricola). The problem was that even though most of them claimed to be “sugar free”, they actually weren’t totally free of sugar. For instance, the ingredients list had aspartame. Ding ding. This was also a puzzle because the “sugar free” label suggests that the sugar in it was negligible, but since it was STILL present on some level, based on that technicality of going off sugar, then I couldn’t. This meant no cough or cold medicine for me. It was extremely hard. But I kept telling myself a couple of things: our bodies have the immunity to fight cold? No? I thought, technically you can’t really cure a cold anyway, you just manage it. But I tried every home remedy [without sugar] possible. I drank only warm, slightly hot water. I took an unlimited amount of lemon/ginger tea during the day, and chamomile tea at night. In retrospect, I think the excessive fluid played a huge role in my recovery. I covered my head in hot water and vapor rub mixture. I applied the vapor rub all over my chest…listen! Y’all, I felt like those cuckoo “I never use drugs” people, but I was determined. Even though these same cuckoo people who refuse things like vaccine for instance eat the worst types of food known to man, yet have a problem trusting a vaccine developed over the course of decades and with the most transparent research methodology ever. But I digress. I went back to the drug store and every single cough relief or Nyquil type medicine had sugar or some form of artificial sweetener in it. It was crazy.

I told myself that if I really got through the cold without any medication, my God, I would know I can do anything if I’m determined. Peeps, I now feel like I CAN do anything if my heart is in it. ANYTHING. See, all of the above medication was all around me. Everyone offered me, they scoffed at my no-sugar nonsense. I did not budge. So, this is what I’m most proud of. That I made up my mind to do a thing and I did it. I know that if God wills something and/or he allows, I can do ANYTHING I put my mind to. I may be afraid (Like I was on that Saturday night when my throat gave me hell), but I will do it. I actually do not have an iota of doubt about this (ok lies, I do doubt myself all the time lol).

After four excruciating days, my symptoms eventually left.

Afterwards, my main problem was just boredom. 30 days is longgggggg! I got so tired and bored that I lost count of what day it was. At about day 23 or so, all I wrote was “I miss bread. I want pizza”.

I just want to give God all the glory that I have no dietary restrictions. Because WOW, it is hard to stay off what you like. I did this because I wanted to not because I had to and I can’t imagine doing this because one HAS to. That said, it was a miracle that I went an entire month without chewing gum

On a final note:

As usual, I don’t check my weight but I’m almost certain this did not affect my weight at all. I also didn’t experience all that clarity people talk about getting when they quit sugar nor did I have withdrawal symptoms per se barring what I narrated above. Maybe I’m just not a clarity person, because these thing s never bring me the clarity it seems to bring others. It may also be that I just don’t consume that much sugar to begin with, which is very plausible. In the way of benefits, this was a real test of willpower and discipline and that is better for me than clarity, whatever that is.

Love,

I

Originally published at http://www.themoderncedar.com.

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Ife O

Academic and storyteller passionate about equality and justice and learning to live like Jesus would.