Well, day 30 of my “No Sugar Challenge” is finally here! I’ve completely eliminated all sweets from my diet with not even a single slip. I say that not to brag but to emphasize how big of a difference this 30 day challenge has made in my life. For a guy who wouldn’t even make it through the night without eating at least 20 grams of sugar, quitting sweets entirely seems like a bit of a miracle.
So what happened in the last 30 days? In this article I’m going to go through my personal timeline of the 30 day challenge and then delve into all the amazing benefits I noticed from quitting sugar.
How the 30 Days Went for Me
In this 30 day challenge, like in most of them, there were a few distinct phases. There were difficult times and there were easy times. I’m going to take a look at the broad overview of these phases to give you an idea of what you can expect if you ever want to try this challenge.
Motivation Coasting (Days 1-5)
Whenever I start new habits I tend to be extremely motivated in the beginning. I’ve just made the decision to make some new change and I’m excited about it. This 30 day challenge was really no different. I had just hit a new low in my sugar consumption and it made me a bit desperate to make a change. This motivation lasted for a solid 5 days. Make no mistake, sugar was definitely always on my mind in the beginning, but it was more like being constantly on guard rather than intense cravings.
I know a lot of people really struggle in the first few days of quitting sugar, but for me that didn’t come until around Day 5. Maybe it will be different for you, but remember that no matter what it gets much, much easier.
Reality Sets In (Days 5-14)
Looking back on my journal of this challenge, I noticed that I mentioned the word “craving” very often around the second week. The novelty of this new habit and the motivation that came with it had sort of diminished and I was left with my typical baseline, sugar-addicted self. I had to be very vigilant when I was around sugar and sometimes even choose not to go somewhere because I would be triggered to cave in (I didn’t go out to ice cream with friends one night for this reason). I very often got intense cravings when I was bored or restless so I had to find ways to occupy myself. I spent more time at the gym and just generally tried to get out more. I also noticed that I would get intense cravings after big, rich meals so I had to just sort of ride those cravings out until my food had fully digested. I would definitely advise to not eat huge amounts of food in one sitting if at all possible.
This was definitely the hardest stage of the challenge because I feel I was still both mentally and physically hooked on sugar. My body and mind still very much remembered the dopamine reward that came with a heaping helping of sweets. After two weeks though, I noticed that I got more and more into “autopilot mode” wherein not eating sweets was just part of my daily life.
Auto-Pilot Sets In (Days 14-30)
I am hesitant to use the word “auto-pilot” because that implies that I didn’t have to be cautious around sugar or consistently remind myself that I’m doing this challenge. I definitely did and still do. But what did become auto-pilot was: breezily saying no when offered sugar, not thinking about sugar in situations where I used to, and easily sidestepping cravings that would have tripped me up previously.
In the last 2 weeks, not eating sugar was basically part of my daily routine and part of my identity. It was no longer a big deal, it was just something I did. It not being a big deal anymore was great because it was no longer some big aspect of my life that I had to focus on. This took the power away from the cravings and just took sugar out of the forefront of my mind to free up space for other things.
In the end, I was truly amazed at how quickly quitting sugar became fairly easy. It was basically 2 weeks of mild discomfort and then it was just not a part of my life anymore. I definitely plan on continuing with not eating sweets and it’s all thanks to this 30 day challenge.
Benefits of Quitting Sugar
I went over some benefits in the original article but I wanted to put together a comprehensive list for people thinking of quitting.
Body Looks Better
I really wish I had taken before and after photos for this challenge because I feel that my body looks overall slimmer and more fit than 30 days ago. Have I actually lost fat? I’m not sure. I might have, but it’s also likely that I’m just less bloated all the time. Whenever I would eat copious amount of sugar my gut would bloat up significantly. So maybe there’s less fat, maybe it’s just less bloatedness, but I also think quitting sugar just makes you look better on a holistic level.
My skin is definitely clearer. I haven’t had any acne breakouts in at least 2 weeks. In the months preceding this challenge, I was breaking out all over the place.
Food Tastes Better
This might be my favorite benefit. Ever since quitting sugar, healthy food has just tasted better. It was like before, my taste buds were used to the crazy, powerful kick of sugar and so basic, whole foods just didn’t taste as good. They were bland and almost a chore to eat sometimes. Now, my taste buds are no longer addicted to that sugar rush and so simple meals like rice and chicken, tuna salad sandwiches, and even oatmeal with no brown sugar taste perfectly good. I have noticed my diet has improved tremendously and I’m far less bored with normal food.
Okay actually THIS might be my favorite benefit. Without the constant ups and downs of my blood sugar, my body is generally at a consistent energy level. I didn’t even realize it but sugar crashes were really killing my energy on a daily basis. I often ate most of my sugar in the evening and at night, so my energy levels were often way out of whack during those times. Now I just feel a very solid level of energy up until the time I go to bed.
I’m More Comfortable
As I mentioned before, I would eat sugar and then get really bloated. Or I would sometimes even eat sugar until I actually felt sick. I noticed this especially happened at parties or places where there were endless amounts of sweets. So it should have been no surprise that I was often bloated, uncomfortable, and constantly crashing from sugar all the time. Now that I’m just not eating sweets at all, I have none of this. No bloating, no feeling sick. I just feel normal and it’s great.
Learned to Say “No”
I have historically had some difficulties in telling people no. I buy things from pushy sales people far more often than I would like. But this exercise in no sugar has taught me a lot. First of all, I didn’t even realize how often people offer each other sweets. Whether it be candy, cookies, cake, ice cream or whatever, people want you to eat it with them! I’m not sure what that’s about but it definitely made for some interesting interactions. At first, I would make a big deal about quitting sugar and tell everyone that offered me some. While that definitely worked, it sometimes made for an awkward interaction or made me looks/feel holier than thou. By the end of the challenge, it was basically just an automated response of “Oh, no thank you!” and that was the end of it. Saying no doesn’t have to be some dramatic exchange, you just have to say it and be polite. Just a nice little life lesson that I didn’t expect to get from quitting sugar.
Better Impulse Control Around Food in General
The act of watching and managing my sugar intake and cravings generally made me more aware of how my mind works when it comes to diet. I became aware of when I was getting an “empty craving”, which, at least in my view, is when the body isn’t actually hungry but wants you to eat something to trigger dopamine release and the ensuing pleasurable feelings. I found that MANY of my cravings, not just for sugar but for any unhealthy food, were empty cravings. I feel that I now have a better understanding of what “real hunger” is and how to manage it.
Wrapping Up This Challenge
Wow, what a ride! Thank you for reading about my first successful 30 day challenge. I’m so excited to keep these coming and hopefully see you join in on the fun. 30 day challenges are one of the best ways to make radical change in our lives without getting overwhelmed (check out the ‘Why Do a 30 Day Challenge’ page for more). I am truly stunned by the amazing results of this first challenge and I hope that if you struggle with sugar you’ll consider trying it yourself.