At the end of December I decided to do a 31 days No Sugar Challenge aka No Sugar January.
Why? I realized I ate so much food during the holidays (and before that, too), especially sweets, that I felt big, uncomfortable, puffy and bloated.
Knowing from previous experiences that cutting out carbs (therefore sugar) helps lose weight, I set a goal for myself to NOT eat sugar for the entire month of January. I didn’t eliminate carbs, because I didn’t want to put too much pressure on me. I knew that eliminating both sugar and carbs would make me give in and cheat along the way, so I stuck to just no sugar.
And guess what, guys? I DID IT!! I completed my No Sugar Challenge and I’m so proud of myself!
I strongly believe you can do it, too! That’s why I wanted to write this blog post, to help you achieve this goal, too, if you want to.
So here’s how my January went: what I ate, what I didn’t eat, what I craved and how I managed to keep it up and not eat sweets.
My game plan for the No Sugar Challenge
Before starting the challenge, I set myself some rules that I had to follow:
- No sweets.
- No soda or cocktails (I used to drink Cuba Libres every weekend).
- No products / meals with added sugar into it.
- Limit natural sugar (that means, little to no fruit, or whole milk, or similar).
- Few or no sweets in the house.
- Limit temptations: no birthdays and no accepting desserts from family.
- Have on hand low sugar snacks.
Obviously, I didn’t go 100% without sugar, because there are some natural items that have a low quantity of sugar in them, like milk or nuts, but I avoided all obvious sugar choices, including fruits.
Substituting Sugar: Choose snacks with low or no sugar
I knew, going into this, that
- I couldn’t eliminate snacking all together;
- I would crave sweets or have the need for dessert.
That’s why I made sure I had low sugar snacks in my house. During the no sugar challenge, nuts were my snack of choice. My saviors.
I always had a bowl of trail mix on my counter with the following:
Now, I know that most of them contain fats and that eating a bigger amount doesn’t help with weight loss, on the contrary, but they are filling. And that’s what I needed.
Walnuts and Pecans, especially, have low natural sugar, so they were my favorite.
I also had insane amounts of peanut butter. I say “insane” because I usually don’t eat that much of it, but during January, I ate ½ or ⅔ of a jar by myself. It also helped me beat the cravings.
Other snack options were carrots, hard boiled eggs, chips and popcorn.
How to overcome sugar cravings
I will admit: it was so hard at times. Especially when my boyfriend loves sweets more than I do and he eats them all the time. In the house.
This was probably my biggest problem. Seeing him eat Nutella or drink Coke after dinner. He tried to minimize sugar, too, or at least not eat it in front of me, but I told him from the beginning that he doesn’t have to. So he ate normally.
How did I manage to not eat sugar when my boyfriend did? Well, I’ll tell you what helped me:
- I ate peanut butter when he had Nutella; I snacked on something I could when he had sweets;
- I went into another room, or redirected my focus to the TV or something else;
- I told him how I craved chocolate, and he reminded me of my challenge, and supported me, telling me I could do it. He would also playfully say “NO, it’s my precioussss” and hide his chocolate.
Other ways to overcome sugar cravings that helped me:
- Having low or no sugar snacks on hand;
- Limiting my possible temptations, so
- Not browsing the sweets section of the supermarket;
- Less birthdays and social outings;
- Refusing to bring home dessert offered by my mom or my boyfriend’s mom.
- Reminding myself how well I did until that point and that I could finish this;
- Focusing on other tasks.
Be careful: Food with added sugar that you don’t know about
One habit I got into while on my No Sugar Challenge was checking the product label. You would be surprised by how many seemingly normal products you thought have no sugar, actually do have sugar.
First, you have to check the ingredients. Obviously, if you see listed “sugar” in the ingredients list, then you can’t have it. I also recommend avoiding things like Stevia, too, but to each its own.
Secondly, you have to check for the naturally added sugars. What you have to do is to go to the nutritional facts section and find “Carbohydrates, from which Sugars are..”. Always check that part. If the product has more than 5, ok 10g of sugars in it, then it’s a no go.
Here are some surprising items with sugar in them:
- Certain crackers;
- Some store bought Salad dressings;
- Instant oatmeal.
31 days No Sugar Challenge: The results
The first obvious result is actually losing weight: I “got rid of” 4 kg (almost 9 lbs). And that’s amazing, considering I ate normally, which means pizza, pasta, burgers, etc.
I feel lighter and not so bloated. The clothes are not so tight anymore (especially the jeans) and my tummy has gone down a bit.
I do have to mention a result / “side effect” of the no sugar challenge. My body reacted to the sugar detox, not only by losing weight, but also by….giving me pimples. 3 or 4 days in, I started developing zits on my chin and my forehead. I got worried for a bit, but then I googled it and it turns out this type of detox does give you spots. Don’t worry, though, they lasted only for a few days, and then they were gone.
For me, the biggest accomplishments (and result) was my will and motivation to actually not eat sugar and finish the no sugar challenge. I am proud of myself for not giving in, for not indulging from time to time, and for sticking to it. Not a lot of people can do that . Actually, I was one of those people up until two years ago, when I went through a weight loss process.
So if that is your worry, I hope I can assure you that YOU CAN DO IT. I believe in you, and I’m here to say you got this!
Next steps & Recommendations
I have to admit, the first day after the 31 days challenge ended, I had a glass of Coke. Surprisingly, that was what I was craving at the moment.
Going forward, I plan to continue my challenge up until the 25th of February, when it’s my birthday, so obviously I will want to eat cake & co. That’s (almost) one extra month of challenge.
Why? One, because I loved the results and I want more. Two, because I feel like I’m on a roll and I can do it. Three, because there won’t be as much pressure on me as before. Everything over the 31 days is a blessing and nice to have.
If you’re thinking of doing the 31 days no sugar challenge, here are my top 3 recommendations that I think will definitely make a difference:
- Get rid of all the sweets in your house – if you don’t have it, you can’t eat it.
- Have low sugar snacks on hand to resist the cravings.
- Be in the right mindset. Stick to your end goal and make sure the people around you support you.
So there it is, my experience with the No Sugar Challenge. It was a hard month, but I am proud of my results.
What do you think? Would you do something similar? Have you done it in the past? Let me know!