Three Months Down on the Sugar-Free Plan
Here is my update about being off sugar for three months. How it has gone for me, what has been hard and what I have noticed as the benefits. I noticed improvements right away but I would say this past month I have noticed exponential improvements in my energy and my mood. I am feeling so happy about it! Read on for more details.
How has it gone? What was hard and what was easy?
I would say that this road has been very up and down. I was HIGHLY motivated to go sugar-free by the possibility that it could increase my energy, reduce my fatigue, and drastically improve my PMS experience which often makes me bedridden for a few days a month. I also, focused only on sugar. Yes, I didn’t want to eat refined carbs either but while I was focusing on getting all the sugar out of my system, I was not going to split hairs if a bite of this or that made me more willing to comply with no sugar.
Have you used any sugar replacements? How often?
I have used Swerve and stevia. I have made a couple of desserts with Swerve, which is a mix of erythritol and xylitol. I think I have made a dessert three times in the past three months so about once a month. The stevia I use about once a week in a Crio Bru drink. I am really trying to keep both of those limited (not a daily usage) and especially to get me over a hump.
What helped in going sugar free?
I think being highly motivated helped a lot. I think seeing a big reduction in my my fatigue and an increase in my energy really helped too. I think surviving that first month of PMS was a moment-by-moment experience but once I made it through that I could hope that the next one would be better and the next one after that would be even better. That hope has proven to be true. Each successive cycle I have had an increase in energy and a decrease in mood swings and fatigue. I still have my emotional days and my overwhelmed days but the level is not so intense and I can cope with them better because I have more tools at my disposal to help me. One of the best tools I have used so far is daily tracking of my cycle and my mood so I can supplement appropriately for each day.
What was hard about it?
I think the hardest thing so far has been Sunday dinner with my family. Two weeks into this I had Sunday dinner with my family on Valentine’s Day. I realize now that I should have made some food for myself and had some “treats” ready like cheese and nuts. I white-knuckled it through that dinner and then I should have left the kitchen but I stayed and helped clean up and I just could not resist a cupcake at that point. I said a prayer as that ship was going down because in that moment I felt like I could not stop myself from eating it. I think one of the things I have learned is not to ever get to that moment. To do the best I can to be prepared when there are known events coming up like Sunday dinner so I have options for myself.
What did you eat?
Well, I have been eating a Paleo, low-carb, real food diet for a few years now. I go into a “eat-everything-in-sight” week when I am PMSing and then because I think some foods are addicting, it takes another week or two to detox from that week. So, I was trying to change that cycle by getting off the roller coaster. That was my hope anyway.
So, I ate meat, veggies, some berries and lots of fat--coconut oil, butter, avocados, cheese, eggs, heavy cream--anything that was an excellent fat.
What have you learned?
I have learned that doing very hard things will make you humble. I knew from the outset that this is a beast for me. That getting off this crazy-train-mood-swing-horrible-fatigue PMS time was going to be the brutal part of this journey. It was the hardest. And I am not out of the woods yet. I just hope that each time it comes around I have one more tool added to my kit to help me manage, deal with and even avert it. I am gathering tools all the time.
What have been the benefits?
The biggest benefits have been my increase in energy and mental alertness. It has been three months now, right? Well, just the other day I washed my sheets but I didn’t get to making my bed until right before I could go to sleep. I put on the fresh sheets. It is not my favorite chore but it took about 10 minutes and then I hopped in and went to sleep. That would not have been the case a few months ago. Truly, making my bed after I wash the sheets has been an obstacle in my life that has taken focus and energy. I have purchased a second set of sheets so I could put a fresh set on the morning I was washing the other set. I have waited to make my bed until the next day and just slept with a blanket. I have gone days sometimes without putting the fresh sheets on. You know why? Exhausted. So, exhausted that I had to schedule putting on fresh sheets and the only time I could do that was in the morning before my energy tanked so badly I couldn’t function. Those are the days I call “survival days.” I felt like it was an accomplishment if I could brush my teeth on those days. Breathing felt like asking too much of me on those days. Life was just TOO. MUCH. And I was too tired to deal with anything beyond survival on those kind of days.
So, the benefits? My increase in energy is number one. I put fresh sheets on my bed the other night and I actually had the energy to do it. Miracles.
How did you handle cravings? I gave myself free license with nuts and cheese. I explored all kinds of European cheeses and told myself anytime I was craving something, I could have a piece of excellent cheese and some nuts. I also found that the advice that cravings pass within 20 minutes was good advice. If I removed myself from the situation then I usually could handle them. But let’s be honest, there were some close moments. I prayed every time a major craving hit me. I knew I wasn’t going to do this on my own.
After the cupcake incident, I always kept some nuts and cheese on hand. I also can eat 85% or above dark chocolate so I have kept that on hand too. And berries and whip cream made with just vanilla or a little Swerve.
I so glad that those first three months are over. I know I am not out of the woods yet, but because I am experiencing benefits from it and have set up some new habits the process is getting easier. My initial goal is to do it for six months but I know that it is going to go on after that. But I have to start with reasonable and six months was a good goal to shoot for. I have been tracking all kinds of health markers the past three months--blood sugar, sleep, mood, food, exercise--and that has really helped me to note and be aware of the benefits of this choice.
Good things are happening and sugar is one of the biggest and hardest steps.