I wouldn’t consider my diet unhealthy previous to cutting out sugar. Compared to the US standard, I might be considered very healthy. I’ve always done a pretty good job of getting three decent meals a day and taking my vitamins and minerals. At least that’s if you ask me. If you ask my husband, well I’ve got a problem with snacking- and that snacking revolves around chocolate and treats. Running as much as I do, I need a lot of calories. I was filling those calories with mostly refined sugar.
Here’s a typical breakfast before cutting out sugar- Eggs and cereal with almond milk and organic peanut butter (yep, we put peanut butter in our cereal at our house). Another breakfast might be pancakes with syrup, whipped cream, and berries. Or oatmeal with plenty of brown sugar, whipped cream, and frozen berries. Pretty good, but not great. Then the rush starts- packing lunches for the kids and heading out the door to run errands. I’m still hungry. I’ll throw some fruit snacks into my kids lunches and why not eat some myself. Oh, and that Easter Candy—that looks gooood. A few pieces here and there. Oh, and my all time favorite—dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s. Everything is healthy from Trader Joe’s right? Don’t mind if I have three.
Lunch rolls around—turkey sandwich with gluten free bread. (We’ve been mostly gluten free for six years at our house. Not for the fad.) Fruits and veggies. Lots of water. Pretty healthy, right? Well then I’m still hungry. That peanut butter cup trail mix from Costco is the bomb. I’ll have some handfuls of that.
Dinner is where we did the best. Smoked elk burgers, sweet potatoes, bone broth chicken noodle soup, quinoa and veggies, lime chicken tacos, salmon and asparagus. Our dinners are always pretty healthy. Then dinner is over. Well I’m hungry again. Brownies, ice cream, chocolate, and whatever else to fill in the blanks. Get the picture?
I needed more calories in my diet, but not the crap calories. It was time to clean up the diet and supplement with nutrient dense food. Getting enough calories meant I had to be very meaningful in what I ate and make sure I was eating enough, more than what I usually eat. Cutting sugar out of my diet wasn’t about weight loss. It was, and is, about feeling good and fueling my body with the best.
Of course I didn’t want to do it alone. I messaged my close running friend, Alison, and asked if she’d be on board with me. We are both running Grandma’s in a month together. She was in! Misery loves company, right?
I started immediately doing a little research and trying to give myself the best bang for the buck when it came to fueling. One of my favorite books about food is The 100 Healthiest Foods on Earth. I started reading and diving in to learn more.
From day one, avocados came onto the scene, two to three a day. I need the healthy fats and calories and avocados mesh with so many different things. I needed to up my protein as well. As long as I planned in advance, I felt like things would be easier.
Week 1: I was strict. Too strict to sustain for a long time. I decided no added sugars (no cereal, yogurt, granola bars, etc). Fruit is allowed. I went cold turkey. I found myself wandering the pantry when I was hungry and not knowing how to fill the void. I tried out Gwen Jorgensen’s oatmeal recipe, where she cooks the oats with bananas to sweeten. Oatmeal, eggs, avocado, and multiple types of fruit for breakfast. Hummus and veggies, Turkey sandwiches, and leftovers for lunch, and our usual dinner. Servings were bigger to prevent the random need to snack. Water was and still is my only choice of drink. I like to stick to around 80 ounces of water a day. A good rule of thumb is half your weight in ounces plus extra for exercise.
Week 2: Raw and unrefined honey and pure maple syrup allowed. I didn’t feel like my diet for the first week was sustainable. I needed something for baking and other things to add a little sweetness. Getting easier. I make gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free waffles that are really good. Covered in berries with a little organic maple syrup—I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.
Week 3:Protein balls. My kids love them, but they especially love them with a few mini chocolate chips in them. Do I leave them out? Do I make two separate batches? Nope. I want something sustainable. My protein balls are healthy and with a few mini chocolate chips here and there- no problem. I was trying to make choices that I feel I can keep long term. If I can make this challenge more of a lifestyle, its going to continue.
Week 4: I still haven’t had any candy, treats, or desserts (besides my mini chocolate chips). I never had soda before, so that’s never been an issue. I’m running stronger than ever before and my body feels good. When I fuel in workouts, it is more effective. My friend and I decided from the beginning that the sugar found in Maurten (our running fuel of choice) is allowed. We aren’t going to change that, as it has worked well for us.
I’ve decided for the future, a Greek yogurt here and there isn’t a problem. I also will use unrefined, raw cane sugar in small amounts in baking recipes so as not to change the texture and taste of some of our favorite muffins, etc.
Still have a month left. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll throw in a cheat day. I had a chance to cheat on my friends birthday, but nothing really sounded good, so I stuck with it. Honestly, it only took a week or two to get used to it. I don’t crave anything. I think the hardest thing is social situations where there is dessert right in front of me. It helps for Alison and me to send each other pictures of what we were missing out on. For some reason, that made it easier! I’ll give a full review when I’m done, with more details on what I ate and how I feel.