On giving up sugar

Whilst you read this, I will be sunning myself in the Caribbean. It’s a flipping tough life, I know! But importantly, it will be after Easter and therefore my Lent fast from sugar will be over! This was a big thing for me and I wanted to blog about it. I didn’t blog about it when Lent started, mainly because I feel that I’m always making grand plans (on the blog and in real life) and then they fizzle out quickly. I know my weaknesses and that is one of them. So I wanted to actually have DONE this thing before I talked about it.

Motives

My motives for giving up sugar for Lent were mixed. I don’t often observe Lent from a faith perspective, I didn’t grow up in that tradition. For some reason I DID want to do so this year, to add some depth to celebrating Easter. And it was VERY clear that the thing I had to fast from would be sugar. I am a BIG fan of cake. I am not ashamed of this, I make no excuses. Cake is wonderful. But my sugar habit had recently just spiraled out of control and I knew I had to sort this. I’d tried being accountable to myself, I’d tried being accountable to others. I knew that it would have to take being accountable to God to break this habit.

Best. Cake. Ever.

I can’t deny however that I found the additional prospective benefits of a sugar fast most appealing. My skin has been awful lately. Hopefully a sugar fast would mean my skin glowed and I looked 20 years younger. I also hoped I might magically lose 5 lbs and be all nonchalantly skinny in my bikini in the Caribbean. I’m not going to try to hide the fact that some very unholy motives were mixed up with the worthier ones.

The boundaries

‘Giving up sugar’ means different things to different people. For me, it meant giving up ADDED sugar. Cakes. Cookies. Dessert. Ice-cream. It didn’t mean giving up bread or carbs in general. Fruit was 100% fine. I rarely use pre-made pasta sauces and the like, so whilst I actively looked for options with low sugar, I didn’t exclude them. I don’t drink fizzy drinks/soda so that wasn’t an issue for me. For me, it was all about ‘sweet treats’.

I don’t drink that much, so I allowed myself one alcoholic drink a day.

Wine

I also gave myself a ‘break’. Our Oklahoma trip fell in the middle of Lent and I didn’t want to be saying no to everything. I was going for brunch at Granny’s and I was excited about it! So those were my 3 days ‘off’ the fast.

Also I would continue to use gels when training and running LONG. In my longer training runs for Post Oak, I took a gel after a disastrous 12-miler which felt like death. During the race, I used gels, I had a doughnut bite, I drank fat coke…I have no qualms about this. I was fueling. But apart from when my body NEEDED sugar, there would be none.

I know some people will think that I was too generous with my boundaries and I didn’t do the fast ‘properly’. I get that, but whatever, guys! I knew my problem area and I was tackling that head-on.

me cake 40

How did it go?

Wow, that first week was grim. Lent started just before Valentine’s Day. I am a preschool teacher and the very first day of Lent meant that we celebrated Valentine’s Day and 17 little kids (and their lovely mums) brought me sweets. ONE mum brought me 8 oreos dipped in chocolate, with piped icing as decorations, on lollipop sticks. I honestly nearly died. That first week, I was given SO much delicious, amazing candy. I was grumpy. VERY grumpy, but I did not cave in. I realized within two days QUITE how much I would have eaten otherwise. I think that, on a normal day, I would eat at least two sweet treats. At least two. That realization horrified me.

After the first week, it got so much easier because mentally, I felt liberated. Within days, I honestly felt like I was free from addiction. Although saying no was not fun, it was so easy. I knew, as the treats were being handed round, that I would say no and I felt freed. I know this sounds stupid and WAY over-dramatic, but it’s how I felt. Like I’d broken a chain that was binding me. It was such a relief.

After that, it just got easier and easier.  I took the Dude for an ice-cream one day and it didn’t even occur to me to have any. That was when I knew something had shifted in my brain! And it felt amazing. When we went to Oklahoma, even though I’d allowed myself three whole days of guilt-free sugar, I only used sugar during the race itself – I didn’t even want it outside race conditions! Revolutionary! The only tough times were when I baked at home – one rainy afternoon, I made cookies with the Dude and his little friend and it took every single ounce of self-control not to lick the bowl or eat a cookie still warm from the oven. I was a little grumpy then. But on the whole, honestly, it was pretty easy.

What did I find myself replacing sugar with?

Bread.And wine.

Instead of a sweet treat after dinner, I had a glass of red wine much more often, maybe four times a week. It wasn’t about the sugar, it was about wanting ‘something’ after dinner. I need to work on that still.

Am I now skinny with glowing skin?

Yes. Well, relatively speaking.

My skin didn’t change for three or four weeks and then suddenly I realized it was better. It hasn’t followed those hormonal shifts anywhere near as much as it normally does. So I think yes, it has improved quite significantly.

In addition,I’ve lost about 4 or 5 lbs (dependent on daily fluctuations) and that, for a short girl, is a big deal. I’m wearing clothes I haven’t fitted into for a couple of years. I’m writing this before going on the cruise but I’m totally planning to wear my new bikini and I feel decent in it around the house. What’s interesting is that I didn’t feel bloated throughout Lent, nor did I ever get that ‘end of the day guilt’. It was a big ego boost.

What’s the plan going forward?

I’m kind of torn. A life without cake would be a sad life…but I’m also nervous about reintroducing it to my diet in case the sugar addiction takes root again. This cruise that we’re on offers FREE, UNLIMITED ICE-CREAM. (I haven’t told the Dude about this). So my plan for the next month (March 28th – end April) is to allow myself two sweet treats every week. Hopefully that will be enough leeway to live with but won’t open the floodgates to cake twice daily. After that period, I’ll review it.

Remember when he was little with golden hair?

Remember when he was little with golden hair?

I hope this has been useful. It’s probably a little navel-gazing and I’m sorry about that but I know a lot of people try sugar-fasts and I wanted to document what I’d learned during mine! In short. OH MY WORD, I feel like a different person and I NEVER want to go back!

About Cathryn

I'm from Wiltshire, a beautiful rural county in the south of England. My husband, son and I moved to California in August 2010 with my husband's job, whilst I stay at home with The Dude, our gorgeous five year old son. I love running and cycling. I'm a Christian. I am finally learning to cook (about time too). I'm loving exploring this new part of the world and meeting its wonderful people.
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5 Responses to On giving up sugar

  1. Angela says:

    Glad things went well for you!

    I was definitely a sugar addict during my college years, but then I just sort of gradually lost my taste for it, so now I’m pretty much where you described–I just don’t want it & it doesn’t even occur to me to have it even when it would be convenient. Post-dinner dessert usually just sounds gross. Very rarely I have a craving for it, but it’s *so* rare that I don’t worry about trying to resist when I do. (Now, the wine….that is an *entirely* different issue!)

    • Cathryn says:

      Yeah, wine would be tough to give up.

      On our trip, I allowed myself two sweet treats a week. Both weeks, one was delicious, one was not worth the investment, I definitely think something has shifted in my mentality and my taste buds…desserts didn’t just appeal as much. I’m delighted, to be honest. However when I make apple crumble, I shall be eating as much as I like! Priorities.

  2. Jen says:

    As you know, I did a mini-version of a sweets and alcohol fast, and I have to say that the sugar was harder to give up at first, but then the alcohol was the harder one in the long run. Glad to hear that you got good results! Hope you’ve been able to resist the free, unlimited ice cream. 🙂

    • Cathryn says:

      Are you still off the wine? I’d find that so hard.

      Weirdly, very little of the sweet stuff appealed. I had one awesome dessert which was delicious but even the descriptions didn’t appeal. I think something’s seriously shifted in my head. It’s great!

      • Jen says:

        Yay!!! In terms of sweets, I’ve shifted towards quality over quantity. Definitely back on the wine and beer though. 🙂 I try to limit myself to only the days that I’m running.

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