Ever since I was young, I have had a serious addiction to sugar. Despite the cavities, I continued to tell myself that it wasn’t a problem- I could probably control myself if I needed to. Once college came, I had all the freedom in the world to eat candy and ice cream for days on end without consequence. Of course, the health consequences quickly became apparent. I realized that eating healthy is a lifestyle that requires years of cultivation, and cannot just kick in at some point in the future. If I wanted to live a healthy life, I needed to start as soon as possible.
So, with the understanding that sugar was my Achille’s heel, I embarked upon a journey to lessen my amount of sugar intake for the long-term. People say it takes 21 days to form a habit, so I decided to go 21 days without having any processed sugars, in drinks or in foods. Included on the list of banned foods were ice cream, cookies, cake, soda, juice, syrup, and more. Fruit was allowed. My roommates decided to join in, and we made it a bonding activity. Now that the three weeks of my sugar detox are coming to an end, here is what I learned throughout this process.
Avoiding sugar is really hard.
This was the first thing all of us realized: processed sugars is in most foods, and is nearly impossible to completely avoid. Added sugars are in all-natural yogurt, jam, and most fruit-based foods. Almost every popular refreshment other than water has processed sugar- loads of it. Without noticing it, we intake sugar; one of my roommates accidentally ate a mint that was given with the check at a restaurant, another roommate forgot there was chocolate in her granola. It’s so easy because it’s everywhere, showing just how easy it is for these unhealthy processed sugars to make their way into our digestive systems.
Dietary changes lead to mood swings.
For all three weeks, I found myself way moodier than usual. Sometimes I was incredibly irritable, other times I was uncharacteristically overexcited; some days I wanted nothing other than to sleep, other days I was incredibly motivated to study. Considering the fact that nothing else changed about my daily life, I think it’s fair to say that the dietary changes I was undertaking are at least a primary reason for these mood swings.
It’s easy to confuse thirst for cravings.
I knew going into this detox that I would have sugar cravings, a lot of them and often. What I didn’t expect was how easily water would satisfy these cravings. At first, when I found myself wanting just a bite of delicious mint chocolate chip ice cream, I would just tell myself to be strong and absentmindedly drink some water. Once I drank water, I didn’t want ice cream anymore. Soon enough I did this on purpose, to see if it really worked; whenever I started craving sugar, I would drink water. Every time, my cravings subsided and I felt fine. It just goes to show how important water is, and that when you feel a craving, you’re often just dehydrated.
Over time, I wanted sugar less.
At the beginning, every time I saw some sort of dessert, I would feel a pang of disappointment and frustration. When my friends would mention going out for ice cream or cookies, I would sigh heavily with regret. However, over time I became more and more immune to the sugar cravings. It became sad that I could not indulge in such sugary foods, but I didn’t actually want those foods. The thought of sugar was more tempting than the actual foods that I couldn’t have.
I would definitely do this again.
21 days is a long time, and while I can’t speak to whether or not this experience has created a long-lasting habit, I know this has affected my health at least in the short-term. It made me feel different, healthier, and empowered to see that I could muster enough willpower to go 21 days without something I had always loved. I’ll definitely be putting myself to the test with more 21 day challenges in the future. Maybe this is the way to end my stress-induced snacking? The possibilities are endless.
If you have a habit you want to get rid of or establish, try a 21 day challenge!
Editing Note: This article did not filter through the normal EmpowHER editing and fact checking process. It was checked for spelling and grammar.Read more in Being HER