I gave up sugar for February to raise money for Cancer Research. And also to test my will power and to try to change my relationship with sweet stuff. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but my consumption of biscuits, cake, puddings & sweets has been increasing steadily over the last few years and I’ve decided to try to not get diabetes. I thought a clean break for a month might break my bad habits.

I decided not to eat honey or maple syrup either, because they are just too obvious as cheats and no healthier than refined sugar, really. I did have some ketchup a few times, which contains sugar, and when we had Chinese takeaway for my son’s birthday I didn’t ask but I expect that did have sugar in it, too. Those were my two ‘cheats’: ketchup & chow mein. Full disclosure. This is not a begging post. I just wanted to record what my experience was like, but if you did want to donate then you can do so on my fundraising page.

I’ve heard a lot about sugar being addictive, so I thought that the first week would be the hardest, and that denying myself would get gradually easier as I broke bad habits and got the sugar out of my system. What happened, though, was the exact opposite. I sailed through the first week, just doing a bit more ingredients-list-reading than usual (though having kids with allergies and with three of them being vegans I already do a fair bit of that). I hadn’t realised that there would be not one breakfast cereal I’d be able to eat all month, for instance. Not even corn flakes or Fruit and Fibre. But I didn’t miss the sweet stuff that first week at all, except for when Cancer Research sent me ‘encouraging’ emails including large, loving, close-up pictures of sweet treats. I stopped opening those. Not at all helpful. But not painful either, at least, not to start with.

For the last few days of the month, though, I was obsessed with sweet food. My cravings got steadily worse until I couldn’t focus on anything else for very long and had no energy. Denying myself made me want it so much more. I’ve always found banned things the most attractive. But I also think now that my body does need it. Not in the quantities it had got used to. Not even every day. But a bit of sweetness every week is good for me. Going without sugar did not make me feel healthier at any point, and after the third week, it made me feel a whole lot less healthy. That I was not expecting.

I also noticed that my intake of fat and salt went up a lot. I have certainly not lost any weight. I ate a lot of dried fruit too, though, which has got to be a good thing. Maybe a bit more fresh fruit, but I’ve always preferred to balance my 5-a-day heavy on the vegetables and I can’t say that fresh fruit looked any more attractive just ‘cos I was off the refined sugar.

I managed it! Twenty eight days with no cake (though I baked two), ice cream, cereal, cookies, pastries, chocolate or sweeties. This morning, Wednesday 1st March, I had a big bowl of pecan and maple crisp for breakfast, and a slice of cake with my coffee when I got back from the school run. I spent yesterday planning to binge today, but, actually, I don’t want any more yet. That’s enough for now. The craving is all satisfied.

I’m going to aim for a healthy balanced diet from now on, I think. One which doesn’t exclude any food groups.

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