You expect that most posts where someone has just come off of some kind of sugar detox would be filled with enthusiastic epiphanies all about how the month started bad and then miraculously fixed everything wrong with the person’s gut, skin, and emotional health in general, which would then be rounded off with a dramatic call to action at the end of post for everyone to follow suit with an experiment of their own.
This is not that post.
As I’ve talked in multiple (yes, multiple) posts before about my (ahem) slight sugar addiction, I won’t bore you with more details of it here. All you need to know is that after the usual holiday season of indulgences, Matt and I were ready to cut back a bit.
So we both decided to go off sugar for all of January, at least when it showed up in the form of traditional treats. (I didn’t want to have to go crazy reading labels or make every last thing from scratch, so I just called off the traditional treats made with refined sugar rather than try to eliminate every last ounce of the sweet stuff from every corner of our eating lives.)
I don’t remember which Gretchen Rubin book it’s in, but in one of her books at any rate, she talks about how you need to figure out if you’re an “Abstainer” or a “Moderator” in order to have the best rate of success for certain kinds of goals.
If you’re an abstainer and you’re trying to cut out a bad habit, it’s better for you if it’s not around, period. So, in this case, you would just clear out all the sugary treats from your home, and you’d be good to go. Generally, these people only really want stuff that’s right in front of them, so if it’s no longer there as an option, they don’t really crave or miss it too much. My husband is an Abstainer, through and through. You take the treats away from his eyesight, and he doesn’t really think about them.
Me, on the other hand? I am a hard-core Moderator, which means that I’m usually pretty good at being able to enjoy something in moderate amounts and not go too crazy. It also means that the second I “ban” something from my life, that’s going to be all I think about or want.
Did we both complete the month of going without treats made with refined sugar?
Yes. (We didn’t even cheat once!)
It was awful for me. Like, way more awful than it probably should have been. And it wasn’t just going through the initial withdrawal symptoms that was bad, or that we just felt like we were missing out at parties (although both of those held true)—-it was awful because it was on my mind all the time. There were multiple times I thought throughout the month, “If I could have just eaten one Hershey kiss, I wouldn’t have spent the last hour and a half thinking about them.”
Additionally, I actually didn’t notice that much of a difference (which I guess is a good thing, because it means that our eating habits probably weren’t too bad to begin with). I actually only lost a pound and a half the first week then stayed the same weight-wise until the *very* end of the month, when I suddenly dropped two and a half more pounds (though that was probably due more to me not having anything in the grocery budget to buy much food the past week and a half, so we subsisted on random odds and ends in the pantry).
So mentally and physically, it wasn’t exactly the month of triumph I was hoping it would be (though I won’t complain that it did, at least, help me lose the last 3 pounds so that I’m now back at my pre-pregnancy weight). While the month made me realize just how deep my addiction to sugar went, there were also many times I just wanted to move on from thinking about it already—it’s like it gained ten times its allure when I said it was off-limits, rather than just tell myself I can have some, but just to watch my portions.
Yes, I realize I have a problem.
But, I also recognize that my self-control is better directed in other ways. In other words, because I really and truly can be pretty good about eating treats in small amounts, it’s something I should probably take advantage of, rather than try to be something I’m not.
So the solution is this—
Since Matt would prefer the treats to be out of the house, I will simply buy a lot less of them. Then, when I want something, I’ll be forced to make a treat of some kind, which should buy me some time in thinking about if I really want it that badly or not. Since sugar won’t be off-limits, I won’t be thinking about it all the time, and since I won’t be buying ready-made treats, I’ll buy myself time to make sure I eat them mindfully.
Honestly, the thing that saved me this last month was the recipe I’m including below for peanut butter cookies (that are made with honey rather than refined sugar). The original recipe (which I only slightly modified from one a neighbor gave me) calls for whole wheat flour, but I wasn’t about to go *too* crazy, so I just used white (and I don’t repent of it, either!).
***Note: If your healthy habits are much more virtuous than mine, you can make these puppies even healthier by subbing in the whole wheat flour and also making sure your peanut butter consists only of nuts, with nothing else added in. As for me, we just went with the cheapest stuff I could find on sale at the store.
Peanut Butter Cookies (made with Honey)
1 cup peanut butter
¾ cup honey
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1. Heat oven to 350°.
2. Cream together the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Add flour, salt, and baking soda and mix well.
3. Using a small cookie scoop or your hands, form the dough into small balls (about the size of a ping pong). Place about 2” – 3” apart on a thick cookie sheet. Using the back of a fork, make a criss-cross design on each ball. (Note: you will likely need to dip the back of the fork in flour first, or spray it with nonstick cooking spray.)
4. Bake about 7 – 8 minutes or until lightly golden on top (cookies should still be soft).
Yield: about 1-1/2 dozen cookies
Are you a moderator or an abstainer? And have you made any health-related resolutions this year? How are they going?