Seven years ago I was so physically and mentally tired that I decided to make some changes in my life. I changed my nutrition and started to exercise (more about my story here). Since then I have been more focused on what I eat and my workouts; I run at least twice a week. For those who can’t or don’t like run, I recommend a nice 45-minute walk.
Healthy eating and regular exercise quickly became my fitness routine and it has been working perfectly. Tiredness, back pain, insomnia, and headaches have all disappeared. But, and I have to be honest, I still feel some moments of low energy and have a little extra weight on my belly. I often feel my belly is a little bloated.
As I put more attention on what I was eating and doing, I realized that, between main meals, I was constantly having small snacks like a can of coke while working, granola bars before lunch, cookies and chocolates while watching a movie…I was developing some addictive cravings for sweet food.
I was making and eating healthy meals but having too many sweet snacks during the day. Then I thought “well I run twice a week, I eat healthy meals, so could it be the sweets? But, I don’t eat too many a day …”
However, the truth was that my lack of energy and my belly bloat was always worse just after I ate a chocolate bar. Strange; they say chocolate gives you energy so why would I feel tired? That didn’t make any sense! So I decided to learn more about how sugar effects the human body.
I applied the same principles I used seven years ago: If my body is not feeling good, I’m probably doing something my body doesn’t like. Your body gives you a lot of signs so we just need be more aware of what’s going on.
I started to investigate sugar on internet, read some books, and watched documentaries about sugar (“Sugar the bitter truth” on YouTube) .
The information really blew my mind! While watching the documentary, sometimes I felt like I was in the middle of one of those conspiracy theories you find on internet nowadays.
I’m very skeptical person so I decided to take action for myself. I decided to do a 20 days no-sugar diet to see if what I’ve read had any truth to it. What better way to find out than giving it a try myself? All I had to do was not eat nor drink sugar for 20 days!
On 1st January, I started my 20 days’ sugar free diet.
My Diary for the first 7 days without sugar
I always start my day with coffee or tea and I have always added sugar. This was my first challenge; having my coffee with no sugar at all. It tasted strong and bitter, or in other words, it really tasted like coffee. But wait, I’m a coffee lover and I don’t like the taste of coffee? I drunk it, although I didn’t enjoy it.
Then, I prepared my fruit bowl. I love to have fruit for breakfast. I chopped one apple and one orange, and I was about to add a fruit flavored yogurt when I checked the yogurt’s nutrition label.
Wow! 26 grams of sugar in 170 grams of yogurt! But “The American Heart Association” recommends 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar per day for women” (from my article “5 Healthy Reasons to Avoid Sugar”). I was already exceeding my sugar limit on my breakfast alone! I ditched the yogurt and just ate the fruit. Next time I go to the supermarket I’ll check the nutrition label and buy a low sugar yogurt (learn how to read food nutrition labels on my guide “How to Identify Sugar on Nutrition labels”).
I was working and my stomach started to rumble; I needed to eat something. I went to the nearest supermarket and started to check nutrition labels of snacks that I could buy: donuts, cookies, granola bars. And I was, shocked!
High amounts of sugar in a supposedly “healthy” granola bar, a lot of fat and sugar in donuts, cookies containing high levels of salt and sugar. It was hard to believe, but that’s the truth of most of the processed food that’s available on the shelfs of supermarkets – it’s nothing but sugar-filled, high salt, high fat junk!
I bought some cheese and went to the bakery to get some rye. Cheese on rye. Honestly I felt more full eating a cheese sandwich than any of my usual high-sugar snacks.
As I said before, I put time and effort into having healthy main meals so I had a Oven-baked frittata recipe here.
I went back to the supermarket but, this time, I went directly to the vegetables section. I bought a tomato, one avocado, and some cheese. I chopped the avocado and the tomato and added the slices to the bread and the cheese to make a nice avocado-tomato-cheese sandwich. Fresh and really filling because the avocado contains a lot of good fats (avocado is a superfood ) and potassium, which can make you feel fuller for longer.
I cooked a tasty, healthy Light Lasagna.
My sugar addiction started top kick in after dinner. I was feeling like I needed something sweet to eat. Instead of looking in the kitchen, as I knew I had chocolates there, I started to organize some books I have in my room (a task I’ve been delaying for months). This task took me one hour and, after that, I felt really good as I found some books that I thought I’d lost. My sugar cravings disappeared almost totally too, so it was time to grab a book, read, and get some sleep.
The coffee today did not taste so bitter, and I’m starting to discover flavors that I have never tasted before due to sugar. I’m starting to enjoy my no-added-sugar coffee
I prepared my fruit bowl with kefir. Why Kefir? Looking for an alternative to fruit flavored yogurts, I realized that a lot of yogurt contains too much sugar, so I decided to give kefir a try as it’s a superfood. Initially it has a bitter flavor but mixing with fruit makes it tastes very good.
I had a homemade sandwich made from fresh ingredients, and without sauces, preservatives, and any type of added sugar.
I prepared a delicious No bread beef and horseradish wrap.
I prepared a kale and apple green smoothie (recipe here) with no sugar added.
Time for a Low-Sugar – Speedy stir-fried chicken with broccoli.
After dinner, my sweet cravings started again. As I did the other day, I occupied myself and my thoughts by doing simple home tasks such as washing dishes and cleaning the floor. It really helped me to not think about sweets, sugar, chocolate, and candies. Drinking water also helped, and so too did having an apple. Fruit contains natural sugar, nutrients, and fiber although the sugar name is the same (fructose), it exists in low levels and it’s processed differently in your body.
This time I tried tea without sugar. It tastes so much better! And the best part is that you can distinguish between the different flavors of different teas.
For my fruit bowl I decided to add some very low sugar (5 grams) muesli, that’s available on amazon.com.
I prepared and stored a superfood “Acai Berry Antioxidant” smoothie. It tastes good and makes me feel full for long time. Today I even delayed lunch as I was not as hungry as usually.
I had a late lunch with a friend and we went to a restaurant. I had a grilled steak with rice and a salad. No sauce for the meat, as restaurant and commercial sauces are usually high in sugar.
A black tea with hints of orange (love this one, “Mighty Leaf Black Tea”), no sugar added plus a homemade sandwich of cheese and tomato
I went to the supermarket and bought the ingredients for a delicious Baked eggs in peppers.
I’m starting to feel less hungry than usual. I bought two apples and I felt it was enough.
Prepared an easy and straightforward Champion chicken panini.
Again, not feeling as hungry as usually. A plain yogurt (low sugar) mixed with strawberries and just a little bit of no-sugar muesli was all I ate.
I prepared a Baked cabbage and no-added-sugar sausages.
After dinner, my sweet cravings returned again. In these moments, you realize how serious a sugar addiction can be. I slipped a little bit and I ate half of a chocolate bar.
Why only half? While eating it, I felt it was too sweet, reaching a point where I was not enjoying it anymore. Before, I could eat two chocolate bars in a row but now I couldn’t go more than two bites.
I finally realized what I have read was true; when you are free of sugar addiction you can have sugar but you’ll not be able to eat a lot because, when your body is working properly, it naturally says no to too much sugar.
The same thing happens when you drink water; your body tells you when it’s had enough and you stop being thirsty. In the past, I could eat lots of chocolate, candies and sweets but now, just a little seems to be enough and I can stop myself from eating more.
On my 5th no added sugar day I woke up and I felt full of energy. It could be for a lot of reasons but since no added sugar was the only change I’ve made to my daily routine, it may be because of that but let’s see how the day goes.
I put the kefir in a bowl and added some strawberries and papaya plus half a teaspoon of honey. I know honey contains sugar but it’s only half teaspoon so this is not even a slip.
As with yesterday, I’m feeling hungry but not crazy hungry like before I started this no-added-sugar challenge. I prepared a super veggie cocktail smoothie for my mid-morning snack. My Vitamix blender does an amazing job blending kale and flaxseeds. The recipe doesn’t mention flaxseeds but I added some as they tastes great.
I did a Sugar-Free – Pan-seared salmon with asparagus and quinoa.
I skipped this snack today. I didn’t try to avoid it but I simply wasn’t hungry at all. I only realized this when it was time for dinner. That was a big surprise! It’s true that, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your hunger hormones start working properly and you don’t feel hungry all the time, like I was before. Well done me!
Since I skipped my afternoon snack I prepared a big dinner. I made a Low-Sugar – Light lasagna. What happened? I couldn’t finish it all! It was very tasty but my body didn’t want it anymore. I ended up very full with this meal, too full I would say. I had three servings when one would have been enough for me. What happen next it was surprise.
You know that feeling when you eat too much but you still want to eat a very sweet dessert? It takes ages to finish digestion and you feel your stomach is so bloated. This time I didn’t have any dessert so, yes, I felt full but after 30 minutes the bloat was gone. I still felt full but not awfully full.
The reason is because sugar is a high-energy consumption task performed by the liver. Without sugar, your body only has to digest healthy things making it easier and faster to process food.
Still felt full so no more food for me today. Time to watch a movie, no popcorn or chocolate.
The movie finished late, I watched Rocky and it was nice to see this movie again. I woke up sleepy but with energy. I’m surprised with my energy levels. My body feels lighter and I’ve more energy that I would normally have after a late night.
I grabbed a banana and some strawberries and made a Strawberry-Banana smoothie. I skipped the “One tablespoon of honey (liquid form)”. The banana was so sweet that I didn’t need to add the honey. A delicious fruit smoothie to start my day!
I had a very busy working morning so no time for snacks and I didn’t feel hungry anyway. Just had a plain coffee with no sugar added. Those of you who love coffee, this one is amazingly good Koffee Kult Dark Roast (available on amazon.com).
A friend called me and we went for lunch at his place. He’s a pizza lover and he has been working on hos his pizza-making skills. We had a big margarita pizza. I asked if he adds any sugar to making the pizza, and he told me that for tomato sauce, needed for one normal size pizza, he adds one teaspoon of sugar to reduce the tomato acid flavor. Well one teaspoon is okay for a homemade, delicious, margarita. Now I have to learn how to make pizza!
I ate one apple which was perfectly enough. It’s happening; I no longer have the feeling that I could eat all day long.
Time for a simple Turkey and quinoa Thai-style low-sugar curry.
Busy and tiring day today, lots of work and not much sleep yesterday, so time to get to bed. And I’m not hungry at all.
I chopped one banana and one orange and put them together in a bowl. I strained the kefir and mixed it with the fruit and then added some no-sugar muesli which was yummy. That’s probably one of my favorite breakfasts right now. It’s really light and tastes so good in the morning.
For today’s snack, I made a homemade sandwich. I toasted two pieces of bread and added sliced boiled egg, tomato and avocado. High in protein, lots of healthy fats and so tasty.
For lunch I had a Sugar-Free – Mighty mozzarella and tomato salad.
Not really hungry but I wanted to have a kiwi and pear yogurt smoothie which is one of my favorite yogurt smoothies.
I did a simple No Added Sugar – Baked eggs in peppers.
After dinner, I ate one pear and that was enough. I feel full for longer after my main meals now.
That was the end of my first no added sugar week. I continued this plan for 13 more days.
20 No-Sugar Days Finished – Conclusions
After 20 days of no-added sugar, it was time to assess my progress and share my conclusions…
How I felt after 20 days without added sugar?
No tiredness and headaches – More Energy: My frequent end-of-the-day headaches are gone and tiredness on waking has been replaced with more energy in the mornings.
No more eating all the time – More focus: Feeling full and not going around the kitchen or supermarket feeling hungry helps my concentration and makes it easier to do the things that have to get done, especially at work.
Body Lighter: I’ve lost 11 pounds in 20 Days!
Belly is flatter: Not only has the bloated feeling gone but I my belly is visibly flatter.
Sugar addiction is gone: For the first four days I felt the need to eat sugar but at the end of the fourth day I had half a chocolate bar but couldn’t eat any more. My sugar addiction was beaten and today I don’t feel like “I need sugar”. Instead I enjoy bites of a candy or sweets but it’s an occasional treat and I can take it or leave it as I chose. I no longer feel like I HAVE to eat sweets.
After these amazing results, I created the 20 Day No-Sugar Challenge.
It’s a FREE and EASY challenge that you can combine with 21 Day Fix or any other home workout plan. There are only TWO simple rules:
1. No added sugar
2. No added artificial sweeteners
Sugar-free recipes for your daily meals. Sugar alternatives to avoid added sugar