If you are taking on the 14-Day NO Sugar Challenge, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve been getting so many messages from people asking me, “what does no sugar mean?”
For 14 days, we are going to start noticing just how much our bodies have become accustomed to extra sugars and extra sweetness. After doing the Whole 30 Challenge a few years ago, I learned quite honestly how addicted to sugar I was. It wasn’t just “sugar” as you would think, since I already follow a whole foods diet and eat “clean” 80-90% of the time. I am not concerned with my weight or good eating habits but instead, just focusing on what it was my body and taste buds have become accustomed to and what that would do to my body if I continued to delude myself that I was doing a good enough thing. I was simply comparing my habits to the habits of the general population; who eat mostly processed and fast foods more often than naught. What I wasn’t considering was the fact that I still had a problem and needed to deal with it sooner, than later.
If you are concerned for your own sugar addictions or health issues that may come from overly stimulation to sweetness; let’s start by addressing some basic health concerns that are caused by too much sugar in the diet.
High blood sugar, which is caused by too much glucose in your blood, can lead to diabetes. Refined carbs, like white rice or white-flour baked goods, are common culprits that lead to high blood sugar. In addition to the high sugar content, they lack fiber which prevents glucose spikes, and this wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels. Simply put, when there is too much sugar in the blood stream at one time, it will lead to fat storage and insulin resistance. This is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. It’s no surprise then that this health risk is a rising concern in the medical industry as more and more people are being diagnosed with diabetes.
What I had noticed in my own sugar challenge and assessment, was that I frequently turned to more “natural” sugars to feed my palate and cravings. Although I’m not one to pick up a doughnut or sugar laced coffee drink; I found myself turning to fruits and healthier sugar options such as stevia and honey. When taken in moderate doses, it wouldn’t be a concern but the fact that I was using these options after my meals was a red-light trigger for me to assess. Fructose is found in fruits, and while I could justify my “better” choices over more popular options, too much fructose also plays a role in these issues and diseases. Our liver turns any excessive sugars into triglycerides that get stored in the fat cells throughout our bodies. The more sugars we eat (in any form), the more fat we store. Yuck! Another surprising result is that too much sugar, even from the fructose found in fruits, can lead to a buildup of belly fat that has been linked to type 2 diabetes.
Do I have your attention now?
In my research, I also noticed the amount of stevia and honey I was “needing” in my foods was more than I had realized until I began tracking. I would sprinkle a packet of stevia or a teaspoon of honey into my teas, I’d pour some over my yogurt with berries, I’d put it on just about anything and still feel like I was “in control” of my habits as it was considered “clean”. But I started to count up how many times I’d add these extra sweeteners (even though natural and clean) into my foods and drinks and it become apparent that I was addicted to overly sweet flavors and tastes – just as most of the population is these days. I was just getting it in a way that I could validate as “healthier”; it may be healthier than white sugars and simple carbs but it still falls into the category of “too many sugars”.
Sugar comes in a few different forms: Glucose, fructose and sucrose. Glucose helps keep all of our systems chugging along smoothly. Carbs break down into glucose and is our body’s main source of fuel. The fructose that is found in fruits (and the only type of sugar found in fruits) is metabolized in the liver, and not in the bloods stream. Table sugars, or sucrose, is a combination of both glucose and fructose.
So for just 2 weeks, or 14 days, I challenge you to join me in this challenge. We are going to start noticing just where that added sugar comes from, and kick it out of our lives. We will start with the obvious culprits such as; sodas, candies, pastries and desserts (come on, isn’t your health and belly fat important enough to do this for just 14 days??) – and start to check the food labels to see where the rest of our sugars is coming from.
I will start by saying that the “challenge” part of this IS going to be a definite challenge because you will soon realize that there is sugar in almost EVERYTHING!!!
So, I want to ask you first, have you ever realized this before? If not, this has probably already taught you more than you imagined, right?
Did you know that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of sugar per day for men, and no more than 24 grams per day for women? That is the equivalent of just 9 tsp of sugar and 6 tsp of sugar. If we just ate foods that contained sugar naturally (for example milk has lactose, which is a natural milk sugar, fruit has fructose, a natural fruit sugar) we would reach that cap naturally through the course of the day.
The problem isn’t those foods at all, it’s all the foods that aren’t in their natural form that have had sugar added to them “to make them taste good.” You can solve this by getting in the habit of reading the ingredients list, and checking the food label for grams of sugar.
This can be tricky if you’ve never tried it before – but here’s why you should: many common products you wouldn’t expect have sugar added in various forms. Foods like bread, condiments, pasta sauce, flavored non-dairy milk, creamer, most cereals and salad dressing often have added sugar. What can you do? Look for the ones that don’t, try something else, or make your own.
If you’re worried about what to put in your coffee..try plain, full-fat coconut milk. It’s a delicious alternative to creamer and sugar and has its own natural sugar. If you read the label on the can, the only ingredient listed will be “coconut.” You can also add spices like nutmeg and cinnamon to your coffee for a little natural flavoring without the sugar. And if you’re thinking maybe Equal or Sweet n Low would be a better choice in your coffee than than a couple spoonfuls of sugar, keep reading….
Alternative sugar products can make you think they’re the smart choice – but alternative sweeteners have the same potential to trigger an insulin response by tricking your brain and body into thinking its having the real thing. Not to mention, many alternative sugars have been linked to negative health conditions.
Be on the lookout for: dextrose, maltodextrin, sucrose, fructose, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, acesulfame potassium (sold as Sweet One – often combined with aspartame or sucralose to sweeten gum, diet soda and other sweet products), aspartame (Nutri-sweet and equal), saccharin (sold as Sweet n’ Low), stevia (combined with sugar alcohol and sold under brand names like Truvia and Pure Via), high fructose corn syrup (made by treating starch extracted from corn with enzymes to make fructose and glucose) – and if there’s anything on a food label that you think might be sugar, google it.
Let me be clear. There is NOTHING wrong with sweets and treats in moderation, and many of the above sugars aren’t bad sugars. The purpose of this challenge is not to demonize our dessert, it’s to cut back our consumption of the foods that have sneaky sugar added to them. That sneaky sugar is a serious culprit in weight gain, chronic inflammation and worst of all, long term health issues.
Why should we avoid added sugar?
The problem with added sugar is that it creates situation overload in your system very rapidly. There is a delicate internal equilibrium regulated by your hormones that keeps you energized and tells your body what to do with the nutrients you take in. Food is measured by a scale called the “glycemic index,” which measures how rapidly that food causes your blood sugar to rise. The higher the glycemic index (GI), the faster your blood sugar spikes when you eat that food.
We don’t want our blood sugar spiking, because it causes the hormone insulin to come into play. Insulin, and important hormone that will stabilize your blood sugar also triggers fat storage. Once it does its job, you’ll feel lethargic, sleepy – and crave MORE sugar because you’ll suddenly be feeling low energy. Crazy, right?
It really helps explain why people get into that constant sugar craving cycle, and why it’s so easy to keep gaining weight once you start. Keep that 26 grams per day recommendation in mind and check the food labels on a typical breakfast – between a bowl of breakfast cereal, a cup of vanilla soymilk and a banana, you could already be over 26 grams, and your day hasn’t even started yet!
So what kind of sweetness can I have?
1. You may NOT eat anything with ADDED sugar in it, this includes, breads, milks, sauces, ANYTHING that has added sugar. (for those using Shakeology, you can continue with this once per day only.)
2. You may eat general food that have a small amount of natural sugar already in it.
3. Natural Sugar – You may eat ONE piece of fruit a day.
4. Sugar substitutes – No Sugar substitutes through the challenge.
5. No Alcohol during the challenge.
**If in doubt general rule, if it has ADDED sugar of any sort its a NO
Our goal is to obviously adopt this habit lifelong. Through our own habits, we will help the people in our lives start to realize how much sugar is in everything that they generally eat. We will learn that cutting it out and taking control of our choices can start to bring the results that we want and get rid of the extras that we don’t want or need! (think belly fat, bad habits, addictions to foods, cravings, and long term health issues)
The goal of this challenge
The goal of this challenge is to decrease our consumption of added sugar. Because sneaky, added sugar is the cause of so much weight gain, inflammation and health problems, it’s worth finding out which foods you’re eating regularly contain it. There are so many alternatives that taste better, and are infinitely better for your body that won’t cause the long-term negative effects.
Read your food labels, ask questions, and do your best. It can really help to have your food planned for the day, and bring it with you so you aren’t tempted by things around you because you’re hungry. If you are taking the challenge, here is a contract to keep you honest and on track.