Well, tonight is the last night of our family’s 21-day sugar fast. After a busy, debaucherous summer (we discovered every gelato, frozen custard and chocolate shop within walking distance in our new neighborhood) I decided to start the school year off right. My first two acts were to limit the number of days that school lunches could contain chips of any sort to two and to impose a ban on sugar of any kind for 21 days.
The girls sputtered and moaned, but I pointed out that I would be foregoing some of my favorite things, too (ahem, wine contains sugar, people!), and they scuffled their feet and nodded their heads. There was no denying we overindulged this summer and I was intent on breaking the habit of having some sort of treat each and every day.
The ban extended to honey and agave (the girls love to put it in their tea and on bread), but not to sugar from whole fruit.
The first morning came with a new kind of awakening: my favorite breakfasts all include sugar of some sort. Yogurt with fruit and granola – out. Baked goods (even gluten-free ones) – out. Oatmeal with brown sugar and dried fruit – out. Even a bagel with cream cheese was unacceptable since the bagel has sugar in it to make the bread rise. Eggs became my best friend for a while.
I headed to the local co-op to grind my own nut butters, sans salt or sugar, and stock up on sweet-tasting veggies like sugar snap peas and sweet bell peppers. I learned to make oatmeal with dried fruit and water that leached the sweetness out of the fruit to add to the oats. I discovered that most commercial salad-dressings contain sugar or cane juice or agave and stuck to salads without. The girls were horrified to learn that most brands of ketchup have sugar as their second or third ingredient and that honey-mustard was no longer an option for their chicken nuggets (homemade and GF).
Within three days we had all lost our cravings for treats such as ice cream or cookies after dinner, and were continually shocked to find other things that contained ‘hidden’ sugars – like sweet potato chips and even some canned soups. We hadn’t felt like we ate much sugar in our regular diet (not counting desserts or occasionally indulgent Sunday breakfasts of waffles or pancakes), but we were pretty amazed to find that we eat a lot more than we thought.
None of us had any sort of earth-shattering revelations from our sugar fast like physical symptoms disappearing or behavioral changes, but I do think I lost a few pounds. It would be hard to know given that I don’t own a scale, but my pants feel a bit looser. I did cheat one night when Bubba and I went out to dinner to celebrate selling his company, indulging in a few glasses of wine. I woke up around 2am, my heart pounding with anxiety and my mouth dry from dehydration – a good bit of information to tuck away for future reference.
Probably the most profound lessons I learned, however, are these:
1. We can do it – all of us. The girls were absolute troopers, even given the fact that their friends at school were constantly bringing in treats to share (although they can’t have most of them given their gluten allergy, anyway). They did keep a count of how many days were left in the challenge, but never, ever did either of them break in to a massive whine festival or refuse to try.
2. There is a LOT more sugar/honey/agave in our diet than we ever realized. The girls and I decided that next time it would be cool to measure how many teaspoons of sugar we managed to avoid in 21 days and pile it up on the counter in a bowl. I suspect it would freak us all out at the end of the challenge.
Tomorrow I will let the girls have a decadent breakfast as a reward for their hard work and willingness to try the sugar fast, but I know that their awareness of what they put in to their bodies has just become that more attuned and they aren’t likely to seek out sugar every day anymore. Eve, who has a sweet tooth to rival The Candyman, admitted to me that she has stopped craving sugary treats altogether. That doesn’t mean she won’t accept a gluten-free cupcake or a trip to frozen custard now and then, but if we can keep it to a minimum, I’ll be one happy mom.