I'm not the type of person to make New Year's resolutions. I know I won't keep them. So, I tried something different this year. When I heard that one of my favorite food bloggers, Pinch of Yum, was doing "Sugar Free January," I hopped on board. I could cut something out for a month, right? That's not very long. It would be good to do a detox. 

Sugar has been an enemy in the health world for a while now. In excess, it's linked with heart disease, metabolic problems, and can even block other nutrients, like fiber, that you should be getting. Sugar is in so many foods that we don't think twice about eating. I wanted to challenge myself to really think about what I was putting into my body. 

The Plan

I mostly followed what Pinch of Yum did. She committed to taking out certain sugars and sweeteners, such as refined sugar, corn syrup, agave, and packaged foods. The complete list is available here. I decided to just not eat refined sugar or added sweeteners. For me, this really meant not eating dessert and checking nutrition labels. On nutrition labels, if the sugar was natural (i.e. no added cane sugar), I went with it. I allowed myself to eat fruit and have a little maple syrup or honey here or there in my own cooking.

cereal, flour, dairy product
Andrea Leelike

At school, it's hard to know what you're eating when you aren't cooking for yourself. I often tend to crave something sweet after dinner because I'm not totally satisfied with my dining hall dinner. As Pinch of Yum talks about, it's important to commit, but don't be overly strict with yourself. If I really tried to cut out all sugar in the dining hall, I'd be left making a salad with no dressing.

How It Went

Strangely enough, the first few days were not bad. I think I was riding the high of making it past the first day. I did not experience any "withdrawal" symptoms that I was expecting. Within the first week, I did notice several changes in how I felt. Primarily, I felt way less bloated. I woke up and went to sleep feeling better. I also discovered that having tea or coffee at night was a good replacement for that Nutella toast I usually jump for at the dining hall.

chocolate, toast, cream, sweet, peanut butter, cake
Aakanksha Joshi

The most difficult times were going out to dinner. I had to stop and think about what might be in a sauce or what something was cooked in. It made me realize how often we eat sugar without really thinking about it. By the end of January, this thought process was normal for me. 

My sugar cravings did gradually decrease, but I have to admit that they are not gone. I still want something sweet every now and then. Pinch of Yum also suggested that there were ways to still eat dessert without the sugar. One of her recipes was chocolate almond butter cups without refined sugar. I personally did not try them, but could see myself making those in the future for a healthier dessert.

What I Learned

Believe it or not, folks, I do not need to eat dessert every day. I know, it's crazy, but it is possible to make it without dessert. As much as this was a test of willpower, it does go to show that moderation is key. I will be enjoying dessert in February, but maybe I'll have it just once or twice a week. I'll also be having Chinese food with all of those delicious and sweet sauces as soon as possible.

I also learned how important it is to think about where our food comes from and what goes into it. Unfortunately, most brands make you look for the ingredients instead of telling you upfront. It's all about doing your research and setting some guidelines for yourself. 

While I probably will not cut out sugar for an entire month again, I will think about how eat less sugar regularly. I want to make it a part of my lifestyle, not just restrict myself from eating things that I enjoy. If I can do it, anyone can do it.