June was the month for quitting sugar. Quitting sugar was a significant milestone in my Year of Quitting. Not only did it come right in the middle of the year, but it required the biggest commitment and most challenging lifestyle change.
After I quit sugar I was different. I had a new mindset to tackle my challenges. I had a new confidence in myself.
Suddenly the rest of the Year of Quitting didn’t seem quite so daunting. I was now looking forward eagerly to each month’s experiment.
I now knew that if I could quit sugar, I could quit anything.
Here are some of the other lessons I learned.
Sugar is addictive.
Sugar is probably one of the most difficult things to give up. It’s everywhere. It’s in things you don’t even realize, like dried cranberries, and frozen pizza. It’s in juices, yogurt, cereal, bread. It’s in pretty much everything you eat. And it’s addictive.
Yes. My name is Salgu and I’m addicted to sugar. I’ve been addicted my whole life. I’ve always loved sweets and baked goods. I could eat a half a package of milano cookies in one sitting. There was a time in my life when my freezer was continuously stocked with mint chocolate chip ice-cream, my favorite, for a straight 6 months. Because it was my comfort food, and I thought I needed it to survive. Yes, actually survive. (Ok now, I realize that is a silly thought.)
The point is I relied on sugar as a comfort food. When I was depressed I would turn to sugar. When I was happy I would turn to sugar. I never thought I would ever want to give up sugar one day, let alone think I even could.
But then one day I watched this episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver exposing the truth of the sugar industry in America. This planted the idea in my head that maybe it would be a fun experiment to try to give sugar up.
Once you pop, you can’t stop.
Addictions are called addictions for a reason. You can’t control them. As hard as you try, your will power alone is not enough. That’s why you have to quit completely. Even if you tell yourself. “I’ll just have one more.” One more turns into two more, turns into 10 more. The slogan of the Pringles commercial is not lying when it says: “Once you pop, you can’t stop.”
I can do anything.
When I quit sugar, I not only quit sugar, I quit a lot of other things too. I quit eating out. I quit eating a lot of the foods I used to eat. I quit buying ready made foods, which means I had to replace almost everything in my diet. I had to find new recipes and cook everything on my own. And once I started, it turned out to be a lot more enjoyable than I thought. Actually quiting sugar made me more creative with my diet and my cooking skills. Even so, it was a lot of work. But it’s work I did and am continuing to do. So it’s possible. Anything is possible.
Substitutions are always allowed.
The first thing I made myself during my sugar fast was pesto. But I didn’t have pine nuts or basil. So I made it entirely with substitutions. I used cilantro and almonds instead. It was delicious. It turns out in any recipe if there is something you don’t have you can just replace it entirely. No vinegar? Use lemon juice. No curry? Use cumin. No sugar? Use honey… you get the idea.
Anything you want to buy you can make at home.
Once I started making stuff at home, I realized it was kind of fun. I made my own pesto, I made my own naan, I made my own pasta sauce, I made my own tortillas, I made my own ice-cream. Any time I have a craving for something, or I’m in a store and I see something I want to buy, like pasta, or yogurt. I say, “Wait a minute, Can I make that myself?” Then I go home and figure out how to make it. A few weeks ago I wanted to buy some pasta. But I refrained. And when I went home I had pasta on my mind, so I looked up how to make gnocchi, and it turned out to be pretty delicious.
You can just omit stuff
Since June ended, sometimes I allow myself a little bit of sugar here and there, but mostly I try to replace it with honey. When I do make something with sugar, like cookies, I notice that I literally can’t stop eating them. So now when I find recipes for cookies or breads or other things that call for sugar, I usually just leave it out completely. Sure the bread is less sweet, but as long as there are other spices and things it usually tastes just fine. I tend to make a lot of fruit or veggie breads, like peaches and carrot bread. The fruit usually adds enough sweetness that the missing sugar isn’t missing. It blew my mind the first time I made peach crumble during the summer of peaches, and we just didn’t add any sugar at all. It was still delicious.
Sometimes fasting is the only way to become detached.
Given that addictions are impossible to stop with will power alone, sometimes the best way to overcome them is to go cold turkey. Even when I brought the sugar back, I realized I’m still attached. Then one night I had a dream. An aspect of myself had cancer and said she couldn’t eat sugar or rice. I got the message loud and clear. Cut the sugar out. Completely. So I did. And life goes on. Once I knew sugar was absolutely no longer an option, then I just had to find ways to replace it and live life with out it.
There is a life after sugar.