I quit sugar for 28 days
There were two goals I had set for 2023, which were losing weight and improving my fitness. I guess these two goals go hand in hand — exercise and healthier eating. The fitness part has been relatively easy, even if I didn’t feel like I got enough some days. I smashed the rings on my Apple Watch most days, apart from the 10 days I chose to ditch my Apple Watch for a basic Casio watch. I’m kept active with my job at a school with a combination of sports, outdoor education and generally being on my feet all day.
Furthermore, I have a cross trainer and weights to keep me busy in the evening, including the press-ups and planks I throw in during each workout session. Each Sunday involves a bike ride around the local area and the beautiful scenes along the High Peak canal route. Muscle-wise, I have noticed a difference through my exercise routines.
However, there has been one underlining issue I can’t ignore. Even with all this exercise, I still had a weight problem. My stomach had been growing to a point I looked pregnant. I don’t drink alcohol, so it can’t be a drinking issue. I had reduced my milk intake, so it can’t be a lactose issue. Not only that, but I reflected on what was happening, and I decided to start a food journal at the start of June 2023 to see what was going on. I logged everything I ate, and I mean everything. It hit me early in the logging with what was happening with my diet. I was aware we have triggers such as boredom, stress, comfort eating and so on. My triggers appeared to come every day after work.
The concern wasn’t clear before the logging because I started most days with a smallish breakfast of porridge and my midday lunch always included a salad or vegetables. My family meal in the evening included vegetables or fibre-rich content alongside some kind of protein. I don’t go to establishments like McDonald’s, KFC, Domino’s and others along this description. I haven’t for over a year now. After reviewing the log, I noticed the areas between meals. This is where I saw how I had a weight issue.
Immediately, I saw the snacking and bingeing on unhealthy snacks on my way home from work. I lost how many times I would say, “One last time,” before going back to the same shop the next day on my way home. The problem was: I had a busy day at work, I didn’t eat enough at lunch, and now I had over an hour to drive home. The combination of energy drinks, crisps, sweets, and chocolate (not all at once) has affected my body more than expected.
It didn’t stop there, though. Oh no. It gets worse! You see, once at home and I had eaten with my family, I would stay up late, and I would get bored instead of going to bed. The cravings would kick in, and I would go searching for anything that was unhealthy, sugary and ‘felt good’. This is not a good thing to do before bedtime. It impacts sleep and your teeth.
The situation had got to a point where I felt self-conscious about being seen in public, and I hated going to work because of my weight. I would add extra layers of clothing, knowing I would be uncomfortably hot throughout the day. In reality, the extra layers intensified my abdominal bulge. It doesn’t help that I have an unusual curve to my spine, so I look bigger anyway,
Financially, it is unsustainable. Some days, I would spend over £5 ($6.42) a day on junk food and drink. Other days I would spend less. Whatever way you look at it, I had spent my money on junk for 181 days (January to June). That is a whopping £905 ($1162) in six months. Just think what you could do with all that money. I had paid for the privilege of being overweight and causing damage to my body and mental health. Things had to change.
Another issue with high sugary diets is the lack of energy to get through the day. These snacks give you quick energy boosts and dopamine hits, but they suck all the life out of your energy levels. Poor diets cause low mood, mental health issues, and they are the perfect recipe to kill your productivity.
What I did next
I must apologise now for the clickbait title. My intention for the change in my life is indefinite, not 28 days as described. TDLR: I managed 28 days until I relapsed on my promise to never eat a sugary snack again.
I cut out all sugary snacks, crisps, carbonated drinks and focused my attention on eating as healthily as possible. I reduced my diet to three meals a day, with no snacking in between them. The experience wasn’t exactly pleasant. I spent two weeks feeling hungry all the time. I was grouchy, suffered brain fog, and felt physically weak.
Around the third week, things started to change. I noticed I was feeling positive most of the time. I had more energy. I’m uncertain if this had to do with the exercise I was currently carrying out. Either way, I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. A surprising change came in the form of better sleep. I felt less restless during the night and fresher in the morning. I could manage the demands at work and still have enough energy to complete a 10K cross trainer exercise. Likewise, I was happy, like all the time. Positive energy radiated from me. This was the best form I had been in years.
When you start a diet, you will find every sugary snack you like will be on show. Everywhere I went in public I could see all the snacks, drinks and other temptations paraded in front of me. Have you ever noticed the classic junk food is on display at the front of every store? Seriously, this did not help me in the slightest.
The petrol (gas for those in the US) station had a crazy number of snacks on show as I would fill up my car. I wasn’t impressed with this assortment of food. Why not promote healthier food like fruit? I decided I would use stations where they allowed me to pay for fuel at the pump, completely removing the need to expose myself to these temptations.
By the 20th day, I was able to walk past any isle in my local supermarket without even a twitch for the food I would previously jump for. Instead, I headed to the fruit section before going to get some Shredded Wheat and porridge cereal. Nice.
By the 29th day, I had messed up. The failure to prepare for my school trip meant I was aimlessly feasting on what was in the goodie bag and what the theme park had to offer. Chocolate bars, juice, fish and chips, as well as a can of Dr. Pepper meant I was at square one again. My head was racing as the sugar and other extremities of the contents flushed through my body. I felt like Jim Carey did in his film Yes Man. I might as well had been chanting, “Red Bull, Red Bull, Red Bull.” My body was on high alert and my energy levels peaked. By the time I got home that evening, I felt shattered. I’m unsure if it was the exhausting day with twenty plus people or a complete sugar crash.
Guilt and disappointment were the words I would use to summarise my feelings. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and my gut felt off. As I woke up, I remember feeling drained and unwell. I shouldn’t have because it was the last day of the term. I am always excited about the last day of the term. I wasn’t. I spent the day eating as very little as possible. Furthermore, I called it my water day diet because water was the main intake for the day.
I plan to stick with my ‘diet’ if you can call it that. I refer to it as dietary requirements, to be honest. The biggest hurdle is not abstaining from snacking and the unhealthy food choices. In fact, I would say the challenge is to educate myself with picking the right foods and alternatives, so I am able to get the energy, nutrients, and above all, enjoy what I eat.
Now that I am enjoying the summer holidays, I have to be aware I am not burning as much energy as I would working in a school. My exercise routine will have to increase to match the same level of calories I would burn when working. In addition, I need to watch what I am eating. Boredom throughout the holidays is a real thing. In work, I don’t have the chance to be bored. At home, it is a different story.
I will update you on my progression. I feel this a moment in my life where the need to stay healthy is greater than my want for high sugary snacks and drinks.
If you have any tips to improve health and fitness, please let me know.
Mark @ CodeMacLife.com