Last October, a couple days before Halloween, I committed to “NO SUGAR NOVEMBER” for myself. I didn’t ask anyone to tag along and it was just going to be a month of no candy, cookies, cakes, ice creams, chocolate bars or “dessert” like “treats”. It wasn’t truly sugar-free, but it was meant to be a month free of the things I knew caused me to binge. I had a problem and that was that I couldn’t stop at just one. If I ate a cookie, I’d eat the entire sleeve or package. I craved sugary desserts and seemed to always find a reason to have a “treat” daily. While I still maintained a healthy weight and lifestyle, I hated the trance that the dessert would put me in! It felt like a magnet pulling me in and I couldn’t escape it no matter how much I walked away or wanted to say no. The sugar-high and then the crash was also very real for me and I never enjoyed it or found it worth it. I also would do things like blame my husband for my actions by saying things like, “Why did you let me eat that whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s? I feel so gross now!” And that was not fair to him- I’m sorry Chad. Bless your heart for putting up with my sugar induced insanity.
So, I went cold turkey. No cookies, candy, chocolate, cake or other typical dessert like things for me for one month.
And then November ended and I continued. I had lost a few pounds and kept it off without changing anything else, I felt great throughout the day and loved the freedom from having to make a decision if I was going to eat something or not. The answer was just no, without any discussion or thought about it.
Feeling empowered, I continued through my birthday and the month of December. (For my birthday my husband got plain yogurt and fresh berries for our dessert!) On Christmas, I had built up enough confidence, success and motivation to say no. I think I had extra helpings of salad on Thanksgiving just to feel fuller and an extra taco or two on Christmas because we did Christmas tacos as our meal instead of the traditional dinner.
When I finished out the year, I thought, okay, I’ll go until the Open which was in March. And then the open came and went and by that time I think I said, “alright, this is totally do-able” and I decided on going for 1 year. And here I am, 12 months later, still sober. My “desserts” consist of a rice cake with peanut butter and un-sweetened coconut or sometimes a little bit of jelly. Again, still some sugar, but nothing that I’m eating 12 of in one sitting. Sometimes I get a pumpkin spice or chai tea latte from Coffee Mania. While sweet, I never considered those, “dessert” and never had a problem stopping at just one. I do eat Protein Bars that are chocolate flavored, but I eat them as a meal, not as dessert and sparingly. My goal was to break free of sugar addiction and so none of these things ever caused a relapse. I never felt addicted to Quest Bars, despite their dessert-esque flavoring.
Some things that helped me were:
1. Telling my friends/family- NO SUGAR NOVEMBER. Just saying it aloud to someone helped me commit to it for the month. I didn’t want to let them down or explain that I couldn’t follow through if they had asked me how it was going and I had a relapse. While they wouldn’t have thought any less of me if I ate a cookie, for me, I need to follow through with what I say I will or I feel like an untrustworthy phony.
2. I started before the Holidays. I wanted to start before Halloween so I’d have a reason to not eat Halloween candy! By the time Thanksgiving had come around, I think I had detoxed most of the effects and was feeling lean and much less bloated. My skin also got much clearer by this time and I was determined to see it through the full month of November and Thanksgiving was so close to the end. So I skipped the pie. I think I remember just not going back into the kitchen once my meal was done. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Having an alternate option for special events. Having yogurt/berries on my birthday was nice. I felt like I was still getting a treat, but it wasn’t something that left me feeling gross and I didn’t over-indulge. And if I ate some extra blueberries, really, who cares, they’re so good for you.
4. Environment. At the start, I cleaned out my freezer (chocolate bars got stashed there!), pantry and other cupboards. Everything went. If my husband bought something for himself, he had to keep it in his truck. He basically had his own pantry in the back seat of his truck for the first few months. I also do not encourage people to bring in stuff to the gym. That is my workplace and I want it to be free of anything that may cause me to relapse.
Some things that I learned were:
1. It wasn’t as hard as I thought. I had heard about Ben Bergeron going one full year like this before and was so amazed. I thought, “I could never do that!” over and over again. But it intrigued me. I wanted to do it. I wanted the challenge and I wanted to break the bad habits of binge eating and then feeling crappy afterward and regretting it. But, once I committed, that was it. There was nothing that was going to stop me.
2. Support system was key. My friends and family, while they didn’t participate, they never gave me grief. I didn’t get “Oh, but one cookie won’t hurt you” or “Oh, but I made it homemade from scratch”. When I said no, they stopped and didn’t push. There were a couple of moments when my husband and I were out to dinner (the last night of our vacation was hard!) when I looked at his dessert and said, “Okay, I’ve gone long enough, maybe right now is when I end it.” And he said nothing. He didn’t try to convince me either way. He said nothing and let me decide on my own. This showed me that he would support me no matter what. If he had said, “Yea you’d really love this dessert, it’s so good” I probably would have caved. Maybe.
3. Discipline is freedom. I’ve been free of having to make the decision of whether or not I want to eat something. As an athlete and a health-conscious person, I always struggle(d) with deciding to eat something unhealthy or not. With the commitment to staying sober, I was free from having to make that decision.
What’s next? A lot of people have asked me how I’m going to celebrate going the full year. Is it going to be with a pint of ben and jerry’s or a sleeve of girl scout cookies? And the answer is Hell No! I’m not rewarding myself with the thing that I wanted to get away from, that doesn’t make any sense. It would be like asking an alcoholic if once they hit a year of sobriety if they want to celebrate by going out to the bars for the night.
I think I’ll take it day by day. I don’t love having restrictions, especially when it comes to food. But who knows, like a real addict, I’m nervous that once I start again I won’t be able to stop. And that is not something I want to get involved in again.
My purpose for sharing this is just to say, “Hey, look what is possible.” I feel like, if I can do it, anyone can. And if just one person gets inspired to take on a challenge to better their own life, then it was worth it.