It all started when I was 11 years old.
I was unhealthy and lethargic (probably too lethargic for a 11 year old who should have a ton of energy!)
My older brother (14 years older than me) took notice. He’s super into healthy eating and was noticing that I seemed a bit unhealthy (and that I was addicted to sugar – but seriously, who isn’t at that age?)
So first, he poked fun at me, after all, what are big brothers for?
But after, he decided he would play a part in helping his baby sis get healthier!
And I am SO glad he did, because it totally changed my life!
So how did my brother convince me to not eat sugar for a full year?
Yup that’s right, my broke 25-year old brother (at the time), bet me $500 to not eat sugar for a whole year!
And to sweeten the deal (no pun intended, well… some pun intended), my dad said that he would also throw in $500 dollars!
What kind of family does that?? Such a weird but cool thing to do!
So my little brain had to weigh the pros and cons of this, $1000? or none of that sweet addictive candy, chocolate, popsicles, cookies, etc for a whole year??
I wouldn’t even be allowed to have added sugar in things like crackers or ketchup!
But, when you’re a kid $1000 is basically like a million dollars, so I went for the money! And I have always enjoyed a good challenge!
So now the real question… what the heck did I eat? And how did I not eat sugar for a whole year???? Well honestly, the answers are pretty simple and ANYONE can do it!
And honestly the results are totally worth it!
Also: I am totally NOT a fan of restriction diets, so I would never tell anyone to completely cut something out of their diet, but I do know that too much sugar can be harmful to your body, health, and even you mind (i.e. sugar crashes).
So definitely do what’s right for your body (and your lifestyle).
At the end I’ll give you just a bit of insight as to why I wouldn’t actually do this again.
Here were my results from going sugar-free for a year:
1. I felt SO energized and healthy!
I remember feeling so good after that year!
2. My body fat went down A LOT!
I remember it being a pretty dramatic transformation because a lot of people were talking about it! I don’t think that was something that should have been talked about, because we are all so much more than our bodies – but that was my observation!
3. I didn’t get sick all year!
When you’re 11 and going to public school, you’re a prime target for every sickness imaginable! But not me!
My immune system was on its top game! And this made perfect sense because sugar is known to depress your immune system.
4. My anxiety went down significantly.
I experienced a lot of anxiety as a child, and this was the year that I remember feeling a lot better. You can check out my article on how your physical health affects your mental health for some more insight into that.
And the best result…
5. My confidence, self-discipline, and will-power all went up like crazy!
I felt like I could achieve anything!
One of the biggest reasons that people find it hard to avoid sugar is because they feel like they don’t have the discipline or willpower, but let me tell you, it can be easier than you think to do something like this!
So let’s take a look at what I did that helped me develop the discipline to not eat sugar for an entire year!
So #1 – I had GREAT motivation!
This is a great lesson, if you have the right motivation, you can do anything!
I like to talk about the effect that motivation and proper goals can have on your willpower and self-discipline, like in this article about finding motivation every day.
That $1000 dollars was this huge glowing prize that I could think about every time I had a sugar craving!
Related Article: How to create a great goal setting worksheet
#2 – I got really creative to make low-sugar recipes
So, I couldn’t have pop, candy, chocolate, cookies, or even some crackers, most processed foods, ketchup, bbq sauce, and some other things.
BUT – I could have some natural, non-refined sweeteners. Xylitol is natural and decently healthy, so I was allowed to have that in moderation. Also, I was allowed some less refined sugars (like maple syrup and honey.
Now – you might consider this cheating, but I had to have SOME saving grace! C’mon, I was only 11!
And the point was to get away from processed foods and easily binge-able sweets.
So I learned how to bake!
If I was going to have anything even close to a sugary treat, I was going to have to make it myself.
I has this great vegan cookbook (How It All Vegan! 10th Anniversary Edition: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet) that had tons of ideas for modifying recipes! Even if you’re not vegan (I wasn’t), it has great recipes and baked goods that are very easy to modify to make sugar-free or to add it healthy sweeteners!
So I would make cookies from scratch with maple syrup or honey. And then I would add cocoa powder if I wanted something chocolate-y!
I also experimented with using fruit and even sweet potatoes to sweeten my baked goods! Honestly those substitutions worked SO well!
My favourite low-sugar dessert recipes:
Black bean, sweet potato fudge bars – they still have maple syrup, which still has sugar, but it’s much better for you than refined sugar or you can sub xylitol or stevia or add a banana instead! You might get a bit of a different consistency doing different substitutions, but I always find that they end up tasting just fine!
Tofu chocolate pudding – with Xylitol or maple syrup (a healthier sweetener, but still technically has sugar)
Banana raspberry “ice cream” – just blend frozen bananas and frozen raspberries with a bit of your milk of choice
Chocolate “ice-cream” – frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and milk of choice (soooo good!) and you can add peanut butter if you want!
Fruit, plain yogurt, and a little bit of honey!
#3 How I dealt with sugar cravings
So dealing with sugar cravings can be a bit difficult.
Especially when you are used to having a lot of sugar. But there’s usually a period where you body is in a bit of a withdrawal (which is where you have to be the strongest), but then it gets WAY easier!
It’s the same with any other type of “craving”, like wanting to watch TV when you shouldn’t or going on social media when you should be studying.
It’s because you’re in the habit of doing it!
You need to slowly train your brain to do a better habit, instead of the bad habit.
For example, in this case: I had healthy snacks (like berries and plain yogurt) ready to go when I would have a sugar craving!
Until, slowly – those sugar cravings went away! Then it actually became pretty easy to stay away from it!
Get a guide to prep all your meals for the week in 20 mins!
This might actually have been the foundation of my love for goal setting! You can check out my free goal planning mini-course at the end of this post!
It contains all of my best tips for goal setting, finding motivation, productivity, habits, and more! Plus it has free goal planners too! (And I’ll send you my top tips for mindful and healthy eating!)
Now one last thing I’d like to mention:
Why I won’t go sugar-free again
I am very confident that a low-sugar diet will work WONDERS for you! There are so many health benefits, it’s insane!
BUT I find restricting oneself too much is never good, because it leads to feeling deprived and then you are generally more likely to binge eat or just stop your healthy habits.
And I also find that sometimes eating something a bit sugary when I’m out with my friends is really fun, so I don’t want to give up my lifestyle to stick rigidly to a plan.
Everyone is definitely different, but it’s all about doing what feels right for you and your lifestyle! (Unless your lifestyle is quite unhealthy – then maybe you can rethink some things!)
Essentially though, balance is the absolutely KEY to living a better life and it’s much easier to implement your healthy habits slowly.
Which is again, one of the principles of my free goal planning course below! It gives you tons of tools to start achieving what you truly want from life! Whether that’s getting healthier, waking up earlier, getting your dream career, anything! The core principles are the same (and they are simpler than you think!)
Sagesse ("Say Jess")
Owner of Mindaya