Recap: My New Year's resolution is to stop externalizing my happiness, so I'm experimenting with my behaviors and habits -- one per month -- in order to become a more self-aware, self-assured person. You can access my HuffPost archive for past installments. You can also read the whole series on my blog, This Millennial Life.
March: No sugar, two weeks
Here's the thing about not eating refined sugar: It's kind of a bummer. Like my teetotaling stint in January, I'm finding that it's not so much difficult to give up sugar as it is inconvenient and annoying. Sometimes, the only option in a lunch meeting is sandwiches with white bread and -- surprise -- white bread has refined sugar in it! My office is also constantly inundated with bagels and cake, and I sit right by the kitchen, of course. And it's not that I need bagels and cake, but like, they're free and proximal. So it just becomes a bit of a bother having to either make all my food all the time or seek out alternatives.
For the purposes of this experiment, I'm defining refined sugar as added sugar, and not just any carbohydrate that will (eventually) become sugar. I haven't given up natural sugars either, so I still eat fruit and sweet potatoes and carrots, and I'll put honey on or in things. Every once in a while I'll break down and use a sugar substitute in my coffee, though I've found in the past few days that organic maple syrup is excellent in both hot and iced coffee and is practically indistinct from simple syrup. Seriously, go try it! That's definitely something I'll be continuing after this.
I have also flat out just eaten refined sugar twice in the past two weeks, and both times were out and about, away from my "regular" food supply. The first time was at this incredible "whiskey dinner" a friend of mine invited me to, which consisted of five small courses paired with whiskey tastings. The last course was sticky toffee pudding, which was basically a small sponge cake soaked through with a syrupy caramel-like sauce (or, well, toffee) and topped with a perfect sphere of vanilla ice cream. And you know what, guys? No regrets. Literally zero.
If I learned anything from my sober January, it's that changing my eating habits is all well and good, but if it's actually detracting from my enjoyment of the one and only brief life I have to live, then it's not worth it. I'm not saying, "Go nuts, everybody!" and I'm definitely not promoting hedonism, excess, or even just thoughtless, unaware consumption. It's better for me not to have a drink every day. It's better for me not to eat a ton of refined sugar every day. But to refuse a glass of wine or a slice of birthday cake categorically forever actually makes me feel worse, not better.
I'm learning, I guess, to moderate. (Guys, I am such a revolutionary.) I'm learning to not just think harder about what I put in my body but to always think about what I put in my body. There have been times after January where I've been offered a drink and declined because I just didn't really want one, whereas before, I would have taken it because it was offered. It makes the times I do have a glass of wine or go to a whiskey tasting or order a beer flight both more occasional and more conscious. I feel like I have more permission -- and I can actually, weirdly, enjoy giving myself permission -- to consume something that I really want even though it's not healthy because it's a treat and not the norm.
Also, for anyone following along at home, I'm scrapping my more specific categories for evaluating these experiments and I just talking about the categories broadly: Body, Mind, and Creative. I'd say it's pretty clear that cutting out almost all refined sugar from my diet would mostly effect my body, and I'll confirm that I've lost almost 2 pounds in the past two weeks with no other real changes. I've also been sleeping really poorly recently. What that might have to do with sugar, I'm not sure, but I just wanted everybody to know.
So that's my initial report on my sugar cleanse! I'll be back in two more weeks to write about any additional results. Hopefully while eating defrosted Girl Scout Cookies.