30 Days of No Added Sugar

Snickers Cupcake  6

Before I explain today’s post title, and just what I’m getting myself into, I want to take a moment to thank you for all of your kind words and prayers for our family the past couple of weeks. Reading your sweet comments, emails, and personal stories continue to give us strength, and hope that my dad will have years of good health ahead of him. I’m happy to report he is recovering well from surgery, which left him with a 10-inch incision from ear to shoulder as well as some (hopefully temporary) numbness and hearing loss. My dad now faces an aggressive course of radiation–5 days per week for the next 7 weeks. Having cared for a patient receiving head & neck radiation during my dietetic internship, I know the toll this can take on the body (particularly when it comes to one’s diet), but that experience will certainly help me help him. The doctors are optimistic that, by the end of this treatment, the cancer will be gone–and I’m hopeful that in two months time I’ll be able to give you that news. Until then, thanks again for your kindness and support–it means a lot to all of us!

Now, let me explain this 30 days of no added sugar business.

A few weeks ago, we had the incredible experience of having Dr. Robert Lustig (whose name you might recognize from the New York Times bestseller, Fat Chance, or from Katie Couric’s 2014 food documentary, Fed Up) give a talk at MyFitnessPal headquarters here in San Francisco. If you don’t know him, Dr. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF that has devoted his career to researching and treating obesity, mostly in children. Lustig’s popularity is largely attributed to his message that obesity is not the result of individual laziness or gluttony. Rather, the obesity pandemic is really the result of a broken food system–a food system that produces very cheap but highly processed foods, full of added sugar (in addition to sodium and trans fats), that have all sorts of undesirable consequences on our bodies.

After hearing Dr. Lustig speak, my friend Glennis (MyFitnessPal’s coaching lead) and I were inspired to do a little self-experiment. Starting today, we’re cutting out all sources of added sugar from our diet for 30 days, and documenting our experience. We’re interested to see the impact it has on our bodies, how we feel, and just how hard it is to avoid. We’ve been diligently tracking our food intake in MyFitnessPal the past few weeks so Glennis and I will even be able to compare our overall sugar intake from before and after.

Now, I’m not much of a soda drinker and I generally steer clear of highly processed and fast foods. I wouldn’t even consider myself much a sweet freak (though the Snickers cupcakes I baked the other week nearly changed that)–but even still, I know this is going to be a challenge. As I write this post, I’m already missing the homemade vanilla syrup in my morning latte. Sigh.

Want to join? I know you do. (Kidding!) But seriously, if you do, here are the rules we’re playing by for the next month:

No added sugars. This includes everything from soda and sweets to fast food french fries, ketchup and most store-bought bread–as well as any and all natural sweeteners including honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and molasses.

No fruit juice. That’s right! Only whole fruits. Even 100% fruit juice is more similar to soda than it is fruit.

No artificial sweeteners. Part of the challenge is to reset those sweet-loving tastebuds which means diet soda and Stevia are out, too.

Alcohol is optional. Sugar-sweetened mixers are obviously a no-no, but beer, wine and spirits (like vodka, gin, rum etc…) don’t typically contain added sugars, so these are fair game if you choose to enjoy them. To add to the fun challenge, Glennis and I have decided to try and avoid alcohol, as well. Yowza.

If you want to join but can’t commit to 30 days, try it for just a week! It will give you a new awareness of just how much sugar is in our food supply. I think, for me, one of the biggest takeaways will be seeing just how difficult it is simply avoiding added sugars. After this, when I speak to individuals trying to put this into practice in their own lives, I’ll know what the experience is like and hopefully be a better dietitian for it!

Have you ever tried a sugar challenge like this before?