This month I am giving up refined sugar in aid of Cancer Research UK, and today I'm sharing the first of my weekly updates to let you know how the first week of the challenge went.
You can learn more about my challenge and the rules that I have set for myself in my Sugar Free February introductory post.
You might think that giving up refined sugar is fairly simple - just chocolate, sweets, cakes and biscuits are out, that sounds totally doable, right?! But actually, there's a lot more to it than that. Sugar has crept into almost every food imaginable, from bread and ham to baked beans and stock cubes, it seems to be in EVERYTHING! I've spent a good part of my first week of this challenge reading labels, it's made my supermarket trips far longer than usual and it's been really quite eye opening!
To help me write these updates, I've been keeping a short daily log this week, so here's how my first week of Sugar Free February has gone:
Given my pretty serious sugar habit, this wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected, my first sugar-free day wasn't too bad at all! I spent quite some time in the supermarket working out what I can actually eat. It's really quite depressing how many foods contain refined sugar, very often completely unnecessarily in my opinion!
I had porridge for breakfast today, it's the easiest option when cereal and toast are out the question (check out my easy microwave porridge recipe). I had to stop myself a couple of times when I automatically reached for sugary snacks in the afternoon. I did eat 2 bags of crisps today though, which is really not ideal when I’m trying to improve my diet! I'm going to have to have a good think about what I am replacing refined sugar with.
The sugar cravings really started to kick in today, and it got worse as the day went on. The evening was the worst time for the cravings, I really struggled, but didn't give in. I drank lots of peppermint tea and had a bag of salted popcorn in the evening to take my mind off it. I'm feeling really quite proud of myself as my willpower held strong! I also discovered that Nairn's oatcakes are sugar free, I may have eaten a few too many of them today but it's got to be better than chocolate, right?!
I got out in the fresh air today (a lovely walk with the family on this sunny Sunday afternoon) so I didn’t find the day too difficult. We took a picnic to eat in the car whilst we were out and about which was a little tricky as I couldn't have the sandwiches that I packed for the rest of the family. I packed a box of (mostly) healthy nibbly bits instead, which I actually really enjoyed. Mr Amazing cooked us a gorgeous roast beef with homemade Yorkshire puddings for dinner, but I had to do without gravy as the gravy granules contained sugar and it was too late to attempt making gravy from scratch by the time we realised this!
The sugar cravings really kicked in again in the evening, I think this is my most difficult time as I am usually in the habit of eating something sweet in the evening. Peppermint tea & popcorn kept me on the straight and narrow again but it really felt tough.
Today didn’t feel too bad at all. Even though I stayed up a bit too late last night, I feel like I had a really good night’s sleep for the first time in ages, falling asleep straight away and sleeping straight through. I started the day with a run, as it seems like a good idea to get back into exercising along with my new healthier eating habits! I didn't suffer too many cravings during the day, though it was still quite hard in the evening – this really does seem to be my most difficult time of day. I found a few more sugar free foods in the shops today to add to my list - wholemeal pitta breads and lightly salted rice cakes. I'm delighted about the pitta breads as I have really missed bread this week.
I spent today working on recipe testing, filming and photography for the blog. I always find these days tough from a healthy eating point of view, as they are always non-stop busy and I'm looking at and thinking about food all day long! It usually goes one of two ways - either I spend the whole day nibbling on the leftovers or I don't get around to eating properly at all due to being on my feet all day, so I'm pleased to have come through the day still sugar free! I made myself a quick plate full of healthy food for lunch and made myself sit down to eat it so that I wasn't tempted to eat anything I shouldn't! I was exhausted by the end of the day but I still didn't give into the usual evening cravings.
I started the day with another run, it's tough going when I'm so out of practice but I'm feeling hopeful that I'll find my running legs again soon! I find running a fantastic start to the day as it really does energise me, even when I can't run for very long. This really helps with the sugar cravings as running puts me on a natural high and don't feel the need for the sweet stuff so much. Today was a desk day for editing photos, videos and writing up recipes, so I did have some tricky moments when habit made me want to reach for something sweet to nibble on whilst working, but I prevailed! I'm definitely noticing a difference in my sleep at night now, it's easier to fall asleep and I'm not waking up as much. I'm feeling very proud for surviving the whole of the first week of Sugar Free February without caving once - here's to the next 3 weeks!
Week 1 Verdict
I'm feeling very proud of myself for managing this first week, it was a lot tougher than I expected. The cravings have been really hard at times, I really hope that this gets easier as the month goes on! On the positive side I've noticed a distinct improvement in my sleep at night; I'm falling asleep easier, waking less and feeling more refreshed when I wake up in the morning, a very pleasant side-affect that I hadn't expected. Although weight loss hasn't been my focus, I find it interesting to note that I haven't lost any weight in this first week, but at the same time I'm convinced that my stomach has slimmed down a little and I'm feeling a lot less bloated. I'm ready to get cracking on the second week of Sugar Free February, it's for such a great cause that I'm determined to stick it out!