Fit & Fed

By Steph

30 Days Sugar-Free Challenge

I’m so excited to have you join me on my 30 Days Sugar-Free Challenge starting Monday, January 4th in 2021!

Let’s make 2021 the year of good health – starting with nutrition! What we put into our bodies has such a big impact on how we feel physically, emotionally, & energetically. Sugar is one food that can have some negative impacts, especially if eaten in large amounts over a long period of time.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with indulging sometimes – like over the holidays. Food is a wonderful thing that brings us together and is a major part of celebration! It’s just a good idea to give ourselves a little reset if we find that we’ve been consuming a lot of treats and making some not so healthy choices for a while.

For 30 days from Monday, January 4th through Tuesday, February 2nd I’ll be eating free of all added-sugars!

Many foods have natural sugars like fruits, and even veggies. For these 30 days, we’re focusing on added sugars – this means cane sugar (like white & brown sugar), but also the more natural sugars like honey, agave, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Yes, these sugars are not as processed and do have more health benefits than white sugar (for example all of the nutrients in honey), but our bodies still process them the same way and they can cause the same physical symptoms that excess cane sugar can cause – like excess inflammation.

Inflammation gets a bad reputation. In truth, it’s a very necessary process in our bodies that allows us to heal properly. The issue comes with excess, chronic inflammation and its long-term effects. Sugar can exacerbate inflammation to an unhealthy level, which is why many anti-inflammatory diets avoid or greatly limit added sugars. Alcohol can also increase inflammation, which is why we’re avoiding it as well for these 30 days.

Below, I’ve listed some of the potential symptoms of excess sugar consumption. If you experience any of these, you may see improvements by the end of the challenge! As long as the cause of your symptoms is actually linked to sugar intake.

Potential Symptoms of Excess Sugar Consumption

  • Digestive issues – i.e. bloating, bowel issues
  • Skin issues – i.e. acne, inflammatory skin issues
  • Sugar cravings – this is a big one!
  • Alway feeling hungry
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Poor sleep
  • Brain fog
  • Joint pain

You may be wondering about weight loss through this challenge. Many people lose body fat simply because they are making healthier, more satisfying choices that help them stay full for longer. These more satiating foods are usually less calorically-dense – so you eat less calories and actually stay full. Sugary foods are often high calorie and don’t keep us full for as long as foods that get their calories from fat and protein, as well as high carb foods that are also high in fiber. Fat loss can occur as long as you remain in a caloric deficit – this is always a requirement for fat loss.

Eating sugar lights up our brain’s reward pathways and the more we eat, the more we usually crave. This doesn’t mean sugar is bad and I wouldn’t quite equate it to a “drug,” as I often hear said. Remember that eating also lights up our brain, but eating is a great thing! It’s just good to be aware of the potential effects of excess sugar consumption and recognize when we may benefit from a little reset. That being said, one of the most challenging things with cutting sugar are the cravings in the first few days. There are some things you can focus on that will help to keep you on track and minimize cravings.

To Reduce Cravings, Focus On:

  • Eating enough protein & fat
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting good sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Not skipping meals

Also, not required but I strongly suggest seriously limiting or avoiding sugar-substitutes like stevia, monk fruit, and sugar alcohols. They do not have the same calories or impact on blood sugar, but they can become a crutch and make it harder to break the sugar cravings. For the same reason, many people find it beneficial to limit simple carbs (aka low fiber carbs like white bread & white rice), dairy, and fruit – each to about 1-2 times per day. Focus on eating lots of green veggies (unlimited!), some starchy veggies (potato, sweet potato, yams), meat, eggs, & seafood, nuts & seeds, and high-fiber grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc. I’ve put together a sample food list that is linked under resources below!

Following this challenge successfully is all about planning – i can’t emphasize this enough! Take the time to meal plan & prep to set yourself up for success. To get you started, I have quite a few sugar-free recipes on my blog already (linked under resources below). I’ll also be sharing all sugar-free recipes for these 30 days as well as a one-day meal plan example (every Friday) on my Instagram and here on my blog. I’ve even created a sample one-week meal plan to get you started that allows you to meal prep and minimize your cooking. All below under resources!

Finally, it will be very hard to eat at restaurants if you want to be positive that you’re avoiding sugar for these 30 days. You’ll likely have to cook basically all of your meals – most prepared food has added sugar even when you wouldn’t expect it – like in savory dishes. You’ll get the best results from this challenge if you stick with it fully for 30 days, but life happens! If you have an event or a meal out planned, just choose wisely (avoid desserts, sweet sauces & dressings, etc.). One meal with a little sugar isn’t a huge deal and it’s important to still live a little during this – there are more important things in life!

Resources:

  • See my Sugar-Free Challenge Food List for examples of foods I recommend avoiding and focusing on – you can print it and put it on your fridge! Use it as a reference when you’re menu planning for the week.
  • Here is a sample One-Week Sugar-Free Meal Plan with an example of 1550 calories, 1700 calories, and 1800 calories to get you started!
  • I’ll be posting a sample One-Day Meal Plan example every Friday on my Instagram and here on my blog
  • You can find all of the no added sugar recipes that I’ve shared so far – some might have the tiniest amount of sugar (i.e. 1 tsp of honey), just leave it out. Also be careful to read labels for the ingredients that you buy. My recipes include some of the ingredients (sauces, nut butters, etc.) that often have hidden added sugar – check out the sugar-free challenge food list for a list of common sneaky sugar foods to look out for and just buy a version of them without added sugar.

It may seem daunting, but with proper planning, you can do this! It’s only 30 days and you’re likely to feel SO much better at the end. Keep remind yourself of your why if you get discouraged. Journaling in the mornings can be really helpful – take a moment to reflect on how you feel (physically, emotionally), why you’re doing this, etc. to ground yourself for the day and get your head in the right place.

And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or if you’re struggling! I’m doing this with you and am here to help! The best way to reach me is either a DM on Instagram or email me at fitandfedbysteph@gmail.com

Please Note: ***

I will be providing support through a group Instagram direct message as well as answering one-on-one questions via DM or email. I will be a registered dietitian in 2021, but I am not one yet, nor am I a doctor! Please consult with your doctor before beginning this if you have any health concerns, especially if you have any known issues with blood sugar regulation.