To sum things up concisely: this has been extremely difficult. More than I had imagined. Sugar has proven to be very addictive.
The first couple days were the most frustrating. I experienced withdrawal-like symptoms such as headaches, mild dizziness, irritability, lethargy, and sleepiness. Working through my normal eight-hour shifts as a waitress seemed impossible, particularly on weekends when the restaurant was very busy.
After a few days avoiding sugar became much easier. I no longer felt the withdrawal symptoms I experienced initially and I actually began feeling much more content. I didn't feel overly energetic, dramatically healthier or happier, just at ease with my new diet. Slowly, however, I began to feel increasingly energetic, less bloated, in a happier mood more consistently, and actually lost a couple pounds. These feelings--which I have begun to associate with my current diet and lifestyle--have caused me to crave healthier foods, want to exercise more frequently, and feel happier overall.
I have had a few pitfalls in the past two weeks, which have caused me to allow myself to eat very small quantities (bite-size) of sweets on occasion. With the Thanksgiving holiday and the promotion of new holiday desserts at my job, I have occasionally eaten sweets, not to excess, but in reasonable serving sizes. Shortly after consuming, I consistently noticed feeling light-headed, sluggish, sleepy, bloated, lethargic, extremely thirsty, and even mild nausea.
Beginning week three, I am recognizing that I have certainly had setbacks with the no-added-sugar diet; however, at this point, I have learned from my experiences eating healthfully and un-healthfully and am able to associate a low-sugar diet with feeling good and a high-sugar diet with feeling bad. These feelings are powerful enough for me to want to eat healthier foods. As I go into week three of my diet, my goal is to acknowledge and respect these feelings and try to exercise more self control when it comes to turning down offers or urges for a sweet snack or sample.
For any readers who might be interested in testing the waters of the low-sugar lifestyle, here are a few foods that I have found to have the most remarkable "feel-good" effects:
- Water. Probably the most important one. Staying well hydrated has been key to success, as dehydration can be caused by consuming too much sugar and can also lead to dizziness, lethargy, and other symptoms of eating too much sugar or salt.
- Complex carbohydrates combined with a plant-based protein. Oatmeal with sesame seeds and whole wheat bread with peanut butter have become my two all-time favorite breakfasts. Both options keep me feeling full for hours and keep feelings of extreme hunger at bay.
- Fruits and veggies. Obviously, they provide a good source of fiber and are also hydrating because they contain water. Apples have proven to be a great snack as they are satisfyingly crunch and juicy.
- Naturally sweet fruits to satisfy a sweet tooth. I just made a big batch of unsweetened apple sauce that I have been enjoying when I need to eat something sweet. I have also found that bananas or a handful of raisins are particularly comforting when I need a boost.