There’s something I haven’t been telling you.
For the last 60 days, Bjork and I have taken on the challenge to live without refined sugar.
And it is TOTALLY a weird person thing to say and do, and I know you’re thinking the same thing right now, since you know me for my love of chocolate chip cookies and brownies and chocolate chip cookies and brownies together in one dessert. Which I still love. Like, hi. This is a monumentally bizarre situation.
A few months ago, a nice person named Jacqueline emailed me and asked if I had any interest in joining her course called Go Sugar Free. I said NO WAY NEVER EVER (in my mind). Then I said THIS COULD BE INTERESTING (to Bjork). Then I said SURE I’D LIKE TO CHECK IT OUT BECAUSE I’M INTERESTED IN SEEING HOW YOU RUN THE COURSE (to Jacqueline). I specifically told Jacqueline at that time: We are not really into this whole sugar free thing. That’s just not us. We won’t be participating, but I’ll just follow along in order to do some “market research.”
And so then the lessons started, delivered to my inbox every day in the form of a nice, concise, and extremely information-packed email. It was such a wealth of information that even after just three or four days I was crazy curious about this whole sugar free lifestyle. I would come home from work and just talk Bjork’s ear off through an entire Office episode about Jacqueline-this-and-sugar-that and isn’t this all so interesting?! One day, my curiosity reached a tipping point slash I became a new, open-minded person and I told Bjork I was going to participate with the course and commit to living sugar free for 60 days. He said: Okay, I’ll do it too.
Hold the phone. Crazy. Town. This was SO not something we would normally have any interest in and yet there we were, along with about 75 other people, committing to live sugar free for 60 days.
We started by creating our own version of what it meant to be sugar free. For us, this meant cutting out refined sugars (white sugar brown sugar fake sugar syrups etc etc etc) and sticking to all natural sweeteners in small amounts, like real maple syrup, raw honey, and fruits. It also meant cutting back as much as possible on refined grains and choosing whole grains whenever possible.
Okay, get ready for this shock of your (and my) life: I think the biggest surprise of the whole experience to me was how… easy it was. Most of the time. It’s not like we were doing the no-no finger shake at sugary foods – we were just embracing other foods that we might not ordinarily have chosen that were equally as delicious and made us feel even better. And when I say embrace, I mean loving up on them. There are some really amazing, whole, delicious foods out there that don’t need any added anything to be wonderful and satisfying.
But, I mean, don’t get the wrong idea. There were challenges.
Two weeks after we started, we went on vacation for 7 days with my family. Because apparently we like to test our goals with extremely difficult and tempting situations right off the bat. Smart. We shed a few silent tears at the table when my mom pulled a pan of warm brownies out of the oven and we pined (I mean, it was intense desire) for that cool, creamy, sugar cookie crust fruit pizza. And my family, being very supportive and loving but also being superexcited about desserts, all probably silently judged us and/or felt bad for us as we tried to muck our way through these new choices. That was probably our hardest week – it was still so fresh and we weren’t super comfortable with making the decision public and redefining ourselves in this totally out-of-the-box (for us) way.
But in the better moments, which was most of the other 53 days, we really enjoyed not only what we were eating but how we felt about ourselves. It’s been such a positive lifestyle change for us that we’re indefinitely choosing to live a “refined sugar selective” lifestyle. Meaning that the new norm is choosing other whole foods and snacks over refined sugar desserts on a day-to-day basis, but also recognizing that truly special, social times every now and again deserve a real dessert. Like, for example, having a piece of cake at my high school bestie’s wedding next month. It’s special and it’s social and it calls for the real thing.
Jacqueline describes the sugar free lifestyle as a true freedom from wanting or needing sugar all the time, and retraining your palate to taste the natural sweetness in things in ways you never did before. And this has definitely been true for me.
Along those lines, let’s get a top ten list going here. You guys, I love listicles. So much.
Top Ten Positive Things About Living Sugar Free
- A new appreciation for fruit. Fruit tastes amazing. Fruit IS amazing. Beautiful, colorful, and perfectly sweet. I fruit. Current faves are cherries and raspberries.
- More sensitive tastebuds. Things that used to taste plain to me now taste sweet. I can put 2 tiny teaspoons of real maple syrup on my oatmeal with a tiny bit of real cream and it’s sweet perfection. My old ways would involve dumping half the syrup bottle into the oatmeal bowl and topping it with extra sugar. Joking sort of.
- Discovering new whole AND packaged foods that we love for meals and snacks. Like Medjool dates, Pellegrino, poached egg and avocado toasts. And new brands of spaghetti sauce, Greek yogurt, and crackers with no added sugar.
- Losing weight. This was not a big part of what motivated us to take the course, but has definitely been a side effect of living without sugar. I lost, like, two pounds, which… is fine. But Bjork lost 15 pounds and he looks ahhhmazing. To the max.
- Flatter bellies. I feel really spammy writing that, but I promise this is not secretly a google adsense segment where I talk about the one secret trick for losing belly fat. It’s just a natural side effect of eating less sugar and more whole foods. I lost 1 1/2 inches around my waist, and Bjork lost 4 (count em – 1-2-3-4) inches. Go get a tape measure and see what that looks like – it’s a HUGE change.
- No regret. I feel like every morning when I wake up and think about what I ate the day before, I feel clean and healthy and proud. I don’t feel that oh-no-I-ate-five-brownies-just-before-bed regret that I used to after a wildly good time at the dessert table.
- The upward spiral. We’ve felt really good about the decisions that we’re making regarding sugar, which leads us to want to make more healthy decisions. Yesterday Bjork went for an 8 mile run. By choice. Things are getting weirdly awesome around here. When you start feeding your body good things, you want the upward spiral to continue so you make good decisions to continue to progress.
- Simplified decision making. Do you want a piece of fudge? No thank you. Period. No decisions to be made. You just pass on it and find something else to enjoy.
- Being smarter. I feel like I have a better understanding of nutrition and sugar and food and maybe most importantly how to form and keep good habits that has and will continue to empower me to make smart choices.
- Feeling better, all around. This could be purely psychological or it could be a result of true physical change. I don’t even care. We both feel great.
So the whole point of this post is to come clean and just let you know that this is what we’ve been doing, and what we’ll be continuing to do for the foreseeable future: eating more whole foods, less refined sugar, and leaving just a tiny bit of room for high quality, real deal dessert on the most important occasions.
Even though I haven’t specifically told you about our new lifestyle shift here on the blog (other than the occasional vague mention), ALL of the recipes of the past two months have been fitted to our version of refined sugar free. You might not have even noticed, which makes me super happy. If you ask me, refined sugar free = eating really really well. Delicious yum more of the good food.
Last thing that’s really important to say: I pass no judgement on a lifestyle that includes refined sugar. None! You guys, please hear that. This is not about nutrition wars or making blanket statements about what’s best for all the people everywhere or making someone behave the same way I do. I have always been a dessert lover and I get a lot of joy from a big, frosting-loaded slice of moist, rich chocolate cake. For right now, for us, this refined sugar free experiment has proven to both Bjork and I that it’s a good fit for us.
Finally, if you are interested in checking out the course that we did that guided us to our 60 days of refined sugar free living, you are in luck!
You can visit Jacqueline’s website to learn more about Go Sugar Free. This is an affiliate link since we highly recommend Go Sugar Free and the way Jacqueline supports, teaches, and encourages throughout the duration of the course!
Thanks for being bestie readers, guys. I totally and completely and overwhelmingly appreciate the support, positivity, and open-mindedness that you bring to Pinch of Yum! XOXO