Dry January (or Veganuary) is behind us. For some people, they fell by the wayside after day three. For others, they will have begun to instil the habits that could lead to a complete change of life. Sugar Free February is not just the health kick fad of calendar month 2, it’s also a great way to raise money for Cancer Research.
Ready to take the plunge? Most people are surprised by how difficult it is to go sugar free. The reality that you have to do more than simply cut out chocolate sets in pretty quickly. So how do you make sure you survive for a whole 28 days?
Before we get to specific tips, you have to define what you mean by ‘no sugar’. Are you eliminating any kind of sugar? Are you focused on fructose specifically? Or do you just want to avoid any food products with added sugars? The chances are that whatever you decide, it will still be a big improvement from where you are now. If you’re a complete newbie and only intend to do it for a month then I’d recommend simply avoiding food with added sugar (there’s lots of label reading in your future, sorry).
So what are the 5 keys to success and staying (relatively) sane throughout February?
1. Remove temptation
Your willpower is not as strong as you think it is. Having to consciously choose not to eat those delicious tasty treats every time you open the cupboard is both exhausting and likely to trip you up the very first time you come home late after a bad day. If you don’t want to throw perfectly good food away, then donate it to a friend or family member. If you’re planning to devour it in March, then lock it away in the garage or attic (or any other place you don’t habitually scour for snacks) until then.
2. Find Support
If you can’t convince anyone in your real life to come on the journey with you, then join an online group, browse forums, read blogs. Feeling you are not alone in those moments when you question your sanity about this whole thing can stop you from ramming a whole packet of cookies into your face in one sitting. A lot of people are shocked to discover how hard this is to begin with, even for a month. See the next point.
3. Be aware of the physical response to addiction
Urgh. My least favourite part.
Sugar is addictive. Combine it with fat in a treat and you’ve got an instant brain high that leaves you wanting more. That chemical reaction is something your body misses within a few days. The physical effects of sugar withdrawal are the same as any other addictive substance and people don’t talk about it enough. So go into this being prepared. Irritability, headaches, lack of concentration and sometimes feeling like you have the flu are all possible short term side effects of quitting sugar. My advice: be prepared.
Oh, and apologise in advance.
4. Plan your social life
Just because you’re quitting sugar for the month doesn’t mean you need to quit life. It does mean you need to plan in advance. If you have any say in the location, then choose somewhere that has tasty but low sugar foods on the menu (a sauce can ambiguously contain a multitude of sins). If you don’t have any control, then check out the menu in advance. There is usually something that’s allowed. Find it, make the decision in advance and then do not look at the menu again when you get there. Trust me, we’re always weaker in the moment, especially in those places that have actual pictures of the desserts to tempt you.
5. Remember why you’re doing it at all times
If you’re committing to this month to raise funds, then I salute you. Remember to salute yourself too. When you’re in the middle of a terrible day and your colleague brings in birthday cakes, remind yourself that you can say no because you are doing something awesome.
If you’re doing it because you hope it’s the start of a new way of eating, then avoid thinking about being deprived and think instead of the long-term outcome. Sure you’re missing that slice of cake now, but soon your clothes will fit better, your energy levels will be higher and your body will have had chance to clear out the processed gunk you’ve been filling it with for years. Keep your eyes on the prize.
And remember, if you don’t want to commit to a whole month without sugar, then you can still make a one-off donation to a great cause. Imagine if we could eradicate cancer mortality in our lifetime.
How to quit sugar and stay sane in the real world.