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My thoughts

How to Completely Change Your Life by Not Eating Sugar

Almost a year ago, on January 2nd, 2016, I started a challenge that was to change my whole life, as well as the outlook I have on eating healthy. See, I've always been into health stuff. I practiced several different sport disciplines during my youth and early adult life, and a few years back I turned to weightlifting as my form of meditation. The gym is my Mecca. That's where I go when I have to make tough decisions. Plus, in there, it's just me, my music, and the weights. No one else, and that I quite enjoy.

As you become a more advanced weightlifter, you also start to think about what you eat. The hours spent in the gym won't yield any results if you don't eat correctly and rest well.

Alcohol - or the lack of it - plays an important role here. If you want to build mass, you need to put the alcohol to the side, or at least minimize the amount of alcohol you drink. That was never a problem with me, as I don't really enjoy alcohol. I think in 2016 I maybe had a drink on three occasions. I know people who do that on a weekly basis.

Dropping alcohol was the first step - albeit a very easy one for me to take.

Dropping alcohol was the first step - albeit a very easy one for me to take.

As soon as you start understanding how important nutrition is, you also start looking at the nutritional information on each product you purchase. At least I do.

That's when I realized how much refined sugar it is in everything I eat. Even in bread. Yes, bread has sugar in it. So do natural yoghurt and peanut butter. Everything has sugar. So I knew it was time for a change.

Becoming independent of sugar

The goal of the challenge was to force my body to become independent of sugar. Before, I really couldn't refrain myself from eating cake, if you put some in front of me. I thought that was dangerous. Not being able to control myself was scary.

The plan was to try to do this for as long as possible, by only eating sugar once per month. That is, I could eat sugar for a day per month, no questions asked. The day had to be decided beforehand, which meant I wouldn't let myself be the victim of temptation during my daily routine. In all this, natural sugar was allowed. Bananas and grapes big time.

The gym, and longing for being in better shape, is what made me aware of my nutrition habits.

The gym, and longing for being in better shape, is what made me aware of my nutrition habits.

The hard part

I was inspired to do this by one of my former colleagues at iPaper. He told me that the first two to three weeks are the most difficult. This will change from person to person, but as a rule of thumb, this is the time it takes to not hate yourself anymore.

During the first three weeks, I had to refrain myself from a lot of things that I was tempted by. I had to say "no" to myself a lot, which is not something I'm very used to. Every single time I knew there was cake at the office, I had to stay at my desk. I knew that if I'd walk past and see it, I would give in. 

The easy part

Yes, there's actually an easy part in all this. The easy part started in February, about a month into my challenge. That's when I realized that I was able to say "no". I was not tempted anymore. When I was, I used the monthly cheat day as a reminder of what's to come. That kept me going for a very long time. In May, while in Boston for four days, I gave myself a free license to sugar as well, but that was more because I had the chance to eat things that you don't find in Europe, and I didn't want to pass. It was a choice, and the week after, for my birthday, I've decided that no cake would be served at the party.

As time went by, and as friends always pushed me to eat just one piece, because "it's no big deal", not eating sugar became a normal thing for me. Bananas started being sweet. There are types of grapes that I can't eat, because they taste too sweet. My taste buds changed completely, and I strongly believe this allowed me to live a healthier life.

Today, even some grapes taste too sweet for me to eat.

Today, even some grapes taste too sweet for me to eat.

The monthly cheat day kept going until August. Since then I dropped sugar completely. During September, October, and November, I didn't feel the need to eat sugar at all. I didn't have a single cheat day. And right about now I'm wondering if I should have a piece of cake while going on holiday for Christmas.

What was this all about

Many of my friends didn't really understand why I took on such a challenge. "Surely life is too short to not eat a piece of cake every once in a while, isn't it?". This was about something else. It was about regaining control of my own brain, and being able to say no to things that I know are unhealthy on a long run.

Although I've been through a lot since moving abroad by myself back when I was 17, learning and understanding what it means to drop sugar from my day-to-day diet, as well as to be able to do it, was definitely one of the biggest challenges I've ever taken onto.

In the end, this learning experience totally changed the way I see nutrition. Because I dropped sugar from my diet, I can now eat lots of other things that I enjoy, and bigger portions of it, because I don't fill my body with unnecessary calories.

I believe the challenges are fun, especially when they take us to our limits. This is why this one has been extremely exciting. On January 2nd, 2017, my challenge will officially stop. The best part of this is that from now on I will not need a challenge over my head to keep me away from sugar. Now it's part of who I am, a part of what I eat, and a part of my lifestyle. This is what the challenges was about.

So when you start thinking about your challenges for 2017, you might want to think about this one. I can tell you one thing: it's a difficult one. It's tough. You're going to hate yourself for it in the beginning. But the achievement of regaining control over your body is so amazing, all this effort has been worth it.

Would I do it again if I'd have to? Hell yeah!