I Dared To Ditch Sugar

It has often been quoted, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Isn’t it true that when you have a large task at hand, it can become cumbersome and overwhelming to think of what is to be accomplished.  We become paralyzed with the notion of it, whatever the task may be, if we allow it. Once we become overwhelmed we become immobilized and ineffective…defeated by a task too grand to conquer. The best way to prevent those overwhelming feelings and doubts of accomplishment is to break the objective down into pieces. Manageable goals with dates attached to them. If we only just begin…

This is true for each of us with our own health and fitness…nutrition included. Instead of waiting for a bad report from the doctor, why not be proactive in your health journey now? I know it can be overwhelming, depending on your objectives and goals. Don’t wait for the New Year. Before you know it, you’ve waited for the following New Year and the circle of life overtakes you and you have accomplished little more than the feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment.

I am hoping to encourage you to start by sharing my own personal story of how I radically changed my eating and gradually reduced my sugar intake to next to nothing. I didn’t do it over night. I had a plan. I had a goal. My objectives were clear and I set my sights to achieve it. When I first thought about radically changing my diet to something much cleaner, healthier and “sugar free”, I truly had little idea of what it would look like when I was finished. I just knew that I had many things in this life I wanted to do, I wanted to become, I wanted to achieve. If I was going to get it all crammed into one lifetime, I’d better make sure I was as healthy as I had the power to be, trusting God with the rest, and go for it!

I guess it was in 2004 that I sat down with my journal and my pen and wrote it down. I wanted to reduce the amount of carbohydrates in my diet. I wanted to eat more vegetables. I wanted to completely eliminate processed snack foods from my diet. I had already successfully canceled all presence of soda in my diet. Wow. That pretty much ruled out the American diet. I was overwhelmed. Where would I start?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”

I decided I’d find items that I ate on a somewhat regular basis, but not daily, and I would get rid of those first. I tackled the easier foods to sacrifice and then I held this pattern until I felt I had made a lifestyle change. For example, I liked chips just like most people. I didn’t eat them all the time, but I did eat them and I occasionally bought them. I’m not a big salt craver so chips was something I enjoyed, but it wasn’t that hard to let go of. There were other foods I did the same with in this time. I little by little whittled the junk out of my diet and made a healthy substitution. I became familiar with the supplement line from Advocare and incorporated some key products into my nutrition plan. I knew going into this decision that it was going to be a journey that I would not finish overnight. It was going to take time, a lot of time, if I was going to do it right. I really had no idea how long it would take, but I determined that within two years I’d have my diet looking pretty fabulous. At this two year mark is when I would radically look at how I made choices concerning sugar. For me, sugar was the grandaddy. If I could give up sugar it would be nothing short of a miracle. I am pretty sure I was addicted to the stuff. I would get at least one craving for something sweet every day. It was usually ice cream. Ice cream was one of my favorite “cheat” foods. I had a great weakness for it. So, though I wouldn’t always act on my desire for something sweet, I still had the desire emerge and taunt me. I think it’s called temptation?! I figured if I could successfully eliminate sugar from my diet, over time, I would no longer desire it. I was right!

I had always been able to manage my decision to not go out of control with food. I was a fairly disciplined person and I wanted to keep my weight in check. The combination of the small disciplines with food I did have and my love for fitness, I was able to manage my weight fairly reasonably. But it was always work and discipline! Please don’t think I am someone who can just eat whatever she wants and be thin. I have a fairly slow metabolism actually and my body type has a bit of endomorph to it (my body would rather hold onto weight than burn it). I have had people make comments to me over the years that leads me to believe there are people who know me who just think, “That’s just Nicole, she loves fitness and healthy foods.” I’ve had people tell me they were afraid to bring me meals when I had a child because they didn’t know what I would eat (i.e. too healthy). These statements kind of surprised me because I knew my story, but I guess they didn’t.

When I began this journey to truly eat clean (whole foods, no processed foods, lots of veggies, some fruit, complex carbohydrates and the absence of refined carbohydrates), I could not even think of the effort and discipline it would take to quit with sugar. So, at that point I only wrote it on the paper, but didn’t even entertain the idea at that time. It was too big and I knew I wasn’t ready for that. I had to begin smaller with the things I was ready for. This is how it can be with you, whatever your health objective. You don’t necessarily have to quit sugar like I did. I realize many people think I am extreme with this and they cannot wrap their heads around it. I’ve had people take big bites of cake right in my face a parties and say, “Mmmm, this is soooo good.” As though somehow they were tempting me or I was standing there in agony because I wanted a bite. Not so! We have control over our taste buds. You heard me! We can train our taste buds. You get used to whatever it is you eat. Here is a newsflash, when you eat very small amounts of sugar, when you do taste something that has sugar (ie. Even a chocolate chip cookie or cupcake) all you can taste is sugar. I’m not kidding. If I were to take a bite of a cake or cookie, whatever, all I would taste is the sugar as if I scooped a spoonful of refined sugar all by itself into my mouth. Gross! It doesn’t taste good anymore. I can sit at Baskin Robbins and enjoy watching my children enjoy their cone of ice cream and not have one itch to join them. I am past it. It doesn’t mean I don’t still want something sweet now and then, but what I consider sweet has changed altogether. What began as a hunch of what could lie on the other side of a sugar free life, a loss of taste for the stuff, turned out to be pure and true intuition! I also practice wisdom with this knowledge. Because I used to battle a desire for sugar I know that I always have to remain guarded. The freedoms in my health since I quit sugar have been amazing! I feel so good all the time. When I don’t feel good I find it odd because it doesn’t happen very often. I have a mild and even temperament because my blood sugars are balanced. When you eat a lot of sweets and fats, you crave more sweets and fats because you body is in an unbalanced state desperately trying to find what is called stasis…balance! People who struggle with fats and sweets tend to have more mood swings and irritability than someone who eats clean. We truly are what we eat.

I began this health quest in my early teen years. I consciously decided at the age of thirteen that I didn’t want to become like my ancestors who battled obesity, heart disease and  high cholesterol. There aren’t many thirteen year old girls who, not being raised in a health focused environment, make decisions this deep at such a young age. For whatever reason…I did. I spent most of my youth exploring fitness and studying on my own about nutrition. I think I knew every calorie of every food I could dream of consuming. I was vastly interested in nutrition so it didn’t seem like studying or work to me. I had interest. I know that  gave me an advantage. We will always invest time, money and ourselves into something we are interested in.

It’s been eight years since I took the first step and dared to believe I could eat healthier than the average American diet. If I wanted to live more than just a life of mediocrity I had to achieve excellence in all areas.  The greatest factor that enabled me to achieve the goals I set for healthy living was a purpose. Did you catch some hints to my purpose along this story?…

I noticed a deleterious health pattern in my relatives that I didn’t want to repeat. I had many things I wanted to do and become in my life and I recognized that in order to get it done, I needed to be healthy.

Ultimately, my deep faith in God lead me here. I know it was what God wanted for me. I know he helped me along as I failed many, many times. This is the stuff that truest and deepest character is made of…when we fall, we get up and “get back on that horse!” For it is but too true, the only ones who fail are those who quit. Don’t quit, but even more importantly, do not fail to begin. You are valuable and worthy of so much more than an achy body or lack of energy. I hope I have encouraged you in this. If a kid who grew up on Kool Aid can kick sugar, then surely you can achieve that much more! I believe in you…Let your journey begin… Regardless of how many miles it may take or time to overcome, with that first step…

Simply begin.