The “no processed sugar” challenge
I recently read a Huffington Post article about a family who decided to live with out processed sugar for an entire year. The mother wrote a book about what their year was like. Mom, Dad and the two kids had more energy, didn’t get any colds or viruses and generally felt better.
I was intrigued. I had already been on a health kick since attending a Tony Robbins seminar last year, foregoing caffeine, alcohol, sugar and any kind of processed food from a bag or a box and juicing everyday, however, I was still feeding my 10-year-old son everything I wouldn’t dare touch. One day I decided to add up all the grams of sugar from his lunch that I lovingly packed every morning. It totaled 98 grams of sugar! It’s no wonder the kid can’t focus, bounces off the walls like Tigger and seems to always be craving anything sweet and sugary incessantly.
I decided it was time to face the fact that my son was a sugar addict and I had been his dealer. I joked with him one day that if he could stop eating processed sugar for an entire year, I would give him a whopping $500.00 at the end of the year. Since my son knows the value of a dollar and is already motivated by the green stuff, he enthusiastically agreed. Of course, we both realized a year is a long time so we added a couple of freebies: his birthday, holidays and one free day a month of his choice. After all, he is still a kid surrounded by daily temptations from other kids who gorge themselves on sugary treats. His school, which allows all kinds of sugar to be shared on special days, doesn’t help the situation.
During the first two weeks, his will power was incredible. No sugary cereals, no cinnamon and sugar on his pancakes, no more ice cream or cookies after dinner and visits to the yogurt shop after school (where he would load it with candy) are non existent. The first two days his classmates celebrated birthdays at school and brought in cupcakes. My son excused himself from class and went to play outside by himself. His teachers emailed me congratulating him on his will power. I was blown away. I never thought he would be able to control his desire for cupcakes! My husband reminded me, “he’s just like his mom, competitive and when he sets his mind to something, he wants to reach his goal.” I knew he told his friends at school about his new challenge and sure enough, they were helping to remind him what he had promised. He couldn’t fail now.
It’s been 40 days today and my kid has not given up. The cheat days are more than once a month due to special occasions that seem to keep popping up and it would just be downright cruel for me to be so strict, but overall, his sugar intake has been slashed by 80%. My husband and I can both see a difference and the greatest thing is my son sees it too. He is more attentive when I try to get his attention to ask him to do something, he is able to control his body more, he seems to have more focus at school and can sit still longer. Also, his emotions are less like a roller coaster and more like a placid lake.
I started posting his success on my Face Book page and it inspired my other mommy friends to take a look at their children’s diets (as well as their own.) They were all rooting my son on and looking forward to my updates on his challenge. Once he reached 21 days it became easier for him. After all, it’s a know fact that if you do anything for 21 days straight, it becomes a habit.
I’ve removed his “candy crunch” yogurt cup from his lunch. No more fruit roll ups, now he gets fresh fruit or unsweetened applesauce. Because he’s also a vegan (his choice) he eats cream cheese and jelly sandwiches but now minus the jelly. No more granola bars or trail mix bars with chocolate chips and other added sugar. Even his Cliff Bars, which I thought were “healthy” touted 28 grams of sugar. I include a hard boiled egg and string cheese for protein.
What started out as an extreme idea of “no processed sugar for a year” has turned out to be a manageable goal that he can attain and still feel good about. It forced me to focus on what I had been throwing in his lunch for the sake of convenience and ease. It takes a bit more time cutting up fruit and veggies but it’s well worth it and I know he’ll be a healthier boy because of it.
As for myself, I still say “no” toalcohol, caffeine and sugar but when it’s a special occasion, I don’t beat myself up for having a cheat day. When it’s my birthday, I’ll have my favorite coconut cake or chocolate Sprinkles cupcake. The less sugar I eat the less sugar I crave. I’ve also realized that when I have a healthy carbohydrate at lunch time like a sweet potato, lentils or brown rice, it curbs my sugar cravings, especially at night. Try it for yourself and see if you notice a difference. If you want more energy, radiant skin and less sugar cravings, take the “no processed sugar” challenge for 21 days and see how you feel. You might even want to keep on going for the rest of the year and the rest of your life. Good luck!