Week 1 with No Sugar

This post includes the “before” state with photos and measurements taken in the first two days or earlier, as well as my experience so far with eating no added sugar (see previous post where I detailed exactly what I will and won’t eat).

The “Before” State

I’m not expecting any drastic changes, but I know from experience that I’ll wish I had recorded how things were before so I could compare more objectively than using my memory. So here it is!

I don’t have specific result-oriented goals. My main priority is to observe and take note, as much as I can, what does actually change. So here’s a snapshot of how I was before I stopped eating added sugar.

Quantitative State

  • Waist circumference: 34.5 in

    (I measured around the widest part of the waist, not the standard method. I’m more curious about the max protrusion in the front, basically. Hehe protrusion.)

  • Hip circumference: 36.5 in
  • Bust circumference: 35 in

    When I’ve lost weight in the past, I noticed that my boobs disappeared first. I want to see if this happens again, and if the measurements are consistent with my observation.

  • Weight: 134 – 137 lbs in the last several days before Day 1

Below are a few other metrics I’d love to measure, but I don’t have the equipment at hand. These are from my last physical on June 2017:

  • Fat %: 26%
  • HDL: 68
  • LDL + LvDL: 71
  • Blood pressure: 92/60
  • Triglycerides: 71

As you can see, with perhaps the exception of the fat %, I’m pretty healthy, quantitatively. So we probably won’t be seeing any fun, dramatic changes, unfortunately. Or fortunately.

Qualitative state

In rough order of importance:

Energy: I have much less energy than I did before college. Whether this is due to age, life demands, or nutrition, I just don’t like it. The main energy-related factor I’d like to observe during this month is how quickly I get out of bed after I wake up.

Poops: TMI ALERT! Before I started this challenge, I pooped about once daily, no specific time that I can tell, generally pretty good poops, and occasional periods of not so great poops (I’ll just keep the details to myself for now :p). Also, starting maybe less than a decade ago, I’ve been having mild IBS on the first day or two of my period.

Metabolism / circulation(?): Since college, I’ve noticed that I feel much colder than most people, and that my hands, feet, and knees don’t warm up very well. I’m pretty sure I have a slow resting metabolic rate (I had it measured at LifeTime, but the method of removing “outliers” was highly questionable) or poor circulation. My doctor says my thyroid looks normal. I think the change is from a combination of quitting competitive swimming (and replacing it with nothing… I think went to the gym twice in college) and going to college in freezing cold Ithaca, NY.

Skin on face: A bit dry, much fewer acne scars than in college. Zits are seldom, thankfully.

Skin, in general: Pretty smooth and taut. Scars easily, and scars pretty much never go away 😦

Cravings: Mild to moderate cravings for chocolate or carbs, like pasta, pastries, bread, … Comes in waves of a few days, usually before period.

Week 1 Observations

Cravings:

My cravings have been surprisingly mild. The first few days, I continued my habit of walking into the kitchen whenever I had an idle moment, after which I would grab a chocolate or Dove ice cream bar from the freezer. But in the second half of the week, my cravings were pretty much gone.

Several years ago, I took the Science of Willpower class at Stanford, taught by the well-known psychologist Kelly McGonigal (by the way, her TED talk on how our stress isn’t actually killing us is not immediately relevant to this post, but I recommend it anyway!). One point she mentioned off-handedly but never went into was how, for some people, the problem is a weak willpower, and for others it’s strong impulses.

Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out if my inability to follow through on something was because of weak willpower or strong impulses. In this case, with the sugar cravings, I now know it’s not strong impulses. I just lacked a strong “will” in the “willpower” department. I.e. I didn’t have a strong Want. That is, until now, that I’ve announced this project to all my friends. Making your goal public really helps!

Also I love that, because I’ve made sugar such a non-option [by announcing it to everyone and therefore risking their judgment (or at least my own perception of their judgment) if I flake], I’m not stuck in a cost-benefit analysis of implementing a solution to my cravings (yes, this is how I rationalize eating a Dove ice cream bar). My cravings pass by, I can’t do anything about them, and they just move along. I had no idea they were so easy to get rid of!

I still have cravings for salty and meaty stuff though. Also, I hear Week 2 is harder for some people. So…we’ll see!

Headache and nausea: Headaches and nausea are supposed to be common sugar withdrawal symptoms. I’ve had what feels like a normal tension headache since yesterday evening. The only difference is this headache hasn’t gone away. And this morning it was so bad, I started feeling nauseated too. Is that a migraine? This has only happened a couple times, and only in the last few months. Not sure what’s going on.

Meal planning: It’s been a constant mild panic to make sure I have meals ready so I don’t resort of Chick-fil-A. Week 2 will be even harder because of classes. I’ve pre-cooked a few meals, but I don’t always remember to bring them to campus…

Weight: I broke 134 and entered the 133 territory about half a week in. Not too significant, and could be dehydration.

Poops: TMI ALERT! I’ve been weirdly constipated since Day 1. I neither pooped or even felt like I had anything to poop on days 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7. When I did go, it was very dry. On Day 2, I woke up with my lips extremely cracked. I thought it was just super dry outside, but others on no sugar have reported constipation as well. I can neither research nor reason my way to an explanation for this though… Is dehydration a withdrawal symptom? Are my microflora so addicted to sugar that they don’t eat anything else? What’s going on?

Discovering/remember some more exceptions

Some more foods that I CAN have that I didn’t include in the original post:

Lemon or lime juice when cooking

Vinegars that don’t have added sugar in the ingredient label.

This includes apple cider vinegar, which I drink regularly as a tea.

This does not include balsamic vinegar, which has 2400%(!) the amount of sugar as apple cider vinegar.

Unsweetened pea and flax milks

I drink creamy pea milk and use a thinner but likely healthier flax milk (I get both from Kroger) in my oatmeal. Their ingredients don’t list any forms of added sugar that I know of, but they contain “reduced” plants, which is on my NO list, so I’m making an exception and continuing to drink these.

 

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