Since it is almost mid-July, I thought that I should do a wrap up of Junk Free June. I did intend on writing this post a little closer to finishing, however, July has gotten pretty busy for me.
To recap, my goals for Junk Free June were pretty straightforward:
- No refined sugars
- No major corporation takeaways
I don't eat takeaways very often at all, so I wasn't expecting this to be much of an issue. I do however have quite a sweet tooth, so avoiding refined sugars for 30 days definitely was setting myself a challenge. Also cutting out refined sugars cuts out pretty much all processed foods.
I successfully went 30 days without indulging in either of these things and I learnt a few things along the way.
1. Fat was my friend...
I know a lot of people think of fat as a dirty word and avoid it where possible, but to be honest, fats truly were my best friend at helping prevent sugar cravings. In particular full fat dairy and peanut butter really helped me through. Rather than reaching for something sweet mid-afternoon, I would quite often have cheese and crackers, or an apple with a peanut butter - coconut oil sauce.
I am quite interested in reading up on nutrition, so swapping out sugar for fats does make a bit of sense. Fats help to give you the feeling of satiation, whereas sugar does the opposite. Furthermore, you can eat far more sugar before feeling full (or usually sick) than fat. After a couple of slices of cheese I was usually quite happy.
2. ... as were hot drinks
I tend to be in the habit of having a little something sweet after a meal, so this was when I sometimes found it hard to feel satisfied. I found that my trick was a hot drink, as it helped me sit, relax and get back into what I was doing. My goal was to not just swap sugar for caffeine, so I made sure to limit myself to 1 caffeinated coffee per day, and mixed up black and herbal teas.
3. I realised why diets often fail
Don't get me wrong, I think kicking the crap out of your life is a fantastic thing to do, but I definitely came to understand why the exclusion mentality that goes with most diets often doesn't work. For the first 2 weeks I thought about food aaaaaaaaalllllll the time. Rather than having a piece of dark chocolate after lunch, I often spent all afternoon thinking about food, and eating more to try and fill some sort of hole. I was only getting rid of sugar, so I can imagine that if you suddenly exclude a whole heap of food out of your life, it would be very easy to break and binge.
4. It wasn't sugar that I missed most
Throughout the month there were quite a few temptation moments, and if you had asked me at the beginning of the month what would break me, I definitely would have said something sugar-related. Strangely enough, I sat through Jake eating cheesecake without having any issues, but missing out on pizza for one lunch at work made me want to cry!
5. My sugar cravings did go away
By the end of the month, I did actually find that physically I wasn't craving sugar. I still had a few mental barriers, feeling like I was missing out by not having something with sugar, but most of the time I could find a substitute or go for something savoury. On the 1st July, we went out to treat ourselves and I got myself a piece of caramel slice. I could only eat 1 bite, it was so sweet! I the sat all afternoon with a cupcake on my desk and no real desire to eat it (which really is a miracle for me).
All in all, while I found Junk Free June a valuable experience, and I am happy that I raised some money for a great cause, I'm not sure if I would do it again. I do like that my body became less reliant on sugar, but I hated the amount I obsessed over it at times.
I prefer the moderation approach, enjoying a piece of cake, or a piece of chocolate when I feel like it. Cutting back on refined sugar is a fantastic goal to have, however, if I was going to focus on anything for a month, I think I would take an additive approach, setting myself the challenge to fit in my 5+ everyday or something similar. Fuelling your body in the right ways and filling up on nutritious foods helps you feel great and leaves less room for junk food.