No Sugar November

Now that Halloween is over and we are still a little over three weeks from Thanksgiving and the start of the “holidays”, I’m issuing a challenge to myself and my blog readers – eliminate sugar from your diet from now until Thanksgiving!

To some people it might sound simple, after all it’s only 24 days until Turkey Day. However, if your current diet contains a lot of sweets, or you have been grabbing a miniature Kit Kat or Hersey’s Dark bar from your kid’s Trick-Or-Treat bag over the last few days (I’m guilty), then it might be tough to completely eliminate all sugar starting today. Based on my personal experience, it will take anywhere from three days to two weeks before your body will no longer crave sugar. So if you can stick with this until Thanksgiving, you should be able to make some big changes in your diet even after indulging in a piece of Pumpkin Pie or Pound Cake on the 27th.

So why am I doing this? I don’t currently eat a ton a sugar, but since my triathlon/racing season came to an end about two months ago, I have let my diet slip and I’ve noticed that I don’t feel the same. I have less energy, I’ve had random headaches, I’ve started to feel some tightness in my knees and back when I wake up in the morning…all things that literally NEVER happened to me when I was training hard and eating a very clean diet all Spring and Summer. I want to cut out sugar to help me body heal and to kick-start getting my diet back on track before the holidays and the start of my training for 2015.

Before getting into the details of the challenge, I feel like I should take a minute to remind everyone why sugar needs to be eliminated from your diet. Here are some of the things that sugar/sweeteners do:

  • Decreases your body’s production of leptin, a hormone critical for appetite regulation (i.e., it makes you not realize that you are full).
  • It thickens the blood
  • Compromises your immune system
  • Fuels cancer cells
  • Promotes fat storage and weight gain
  • Disrupts transfer of amino acids to muscles
  • Triggers inflammation
  • Causes Type 2 diabetes
  • Causes nerve damage
  • Causes Cardiovascular Disease
  • Has addictive properties
  • Causes tooth decay

If you want to know more about all of the horrible things that happen to your body when you consume sugar and/or artificial sweeteners, do a simple Google search.

So if you want to join me in the challenge, here’s what you do:

Starting now, look at the labels of everything that you eat. If the word “sugar” (in any form) is listed in the ingredients, don’t eat it. But it’s not that simple. Sugar can come in many forms. It can be very tricky to find hidden sugar in foods that you don’t even think of as being sweet. It’s obvious that candy bars and donuts are off limits, but would you ever think that pasta sauce, peanut butter and yogurt have added sugar? Even simply drinking a glass of sweet tea can trigger the release of huge amounts of dopamine into the brain. It’s the same chemical that causes people to become addicted to gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.. So when your brain gets this release from even a small amount of sugar, it makes you want it more. The only way to keep from getting cravings is to cut it out completely.

Added Sugar

Graphic courtesy of the Center for Science in the Public Interest

So what should you look for on labels other than just the word “sugar”? Check for sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, galactose, lactose, maltose, dextrin, corn syrup, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), fruit juice concentrate, cane crystals, and evaporated cane juice.


All of these are off limits. Even though the artificial sweeteners don’t have the calories of their natural counterparts, they are toxic to your body and send mixed signals to your brain. Artificial sweeteners cause you to actually eat more because they break the connection between a sweet sensation and a high-calorie food, thereby changing your body’s ability to regulate calorie intake naturally.

Nutrition Facts say zero grams of Sugars, but look at all of the sweeteners listed in the ingredients!

Nutrition Facts say zero grams of Sugars, but look at all of the sweeteners listed in the ingredients!

So what about when you are not buying your food from the grocery and you are out to eat at a restaurant? When you are not preparing the food, it’s a little more difficult to find the hidden sugars. I usually try and order a salad with oil and vinegar instead of the dressings listed on the menu. Nearly every salad dressing out there has added sugar. Many salads also have caramelized nuts, so look to avoid those or just pick them off. Ketchup and BBQ sauces will always contain sugar. Often, sandwich meats at fast food restaurants are treated or injected with a sugar solution to add to the flavor. It’s not easy, but it can be done if you take the time to look at the menu and ask the server questions. Things can be left off or put on the side very easily if you just ask.

So if you are up for it, join me in going cold-turkey on sugar (and artificial sweeteners) from now until Thanksgiving. I’ve gone without sugar for weeks at a time before and while the first week or so is tough, it’s amazing how the body transforms and you no longer care about sweets. After going a few weeks without sugar, you will be able to walk by that vending machine or that plate of cookies without the slightest urge. If you slip up and have a soda on day three, don’t quit – just start over from that point. In order for this to work, you cannot have “cheat” days. Once you introduce that sugar again, the cravings will come back and it will be harder to get sugar off of the brain. It literally starts to control your thoughts and you will start thinking about that next sweet treat.

If you want some accountability, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and let everyone know that you are going to give it a try. If your family members, friends and co-workers all know that you are avoiding sugar, you are more likely to stick with it. You must also remove all sources of sugar from your home and replace them with real, unprocessed foods. Out of sight – out of mind. If you have a craving during the first few days, eat some berries or a banana. If your immediate family is not on-board this could be a big test for your will power.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress and I would love to hear from anyone else that is giving it a go. I have some tips and tricks that I can share as well if anyone is interested. I promise that you will feel better, have more energy and even lose some weight over the next 24 days! Good luck!

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