Nothing will break your trust with our food system faster than taking a trip to the grocery store and looking for added sugar in foods you didn’t think it would be in: tomato sauce, salad dressings, that protein bar you’re obsessed with. I’m telling you, discovering just how much sugar you’re unknowingly consuming on a daily basis is akin to discovering your boyfriend is still on a family phone plan with his ex: It’ll make you say “WTF?!” over and over and OVER again.
The average American downs nearly three times the recommended amount of sugar per day, and excess sugar consumption is linked to everything from heart disease to cognitive decline. Hard pass on those, am I right?
That said, cutting back on sugar is easier said than done. See above: It’s in, um, everything. So when I saw that local SoulCycle instructor Nick Turk was going a full month without any added sugar, inviting others to join him, I figured he might have some helpful tips for all of us looking to cut back. Below, what he learned from his month-long no-sugar challenge.
1. First, having a solid motivation for cutting out sugar is essential if you actually want to stick with it.
As many of us learn by going to the gym, using vanity as motivation only gets you so far. Eventually, it’s helpful to find other sources of motivation, like your mental health or energy levels, to keep you striving toward your goals.
Same goes for ditching sugar, Turk says.
“It’s all about mindset and creating the right intention beforehand, so when challenges comes up”—and office birthday cake will come up—”it’s easier to stay strong.”
This was Turk’s second time trying this challenge, so his motivation for sticking with it was to help others to realize they could do it too.
2. Know that the first week is tough—but the clarity you get soon after is well worth it.
Turk has found that day four without added sugar tends to be the make or break point for a lot of people. As he says, “Day four is the hardest day, I believe because it’s when most people decide to continue or not. I obviously did, however I saw a lot of people opt out of the challenge.”
That said, if you stick it out, there’s a well-deserved reward in it for you: mental clarity. Who couldn’t use a bit more of that? As Turk says, “At first, yes, there are withdrawals. But the most astounding thing was that at the middle of the challenge there’s this sense of clarity. You are able to handle daily stressors in a more collected manor.”
I will happily take a more calm and collected version of myself, thank you very much.
3. Whole foods are your friends—but you don’t have to cook every single thing from scratch.
Throughout his no-added-sugar month, Turk mostly relied on whole foods to get him through the day. Think: Ezekial toast with eggs, bacon and avocado for breakfast; mixed greens and quinoa with chicken and hard-boiled egg for lunch; veggie stir-fry with roasted sweet potatoes for dinner. But he did also reach for some grab-and-go bars when he needed them. His picks were Rx Bars and Lara Bars for snacks.
The point: To make your life easier, you can reach for packaged foods, but check the ingredients to make sure they aren’t sneaking sugar in.
4. At the end of 30 days, you might have a new perspective on how you fuel yourself.
Being conscious of what you’re consuming—and recognizing how foods make you feel—can force you to realize just how much what’s on your plate impacts everything from your mood to your energy levels. After 30 days without added sugar, Turk says, “I realized I am in complete control of my life through my diet. If I want to feel great, it’s dependent on what I put in my body.”
So, who wants to be my accountability partner? Because I am going to need some help.
You May Also Like: How to Trick Yourself Into Liking Salad