Photo by Ava Simonsen
I pry open the box, hearing the satisfying pop of the cardboard flaps. My bowl’s ready for these Cocoa Bunnies. The first bite is bliss. My breakfast is completely gone a few minutes later.
But I’ve barely plopped my spoon back into the milk before the guilt creeps in. After five days on a no-added-sugar diet, eight grams of sugar seems like a ton.
Last week I watched Fed Up, a documentary from 2014 about the underlying causes of childhood obesity. I was barely two minutes in before I started questioning all my life’s choices it was so terrifying. My stomach churned the whole time as horrifying statistics were thrown at me every five minutes, such as how one soda a day increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60 percent.
This could even be the first generation of adults who outlive children. Let that sink in for a second – so much for modern medicine. Hence my tumultuous tummy.
So when the end of the documentary came and proposed a no added-sugar diet, I knew I needed to do it. Now that I knew the consequences of a crazy sugar life, I didn’t want to live it – even if that meant letting go of my beloved brownies for a while. And let’s be real, baby steps – there’s no way I could have gone for more than five days.
First day, 6:34 a.m.: I pop open the cereal cabinet, easily passing over the Annie’s Cocoa Bunnies before settling on granola. Being healthy is no problem, I thought to myself, I won’t notice a difference these next few days. Go me!
Spoke too soon.
My jaw hit the counter – 13 grams of sugar in just two-thirds of a cup of store-bought granola. It was the second ingredient on the list. Ha, no thank you.
I puttered around the kitchen for several minutes, crossing off option after option. I swear, everything has added sugar. I finally settled on plain yogurt with frozen raspberries and blueberries and regular oats sprinkled on top. Delicious, but definitely not Cascadian Farms French Vanilla Almond granola.
The rest of the five days continued the same way. I checked every single food to see if it had added sugar, and the worst was when it hid under different names like cane syrup, dextrose or molasses – because apparently that’s a thing.
Even food companies I thought I trusted — looking at you, Trader Joe’s — betrayed me. A high point of the week was finding out Cheez-Its are sugar free, yet I almost teared up seeing my naan sitting in my fridge, taunting me in its added-sugar glory.
Don’t get me wrong, I could thrive on a limited diet – if it was made up of almonds, pesto and applesauce. But not when it’s rye bread and peanut butter, because that got old real quick, especially when I went through an entire loaf of it in three days because that was one of the few things I could eat. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough, but there was little variety in this diet. I ate the same things almost every day because my usual smorgasbord of flavored yogurts, cereal and granola bars had too much sugar.
Furthermore, there weren’t any noticeable physical changes. I did feel lighter and cleaner, but that isn’t concrete – I don’t know if I just thought I felt cleaner because I was sugar-free, or if I actually did.
I did notice myself eating less though. Previously I would eat a granola bar around third hour and still be starving for second lunch. But this past week I didn’t eat anything between breakfast and lunch, and I could’ve gone another few hours.
I’m going to be real – the sugar-free diet was sad. I know I dearly missed having some “Chocolate to Die For” ice cream for dessert. But after I cut out sugar for a mere five days, I found myself holding back on sugar levels even when I could eat whatever I wanted.
After watching Fed Up, I realized I don’t want to trash my only body with insane amounts of sugar – the repercussions are just too much. After all, I kind of like my blood pressure at the level it is now. At the same time though, completely eliminating it is unreasonable for me. So for now on, maybe I’ll choose an apple instead of a Clif bar.
But I’m getting chocolate cake, and eating it too.