By Leo Babauta
Life seems sweeter without sweets. Or at least, just as sweet.
If you’d suggested that I’d prefer a life that was pretty much devoid of sweet desserts a year ago, I would have laughed in scorn. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, mostly centered on chocolate but I also love pies and cookies and muffins and ice cream.
But as a part of my Year of Living Without, I gave up sugar in October. And in truth, it was fairly easy (with a few harder spots) because I’d mostly been going without sugar for the previous four months or so.
I found that life is just as fun, as enjoyable, as lovely without all the sugar. It’s not as necessary as I’d thought, not as horrible or lifeless without sugar as I’d anticipated.
I set out on this Year of Living Without to learn about my resistance, but the funny thing is that my resistance seems to be much greater when I’m imagining going without something I think I need, than it is when I actually go without it.
I thought giving up coffee would be incredibly hard, but it wasn’t hard at all (except for a few times when the allure of the smell was strong). I thought going without TV would be hard, but mostly I didn’t miss it. No sitting for more than 30 minutes actually was hard, but not because I missed sitting — only because I really got physically tired (often from running or working out).
So the resistance comes when we imagine the loss, not when we actually experience the loss. At least, that’s what I’ve been finding so far.
In this post, I’ll talk about a few of my thoughts and experiences going without sugar, and then share what I’m giving up in November (hint: it’s one of my hardest challenges yet).
Going Without Sugar
Some of what I learned and experienced in my month without sugar:
- In the beginning of the month, I was traveling in Europe. Mostly didn’t miss the sugar, but I was definitely tempted when we found vegan gelato in Italy, then various vegan desserts in Vienna and London. Overall, it wasn’t hard — most of the desserts we passed weren’t vegan, so while they looked tasty, I’m not tempted to eat them (milk and eggs make me think of dead baby animals).
- Most days of the month, I had no sweet temptations — if any sweets were around, they were non-vegan candies or desserts, so I didn’t care.
- The challenge was easiest when I stay home or only go out to exercise or have tea with a friend. Staying away from restaurants or other people’s houses means no temptations.
- Going to a vegan restaurant makes it a bit more challenging, as sometimes the kids have vegan desserts (a vegan chocolate shake was a bit tempting one day) but knowing that I’m not having sugar cuts off the temptation in my mind. So it’s not hard. If I didn’t have the challenge, I’d definitely share in their desserts.
- In the middle of the month, I traveled to China — there are many interesting treats there, but mostly ones I can’t eat, so it wasn’t that hard. I think there was some mochi there that I would have loved, but I just didn’t give it much thought.
- One day I bought the kids some chocolate chip cookies that would have been very tempting in the old days (just 6 months ago). But now I don’t have as much a taste of it — I think of the harm sugar does to my body, and how it doesn’t make me feel so good afterward, and sugar isn’t as appealing.
- Near the end of the month was my son’s birthday. The coconut pancakes I made for breakfast weren’t tempting, nor was the cake and ice cream later. But Eva made some banana chocolate chip muffins that for some reason I craved. I just focused on my delicious Ezekiel cereal with nuts and berries and enjoyed it, so I was fine
- One day I ate at both my favorite vegan restaurants in SF (that’s more than I usually eat out), and at lunch my friend ate one of my favorite vegan desserts. It was tempting but not too hard to resist, because I told him in advance that I couldn’t have a single bite. I think telling people about my no-sugar challenge helps me stick to it.
- Trick or treating with the kids – I was tempted by Reeses peanut butter cups for some reason, but didn’t have any. Other candies did nothing for me.
- When I keep myself busy, sweets aren’t even a thought.
- When I’m tired, my willpower seems to drop, and temptations are harder. When I’m tired and hungry, I’m at my weakest.
November: No Computers/Internet Before Noon
So this month I’ve already had a small failure in my challenge. In November, I’m going without computers/Internet before noon (including smartphones, etc.) … except to write.
So I can use my laptop to write a post or work on my novel, but I can’t Google anything or check email or even read on my computer. No reading saved articles from the Internet either.
What will I do instead? I’ll read a novel (working my way through Joyce’s Ulysses right now) and write blog posts or work on my novel.
However, I missed the first day because I forgot. The challenge for the second day was when I really wanted to look things up, which I’m really used to doing immediately by now — instead, I wrote them down to look them up later.
This should be interesting.