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Going sugar free(ish) for 30 days was a real mixed bag of emotions

sugar free

“Oh mannn, why did I sign up for this?” was literally all I thought in the days leading up to going sugar free, & frankly for the first few days of October as well.

But let me set the scene. I’m an Australian, who now lives in London. Before I moved, I went on a 4-week Eurotrip, and it’s fair to say I did not hold back. I ate & drank my way through Italy, Spain, Amsterdam, London. Then I went home, broke up with my boyfriend (cue ice-cream), moved back in with my parents (yes, I will have desert, thanks mum) and finally moved to London (hellooo Pret! and yes, of course, hello pubs), and quite by surprise, 13kgs later, I found myself the heaviest I’d ever been.

I’ve lost most of the ‘Heathrow Injection’ since then, mostly through finding a routine again, and enjoying a great job here at Contiki. But I felt like it had been a long time since I had done something proactively positive for my health. After a slow afternoon watching YouTube videos on the health crisis that is added sugar in our food, I’d found the challenge I needed to take charge of being healthy.

The rules? October. No food with added sugar – bye, bye bread. No sugar alternatives  – goodbye cheeky Friday Diet Coke, and for the first 3 days I had to detox, which meant no fruit & no lactose. That was not just hard; it was depressing. I’m not just Australian, I’m from Melbourne; a morning flat white isn’t just a ‘nice to have’. It’s a straight up essential.

A group of children posing for a photo in a sugar free classroom.

The detox sucked. But it did help me tune in to my body as I noticed how much hungrier I got without that morning protein hit. About day 5, I got grumpy and weirdly anxious. Though after that settled, it was all kind of ok. My mood evened out, I didn’t have afternoon crashes so badly, and mentally, I’d locked in. So, when a group of us ordered fries* I could happily eat them without tomato sauce or even mayo (even if it did feel like a complete betrayal of my ‘strayan roots).

*my friends ordered the fries… I just ate them. They’ve recently told me this is a chronic habit I have. Soz guys.. love you, chip thief

And then the added challenge: high on the smugness of going sugar free, I boarded a plane for Iceland. It had been sitting pretty high up the old bucket list, and when 2 mates said they had a trip planned, 3 of us invited ourselves before they could say ‘Boys’ Trip’.

A group of sugar free people walking in front of a large building.

In order to keep to a semblance of a budget, we cooked a lot ourselves and had a lot of picnic sandwiches. Hardly a tough life choice, when you can’t help but stumble across an insanely beautiful waterfall at every single turn. While this did keep budgets in the black, it wasn’t exactly helpful for avoiding all the hidden sugars. Or the obvious ones…

I caved about 10 days into October. Seljalandsfoss waterfall. I was a bit soggy having strolled behind this thundering waterfall. It was our first stop of the day and I hadn’t even had a coffee yet. So, when my friend ordered coffees and an Icelandic ‘wedded bliss’ cake called Hjónabandssaela (that I still can’t pronounce), I didn’t say no and frankly the rhubarb, oaty cake was really tasty. (Hjónabandssaela Thief)

Aaand, then there was that other time… it was freezing. And really windy. And there were 3 of us in the car. And there were 3 mini-Snickers left. And you really aren’t you when you’re hungry. And I took that as a sign… so I ate the Snickers. It was super sweet, and it was seriously good.

I came back from Iceland really refreshed. Not in the immediate sense – the 9am wake-up call, the morning after properly celebrating our last night in Iceland was not fun. But refreshing in the sense that I really had checked out from ‘real life’. I had forgotten about the little stresses that take up my days. I had forgotten all about the tube and remembered what personal space feels like. The biggest dilemma I had on the trip was whether or not I wanted to snap pictures of an incredible sunset from a thermal hot spring, or just enjoy it in person. I came back with clearer skin, better hair and amazing memories.

Once I got back to London, my carefree attitude lingered a little longer than expected, and though I haven’t had any more chocolates or cakes, I did have a Thai takeaway that first night back, and I have still gone out to eat with friends, all of which undoubtedly had sugar in it.

I set out to go sugar free for a month to do something positive for my health. But ironically, the moments I failed the challenge felt like some of the healthiest moments I had this month. I still had to buy new jeans because I lost about 3kgs doing the challenge. And I’m really glad that I broke my sugar-free challenge when I did. For me, the healthiness of truly enjoying my travels, and of experiencing local foods and learning about the stories behind them was the best thing I could do.

I came back from Iceland in love with a new country, seriously checked out from the stresses of my normal life and remembering how much I love travelling. So, while I’m going to try to not dip into the office biscuit tin on the reg, I’m not cutting sweet treats out completely, forever. I going to keep having the sugary stuff in doses and ways that actually make me really happy.  First up: a cheeky DC, next stop: Belgian Chocolate.