October is one of my favorite months of the year. The leaves are turning, the air is getting just a bit crisp, sweaters and boots are back in a big way, and Halloween is coming. Three days ago, I poured out a bowl full of candy corn and put it on the file cabinet in front of my desk at work. And I didn’t touch it. I haven’t had a single piece of candy corn this year. It’s October 18! If this were a year ago, I would have gobbled up the entire bowl, or at least as much as I could possibly consume before feeling like the contents of my stomach were going to make a reappearance.
I have a serious thing for candy corn. Honestly, I have a serious thing for sugar in general. Bored? Sleepy? Eat some candy! Headache? Eat some candy! Stressful news? Eat some candy! Good news? Eat some candy! Just passing by the candy bowl? Eat some damn candy! Just eat it already! Although I don’t tend to gobble down multiple chocolate bars Augustus Gloop-style, I am a grazer. A piece here, a piece there. ALL. DAY. It’s just as bad.
In April of this year, I decided to cut sugar out of my diet. The fact is: sugar is not good for you. You know it isn’t. You don’t need it. I had also gained about 5 pounds since moving from the city and I couldn’t take it off, no matter how much desperate wishing I did. I didn’t want to do a crash diet and eat cottage cheese and grapefruit for 7 days. I wanted to make a life change and eat healthier for good – which was much scarier. I knew I needed break the sugar habit that had me running for the candy bowl after lunch, after dinner, and whenever else I felt like I needed a lil pick-me-up.
I read up on Whole 30, Paleo, Paleo Plus, blah blah blah. Since I’m a sometimes pescatarian who is a little bit lactose intolerant, a lot of the high protein diets I read about wouldn’t work long term without a bit of tweaking. In the end, I decided on a few things: no candy of any kind, no high fructose corn syrup, no added sugar, and sprouted grain bread only. Sugar free replacements were out, too (I feel like this was huge in being successful). Those were really the only hard and fast rules. And one day, I just decided to go for it. I was going cold turkey.
The first few days were tough. Really tough. Breaking a habit sucks. I got headaches in the afternoon and felt exhausted by the time I got home from work. People reacted strangely to it, like what I was eating was personally offensive. Instead of candy, I started eating almonds. So, so many almonds. When I felt like I couldn’t eat another friggin’ almond without gleefully burning down a farm in California, I moved to cashews. Then to pistachios. Then back to almonds, since I’d forgotten how much I hated their guts. Repeat.
But seriously, after the first week, it was much smoother sailing. I remembered wanting it, and I remembered how much I liked it, but I could say no. I could say no to candy, to desserts, to junk food in general. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done, but it was easier than I’d expected. I also started gradually losing those few extra pounds, though I definitely wasn’t eating any fewer calories. If anything, I was likely eating more.
I spent about two months completely avoiding any of the items in the rules. It got easier. By the end, it had normalized. I started occasionally indulging in some of the verboten foods. I had some failures. The weeks surrounding my wedding were pretty out of control. The night we babysat our nephew was a little heavy on Reese’s Pieces.
6 months later, I’m not as strict with myself, but it’s definitely changed the way I eat. I’ve kept those 5 pounds off. I’m no longer dying for dessert after dinner. I don’t make a beeline to the candy bowl after lunch. I still don’t eat any sugar free replacement junk food, because that’s seriously just some chemical crap, guys. And I didn’t eat any of the stupid candy corn. Sure, I’ll eat some candy on Halloween because it’s Halloween. And I will love every second of it. But on November 1, it’s back to normal. Because although we might meet up occasionally for coffee, sugar and I are never, ever getting back together.