Sugar once a month: Sugar-free February

By Floor Tuinstra

Sugar once a month: Sugar-free February

We are now in our second sugar-free month and I thought it would be fun to share our experience with you.
My husband and I started a sugar-free challenge on January 1, 2020; For a month we do not eat or drink refined sugar, which also contains alcohol.
Our son automatically participates, but he isn't really fond of sweets anyway, other than jam, so that's a piece of cake.
At the end of the month we have a day to enjoy sweets. In short: sugar once a month.

From nutritionist to reflexologist

Many people only know me as a reflexologist, but I have been studying the effects of sugar on our body since 2006.
From 2006 to 2012 I lived sugar-free before.
I even gave nutritional advice for a period (I also have a diploma for that). But I didn't enjoy the short-term treatment processes that much. I only saw my clients 1 to 3 times and then they started working on the advice themselves.
That's why I switched to reflexology. This is something that many people like to receive and for which they return regularly (once every 1 to 3 months) and in this way I see my clients on a regular basis.
This way I can see in the long term how people develop and develop and what happens when they make small adjustments to their lifestyle. Even if I only see my clients and their feet once or twice a year.
For many, the feet are the most underrated body parts they have, but feet are constantly changing.
If you get cramps, inflammation, pain in your joints or if it hurts when you have to stand on your feet, you immediately realize how important they are.
When you start new medication, the effect will start to show in your feet.
If you have experienced trauma, your feet will tell me the story.
If your migraine has gotten worse or you are having trouble defecating, I can feel it.
If you have breastfed your baby for a year, the skin on your feet will show it.
But in order to be there for both my family and my clients, I like it when my energy is balanced throughout the day. Stopping sugar intake every now and then helps me with this.

How did things go in the 1st sugar-free month of January this year?

Fancy something sweet

When I first started it was not that easy to give up all sugars. I still had moments where I craved something sweet like chocolate.
In the first 3 weeks of January, when I had a sweet tooth, I would take a teaspoon of jam. That sometimes became 2 to 3 teaspoons. It was a delicious rose hip jam that a friend of ours had made from rose hips that he had picked in nature and to which he had added sugar. So the first month was not completely sugar-free.
This sugar craving lasted about 3 weeks and then it was over.

How did the 2nd sugar-free month of February go?

Our 2nd sugar-free month was easier than the first.
An explanation for this is that we are no longer newbies in kicking the habit and cutting out sugar.
In the 2nd month I didn't have a single moment where I craved something sweet like I did in January.

Went for the axe

But halfway through the month, even though I didn't feel the need for it, I did taste a piece of homemade gluten- and lactose-free chocolate cake from one of my students that she had sweetened with agave syrup and I had a piece of brownie that I had made myself ( which contained sugar but no gluten).
Other than that, everything went very smoothly.

What differences do I notice in myself?

I especially notice that I no longer notice or look at the sweet sections in the supermarkets and that if I have something sweet at the end of a sugar-free month, I need less sweets because it is quickly too much.
We also spend less money on snacks and sweets these past 2 months but I don't keep track of the budget. A rough estimate is that we used to spend about 25 to 30 euros on chocolate and other sweets. I haven't even included beer and chips for my husband.
I have never really had any problems with my skin and I don't need foundation, but I notice that my skin has become even calmer.
Mentally I feel like I can handle a lot more.
My face is less round and wide at the bottom. I never weigh myself so I don't know if I've lost weight, but some pants do fit a little looser. But a little goes a long way. If I really wanted to lose weight, I might exercise a little more and eat a little less. But I think it's fine that way too. Above all, I feel comfortable in my own skin and that is the most important thing to me.

My first piece of advice for someone who is also thinking of going sugar-free for a month, switch to sugar once a month

To start with, I would give away anything that could cause you to have a weak moment to someone else or use it up before you start a sugar-free month. For me it meant that there could no longer be any chocolate in the house.
One of my clients says that if she has a pack of sugar at home, she will bake everything from chocolate cookies to cakes and pies. Those cookies are then all eaten at once and not spread out very moderately over the rest of the week.
For the first period, 1-3 weeks, it is wise to have some dried fruit or jam at home. So you can snack on something small to help you get through the most difficult moments.

How can we keep this up?

When I buy a chocolate bar, I don't eat 1 or 2 pieces every day. That bar goes away in one go. As a child, if my grandmother gave us a bag of candy, it would almost be gone in the car before we got home.
But never eating sugar again is something that is not feasible for us. We have now found a solution for this: sugar once a month.

Sugar once a month

Limiting sweets to sugar once a month creates a moment that I look forward to, that we can celebrate and appreciate together and enjoy what we eat or drink much more.
We have already been to Hop and Stork in The Hague twice to celebrate. Once at the end of January and once at the end of February. Hop en Stork makes their own chocolate, they also have delicious parlinés and chocolate milk sticks from the Belgian brand Boon.
For next month we might want to go to another place where they make gluten-free sweets such as chocolate, cake and pie. If you know anything in your place, I would love to hear it.
We will also add an extra challenge in March.

What does our new challenge look like, beyond the existing 'sugar once a month' challenge?

The past month went so easily that my husband and I thought we could use an extra point of attention.
At the same time, we continue with our 3rd sugar-free month (March).
We want a month with less screen time.
That's why we don't turn on Netflix or watch movies or television. We will only have screen time for work, the news and documentaries. Our son goes along with this. This means that on some days we have to get up early because he is already awake. Previously, we sometimes wanted to turn on the television so that we could sleep a little longer.