So... What Now?

We are in the homestretch of the Sugar-Detox Challenge! There's less than a week to go! I for one am so proud of myself and everyone who decided to give this challenge try. Before it ends and we all dive into our Easter baskets, I want to take a moment to step back with you and reflect on the experience. And perhaps offer some guidance as to how to proceed from here, because last year when I got to this point I found myself both full of excitement and anticipation, but, if I'm honest, a little anxiety too. I didn't want to undo all the good I had done, but I wasn't ready to make the diet my lifestyle just yet.

First off, take a private moment to appreciate what an amazing thing you have done for yourself. Our health is truly everything we have. Without it we have nothing. This became crystal clear to me this year when I came down with viral meningitis (see blogpost on it here). Making smart decisions now before it's too late is the greatest gift you can give yourself. 

That said, it takes so much willpower to change your eating habits, not just because they are habits, but because they are reinforced by our culture, the food industry and immediate gratification. If it's not friends and family giving you a hard time for no longer eating like they do, it's a commercial telling you to treat yourself to ice cream on a hot day. To make matters worse, we are just wired to crave that white stuff. Sugar stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which activates the reward (think addiction) pathways in our brain. While sugar isn't nearly as addictive or dangerous of drugs like cocaine, it's still incredibly hard for us to turn down and damaging to our health. 

In short, giving up sugar is not easy and you should be proud. I cannot say this enough. Even if you fell off the bandwagon for a meal or two or even a few days, take a moment to realize what you have accomplished. I'm sure you have consciously and consistently made so many better nutritional decisions over the last 40 days and your body is thanking you.

Last year, I got to this point and after my pride and excitement settled down, I found myself wondering "So...what now?" I didn't want to throw all my hard work out the window, because I knew simply going back to my old ways would undo all the positive changes I had experienced. However, I was not ready to never have another piece of chocolate again (because let's face it, who is?). I also knew that if I did want to make a permanent positive change in my diet, there was never going to be a better time than now. I had put in all the hard work, overcome cravings and figured out how to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate this new diet. All this left me rather conflicted. It took me a little bit of self reflection to decide what I wanted to do. The following 10 questions are there to help you do the same. You can read more about what permanent changes I decided to make and why here.  

1. Why did you decide to do the Sugar-Detox Challenge? 

2. What positive changes have you noticed in yourself since the start of the Sugar-Detox Challenge? Physically, mentally, emotionally?

3. What was the easiest thing to give up? Why?

4. What was the hardest thing to give up? Why?

5. What healthy recipes have you really enjoyed over the last 40 days and would consider cooking again?

6. What small changes could you easily make to decrease the amount of sugar you consume?

7. What did you learn about yourself along the way?

8. What surprised you most over the course of this challenge?

9. What sugary foods are the least rewarding/important to you? Would you be willing to cut these out or reduce how often you consume them?

10. What sugary foods are the most rewarding/important to you? Why?

For me, the answers to these questions helped me realize what I wanted, why I wanted and what I was willing to change to achieve it. They also helped me identify what changes were realistic for me and what was still holding me back.

I hope that from the vantage point of improved health all of you feel inspired to make at least some small permanent change in your diet. This could be as simple as no longer buying sugary cereal or flavored, sweetened yogurt or as significant as no longer using processed products with added sugar when cooking at home. Anything and everything makes a difference! I would love to hear your thoughts on the entire experience, any of your answers to the questions above and what permanent changes you would like to make!

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