Thought Catalog

40 Things I Learned From 40 Days Without Sugar And Alcohol

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So for this year’s Lent, I gave up alcohol and (artificial) sugar. Sugar is in some natural things like fruit, and I didn’t really want to give those up. I also gave up delivery food but I got the flu the week after Lent started, so that week was a fail. Other than that fail, and eating French toast during that week, I had a pretty solid commitment. And here are 40 things I learned in all of this:
Flickr / Daria Nepriakhina
Flickr / Daria Nepriakhina

1. Sugar is in A LOT of things. It’s pretty gross actually.

2. It’s incredibly difficult to eat at many restaurants without being that person who has to ask a ton of questions and basically change the ingredients of what you finally do order.

3. We should all probably be that person more for the sake of our health.

4. Some people will somehow start to feel that your food choices are about making them feel inadequate.

5. Alcohol is not as hard to give up as I thought it might be in the social context. Just always try to hold a glass of water so people will leave you alone.

6. If people are used to seeing you drink, your (temporary) sobriety will make them uncomfortable for whatever reason.

7. Whether it’s in food or drink, there was some FBI-type questioning as to why I was really giving up those things.

8. I was inevitably asked if I was trying to lose weight. Not that I learned this, but it reinforced our weight-obsessed culture. (And no, I wasn’t trying to lose weight.)

9. I was inevitably told that I don’t need to lose weight, even when I stated clearly I wasn’t trying to.

10. But of course, I inevitably did lose weight. (Granted, I don’t really step on scales much outside of the doctor’s office but I “looked” the part.)

11. Being a relatively healthy person already, I understood unequivocally why they say abs are made in the kitchen. Yes, my abs got more defined and I’d be lying if I wasn’t stoked about that.

12. But I felt a lot healthier almost immediately. Which tells me that most of the time, when we feel sluggish, even changing one’s approach to food for a limited time, is likely a great way to recharge.

13. I saved a shit ton of money, and it gave me perspective on how much money I was spending/wasting on these things.

14. I realized once again how perfectly fine it is to go out amongst drinkers and not drink.

15. But I also realized how incredibly boring or monotonous drinking and going out-centered culture can be.

16. Friday nights alone or at least doing stuff with your friends who drink rarely or sparingly, is severely underrated.

17. But it definitely hit me how I need more friends who drink rarely or sparingly (who are still outgoing and fun to be around).

18. It did make me question or evaluate the drinking-centered friendships or relationships I have. Which I think is a good thing. We all need going out friends but entire friendships based on this are well, superficial at best.

19. My sleep patterns changed for the better. Although I definitely did not sleep that much longer than I would ordinarily, I was getting better rest.

20. Even the act of waking up itself was better. Granted I am an early riser who is also a night owl. But I still tend to hate any form of loudness until about mid-morning.

21. I also noticed improvements in my workouts likely because of not consuming anything that disrupted my natural energy.

22. I noted that it is actually quite easy for me to give up things entirely as opposed to “managing” them, at least temporarily. I guess I really am an all or nothing kind of person. But it ideally, should be easy to give up almost anything for 40 days. 40 days is not a long period of time.

23. I noticed that other healthy behaviors almost came naturally easier as a consequence. Healthiness begets healthiness.

24. I especially noticed that I found other ways to fill my time in lieu of going out, and one of them was cooking. And I did go ham in the kitchen from time to time.

Instagram / Kovie Biakolo
Instagram / Kovie Biakolo

25. And through particularly going ham in the kitchen, as well as finally being injury-free enough to get back into training for running races, I realized that I was, I think, filling a void of sorts.

26. Which made me wonder if I used especially alcohol in a social context to mask a void…

27. But so far I have concluded that well, there are worse ways in life to fill a void than to give up drinking (and sugar) for a time, and become a little bit healthier.

28. It did occur to me from time to time that for anyone looking to do so, it would probably be a bit of extra work to meet people romantically when you avoid things like sugar AND alcohol.

29. And it also occurred to me that I think I’m going to make a hell of a lot more effort in doing more activities with and for people I know who don’t drink.

30. There is an underlying social pressure to “have a drink.” Even if it’s not intentional or nobody explicitly encourages you, you still feel like the odd one out when you’re consistently not doing it. Although having a mother who does not drink, I’m sure if I did it for longer, that feeling goes away eventually.

31. It feels really good to have productive weekends even after a night of going out. And I kind of want to purposely cut myself off on particular weekends now as a rule.

32. But I do realize how much our social lives revolve around people who do the same things we do. So a lot of self and social reflection is needed.

33. Which means that whether it’s eating healthier or drinking less or saving money or working out more, if you want to achieve those things, spend time with people who are doing that too.

34. When I did finally have a slice of cake on Easter, it became clear that eating habits are a matter of habit and taste. That chocolate cake that I would ordinarily love, did not taste good in my mouth – it was almost a foreign taste.

35. Which reinforces the idea that our taste for things are as much psychological as they are physiological, which is why we should be deliberate.

36. But when I had my Easter mimosa (and later cider and Prosecco), I realized that I appreciate the taste of alcohol. Which after this experience makes me more cognizant of how much I really want to drink in a social setting.

37. Overall, I felt a lot more in touch with how I was actually feeling, especially on bad days. I couldn’t use food or alcohol as a drug to cope, and that is something I want to always avoid doing.

38. More than anything else, I learned to pay attention to my life and to my choices and see where I could make better ones. I think I tend to do so as is, but continuous improvement is important.

39. I just want to live the most healthy life possible while still enjoying things in moderation like dessert and a glass of this and that from time to time. And that is as much a life journey as anything else, I think.

40. Finally, I can’t wait to start baking. TC mark


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  • http://www.beentherewithkids.wordpress.com crystalstravels

    I have considered doing something like this with sugar to reset my taste buds and habits. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ll have to give this some thought. People will always assume it’s about weight loss and vanity opposed to health.

  • http://itsybrittsyspidr.wordpress.com itsybrittsyspidr

    Reblogged this on ItsyBrittsySpidr and commented:
    This is inspiring for sure! I gave up chocolate for Lent this year, and am trying to be healthier overall. I have noticed that I am not as interested in consuming chocolate, and sweets in general, now that Lent is over. My goal is to continue limiting my sweet intake and live as healthy as possible. :) (Of course the occasional piece of pie and my sister’s banana bread cannot be avoided, but this is just a goal.) Happy eating!

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