There’s no doubt about it, structure and focus help with change and could potentially really help you with healthier sugar habits. When I look back over successful and unsuccessful things I’ve done (health and non health related), doing things in a defined period of time or with some accountability has usually worked the best. Thus, I’m really thrilled today to introduce you to my friend Stuart Ralph and his 30 day challenge philosophy which is a fabulous structure you can use to beat sugar in a number of different ways.
I met Stuart just over 2 years ago at a London ‘Meet Up’ group for people venturing into blogs and online ventures. We stayed in touch and have supported each other along the adventurous ride. He’s a self help junkie like myself, gets frustrated at unethical marketing (where sugary foods are usually a common culprit) and has provided much inspiration to help me grow Happy Sugar Habits into what it is today.
I’ve also just devoured his wicked book Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days which is a short, but extremely powerful read that will make you want to take action and set yourself a challenge. I’m still deciding what mine is going to be in October…Do comment and commit below if you feel inspired to start a 30 day challenge of your own.
Stuart has kindly shared his experience with sugary drinks and offered some fantastic tips….
How a 30 day challenge gave me a healthier respect for sugar
In 2005 I couldn’t help myself, every day I was consuming sugar. Unaware of what it meant to be healthy at that time, I didn’t see anything wrong with it, nor did I know how good I could feel on a more natural diet. That was until I went to the dentist. Laying there on his dentist’s chair, shoes squeaking against the plastic, mouth open, he looked at me and said “if you don’t stop drinking carbonated drinks you’ll need fillings… And you’ll get diabetes”. Wow. I’d always liked my dentist, but now I love him. His candid remakes were the kick up the arse I needed to be healthier.
This happened around the Christian holiday lent. I decided to participate in lent for the first time. My challenge, to give up the consumption of all sugary drinks; both natural and refined sugar. I have since gone on to do more lent like challenges, throughout the last 10 years. These 30 day challenges have made me healthier, happier and a more interesting person – if I don’t say so myself.
The first time I gave up sugary drinks, was unbelievably tough. My unhealthy consumption of refined sugar had spanned across 3 decades. Over the 40 days (and nights) I only consumed water, milk and straight alcohol. At first it was mentally tough, cravings came fast and often. However, slowly over time it became a little easier, eventually I could taste the difference between mineral water brands (let me know in the comments below if you think I’m lying or not).
Because I don’t want you to struggle like I did, here are my top tips for removing sugar from your life for 30 days.
Success tips (in no particular order)
1. Read the Happy Sugar Habits blog
Someone told me it was very good. Joking. Laura knows her stuff. She has written a lot of fabulous articles to inspire and educate. Great for empowering yourself before the challenge and motivating yourself during, especially if you’re having a down day.
2. Remove everything sweet from your house
This was one of the biggest mistakes I made during my first no-sugar challenge. I’ll never forget the pain I felt on day 2, opening up my fridge to see a big bottle of Coke. Reaching for it. Only to realise it was a no go zone. I paused for about 10 seconds, mentally battling that little mischievous voice in my head saying “Who cares just drink it”. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t grab it. Instead I had a nice refreshing water. Learn from my foolishness. You may have world class will power and discipline, but don’t test it during this challenge. Remove all sugary drinks and/or food from your house, work environment etc. Set yourself up to win!
3. Fill your fridge with exciting healthy alternatives
So this may be challenging if you’re giving up sugary drinks. If that is the case, use the money you would have spent on carbonated drinks and fruit juices to buy some mineral water. Go wild, buy some sparkling water. Buy some premium milk. Treat yourself to some Cravendale – you crazy cat (pun intended). Do what you need to keep things exciting. It’s when you hit boredom that your cravings will be the loudest.
If you are quitting the foods rammed with refined sugar, use this 30 days to buy healthier foods that have always intrigued you but you never got round to trying. Fill your shopping trolley with the healthy foods you already love.
4. Visualise yourself succeeding
Seeing the outcome you want it very important. Visualising your outcome i.e. more energetic, happier, will give you a reason to put up with the challenge and see it through. I once heard that the mind can’t tell the difference between a vision and reality. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between what you are seeing in your mind or through your eyes. So think about the outcome, see it in your mind’s eye. Write it down if that helps, keep it to hand. Even if you never call on your vision during the challenge, the fact that you consciously thought about it before you started your brain may be being driven by it, even unconsciously.
5. Reward yourself
This challenge will test your discipline (as well as build it) so make sure you reward yourself each week with something that excites you. That may be a hot bubble path, a trip to the cinema or simply sitting in front of the TV watching your favourite show.
Before you start the challenge decide an extra special treat you will give yourself upon completion. Firstly, because you deserve it. Secondly, because when times get tough, the thought of your reward will push you through.
The results. Upon completion of my 30 day challenge without consuming sugary drinks again, I went from drinking those dubious liquids once a day to once a week. Since my initial challenge I have quit sugary drinks 3 times and sugary foods once. Each time awakening me to their damaging effects, and encouraging me to seek better knowledge around food. I’m somewhat of a health freak now, but I still enjoy a Coke from time to time, as a luxury not a staple.
I have more energy, better skin and hopefully have increased my life span.
The 30 day challenge can be applied to anything in your life whether that’s removing a bad habit or implementing a new skill, give it a go. I dare you! Leave a comment below on what you feel inspired to do.
To your success,
Stuart is author of the book ‘Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days’. Stuart’s focus is on empowering good people to realise the majesty that lies within them. You can find out more about Stuart here.