In the beginning of January, I knew I needed a health reset. On January 10th, 2022, I gave up sugar. I felt like an insane person. Could I really give up sugar for 40 straight days?? Was it even that important? And what was I actually choosing to give up? All sugar, in all forms? Or only some sugars? I struggled in the beginning with how to know what exactly to give up. Was it only things that tasted sweet? Or everything that contained any type of sweetener, even if the food itself didn’t taste sweet? What about refined flours? What about fruit?? Needless to say, my head was spinning.
At some point, however, I found my way. I had already decided to start journaling about my experience prior to the start of the fast, partially to keep myself accountable and partially so I could go back and see what God did during those 40 days. And I’m so thankful I wrote it all down, because He showed up in a big way…
- Day -4: I’m a little nervous about this…why did I decide to tell somebody else they should do this with me?? Stupid accountability. I spent two hours googling about no-sugar diets today, though, and I feel pretty okay about it. It’ll be all right.
- Day -2: Spending all week eating everything in my snack drawer at work and in the pantry probbbbably isn’t the best way to prep for next week. But at least I’m removing the temptation, right?
- Day 1: DAY ONE. I’ve totally got this. I’ve only thought about the snacks I forgot to take out of my work drawer like four times, and it’s…*looks at watch*…8:37 am…oops.
- Day 2: Physically, I feel pretty good, other than a slight headache yesterday. I’m surprised by this – I expected to feel like crap today. Maybe it’s because I’m more physically active now than I have been when I’ve fasted in the past…? I’m loving the book so far! I’m also surprised at how quickly I feel convicted about other things I need to fast from in the future. Giving up one thing and asking God to fill that empty space seems to magnify other addictions, like social media and TV show binges.
- Day 3: Ugh…I caved. I ate 15 Cheez-Its. I feel so guilty, and I also feel like I shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not like crackers are a sweet treat, right? So why do I feel bad? What does that say about the state of my heart? It feels like I’ve been doing this forever, and not because of how much I miss sugar but because of how much I’ve already learned. Sugar really was just a doorway to so much more that God wanted to show me. My dreams, my plans, and my prayers are all so small. I’m a little bit scared of how long I’ve been standing with my finger in the hole of the dam, stubbornly holding everything back, because now that I’ve stepped away, the floodgates are starting to open and the Lord is sweeping me up into what He has wanted for me all along.
- Day 4: I’m really feeling it today. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally. Today was a really stressful day at work, and I felt like I had to re-center with the Lord at least once every half hour. And OF COURSE on this particular day, somebody walked into a meeting with my latest favorite snack – Dots seasoned pretzels. By the end of the day, I had looked at my verse-of-the-day card so many times that I felt like I was craving it, just like a snack: “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s'” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
- Day 9: It’s become hard for me to discern what’s okay to eat and what’s not. I can’t figure out if I’m staying within the technical guidelines or if I’m cheating. I haven’t eaten anything that OBVIOUSLY has sugar in it this whole time, besides fruit…but is fruit cheating?? And I’ve felt guilty about eating things that aren’t sweet but that have refined flours or aren’t exactly healthy, like tortillas or corn chips. Is anything that doesn’t taste sweet okay? Am I supposed to be so legalistic that I don’t even eat fruit? Is eating dairy, potatoes, and rice ruining everything?? I just don’t know what to do. I wish the rules were more clearly defined. I need somebody to tell me what I’m allowed to eat. I’m bored with everything I know I’m allowed to eat, but I don’t want to use that as an excuse to eat something I shouldn’t. Why do I feel convicted about eating things that aren’t candy or dessert? Am I just completely missing the point? I’m only a quarter of the way through this thing and I’m feeling discouraged.
- Day 13: Holy wow, I think my taste buds have recaliberated or something. I ate an apple today and it tasted SO SWEET! I wasn’t expecting that. It’s crazy how desensitized we are to sweet things when we eat them all the time. I wonder what actual candy will taste like when this is over?
- Day 16: I think I’m over the initial ‘hump.’ I still find myself craving sweet things, but it’s easier to push away. I’m still struggling a little with what’s okay to eat and what’s not, but I think more than anything, I’ve identified other things that I run to, that I need to consider isolating and giving up in the future. Still loving the book and loving the daily verses! I propped up the verse cards on my desk at work, and every time I notice I’m hungry or wish I could eat something I can’t eat, I immediately look at the card, read the verse, and ask the Lord to fill me with His Spirit and/or acknowledge that He is enough to satisfy me.
- Day 23: I felt convicted by Wendy’s words in the book today: “Don’t be afraid to get hungry; be afraid of a life that never hungers for God.” I think I have gotten too comfortable in this fast. Sure, I still miss desserts, but I’ve already filled that void with other snacks I’m allowed to have. The point was never to simply get used to a sugar-free lifestyle, even if only temporarily. If those hunger pangs are missing altogether, I’m missing out on consistent chances to hear God speak to me. Wendy challenged us to ask God to tell us other things we need to surrender to Him in order to make the most of the second half of our fast. As I was reading, I felt convicted to take the fast a step further and give up one of my favorite things – potatoes. I knew that’s what I needed to give up, because the second that food popped in my head, my knee-jerk reaction was rationalization: HA. What?? Nah, I don’t need to give up potatoes. I’m ALLOWED to eat them right now. Maybe I’m overreacting. Am I being too legalistic? That’s silly. Why would I give those up? …….*sigh*…..I LOVE potatoes….*pouty face* . And the Lord ever so softly said, “I know. And that’s why I want them.”
- Day 26: Lord God, WHY DID YOU SEND ME THREE SNOW DAYS IN THE MIDDLE OF MY SUGAR FAST?? All I want is a vat of soup and a giant loaf of bread and the smell of cookies in my oven. Daniel hates soup and I can’t eat baked goods and HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME.
- Day 30: I felt really loved by the Lord today. I got to celebrate most of my 5-year work anniversary with jury selection that lasted almost 6 hours (and I didn’t get picked – sad face), but I came back to work to find congratulatory love notes from my coworkers in the form of emails and sticky notes all over my computer screen. My words-of-affirmation love tank is FULL! Who needs sugar when you have sweetness like that??
- Day 33: Something I’ve realized over the last week or so is that I’m way more aware of God perfectly orchestrating events together. For example – this week, I had a conversation about God’s sovereignty with a close friend. The very next day, the chapter I read in my sugar fast book talked about that exact topic, and I sent her pictures of those pages as encouragement. I also had the opportunity to serve a friend of a friend in a tangible way after her house burned down. I had JUST cleaned out my closet a few days before, and when I heard about her need for clothing, I understood why God nudged me to reorganize that week instead of waiting until spring. I’m seeing the way life is playing out with fresher eyes, and it makes me wonder if this is how it’s always been and I was just too distracted to notice until now.
- Day 36: I just need to acknowledge my own self control and write this down for future generations to marvel at….we hosted a monthly divisional birthday/anniversary celebration combined with Valentine’s Day at work today, and the donuts were still warm and there were piggies in fluffy blankies and the smell was intoxicating and I STILL WALKED AWAY. Four more days.
- Day 38: To be honest, I’m a little scared to end this thing. I’m not 100% sure what my plan is when I’m not fasting anymore, and I’m really scared that I’m just going to go off the deep end again. I don’t want to do that, and I don’t want to give up all sugar forever, but I don’t know what to do instead. God, give me wisdom!
- Day 40: I. FREAKING. DID IT. I finished it!!! I can’t believe I did it!! I am so proud of myself, and so happy that God gave me the ability to do it. I’m also thankful that the author offered some practical advice for how to move forward in the bonus ‘Day 41’ chapter. I feel much more equipped to step out of this fast without going absolutely crazy. This was such a good experience!
I went into this fast expecting three things: (1) weight loss, (2) better sleep, and (3) spiritual growth. The third one I got in spades, praise God! But I didn’t really experience the first two, and that was frustrating for a few weeks. However, there were other results I wasn’t expecting but got anyway, including: (1) shockingly great mental clarity, (2) more energy, (3) feeling way better digestively, (4) more emotional stability, and (5) more self-control as far as wanting sweet things but building up the habit of saying ‘no’ to them over and over. The lesson that ‘Just because you want something doesn’t mean you should have it’ is a hard one but a necessary one.
I also learned what my biggest triggers were in terms of eating and craving things I couldn’t have. The biggest one was boredom. I had no clue how much I snacked just because I wanted to fill the time. The second trigger was stress, particularly at work. I also became aware of my typical eating patterns throughout the day, like eating something sweet after a meal, and how eating was almost always paired with something else, like watching TV or reading. One big encouragement to me, though, is knowing that those unhealthy patterns be reversed. Healthy action begets another healthy action! I think it was easier for me to choose to do a 40-day sugar fast because I’ve already been building other healthy habits over the last few years. If I tried to do EVERYTHING at once, it would be overwhelming. But because of my years-long journey of slowly, slowly, slowly making changes, it didn’t seem completely crazy to try this out. (Small caveat for people who are interested in this process but struggle with disordered eating – be really careful with fasting. Giving something up completely can be a big trigger for fixation, anxiety, and legalism. Listen to God and He will give you specific wisdom and direction for your situation.)
One other thing I want to share that I forgot to journal about was a day that I broke my fast intentionally. Exactly one week before my fast was scheduled to end, my family had a big celebration for all of the recent birthdays and anniversaries, and I allowed myself a piece of a waffle and two tiny slivers of birthday cake. “BUT WHY, LAURA?” ….*sigh*…Here’s why. Because I only have so many chances to enjoy homemade birthday cake and waffles with my grandparents. Time is short, and although you shouldn’t always use that as an excuse to eat whatever you want, in this instance, I didn’t want to be ~sO lEgAliStIc~ that I missed an opportunity to enjoy precious (and rare) family time and savor the special treats made specifically for me. I didn’t hear the Lord say ‘No,’ so I allowed myself that one break. But you want to know the cool thing? I had the tiniest portions of those foods I’ve ever had in my life, and I was satisfied. I was happy with what I had, and I didn’t feel the need for more. And that felt really good.
Wendy Speake, the author of the book I read, has a really beautiful quote about the whole intent of this fast: “[Giving up] sugar is the doorway through which we invite God to come back into our lives, to sit on the throne, to be at the core of what we need most. But He comes into our lives, and he looks around and says, ‘Thanks for the sugar…but I want it ALL. I don’t want a sugar sacrifice, I want a LIVING sacrifice.’ So what else are you running to, to get you through each day?” And she’s 100% right. Sugar is only one of many distractions I need to continually surrender to God in order to hear His voice more clearly. I thought this was just going to be about sugar in the beginning. But it ended up being about so much more. ♥
Wendy also put together a book for a social media sabbatical, and I’ve accepted the challenge! I’m signing off of all social platforms for 40 days, starting tomorrow, and you should join in too. See you soon!