What does going sugar free mean exactly?

Now entering my third  sugar-free year, I’ve come to understand that no one really owns the term “sugar free”. There’s no one definition.

You can be sugar free like my vegetarian friend who orders a veggie burger with bacon.
Or you can be sugar free like my vegan friend who won’t wear leather shoes.

So, what kind of sugar free do YOU want to be?

I love this post from Holly Whitaker over at Hip Sobriety. She asks: Are you sober if you still smoke dank?

“I used the word sober while by all accounts I really wasn’t because it was MY word. Because it made sense to me, it instilled a sense of pride, and an intention. Here is where I am headed. It made sense when my last few addictions were down to social media and coffee as much as it did when I was smoking pot all day every day.”

Replace sober with sugar free, and pot with agave nectar or maple syrup, and that pretty much sums up my attitude.

Even among sugar free programs, definitions vary widely. Some allow alcohol in moderation, some say okay to maple syrup. Some say cut back on fruit, some say eat more fruit. Some say cut out anything with a sweet taste, others say replace with stevia all you like.

So really, what it comes down to is:

How do YOU define sugar free?

What are YOUR parameters?
If you are looking at programs, which one do you think you could actually stick with?
Then why not give that one a try? Or, devise your own plan!

Each sugar free journey has its own parameters, here are mine:

I won’t knowingly ingest any form of processed sugar.

This means no white, brown, raw, organic, sucanat, agave, molasses, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup … I’m sure there are others. None of them.

Can you be sugar free and eat fruit?

That’s the question people ask me most often. And my answer is yes, of course. But you may not want to.

Here’s what I found: Once I was off sugar for a while, I could not believe how sweet fruit tastes. It really doesn’t take much to satisfy.

Sometimes I’ll eat a mandarin orange, or half an apple or pear. I do eat blueberries. If I’m going somewhere where everyone will be eating dessert, I’ll bring some strawberries with (unsweetened) whipped cream.

So, I do eat some fruit now and then.

By trial and error I’ve found that dates are problematic for me. They can give me a blood sugar crash and start my craving bells ring-a-linging. So I don’t do dates all that often. Nor do I pulverize dates to make a brownie-like, grain-free, sugar-free cake-like concoction, unless it’s a real emergency like bad PMS or a friend’s birthday.

I’m okay with a little stevia now and then. (But have you ever had too much stevia? Yuck. It’s really hard to eat too much stevia. It just starts to taste ick.)

Here’s where I draw the line: salad dressing.

Most salad dressings contain sugar, honey or maple syrup

I refuse to be the lady that brings her own salad dressing to a restaurant. If I’m at a restaurant and not ordering dessert or something deep fried, at least let me have the option of ordering a salad. Okay? Purists are shaking their heads at me (and go ahead, please) but this is my personal line in the sand.

I still want to eat in restaurants. That means salad dressing. Which means some sugar every now and then. For me, there’s a difference between a ginger-tamari dressing with a little honey in it and a whole, large size chocolate bar. Or the sugar in a tomato sauce at a restaurant and eating half of the cookie dough before you even bake the cookies.

If you see me taking nips from a bottle of raspberry vinaigrette stashed in my purse, please, call me on it. But for now, I’ll find the lowest sugar salad dressing in a restaurant and order that.

Am I still sugar free?

Hey, it’s my definition. MY word. And I say, yes.

These are my parameters. I hope they help you see how you might devise your own sugar free journey on your own terms.

And no, I’m not perfect in my definition of sugar free. Far from it. But you know what? I haven’t cheated on my not-perfect list in two years.

There are some things I do eat that others would say SHOULD (don’t you hate that word?) be on my no-go list.  For example, I still eat bread. And potatoes. And dairy. And gluten. I’m not carb free or grain free by any stretch (and probably won’t ever be.)

Next up for me is exploring letting go of processed grains — flour of any kind — and just having whole grains. Year three, and I’m ready to start exploring this. I know I won’t backslide in the sugar department while I’m at it, but it took me two years to know that for sure.

But what I want to know is: What does sugar free mean FOR YOU?

Would you like to go completely sugar free, right down to the salad dressing?
Will you go cold turkey, or reduce over time?
Would you allow small amounts of maple syrup?
Maybe you could handle date-sweetened pretend cakes or agave syrup in your popsicles?
Will you develop a personal policy on Kombucha?
What about alcohol?
Might you make an exception for birthday cake?
Are you what Gretchen Rubin would call an abstainer or a moderator?

I made my rule book. It involves some salad dressing, no maple syrup and dates only in case of emergency. Occasional Kombucha, but no alcohol. No sugar exceptions for special occasions.

What does your rule book say?
What does your version of sugar free look like?
I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

Want to read more posts about going sugar free? Here they are!
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