Just over halfway through my 30-day sugar detox, I’ve somehow survived and ready to update on my progress.

I managed to keep a daily log of what I’m eating, with observations about any changes to my mood and energy levels. I didn’t share before this, because I wanted to accumulate enough data so that my observations didn’t feel too biased.

Over the last two years, I’ve noticed loads of factors can impact my mood, whether that’s circumstances in my relationships or career, the changing seasons, or factors such as lifestyle or exercise or daily nutrition. In other words, I think it’s important to reflect on any changes in my mood, thinking patterns or behavior, so that I can more critically ascertain the actual causes of these changes.

I should also point out that I haven’t been entirely “clean” or true to the terms of my sugar-detox. I said I would cut out all products containing any sugar, which was supposed to include overly processed bread products or packaged goods. Needless to say, I’ve discovered a few dietary loopholes, I’m fairly confident would be considered breaches of the lowest order:

  1. My best buddy came to visit us on the farm and insisted we eat PIZZA AND GARLIC BREAD. While the toppings were legal, I’m fairly certain that thick crust and sauce contained sugar.
  2. After downing a couple boxes of TRISCUITS, which Josh and I discovered contain “0 grams of sugar per serving” we amended the rules to allow packaged goods, so long as there isn’t more than 1g of added sugar.

Dietary breaches aside, I’ve been solid when it comes to obvious sources of refined sugar – candy, chocolate bars, baked goods and desserts.

When you have this many flavours, it’s hard to resist them.

So what have I observed about my MOOD AND ENERGY, overall?

I’d say my mood has been much more consistent, regardless of circumstantial and environmental triggers. I’ve noticed added sources of stress (with one particular exception, see below) don’t feel quite as stressful or overwhelming. Save the first week of expected cravings and withdrawal, I’ve felt more positive in general, and more motivated in the morning to get the farm chores started. And while the month has been incredibly busy, I feel like I have more energy to accomplish the tasks at hand.

I’m well aware that my boosted energy could be attributed to multiple factors. I am exercising more – including bike training and a few outdoor 10km runs. My other New Year’s Resolution was to produce more video content, more consistently, so I’m considerably more motivated to be productive.

In general, I feel less at the mercy of my mood and mood swings, even if I’m well aware that all of these changes could contribute to my mental health.

A few readers had some other questions about my progress thus far:

  1. Brains use glucose, so where is that coming from in your diet?

For this detox, I really decided to focus on eliminating sources of “added” or “refined sugars”. In other words, I’m allowing myself certain bread products (generally whole-wheat or 12-grains, rich in fibre and protein), as well as starchy vegetables like potato and zucchini which contain more complex carbohydrates. I also get hits of natural gluctose-fructose with a healthy supply of fruit, including oranges, apples, blueberries, pomegranate and melons.

Before engaging in this detox, Monique Aucoin emphasized the importance of replacing eliminated calories with healthier proteins and fats, which will help with the hunger pangs. I’ve really tried to plan more balanced meals and always have a supply of high-fat cashews or almonds to snack on to ensure I feel satiated.

  1. If you are running low of brain energy what do you do to cope?

As I said above, I haven’t felt too low on brain energy so to speak. This could be because I’m getting much of the energy I need from more complex carbs (breads, potatoes, fruits) or my liberal definition of “added sugar.” This could also because I’m a major caffeine addict. This diet has surely made me appreciate my daily cup of Joe. My partner on the other hand, who is also doing this 30-day-detox hasn’t been as lucky, possibly because he’s very athletic, and his needs for sugar are likely higher than mine.

I also plan sessions of Final Fantasy XV to help cope. This might seem off, but videogames have been demonstrated to stimulate the release of dopamine, and they can take the mind off any cravings, which do subside after a while.

I think it’s also relevant that I take a stimulant for my ADHD, which not only provides a major source of “brain energy” in the form of a steady release of dopamine throughout of the day, but are also known to curb any impulsiveness, including that which leads to binging.

  1. Has eliminating sugar pushed you towards other behaviours (either good or bad)?

Eliminating sugar has for the most part increased my productivity. I feel as if I’m able to fill my days with more activities, be that mandatory stuff like research, writing and farm chores, or the voluntary fun stuff: physical exercise and plenty of recreation time – including board-games, those PS4 sessions and crossword puzzles. I’m more motivated to complete these tasks, which keep me stimulated, without procrastination.

  1. Describe the most difficult day or moment of your sugar withdrawal. Were there any activities that helped you manage the withdrawal?

I’d say the end of the first week. While I weathered the first few days after launching my detox via a solid dose of social media validation, then the novelty factor wore out and the cravings and withdrawal kicked in.

My mood took a nosedive when I had to drive into Toronto for a meeting amidst a snowstorm and rush hour grid-lock. Toronto traffic is my biggest source of madness – apologies for anybody who’s ever had to drive with me – and I certainly wasn’t prepared for this unexpected confluence of stress. After going without sugar or any other kind of food for half I day, I found myself going through the drive through of McDonalds. While I tried to justify to myself that French Fries and a Quarter Pounder with cheese don’t have much added sugar per se, I’m fairly confident there isn’t a nutritionist on Earth who would approve. Luckily my cravings and blunders managed to go away, and once settled into my detox, I’ve done my best to avoid binge-eating whenever stress inevitably hits.

After two weeks of a mostly clean detox, I’m confident to say I’ve noticed a positive impact on my mood, including all contributing factors.

I am curious to see how the integration phase will go in a couple of weeks. Monique has suggested I bring back one item at a time for three days in a row, to ensure I build in enough time to gauge how these new additions affect my mood, thought patterns and behavior. Stay tuned for then!