As part of the Sugar-Free Challenge interview series (check out the chats with Linda and Benjamin), I had a chance to speak with Rebekka about her experiences.

On her blog momentchenmal, Rebekka (31) posts about her (family) life and the café and restaurant scene in Bonn and the surrounding area. She also offers DIYs, recipes, and travel tips – and last year during Lent, she wrote all about the Sugar-Free Challenge. Rebekka is the mother of a two-year-old son, with a little girl on the way this summer. She loves cake just as much as I do and has a very relaxed attitude towards sugar. Read on:

How would you define your own personal “Project: Sugar-Free?” 

For me, it’s really important that Project: Sugar-Free never becomes dogmatic. It would be too much if I told myself I’d never eat sugar again! That’s why I live by the 80/20 or 90/10 rule: the bulk of my diet (80–90%) is sugar-free, but there’s a little wiggle room (10–20%), too. What that means is that if I’m craving a slice of conventional cake, I’ll have it. I also love ham sandwiches! I usually bake my own sugar-free bread, but I still eat bakery products on occasion. Mostly, I’m strict about white flour: I always try to eat the whole-grain version of pasta or bread. I also prefer brown rice. Whole grains just taste better to me, and also make me feel better. Of course, I’ll have some conventional apple pie from time to time, but when I make cakes at home, I swap out a lot of the white flour for spelt flour and use coconut blossom sugar instead of white sugar. But even then, I’ll usually use less than the recipe calls for. I stay away from stevia and xylitol, since I don’t really like them and they feel too artificial to me.

What was your diet like beforehand, and what convinced you to reduce the amount of sugar you consume?

I’ve always been an absolute candy and cake freak. Chips and other savory stuff have never done it for me, but a bar of chocolate? I could never imagine giving that up!

But then I developed gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy, and had to go on a sugar-free diet. That was quite a shock! And so, feeling totally sorry for myself, I surrendered to my fate and more or less involuntarily gave up sugar.

After my pregnancy, however, I had to admit that I’d never felt better than I did when I was sugar-free. Most notably, my skin was clearer and my moods were more balanced. So during Lent in 2016, I decided to take part in the Sugar-Free Challenge – this time completely voluntarily, and very motivated. Since then, I’ve been much more conscious of my sugar consumption. Sure, during stressful times, I can fall back into old habits – and that old feeling returns. But since I got pregnant again in November 2016, I’ve eaten very little sugar. And usually only coconut blossom sugar, since it’s easier on the blood sugar and I don’t want to develop gestational diabetes again.

What was the hardest thing about starting a sugar-reduced diet?

The biggest challenge for me is reconciling my goals with my environment – because with any “diet,” you are automatically demanding consideration from everyone around you. And I often find that difficult. That’s why the 90/10 rule comes in handy – it gives me a bit more flexibility in my food choices. Also, I never want to proselytize. If someone asks me, I’ll talk about my experiences, but I never impose my beliefs on anyone else.

Another challenge is family life. Both my husband and son eat sugar. Sure, they like whole-grain foods, but they also love chocolate. That doesn’t make it easier for me, but I can handle it. My son is two and spent his first year completely sugar-free. Since then, he likes to have some cake. I don’t usually go out of my way to buy sweets for him, but it’s also important to me that he creates his own relationship with sugar. You can really see how sugar works in children’s bodies: if he’s eaten too much cake or other sweets during the holidays, he has to work off the additional energy, and his mood gets low afterwards. That’s why I always try to offer him sugar-free alternatives, and it’s worked well.

What changes have you noticed since giving up sugar?

Other participants have written about having headaches and other withdrawal symptoms over the first few days, but I didn’t experience that, fortunately. What’s most important to me is that I feel freer – free from the compulsion to go out and buy candy.

Let’s be real: do you ever make exceptions?

Of course! :-) My “weakness” is definitely cake.

Do you ever get ravenous hunger pangs? If so, how do you deal with them?

On the rare occasion when I do have a craving, I try to ignore it. If it doesn’t go away after a day or so, I treat myself to whatever it is I’m craving (mostly cake). And that’s completely fine. I always bake sugar-free cakes for myself.

What are your three top tips for making it through the Sugar-Free Challenge?

I think everyone has to decide for themselves individually, but here’s what’s helped me:

  1. Set realistic goals
  2. Don’t go from 0–100 overnight
  3. Make healthier versions of your favorite recipes

Lastly: what’s your favorite sugar-free recipe?

Oh man – do I have to choose just one? I don’t think I can! My favorite recipe is definitely these Banana Pancakes, which my son has been a fan of since he was 10 months old. When I get a craving for apple pie, this one from Carrots for Claire works beautifully – I just use rice syrup instead of maple syrup, since it’s better for blood sugar. And if I don’t have much time, this Healthy Banana Bread works great, since I almost always have the ingredients around the house. I usually make it with whole-grain spelt flour. :-)

Thanks for chatting with us, Rebekka!

Check out Rebekka’s blog and social media channels


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