[Digging into mankind's most delicious creation, the Pizookie, on my 17th birthday in October 2009.]

For all new visitors of my blog: from January 31st through March 31st, I chose to consciously refrain from eating a multitude of processed foods in order to avoid large amounts of the pesky additive that scientists are now calling "toxic." While I'm super glad that I participated in this sugar-free experiment, I ultimately decided a couple of weeks ago that this brief period of eliminating sugar from my diet had met it's end... And of course, I can't help but throw in a concluding blog post to explain my thought process behind this decision. So, here we go.

First off, what I gained from living sans sugar:
1.) A better understanding of how addicting sweets really are.
2.) Clearer skin & a flatter stomach.
3.) The motivation to start training for a 5K.
4.) A greater awareness of the harmful ingredients in processed foods.
5.) Wicked self-control.
6.) More energy & everyday stamina.
7.) A deeper love for oatmeal & greek yogurt.
8.) The discovery of many healthful dessert recipes.
9.) A desire to learn more about the causes of heart disease, and what I can do to prevent it.
10.) Newfound confidence in my ability to eat sweets in moderation, and a conscious choice to do so from now on.

Reasons why the (completely) sugar-free lifestyle is not for me:

1.) It's stressful. Sugar is everywhere, if you haven't noticed.
2.) Having to explain to friends (and fellow dessert lovers) why I can't share a cup of fro-yo with them after dinner or try their homemade cupcakes gets annoying after a while (and just makes me feel like a health snob).
3.) As do the post-explanation remarks of disapproval, such as "Oh, live a little!" and "A bite isn't going to kill you!" Even worse is knowing that others feel guilty or self-conscious about eating sugary snacks in front of me.
4.) It's true what they say: restricting anything from your diet eventually does make you want it even more than you did before.
5.) But most of all, I miss the experiences that I've associated with my favorite foods. For example, there's something sentimental about conversing with my parents over a blizzard from Dairy Queen. (Reese's for Mom, Chocolate Extreme for Dad, and the Blizzard of the Month for me.) Or baking and devouring one giant "blob" cookie with Marissa and Kristen at 3:00 in the morning during the summer months. Or spending a fortune on a box of Buncha Crunch and a White Cherry Icee at the movie theater, because even after so many years, this perfect combination never gets old. There's nothing like a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks on a dreary day or a Pizookie from BJ's during a birthday celebration, made half chocolate chunk and half oatmeal raisin to accommodate everyone's tastes. As lame as it sounds, these are the things that I never want to force myself to give up completely. Nor would I want to miss out on any future delicious rituals that might contribute to my overall enjoyment of life. Because in all honesty, some things are simply worth it.

That said, my conclusion boils down to one main point: for me, moderation might really be key. At least for today. This does not mean, however, that my quest for lifelong health stops here. On the contrary, I'm constantly reading new studies and learning about different ways to improve my well being, and this trial was just the beginning. Chances are, I'll try a similar experiment again someday. But for right now, a cup of ice cream every now and again suits me just fine.