How hard is it really to give up sugar for a month? One of our amazing supporters, Rachel Lyons, who did it last spring tells us exactly what it was like for her - warts and all!

Rachel Lyons with cakes - Sweet Swap"I am a long-term supporter of Send a Cow. I've seen for myself that they do immensely effective, practical, life-changing work with families in Africa. I am also a pretty sweet-toothed chocoholic cake-aholic! When Send a Cow first announced Sweet Swap I hadn't planned to take part as I knew I'd find it so difficult. I kind of rely on sugary snacks to get through long A&E shifts.

What persuaded me to do Sweet Swap

At a meeting in March 2016 I heard about (Send a Cow Uganda staff member) Aggrey Nshekanabo's visit to the Kamuli region of Uganda. One thing he said hit me very hard. A mother had told him that she had had nothing but molasses to feed her children that day and that she'd given her baby homemade sugar cane vodka to help her sleep. The idea of feeling I had to give my children vodka to make them sleep because I had no food to give them was just too awful to think about.

Rachel Lyons and her husband starting Sweet SwapSo I pledged to do Sweet Swap for the whole month and my amazing husband offered to join me. No refined sugar, no sugary drinks, no alcohol, no marmalade on my toast in the morning etc. etc. I posted a picture of my pledge form on Facebook on the train home from the meeting so I couldn’t chicken out!

Getting started

I set up an online sponsorship page and set about trying to work out what I was actually going to eat for a month. It was pretty enlightening to read ingredients lists and realise how many savoury foods still have sugar added. Friends gave me recipes and I stocked up on sugar-free foods. I felt it was probably unrealistic to try and avoid all natural sugars too, so allowed myself fruit. But I did avoid honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and other sugar substitutes.

The hardest moments

Rachel Lyons at work, tempted during Sweet SwapWe tend to buy sweets and bring in cakes at work to keep everyone going, and I still baked for others, so temptation was never far away… I think the hardest moment was while baking a birthday cake for a friend late at night - I had to level the tops of the layers of warm chocolate fudge cake and put the pieces I sliced off straight into the bin! But because friends and family were sponsoring me I knew that I just couldn’t give in - it wasn’t an option!

Keeping going

It was very encouraging to see the total on the webpage steadily climbing and I was bowled over by people’s generosity. I felt a bit guilty being sponsored just to not eat sugar when others do such incredible sporting feats for charity. But a number of people said they thought this was impressive in a different way as it was a series of mini challenges over 31 days.

Rachel Lyons 1st treat post Sweet SwapI did find that after a week or two I could walk past chocolate in shops without too much difficulty as I knew I just wasn’t allowed it. And I actually started craving crispbread with sugar free peanut butter and sliced banana rather than chocolate bars!

Celebrating

When the end of the month came. I marked it by eating a Star Bar at 4.30am in the hospital car park after an A&E shift and I have to admit that it tasted pretty amazing!

Our final total was £850 plus Gift Aid, which I was chuffed to bits with! And seeing photos of Faridah in her thriving kitchen garden makes it all worthwhile."

If you - like us - feel inspired by Rachel’s outstanding feat and would like to join in with Sweet Swap next spring, you can register online right now.