Last spring, Rachel Lyons, one of our long-term supporters, took part in our first Sweet Swap. (She wrote a blog for us all about her experiences - you can read it to find out the gory details!)

One year on, we wondered whether it's changed the way she eats, so we met up with her and her brother to find out more.

SAC: What’s it been like since you did Sweet Swap a year ago?

Rachel Lyons with cakes - Sweet SwapRachel: "I came from a place of being a proper choc-aholic and cake-aholic, quite a sweet tooth, and I work shifts in A&E, my eating is erratic, often very hurried, often eating on the go. So I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope that it would make a lasting change.

It was a huge challenge to undertake for me - what kept me going was knowing people were sponsoring me. I thought it would be a 31 day thing and then I would go back to eating similarly. And I can’t say I’ve never had a chocolate bar since… but it definitely has had a lasting impact on how I eat, and how I think about food and see food.

bananas (no copyright restrictions)Simple examples would be that I’ve gone off processed food, bread and stuff. I got the breadmaker out during the Sweet Swap month and was trying to find ways of baking without sugar. I’ve kept the breadmaker out [ever since] and much prefer homemade bread rather than shop bought.

I’m much more aware of sugar added to foods, much more aware of ingredient lists. I do still eat chocolate but I’ve gone off all shop bought cakes and things like that. I have got a lot less of a sweet tooth in general now, I think – I’ll happily go to a coffee shop and not buy a cake. I walked past a cupcake stand today and realised I was totally untempted by it."

Rachel Lyons 1st treat post Sweet SwapSAC: So it’s just not appealing to you in the way that it used to?

Rachel: "It’s changed my taste. There are lifestyle reasons why it’s sometimes not possible… During the Sweet Swap month I was terrified of being hungry, particularly at work, and of feeling hypo at work. I tried sugar free bars but found they were too sweet for me. Instead, I took Medjool dates in with me but only got through 12 in the whole month!

I was craving fresh fruit (I let myself eat that) and I was having crispbreads with sugar-free peanut butter and bananas - that’s what I found myself wanting and that’s carried on ever since."

Rachel Lyons at work with sweet temptationsSAC: At work now, would you still have chocolate bars?

Rachel: "No, I go equipped with different things. On a good day, I’ll go with homemade bread, sugar-free peanut butter and a banana. And if I can get a break at the right time to eat it, that’ll see me through. Sometimes, the way it works, I don’t, and so I have to run out to the shop and buy a chocolate bar. But on the whole, it’s really changed.

I was diabetic when I was pregnant, so I know I could become diabetic in the future if I don’t make changes to my eating habits. I’d always dreaded becoming diabetic and having to be on a diabetic diet, so it was an incredibly useful experience to have a month of eating in a low sugar, low GI way, which is what I should be doing for the rest of my life, and actually it was ok and I quite enjoyed it! During Sweet Swap, I tried to do a lot of reading and watching films about the impact of high sugar diets to get the most out of the month and it was a really useful experience."

SAC: Has Sweet Swap had a knock-on effect on the people around you?

Andrew, Rachel’s brother answered this one: "Rachel's Sweet Swap experience has definitely had an impact on lots of people around her, including me. It’s made me a lot more aware of what I eat."

Tempted to follow in Rachel's footsteps? You can give Sweet Swap a go this Lent!