On June first, I quit sugar cold turkey. Full disclosure, I allowed myself fruit (but not fruit juice) and one “cheat” day. After 27 days clean, I can truly say it’s been a wonderful experience. For anyone who has ever felt that post ‘sugar high’ crash, or if you suffer from perpetual headaches and terrible cravings, giving your body a month without sugar might be just what you need.
There were a couple of things that I noticed the very first day that I gave up sugar. SPOILER ALERT, there’s sugar in EVERYthing. I’m not kidding. After a day or two of being completely flabbergasted (a lot of shouting, “seriously!?” in public places) and frustrated with almost every item in the grocery store, I came to realize that I had taken on a much bigger challenge than I had imagined. I also came to realize that I had been putting a lot more sugar into my body than I thought, and this was the part that really scared me.
I will be the first to admit that I have a very serious, almost dangerous sweet tooth. I used to say, “I just need a little piece of chocolate after my meals.” That quickly turned into “a piece of chocolate” after everything I ate, which turned into a late-night relationship with Ben & Jerry. I never thought I actually had a problem, other than the fact that I would crave it from time to time as I might crave a nice big glass of wine after a long day. (Don’t ask me to give up my glasses of wine.) But I did notice the headaches that I would get on a daily basis, and the way I would feel around 3:00 in the afternoon when I had to be careful not to close my eyes for too long or I would fall asleep at my desk.
No one told me that all of this was connected. So I’m going to go ahead and tell you—it’s all connected! At least that’s how I feel now that I have given up sugar. The headaches are almost nonexistent, my energy level has become level, and my sweet tooth cravings are (almost) a thing of the past. (I like to think of it as more of a marathon, not a sprint.)
One of the things I found most interesting throughout this experience is how successful certain brands are at sneaking the stuff into their products. I’m almost offended by it! Of course we all know by now that soda will rot your teeth and your insides, and most of us know that drinking a Frappuccino from Starbucks is basically like eating a box of Krispy Kremes. But what I found most traumatizing about this experience was all the other food I was eating that I had never even thought about. One serving of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has six grams! A serving (two tablespoons–but seriously, who eats only two tablespoons?) of Jif Peanut Butter has three grams. A serving of Chobani PLAIN, nonfat greek yogurt has nine, and one serving (16 crackers) of whole grain Wheat Thins has 3 grams. (Check out sugarstacks.com for photo proof.) Oh, and don’t get me started on ketchup.
I will say, however, that with this eye-opening experience, it became sort of like a game to find products that have no added sugar. It’s like one big messed up scavenger hunt, but I found that I actually enjoyed discovering new foods and brands. I tried vegan sour cream for the first time (it was pretty terrible) and discovered that adding cinnamon to oatmeal is almost better than brown sugar. I also used unsweetened coconut milk in my coffee, and blended frozen bananas to make ‘ice cream’ that was actually pretty delicious. I was also forced to cook a lot more and—combined with the money I saved on breaking up with Ben & Jerry—was able to save a few bucks.
In all honestly, it’s not easy. The first week was almost unbearable at times, especially after I realized that the rest of the world hadn’t given up sugar with me (how rude!). Each day it got better, though, and I think I might have even lost a pound or two, which is a nice added bonus as I didn’t do it with the purpose of losing weight. If you do decide to give up sugar, I challenge you to go all in and really try to examine how your body reacts. I think you’ll be very surprised. I also think you’ll have a few terrifyingly vivid Willy Wonka-esque dreams.