A little over two months ago, I decided to completely quit sugar. Below I share what I learned in those two months and my reflections on what it was like to go without dessert or processed sugars of any kind. Quitting sugar was one of the best decisions I could have made, and I’m so glad I did.
Anyone who knows me knows I. love. sugar. I have a huge sweet tooth and get way too excited about diving into a bowl of ice cream or eating a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie (or just the raw cookie dough…let’s be real). But something we don’t often talk about in our society is how sugar is addictive and actually affects our brain similarly to addictive drugs. What’s more is that sugar consumption is not only widely accepted in our society, but it’s often encouraged.
Which is fine for most people who can handle eating a piece of candy and not needing more, but for me, sugar has always been really, really hard for me to stop eating. I spoke in this post about how I overcame my sugar addiction, but the truth is I just kind of…reduced it to a more acceptable level. I was getting healthier in lots of other ways – exercising more, eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and I was definitely eating way less sugar than I had been…but I was still addicted to it.
I still had to have something sweet after each meal…including lunch. And fruit just wouldn’t do it. I tried chewing gum to stop the craving, but that only worked some of the time. I felt like I was being controlled by my sugar cravings, and I really just thought that was the way it was going to be…forever. I’d also had a stressful few months last November and December and I was eating higher amounts of sugar than what I’d been able to reduce it down to a few months prior.
But back in January…something just snapped. I knew I was eating more sugar than normal as a crutch for my stress and my body was suffering because of it. I used to get awful headaches when I was a kid from eating too much sugar…and that was starting to happen a lot more again. I felt bloated, I felt tired, I had sugar crashes every single day. I knew something needed to change.
So I decided to quit cold turkey – something I had never tried before or ever thought I could actually do. And I should mention since I got a lot of questions about this…I didn’t completely stop eating all forms of natural sugar such as fruit or alcohol, but I did drastically reduce my consumption of processed sugar. And I was eating some from of processed sugar (creamer, candy, cookies, chocolate, even yogurt) every day (and sometimes a lot of it in a day). So I made it my mission to first pay attention to added sugars in what I was eating and cut out as much of it as I possibly could, while still allowing myself to eat small amounts of natural sugar.
Why I chose to quit sugar
So why did I do this? Firstly, I wanted to see if I could even do it. As I said earlier, I had been able to greatly reduce the amount of sugar I was eating daily, but I had never been able to go a day without some kind of processed sugar. My wedding was also coming up and I felt that my wedding in two months was a good deadline I could set for myselfI hear it takes 40 days to break a habit…so being the overachiever I am I thought, why not try two months?
I also wanted to see if my taste preferences would change. Since I love sugar so much and I eat so much of it, I tend to like foods that are really sweet since my palette is just so accustomed to a lot of sugar. My tastes have been shifting quite a lot recently, though (like how I used to hate anything remotely spicy and now I can’t get enough of spicy foods!) so I know it’s possible for our tastes to dramatically shift, especially as we age. I figured if I stopped eating foods filled with sugar (especially those sneaky ones like teriyaki sauce and yogurt), I could get used to eating less of it and my tastes would adjust.
Most importantly, I know consuming so much sugar daily is not good for me and is not good for my body. I wanted to see if I would really feel better physically and mentally if I quit sugar. (Spoiler alert! I do!) So, on January 8 I decided I would cut out or reduce added sugars as much as I possibly could from my diet. No more chocolate, cookies, ice cream, or even gum. I decided I’d quit for two months and would end the “sugar cleanse” with bites of my wedding cake at my wedding on March 9 (That seems fair, right? I have to have cake at my own wedding, after all).
My first realizations from completely quitting sugar
- Holy crap! Everything has SO much added sugar! This was something I never paid much attention to before this cleanse, but as I walked down the grocery store aisle and looked at the labels on the foods I was buying, I could not believe how much sugar there was in everything.
- I really missed eating sugar and I got legitimately sad that I couldn’t eat it at times. Sugar was something I looked forward to each day, and it was hard not to have that in the beginning. It was especially hard to not eat it at celebration events or holidays like Steve’s graduation (where they had a full reception with every sweet treat imaginable) and Valentine’s Day.
- I am a major emotional eater. I always knew this but it became really apparent when I wasn’t allowing myself to eat even a little sugar occasionally. Normally I think I’d be able to talk myself into eating “just a little bit” of sugar if something stressful or upsetting was going on, but this time I couldn’t. And it was glaring how much I use sugar as a coping mechanism for stress.
So, after two months of successfully quitting sugar, here’s what I’ve learned.
I found healthy alternatives…and I actually like them better because I know they’re good for me!
Two of my favorite discoveries that came out of this sugar cleanse were bulletproof coffee and frozen bananas. I was drinking my coffee with a sugar-filled almond milk creamer in the mornings, but I knew that had to go. So I started making bulletproof coffee (with ghee instead of butter and then I add some collagen protein powder and oat milk as well) and I am so happy that I made the switch! As someone who doesn’t eat breakfast, bulletproof coffee really keeps me full.
I also discovered that I love frozen bananas if I really need something for “dessert.” I used to eat bananas slathered in melted chocolate and convince myself that it was healthy, but now I just love eating a frozen banana on its own! I love how I got creative with my healthy alternatives and I feel so much better physically that I made some of these swaps.
It’s easier for me to not eat any dessert than to eat a small amount.
When I first started this cleanse, I would stare longingly at chocolate bars while I was grocery shopping and tell myself that I could buy myself some for the house when I was done with the cleanse. But after two months, I’ve decided that I don’t need to. I know if I have any sugar in the house, I will eat it and I won’t be able to hold back.
It is so much easier for me just to not eat dessert at all than to eat a small amount, because the small amount can derail me. Again, sugar definitely doesn’t affect everyone in that way so keeping a chocolate bar in the house may be fine for you, but it isn’t for me. And I’m totally okay with that now. I still want to go out and get ice cream or cookies from time to time, but at least there won’t be more for me to consume when I go back home, so I’m definitely going to allow myself to indulge in that from time to time.
I don’t crave sugar even if it’s in front of me.
This is a big one. I used to start craving sugar if I even saw a donut on TV, so I really couldn’t help myself when someone brought them into the office and they were right in front of me. That’s been really hard for me with my new job…there is always candy or sugar in the office and it’s so hard for me not to be tempted! But when I took it away as an option…I now have no issue with it! It’s so amazing not to feel completely hijacked when desserts are in the office now.
I truly cannot believe I was able to quit sugar for two months…and while I’m obviously not going to ban myself from ever eating it again…it’s amazing how different I feel both physically and mentally after finishing this challenge. I’m so proud of myself for sticking with it even when it was really difficult, and for the lasting changes it’s brought me. I still love sugar, but now I can love it in a much more healthy way, which is a truly amazing feeling I thought I’d never experience.