A Short Time in Hell: My First 10 Days with (Mostly) No Sugar

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Photo credit: Daniel Agostini via Flickr

“Sugar ought to be against the law..and white bread also.” –Dr. Kelly DDS

Sugar has been dubbed the “cocaine” of the food industry, with many experts arguing that it is the single worst thing for your health, even over dairy or gluten.  In fact, the same area of the brain that lights up when sugar is ingested also lights up when cocaine is ingested.

Studies have even mimicked disease symptoms in rats  by feeding them sugar and other refined foods.

Crazy, right?

If there is any unhealthy vice that I have held over the years, it has been a sugar addiction. Even though I’ve never been much of a soda-drinker or junk food eater, I’ve always had a bit of a chocolate addiction. An addiction so strong, that I didn’t realize how strong it was until I stripped it away. I was even nicknamed “chocolate girl” by some friends in high school because of my insane love of chocolate.

And, out of all the diet changes I’ve ever made, I can confidently say that stripping sugar has been by far the most difficult.

When I gave up meat in 2010, I hardly missed it at all. When I gave up dairy 4 months ago, my body had no problem bouncing back. Within less than 3 days, the cravings were out of my system.

But sugar? You’ve got to be kidding me. This was hard.

I found that I massively underestimated the challenge that cutting out sugar would be:

  1. Sugar is in everything, literally.
  2. Sugar has 50 million names, which makes it hard to spot when you are scanning the ingredients of a food item.
  3. Because it is in everything, you are probably addicted to it in some way or shape, even if you don’t have a “sweet tooth.” The ingredient sneaks into most grocery items, making it incredibly hard to cut out.

And unfortunately, due to these challenges, I did not meet my 100% sugar free (minus natural sugar in fruit) diet goal. There were two times that I purged on chocolate, and a couple times out with friends that I ordered an item on the menu that I knew had a little sugar as an added ingredient. Overall though, I drastically reduced sugar, which in itself is an accomplishment.

If I were to go back and do my 30 days from the beginning all over again, I would make a few changes:

Educate educate educate

The first mistake I made was not educating myself enough about sugar. What were its 50 names? What foods have sugar? What are some healthy alternatives to beloved sugary foods?

By not educating myself enough in this way, I was caught off guard when I went to the grocery store for the first time. I reached for the few processed food items I buy – a stir fry sauce, guacamole, dark chocolate, and hummus – and found that they all had sugar in them. If I had been more educated, I could have better prepared myself before walking into the store, lessening the blow.

Take baby steps

The second thing I would change if I were to start all over again would be quitting sugar cold turkey. Instead of going cold turkey, I would take weekly steps, such as: week 1 – educate about sugar and health, week 2 – cut out all obvious sweets, week 3 – cut out added sweets, etc.

By going cold turkey, I made it easier to binge and purge (which I did once or twice) and fall back on bad habits. If I had taken smaller steps, it would have been easier to meet my goals.

Prepare for a battle

If I could go back and tell myself one thing before I started my anti-sugar battle, it would be that it would be well, a battle.

To prepare for the battle, I would have set out specific replacements for when sugar cravings came up, such as coconut oil, which is my current favorite replacement.

If you are interested in learning more about sugar’s effect on your body, I recommend watching Dr. Robert Litzig’s talk below:

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