Last month I decided I wanted to give up sugar for a month.
I have a HUGE sweet tooth and always crave something sweet after I eat.
However, I wouldn’t say I was consuming large amounts of sugar daily. However, I was consuming what I consider too much.
The biggest problem was my morning coffee. Before starting this I would either be intermittent fasting or only eating fruit before noon.
In either scenario I would always have my morning coffee first though. My morning coffee also included 2-4 tablespoons of oat milk creamer. My absolute favorite is the oatmeal cookie flavor from Silk.
Each tablespoon has 4 g of sugar so this means I would START my day off with 8 to 16 g of sugar!!
The second problem was the protein/snack bars I would eat just about every day. I LOVE GoMacro and Larabars, but my favorites were the ones with chocolate chips in them.
Granted these bars are a lot healthier than other bars…I was still consuming added sugar.
Problem 3 was the occasional sweet treat. I would usually have some sort of larger dessert once a week (donuts, cookies, ice cream, etc.).
Those occasional treats would leave me groggy and ‘off’ for a couple of days.
So this leads to my why.
Why I Wanted to Give Up Sugar
My future self
I have done this before years ago, but obviously I went right back to consuming it.
When I think of who I want to be in the future, loads of sugar is not in the equation.
I want to be someone who only consumes added sugar occasionally. Birthdays and other celebrations for example.
I definitely don’t want to give up dessert forever, but I don’t want to constantly crave junk.
Overall, I want to be someone who eats primarily whole foods and natural sugars.
My gut health and digestion
Drinking 8 to 16 g of sugar first thing in the morning can’t be good for my body.
This may be TMI, but every morning my stools were quite loose. I wouldn’t get a stomach ache, but I could tell my tummy wasn’t happy.
The other thing is that sugar causes me to feel anxious. This is because sugar disrupts the gut and has a huge impact on the brain.
I highly recommend reading the book, The Mind-Gut Connection for more information on this.
I never feel good physically OR mentally after eating high-sugar foods.
I’ve had bad teeth all my life.
My enamel is weak and therefore I am more prone to decay. I’ve had dozens of fillings and several root canals.
I actually had pain in my teeth for months before starting this, so I knew something was wrong.
I figured cutting out sugar could potentially improve my oral health as well.
Actually, about half way through the month I ended up getting a tooth extracted. This tooth had a root canal performed on it THREE times and was actually the source of my pain. There was decay and infection around the tooth and I’m so glad it’s out.
However, it’s common sense that drinking sugar coffee every morning and weekly desserts is not good for my teeth.
We all know how bad added sugar is for us.
It can increase your risk for multiple diseases, it causes inflammation in the body and skin, it leads to weight gain, it ages cells, and so on.
There is a recommended “limit” for how much added sugar should be consumed, but the reality is we shouldn’t be consuming it at all.
I want to be healthy ALWAYS. I want to decrease my cravings for sugar and feed my body the proper nutrients.
Sugar is a DRUG and has been shown to be more addictive than hard drugs such as cocaine. That is so scary.
The day before starting I did what any addict would do…take one last hit.
I bought a tube of cinnamon rolls and ate 3 of those bad boys.
Then the next day it was black coffee and sugar free foods.
To be honest I didn’t experience crazy withdrawals.
Common withdrawals are:
- change in sleep
- and strong cravings
The main symptom I experienced was a headache for the first 4-5 days. I woke up with a headache on day 2 and it never really went away until day 4.
I do get headaches more than most people, but I think this time it had to do with the sugar.
After that it wasn’t so bad.
I had some cravings of course, but this time around I felt such a strong sense of love for my body and overall health that I was able to brush it off.
Now, when I went into this I was thinking I would avoid ALL added sugars.
However, I realized what’s more important for me is removing the foods that are actually sweet.
For example, on day 6 my sister and I made some bean burgers. The vegan sour cream we used for the sauce and the chips we served with the meal did contain a gram or 2 of added sugar.
But I still ate it of course because those foods aren’t my problem.
I was still eating fruit daily and in the second week I decided to add dates into my daily diet.
Dates are all natural but do contain high sugar content. I have been eating 2 a day in my pre-workout oatmeal and that works for me.
Read about the benefits of dates here.
Here are some meals I ate:
I stuck with mostly whole foods but I still consumed pasta a few times, breads, and some vegan meats. My dessert was always fruit and sometimes unsweetened tea.
And like I said I got my tooth extracted so I had to consume soft foods for a week or so.
I experienced 2 main benefits:
1) Improved digestion
Now when I use the restroom my stools are more firm and comfortable. I can FEEL the difference in my belly and that is so important to me.
By removing excess added sugar in my diet I’m also not feeding the bad bacteria in my gut and causing inflammation.
2) Improved mental state (less brain fog)
I’m assuming with the better digestion/gut health my brain is also happier.
I haven’t experienced anxiety and I feel happier in general. However, I do think the removal of my infected tooth could play a role in this as well.
I’ve noticed I am even more productive than usual lately and have WAY more energy in the afternoons compared to before.
I DID NOT:
1) Get clearer skin
Some people experience clearer skin but I believe mine stayed about the same.
I had a couple of breakouts throughout the month but that is normal for me. I suppose my face looks a little bit more “glowy.”
2) Lose belly fat
I was a bit disappointed that my lower belly didn’t shrink at all. I thought for sure removing my coffee creamer would help.
I’m a very active person and eat healthy in general so I expected to notice a difference.
So now what?
It’s now been over a month and I still haven’t had any sweets.
I’ve decided I want to turn this into a lifestyle.
The benefits I have experienced are well worth this shift AND I definitely want to live up to what I see for my future self.
As much as I love my coffee and creamer, the black coffee is here to stay.
I will no longer be buying my favorite snack bars to eat daily.
I will no longer eat sweets on a weekly basis. They will be saved for special occasions or certain outings.
As much as I love sugar, it’s just not worth it anymore.
Excess sugar leads to me feeling like crap for days and I’m not here for it!
Feeling energized and healthy is much better.
If you want to reduce your sugar consumption you don’t necessarily have to commit to giving it up completely.
Start reducing it slowly if you prefer.
You could use less/no creamer in your coffee, you can give up soda, you can replace your nightly ice cream with a fruit smoothie instead.
The amount of added sugar most people consume daily is off the charts. Even foods you wouldn’t expect to have sugar such as savory foods and sauces contain it.
Read your labels and start paying attention to what you’re actually eating!
This is exactly why I prefer to eat a primarily whole food (vegan) diet.
Once you reduce your sugar intake, natural sugars from fruits will be sufficient.