In January of 2017 I quit sugar for a month. I did it because I had ballooned up to 190 pounds over the Christmas holidays. I was tired of feeling gross and wanted to get back to feeling better about my body and, more importantly, feeling healthy again.
Quitting sugar for a month did that and more. I lost 8 pounds in the first month and another 7 the next month. After a difficult first few days, I started feeling great and keeping up with the diet became easy. I felt more motivated and got a great sense of accomplishment because I was finally taking control of my life. Even more importantly, the effects have lasted for months and months. I’ve kept off most of the weight and can no longer stand drinking soda.
Here’s how I did it–and how you can too.
Sugar is Killing Us
That probably sounds like an alarmist headline–and in some ways it is. But a growing body of research suggests that sugar is not only probably an addiction–but a very harmful one. Eating too much sugar rots your teeth and causes weight gain. While nobody should be personally shamed for their weight, being overweight or obese contributes to a wide number of harmful health effects including high cholesterol, developing diabetes, and high blood pressure. Cutting out sugar can help you regain control of your health.
Quitting Sugar Changes your perspective
You might be telling yourself, But I love Pepsi! I could never drop it entirely.
Or maybe, you have a Frappuccino every day (those are loaded with sugar) and you don’t think you can give it up. Here’s the good news.
Our ancestors lived for tens of thousands of years without refined sugar. The sweetest thing they would eat would be a grape or another fruit–and only when they were in season. If they lived their entire lives without added sugar, you can too.
But you might counter and say But that’s the entire problem. They couldn’t eat sugar. But everywhere I go is selling me sugar-loaded snacks!
And that’s a good point! Sugar is everywhere, and it can be hard to resist. And that’s why cutting it out for a month is so important. You see, I used to love bubble tea. I drank it basically every day. As you may know, bubble tea is just sugar and milk and water and sweetened tapioca balls. If I had a lot of writing to do, I’d wake up in the morning with a Red Bull (27 grams in an 8.4 oz can) I wasn’t as bad as some people. but it’s safe to say I was getting a daily sugar kick.
Anyway, back to the point. After going cold turkey for a month, my perspective on these drinks totally changed. It’s not that I don’t like the idea of drinking soda or eating sweets anymore, it’s that… I just cant. Pepsi and Red Bull are way too sweet now. They have became gross. I thought that I’d finish my sugar-free month and come back ravenous, but I actually just don’t care anymore.
I took a sip of Pepsi the day after my sugar-free month, and I couldn’t even swallow it. It was disgustingly sweet.
Long story short, the point is that if you do this sugar-free month you will not only avoid all the sugar you’ve avoided during the month, but you’ll also be less likely to eat it in the future.
Quitting Sugar Resets Your Body
Even after a month without sugar, I still sometimes have desserts and unhealthy food. I’m not perfect. But it is so much easier to stop now. I recently ordered some ice cream in a kid’s small size, and even that felt too large.
Which brings me to another point–did quitting sugar make me become strange, or did I actually just become normal again? For years I lived an unhealthy, sugar-loaded lifestyle, just because I lived in the United States. There’s sugar in pasta sauce. There’s sugar in Sriracha. There’s sugar in your protein bars. And god knows there is sugar in soda. candy, ice cream, and all the other unhealthy food we eat all the time.
If you’re like most people, that lifestlye feels normal. But if you quit sugar for a month, odds are that lifestyle won’t feel normal anymore.
In one month I went from 190 to 183. In month two, when I ate sugar again but at very low levels, I fell further from 183 to 176. After getting a bit lax on my diet I rose again back to 180. But even being pretty lazy about the quality of food I eat has resulted in 10 pounds of weight loss and feeling much healthier than I did before. So, I’ve kept most of the gains (or is it losses?) I made due to the sugar diet.
What the first week is like
The first week of your no sugar diet is the hardest–especially if you have been regularly consuming a lot of sugar. On the first day, I got through without sugar by eating two apples. Obviously, apples have sugar, but since it’s not added cane sugar and you get all the fiber and nutrients from the apple, it’s totally okay.
But by day two, I was already dragging:
Today I was dragging. I think the quitting sugar thing is to blame. I feel like I have less energy, I can’t think as clearly, and I just feel sort of foggy. I’m hoping this is a withdrawal effect. I don’t feel hungry and I think I’m eating enough, but damn, I feel cloudy today.
I actually felt great before lunch, but somehow eating food seemingly sapped all the energy I had, which doesn’t really make sense since food delivers energy…
By 6PM I’ve achieved a lot less then yesterday. I start watching Weezer videos and dreaming of being on the beach. I don’t feel depressed, but feel like something is missing. I have an intense desire to fall asleep on the beach. It’s all I think about for some reason.
Sugar withdrawal. The struggle is real.
Quitting sugar cold turkey was great. The only problem was being a little tired during the first week. To counteract the lethargy I started drinking caffeine again, which I have mixed feelings about. It was necessary to power through the second day. Day three was easier, but some of the pain came back on day four. But by day five my body had adjusted to the new schedule. and with a lot of apples. I was able to make it through to the second week.
How Much Sugar Should You Eat?
World Health Organization guidelines suggest that you should have 25 grams or less of sugar per day. If you want to truly reset your sugar tolerance, I suggest that you get as close to zero as possible. Mind, I only mean added sugars. So apples and oranges and other foods with natural sugars are okay. Juice is a tricky subject, because although juice is natural, you are removing the fiber and really stripping away much of the fruit. Also, drinking 2 glasses of apple juice is much easier than eating six apples, so by consuming fruit in its original form you are actually preventing yourself from over eating. Juice makes that much harder. For me, I didn’t drink juice, but I did have some Kombucha, which had 2 grams of (naturally occuring) sugar per serving.
Stick to it
The psychology of giving up sugar is just as important as the goal itself. You’re changing your life and you’re committing to doing something difficult. That spirit of getting things done is already half the battle. The rest of the battle is sticking to it. Crucially, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself if you cheat or skip on your goals. This is not ideal, but just because you caved and had a slice of cake does not mean you should give up on the month. Think about why you had it, accept it, and move on.
Giving up sugar is about living a life of constant improvement–not about being perfect.
Are you thinking about quitting sugar? Have you tried it? How was it for you? Let us know in the comments!
Interested in starting a blog and making money as a writer? Check out Come Write With Us, the online writing course I made with Kristin Wong. We share our experience writing for clients like The New York Times, National Geographic, Lifehacker, The Financial Times Press, and more!