I had been on this weight loss/fitness/clean eating journey for 2 months when I realized that something was holding me back. Something was derailing my diet, causing me to have less stamina during my workouts, and even affecting my mood at home. What was it?
A sugar addiction.
Sounds like a good thing, right? I've been an admitted “chocoholic” for year now, but my addiction hadn't been just limited to chocolate. Oh no, everything from caramel, to jelly beans, and even muffins were part of my addiction. But learning how to stop eating sugar would not be so simple.
And why did I care?
I was happily eating my way through life. Living from meal to meal. I would try to control my calories, but then the craving would start up and I was helpless, my eating was out of control. I could work out all day long, but there came a point when I just wasn't losing weight, when I realized that I had to break my sugar addiction.
Sugar, I'm breaking up with you….
I decided on the cold turkey method, knowing full well that the headaches and mood swings would be intense.
I decided to make at least 7 days, no matter what, with no desserts, no candy, no sugar other than was what regularly found in my eMeals Clean Eating Meal Plan. I wasn't going to scrutinize every label for sneaky sugars, but I was going to avoid every obvious instance of sugar in my diet, no matter how hard.
Once I made it 7 days, I knew that I would want to continue, but I didn't set an end date.
Why no sugar?
- Added sugar contains zero essential nutrients: they contains bunches of calories but absoutely nothing that nourishes and feeds you body. Nothing that makes it stronger. It's just empty calories.
- Added sugar can overload the liver: Sugar is made of two things: glucose and fructose. Glucose is perfectly natural and is found in every living thing on the planet, including humans. Fructose, however, is not produced by our body, and we do not need it to survive. To make matters worse, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, which is where it is stored as well. However, if you eat fructose in large amounts the liver metabolizes it, but then finds itself full. When the liver is full of metabolized fructose and it can't store any more, it then turns that excess fructose into fat.
- Fatty Liver Disease: this disease causes you liver to shut down, just like in an alcoholic. But instead of alcohol causing the liver to shut down, the fat stored around the liver, that came from excess fructose caused it.
- Can cause insulin resistance: Insulin allows glucose to enter cells from the bloodstream so that it can be used as energy. Having too much glucose in the blood can cause the insulin to not be able to keep up with it, and then the cells to become resistant to it. This can lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even Type II Diabetes.
- Insulin resistance can cause Type II Diabetes: When your cells become resistant to insulin, the pancreas makes more of insulin. As the insulin resistance gets worse, the pancreas cannot keep up with the demand, blood sugar levels soar sky-high, and Type II Diabetes sets in.
- Sugar can give you cancer: Since we already know that consuming excess sugar can cause high insulin levels, let's dive a little deeper. Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled growth and rapid multiplication of cells, and insulin regulates this growth. For this reason, many leading cancer experts surmise that high insulin levels are definitely a contributing factor to cancer. Therefore, eating sugar can cause cancer.
- Sugar promotes fat creation in the brain: In a study, one group of subjects drank a fructose sweetened drink, and the other group of subjects drank a glucose sweetened drink. After the test, the group that drank the fructose rink had much less activity in the satiety center of the grain than the glucose test group. The fructose group also reported feeling hungrier. Over time, being less satisfied can lead to taking in more calories, leading to fat creation.
- Sugar is addictive: When you eat sugar, your brain gets a massive dopamine surge, similar to the rush you get when you take addictive drugs.
I broke up with sugar…
For 14 days I went cold-turkey with no desserts, no candy, no sugar drinks, no nothin'.
I'm not going to lie, the first 3 days were hell. I was living on headache meds (and I don't like to take meds, ever!), my energy was in the toilet, and I kept waking up at night sweating like crazy. I kept up my 2-a-day workouts, knowing that they would help me detox from the sugar, no matter how much I really didn't want to do them.
But then, on day 4, it was like the cloud lifted.
I became more focused, had more energy, slept soundly, and my clean food choices started to actually sound appetizing. Sure, I still wanted sugar, but on day 4 I finally knew that I would make it all the way to 7 days.
14 Days Later…
As of yesterday, I have been “off” sugar for 14 days and I've never felt better! I'm still doing 2-a-day workouts, but I'm more focused, I wake up refreshed, I have more energy, and I'm making much smarter choices when it comes to food.
I do still have a serving of fruit every day, but somehow, the fruit tastes sweeter to me than it has in a long time.
I knew that I was hooked on this “no sugar” thing on day 14. The hubs and I were heading back from the gym after both of our 2nd workouts of the day and we desperately needed something to drink. Thank god for $0.79 QT drinks! We stopped and I wanted unsweetened tea, but the hubs needed something sweeter. So, we compromised, and I filled the 32 oz cup with 26 ounces of unsweetened tea, and 8 ounces of sweetened tea, paid, and headed back out to the car to share.
Hubs took a drink, pronounced it “not sweet enough” and then handed it to me.
And when I took a drink, I nearly spit it out.
It tasted to incredibly sweet to me that it didn't taste good. I really just wanted some water, no sugar
There are also smaller changes, like I have less thirst. Before breaking up with sugar I was thirsty all day, every day, even though I drank between 1 & 1 1/2 gallons of water every single day. It was bad enough that I actually went to the doctor to get tested for diabetes. I wasn't diabetic, but my intense thirst told me that something was very wrong with my body, which also led to my decision to quit sugar.
Finally, I've noticed a difference in my food choices. No only does healthy food taste better to me, I am more clear-headed about my food choices. I can be hungry and not go on a sugar binge. Instead of getting the “I need to eat right this second or I'm going to die” feeling, I can stand in front the refrigerator, debating about what to eat and think instead about what will nourish my body, whether I need protein or carbs based on my most recent workout, and can assemble a balanced meal that feeds my body the nutrients and minerals that it needs, rather than eating food that helps shut my liver.
I don't have a defined end date for going back on sugar, and even when I decide that the time is right, I won't be “back on” sugar like before. Instead, I'll be intentional about avoiding sugar in my everyday diet, while still allowing myself small treats.
It will probably be a while before I start to re-introduce sugar into my diet, and in the meantime, I'm going to be working even harder to lower my sugar intake. Added sugar exists in so many of the foods we eat, even foods that are considered “clean.” and slowly but surely I'll be whittling those out of my diet. I've already started to read labels more carefully, and make slow small changes.
Have you given up sugar? How long did it take you? What recommendations do you have?
Welcome to my Fit Mom Journey