I Gave Up Sugar For A Month And Here’s What Happened
If you ask my friends and family, they’ll tell you I am no stranger to sugar. In fact, one of my mom’s favorite stories goes something like this: ten-year-old me tells her I want to go for a bike ride every day “for exercise,” when in reality I’m going to the local gas station for a candy bar. Guilty as charged.
We always laugh when she tells that story, but I knew deep down that I wasn’t just into sugar — I was obsessed, so obsessed that I would lie about it.
Not to depress you, but I chose to do this challenge because I knew I was in a bad place with myself. As someone who has anxiety, worries about body image and still couldn’t stop making cookie dough on a whim, I needed to do something about my addiction before it got ugly.
So on May 1, I set out to do something I hadn’t done since infancy: consume no dessert, no added sugars and definitely no cookie dough.
The boundaries seemed simple at first read: no added sugar. So no dessert, right? No, it goes way beyond that.
Nutritionist and author of The Sugar Detox Brooke Alpert told us earlier this year that in order to do a full sugar detox, you need to look closely at what sugars you’re adding into your meals and any prepared foods that have added sugars. Good examples would be adding honey to your oatmeal or a frozen meal that has added sugars. Most jarred marinara sauces and pre-made salad dressings have added sugars.
So does “no sugar” include fruit? The answer is no — fruit has natural sugars unlike jarred marinara sauce, which is made by adding in refined sugar.
You might be thinking, You’re depriving yourself of something that is typically fine in moderation!!! To that, you’re right that in moderation, sweets won’t hurt you in the long run. But for someone like me, someone who has never known when or how to stop consuming sugar, a month without it was crucial to resetting my body.
Not to brag, but I’m known to make a kickass cookie. It’s been hard for me in the past not to whip something up when I know I can. So the first step was to throw out my sugar. It’s super cheap, so I had no issues tossing it.
Then, I examined my pantry carefully. Even my pasta had sugar in it, so I made a mental note to steer clear of pasta dishes for the month. I was also in the habit of making my oatmeal each morning with honey, so I made sure to think of a new recipe.
Week one was all about readjusting, so after throwing out all the added sugars, I tweaked my normal recipes. I bought a bunch of bananas and added one to my big batch of oatmeal for the week. You wouldn’t believe how sweet it was without an ounce of honey.
During week two, I learned about the struggles of going out to eat when you’re on a strict no-sugar diet. Well, to be completely honest, I may have cheated without knowing it. I was making all my meals fresh for the week using my meal prep plan, so I didn’t realize that eating at restaurants could be an issue until that point. All I can offer is this: choose the freshest meal possible, like a salad with the dressing on the side or a protein and veggies. If you ingest a gram of sugar from all of that, don’t beat yourself up. It’s not worth it in the long run.
Week three was the week I felt like everything was going smoothly. I had my meal prep down and knew what to order when I wanted something to eat from a restaurant, but I had my moments. A coworker mentioned going to DŌ, the cookie dough shop in NYC, and I may have shed a tear.
By week four I was feeling really strong: mentally, emotionally and physically. I didn’t crave sweets at the end of the day, and that is a miracle when it comes to me.
To be honest, I didn’t have as big of an issue as I thought I would. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I don’t drink a ton of alcohol, I don’t drink soda and I never keep junk food in my apartment (I make it instead, hehe). So the issue here was really about keeping myself from making something sweet.
Though I can’t claim that my anxiety was lessened in any way, I felt more in control of how I dealt with it. I wasn’t shoveling sweets in my face if I was stressed — instead, I was going to the gym, cleaning or taking a walk. I also found some incredible alternatives to my favorite desserts, like this banana “ice cream” recipe that doesn’t have added sugars or dairy and doesn’t require an ice cream maker.
If you want to try the challenge for yourself, here are a few things you can do to alleviate your suffering and keep you on track:
- Lean on fruits to curb your cravings
- Focus on something else — anything else, when you want to break the challenge. Read, go for a walk, talk to your friends, whatever it takes.
- Drink *lots* of water. You might actually be dehydrated if you’re craving sweets.
I did break my fast with some DŌ, and I actually felt sick after having a few bites. This month transformed my life, and I feel so much healthier and more in control of my choices than ever. Don’t underestimate the power of a month, because it just took thirty days to undo years of a power struggle.
I still love cookie dough, but I doubt I’ll spring to make it unless it’s a special occasion. I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll be glad to not touch it for a while. Call me crazy, but my body is thanking me.