Pounding Headaches. Mood swings. Fatigue. Sugar cravings. Mind Fog. These are just some of the lovely symptoms you deal with when cutting sugar out of your diet. Sugar withdrawals are actually a thing. And even though we didn’t consider ourselves unhealthy, we realised throughout this process that we had possibly been over-indulging in sugar — even the ones we consider or deem ‘healthy’.
If you’re at all interested in this little experience, continue reading. If you think all that sugar-free stuff is nonsense, still keep reading. While I agree that no one knows exactly what is the correct ‘diet’ for all, I do think it is our own job to keep informed. There might be a new fad ‘diet’ out on the market everyday, but I think as long as we take it upon ourselves to be educated on what’s out there and determine how certain foods affect our body, then we have the right to make the informed choice about how we decide to eat. Like for instance, how can you say sugar does not affect you if you’ve never tried to cut it out?
I say all this below with one important caveat:
Everything you read (even this), or watch on tv or hear from friends, don’t ever take it as gospel. Research it yourself. I am fairly passionate about nutrition (so don’t bring it up if you aren’t ready for a long conversation), but so are several other people. In fact, similar to religion, it’s probably one of the most debated and controversial things to talk about nowadays. No one can agree and everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon to encourage everyone to start following their way of eating. Fair enough, everyone has their own views. But make that decision based on what you learn, not on a blind assumption that what people tell you is right.
So, with that all in mind, this is NOT an article about how you should quit sugar at all costs. This is our experience of cutting out all forms of sugar for a short period of three weeks.
How Did We Cut Out Sugar?
Technically, according to the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program, you’re supposed to do it gradually. But since we had fallen off the bandwagon and only really bucked down in week 4, we quit cold turkey. That means we quit sugar in ALL form. That is any added sugar; fruit and even sweeteners. And we did it overnight! Is it advisable? Probably not. The actual program gives you two weeks to reduce your sugar gradually and I do think that may reduce any of the severe symptoms we felt.
Can You Drink Alcohol?
They say you can have a glass of wine or beer in moderation. However, in the first week I decided not to have anything. Craig did. But still, I don’t think it affected our sugar-withdrawals at all.
What Did We Eat?
This is the first thing everyone asks me. So, what do you even eat?! It’s true. Sugar is in everything. So basically everything in a box or package was off limits. You will see on most nutrition labels, sugar is hiding in there! Most of what we end up eating is then whole foods that we make into a meal ourselves.
If you’re anything like me, you will miss your fruit breakfast… A LOT. That being said, our go-to breakfast is a buckwheat crepe. While the Program recipe isn’t quite as elaborate, I make ours into a Galette much like my favourite breakfast from Cafe Linnea (see our Brunch Guide here). You can also have toast with ricotta topped with cinnamon – another favourite – or any form of eggs and green veg. There are even more options in the 8 Week Plan and on the website, but these are my favourite that I’ll likely keep around.
Lunch & Dinner Options:
The Plan is organised in a way that you make a huge batch for dinner, and use the left overs for lunch. Our favourites have been pretty basic meals like steak, mushroom sauce and green beans or even a roast chicken with veggies. But there are more exciting options like Lamb with sweet potato gnocchi (which I actually loved) and quite a few Asian-inspired meals.
Generally, eating this way decreases your need to snack. The Plan does not provide any set snack meals but you would be best to resort to veggies or nuts. Craig, of course, eats like a horse, so I do pack snacks for him which will usually be more leftovers or a sourdough PB sandwich.
Benefits We’ve Noticed Already?
Prepare for TMI. We are talking about how sugar affects our body after all.
#1: Happier Hormones?
While I cannot guarantee that quitting sugar is the reason for my seemingly improved hormones, it coincided with a fairly easy time-of-the-month which in the past few months hasn’t been so easy – if you know what I mean. This time, no cramps, no cysts, no weird sensitivities. It was bliss, and if it does have anything to do with quitting sugar, I would quite happily consider cutting sugar a week before D-day to ensure an easy period every month!
#2: We’re also super regular.
Super regular. And that is all I’ll say about that.
#3: Overall, we do feel ‘healthier’.
Our gut and body feels healthier, if that makes sense at all. Everything feels as if it is working the way it is meant to. Placebo effect? Who knows.
While not a goal, you definitely slim down a bit whether it be water weight or actual fat. Clothes do fit a littler better!
#5: Sugar Cravings, buh-bye!
At the end of the 3 weeks, we have officially gotten over our sugar addiction and no longer crave much sweet stuff at all. In fact, I have gone from a fruit-based breakfast to craving my buckwheat crepe every morning! So, maybe we achieved our goal and recalibrate our tastebuds after all?
Other Side-effects From Going Sugar Free?
Like I said, sugar withdrawals are a real thing. Headaches that pound. Constant fatigue. And cravings like you have never had. As soon as you stop giving the body even mild, ‘healthy’ versions of sugar, you start craving the really bad ones! Funny enough, Craig had started the day two off remarking that: “Going sugar-free isn’t really going to affect me. I barely eat sugar”. Well. By the end of that day, we were both sporting headaches and he was basically begging for beer, pizza and chocolate. So, while you might think that you aren’t addicted to sugar, you probably still are (unless you’re keto, but even then they still generally have sweeteners). Needless to say, Tylenol has been our best friend.
When Do The Headaches End?
Um, well, that depends on a lot of things. Things like your body’s adjustment period; how much sugar you were eating before; whether you go cold turkey or gradually decrease; and even what foods you are eating. We had headaches for a good week or two. First week was tough, second week was more bearable but the afternoon ache would hit right around the usual afternoon pick me (which used to be fruit). Our heads felt foggy for a good two weeks, maybe even 2 and a half, and it was only once we arrived in Vancouver near the 3 week mark that we felt remotely normal again.
So, What’s The Point?
The point is not to cut sugar out of your life forever. It’s just cut out for three weeks to recalibrate your tastebuds. My goal is to get back to my ‘low sugar’ way of life, ensuring we eat mostly whole foods and stop resorting to package goods, no matter how ‘healthy’ they may be marketed as. But it also does a few other things – in my opinion. It makes you more aware of how many different processed foods you were actually eating and ups your willpower. Plus, I don’t find myself unnecessarily snacking in between meals.
Let me know if you try cut out sugar and how it goes! I’d love to hear your experiences too!
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