Since my last post, Loving “Sick Melissa”, I’ve had a few friends and acquaintances reach out asking how I “quit sugar”. Since cutting out sugars was honestly one of the most difficult, worst parts of my journey, and one I get asked about quite frequently, I figured it needed its own blog post.
I quit eating sugar in all forms in January of 2014. This included refined sugars, fruit sugars, artificial sweeteners, alcohols, and even some vegetables with high sugar content (like carrots and potatoes). While cutting it out, I experienced some of the greatest pain and anxiety, strongest cravings, and craziest experiences of my health journey. I literally felt like I was on drug detox from cocaine or something even stronger. I was having weird sex-like dreams about donuts and other sugary treats (haha), would wake up in the middle of the night shaking and sweating, and the nausea and headaches were unbearable. It actually scared the shit out of me that so many people eat huge amount of this addictive toxin every single day.
If you don’t know much about sugar, it is very damaging to your heart, specifically promotes belly fat, and has even been linked to cancer production. Sugar has a toxic effect on the liver similar to that of alcohol. It saps your brain power and has been linked to shorter life spans. It is a substance harder to resist than any other food, and has been proven to be as hard to resist as some drugs – including cocaine and morphine! Not only is this substance dangerous, it’s hidden in so many everyday foods that don’t even taste sugary – for example, take a look at the nutrition label on your ketchup bottle, jar of tomato sauce, fat free dressing, marinates, bread, crackers, cured meats, peanut butter, and jelly. Sugar can be found in nearly eighty percent of all packaged foods!
If you want to personally cut out sugar yourself, I have shared 5 steps below that will help you through. I am always here for support and please reach out in the comments if you’re going to try to follow my methods! Good luck!
Step 1 – Having the Right Mindset to Quit Eating Sugar
Being in the right mindset is huge. Set the intentions for yourself while meditating or sitting in a private, relaxed state for as many days prior as you need. Tell yourself that you CAN do this, and you WILL do this – a strong willpower will be your best friend through the withdrawal symptoms. It’s hard, but with each day that passes, as with any drug addiction, it will get easier.
Step 2 – Appointing Allies to Keep You Motivated
I’d also suggest appointing 5 of your closest friends/family/confidants to be prepared and ready for a call at any time. Similar to members of AA, when you feel an unsatisfiable craving coming on, and you’re emotional, and sad, and may not feel well because you’re detoxing off this awful substance, call them! Use them for support. I do the same thing now with some addictive behaviors that I’ve developed over the past two years to escape my pain. My five supports are my rocks, and I go to them with the slightest inkling to sink back to prior habits.
Step 3 – Prepare Ahead of Time to Cut out Sugar – Create the Perfect Environment for Success
I found it easiest to just go “cold turkey” with my sugar intake. The symptoms (which I’m not sure if mine were so bad because I was also very weak and struggling with SIBO and Candida), only lasted a few weeks, with the worst of it subsiding after a week or two. I’ve had friends kind of “wean” themselves off it and experience symptoms for a much greater length of time.
Be wary as you’re cleaning out your cabinets, as sugar is often hiding under alternate names. Throw out anything that has high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, molasses, agave, caramel, dextrose, glucose, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, and the list goes on and on with over fifty aliases that sugar goes by. For a complete list, check out the 57 names of sugar.
I’d make sure to have lots of fresh vegetables and proteins on-hand – anything that you find enjoyable – nuts, bacon, favorite veggies, etc., but ensure that you have nothing with sugar around to temp you. The first week, try and avoid having grains too, as they turn into sugars in your body. I made sure to have no grains, chocolates, fruits, snacks, etc around to tempt me.
I’ve also found this brand of stevia to be a godsent. It’s the only sweet substance you should have during your cleanse. It comes in a variety of flavors, so it’s easy to make yummy tasting sweet snacks during the week without breaking the sugar cleanse. I used the lemon flavored one, along with fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice to make refreshing glasses of lemonade during the cleanse (freeze it for refreshing “italian ice”). Sometimes mixing the vanilla flavored one with things like nut butter and coconut milk in a blender can make a mousse-type snack. I also found myself experimenting with some grain-free egg and squash breads that I sweetened with the stevia, too (almond and coconut flours are a godsent!). It’s all about getting creative with it.
Step 4 – Avoid Temptations
It may seem self-explanatory but don’t put yourself in situations that will be hard to avoid eating sugar. Don’t go out with friends for brunch at a spot that only serves pancakes, instead, choose a location where you can order eggs or an omelet. If the smell of coffee is going to leave you yearning for a frappuccino, don’t walk into Starbucks. The same reason you don’t want to have tempting foods around your house, don’t physically put yourself in situations or go to certain restaurants that will be too tempting to resist. This may even include avoiding visiting a friend who has great munchie snacks readily available – invite them over to your place instead.
I always share the story of when John almost broke me just a few days into my cleanse. It was the second or third day without sugar, so my cravings were STRONG. John felt like eating a donut (typical), so I told him to invite our neighbor friend to join him in a trip to Donut Bar instead of me, because I didn’t want to be tempted by the sweet smells at the shop. Expecting him to eat his donuts before arriving home, I was furious when he walked into the apartment 30 minutes later with a box full of treats! Needless to say, amongst angry tears, I banished him to the balcony, where he ate his donuts outside while I sat inside with the blinds drawn – I didn’t even want to see him indulging, I was so miserable in my own detox!
Step 5 – Keep at it Until You No Longer Crave Sweets!
Once you feel like you no longer physically or emotionally need the sugar, I’d wait a little bit more time to ensure that your body is truly cleansed of it. Use the stevia to sweeten when you need something sweet. Then, transition grains back in, and easily-digestible fruits. Eventually, you can reintroduce honey and occasionally real maple syrup. When your body is cleansed of the addiction, it will be easy to avoid refined and other sugars, and your palate completely changes, it’s amazing! Other foods start tasting SO much better! Now, when I even taste something sweetened with refined sugar (ie. my wedding cake), it actually tasted gross and I spit it out!
Cutting out sugars is a challenge for all of us, but it’s certainly a lifestyle choice that I am grateful for. Although my health issues kind of “forced” me into it, now that I’ve been through it myself, I’d never go back. I know for a fact that I was heavily addicted to sugar, and I love being free of it. Now, a simple piece of fruit or honey-sweetened muffin pleasures my palate, I never crave candy or sweets, and I have a ton of energy! If I can do it, I know you can too!