- Recommended sugar intake: How much should you have per day?
- How Many Grams of Sugar Should You Eat in a Day to Lose Weight?
- Is sugar addiction real?
- How Many Americans are Addicted to Sugar?
- How much sugar should you have in one day?
- How to figure out how much sugar is in food
- Are there other names for sugar?
- How to break your sugar addiction
- So how can you break the sugar addiction cycle?
- Tips to quit your sugar addiction
- How many grams of sugar should you eat per day if you want to lose weight?
- How Cutting Added Sugar Helped One Woman Lose 180 Pounds and Counting
- How Cutting Back on Added Sugar Helped Her Drop the Unwanted Weight
- Can Cutting Sugar Lead To Weight Loss? What the Science Suggests
- How to Cut Sugar From Your Diet to Help With Weight Loss
- Following a Sustainable Low-Sugar Diet by Indulging Occasionally
- HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I GAVE UP SUGAR FOR A MONTH
- The first 2 days of the no-sugar challenge
- If you want to succeed, educate yourself about sugar
- Summary: These 5 things are the biggest benefits of quitting sugar
- Why is eating sugar that bad for me?
- What can I do about my sugar addiction?
- So what does the Sugar-Free miracle diet look like?
- So what can I eat every day?
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Day 4
- Day 5
- Day 6
- Day 7 – Cheat Day!
- 1. I felt lighter—at first.
- 2. I uncovered a different kind of willpower.
- 3. My skin broke out.
- 4. I ate more fruit and nuts.
- 5. Sugar is in EVERYTHING.
- 6. I got creative.
- 7. I actually eat pretty well.
- How to Detox From Sugar in 10 Days
- Sugar Is the New Fat
- Food Addiction: Is It Real?
- Why You Need a Sugar Detox
- Top 10 Big Ideas to Detox From Sugar
- Follow the Author
- 5 Lessons Learned from Going Sugar-Free for 10 Days
- Will Cutting Out Sugar REALLY Result in Weight Loss?
- In Simple Terms, The Answer is Yes
- The Science Behind It
- All Those Empty Calories
- Say Goodbye to Processed Foods
- Can You Really Stop Eating Sugar and Still Enjoy Food?
- THE 10-DAY CHALLENGE
- THE FIRST TWO MONTHS
- THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUGAR AND ACID REFLUX
- CHEAT DAYS
- SO…WHAT CAN I EAT?
- …TO BE CONTINUED
- EDITED TO ADD:
- Sugar: should we eliminate it from our diet?
- Are we becoming addicted to sugar?
- Is eliminating sugar from our diet healthy?
- Sugar can be part of a healthy, balanced diet
- Tips to reduce sugar intake
- More needs to be done to ensure the public lower their sugar intake
- Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Grand Adventure
- A Bright Idea
- A Sugar-Free Year Later
- Get started cutting down on sugar with these tips:
Recommended sugar intake: How much should you have per day?
People can reduce their intake of added sugar by:
Avoiding liquid sugar
Share on PinterestJuices and smoothies can be high in sugar
Liquid sugar is in soft drinks and juices. The body digests it more quickly than the sugar in foods, and as a result, liquid sugar causes a greater spike in blood glucose levels.
If a person drinks sugary liquids on a regular basis, the repeated spikes in blood glucose can overload the pancreas and liver, causing health problems.
Sodas tend to contain the highest amounts of liquid sugar. A 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 tsp of sugar, or 130 empty calories.
The following drinks may also contain liquid sugar:
- fruit juices and smoothies
- high-energy drinks or sports drinks
- chocolate or flavored milk
Avoiding packaged foods
Research suggests that about 75 percent of packaged foods in supermarkets contain added sweeteners.
Examples of packaged foods that may contain added sugar include:
- candies and chocolate
- breakfast bars
- breakfast cereals
- savory snacks
- sauces and salad dressings
- milk and soy beverages
- canned, frozen, and dried fruit
Swapping added sugars for natural alternatives
The following tips can help a person replace the added sugar in their diet with more healthful alternatives:
- Try adding mint leaves, cucumber, berries, or citrus fruit to plain or sparkling water.
- Swap sweets and desserts for fruit, but avoid canned fruit in syrup.
- Prepare homemade sauces and salad dressings.
- Replace store-bought granola and snack mixes with homemade varieties that include unsweetened dried fruits and non-frosted wholegrain cereals.
- When cooking or baking, use unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas instead of sugar.
- Stop using sugar in tea and coffee or reduce the amount.
- Use herbs and spices instead of sauces that contain added sugar.
Trying sugar alternatives
Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs) contain few or no calories.
Researchers have investigated whether replacing sugary foods and drinks with sugar-free options containing NNSs may help people consume fewer calories and maintain a healthy weight. They have reached differing conclusions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the following NNSs for use in food:
- acesulfame K, such as Sweet One
- aspartame, such as NutraSweet and Equal
- saccharin, such as Sweet’N Low
- sucralose, such as Splenda
Stevia is another type of NNS that the FDA consider to be “generally recognized as safe.” This means that experts agree that recommended amounts are safe to use.
It is best to limit the intake of NNSs and pay attention to overall calories consumed per day, as NNSs can lead to cravings and overeating.
Emerging research suggests that artificial sweeteners may have negative effects on metabolism, gut health, and cravings, but confirming these findings will require more research.
How Many Grams of Sugar Should You Eat in a Day to Lose Weight?
Are you addicted to sugar?
Americans alone eat 152 pounds of sugar per year. In 1970 that number was 123 pounds per year.That comes to 2 pounds per person every week of pure sugar that you are eating.
More than 1 in 3 Americans are obese, and this number includes 17% of kids.
Sugar is in more of your food than you ever realized and it’s getting worse. You may not even realize how much sugar you are eating unless you read every food label.
So what if you are trying to lose weight? How much sugar should you be eating if weight loss is your goal?’
By the time you get to the end of this post, you will know a lot more about sugar. You’ll know how to spot it on your food labels and how much you should eat.
You’ll also learn some tricks that food companies use to get you to eat more sugar without you even knowing.
You’ll also learn about some easy tips for beating your addiction. If you can limit the sugar you eat, you can lose weight!
Ready? Let’s do it!
Is sugar addiction real?
Have you ever felt like you couldn’t resist a sweet treat like a piece of cake or donut? Have you ever felt like if you went without sugar too long you would feel sick?
Is it possible that sugar addiction is real? Researchers are still studying whether food addiction is to blame for obesity rates.
Some researchers argue that food can’t be addictive because you need it to live. Something that you must have can’t be addictive they say.
But what about sugar. You do not need sugar to live. There is a rare genetic disease called Hereditary Fructose Intolerance that affects 1 in 1000,000 babies.
Parents find out about this disease when their child has their first sip of fruit juice and has a seizure. Once diagnosed, people with this condition must stay away from sugar for the rest of their lives.
And since being 100% sugar free doesn’t kill them, then sugar can not be something that you need to live.
Cocaine vs Oreos
Ok, so you know that you do not need sugar to live, but is it addictive?
Ask these rats.
Students at Connecticut College and their professor recently studied rats, drugs and Oreos.
They put the rats through a maze with rice cakes on one side and Oreos on the other. Does it surprise you to learn that the rats all liked the Oreo side much more?
Then they switched up the test with morphine or cocaine on one side and saline solution on the other. And what they found was the rats liked the Oreo or morphine or cocaine side more than the rice cake or saline side.
What does this mean?
It means that rats, like people like exciting and delicious foods more than boring foods.
Then they studied a protein (c-Fos) that “lights up” inside of your brain’s “pleasure center” when you give it pleasurable things like Oreos.
Want to know the best part?
Oreos activated this area of the brain more than cocaine or morphine.
What’s the bottom line?
To at least some rats, Oreos are better than cocaine or morphine.
How Many Americans are Addicted to Sugar?
We can’t say exactly how many Americans have a sugar addiction yet. Researchers are only starting to study sugar addiction, so it may be a while before the numbers are in.
But we do know how much sugar Americans eat or drink, so let’s start there.
Fizzy Drinks (Soda) – The average American kid drinks 8oz of soda a day. Studies have shown that drinking one soda per day increases your risk for diabetes by 29%
We also know from studies that 30.1% of adults on average report that they drink at least one soda per day.
Fruit juice – You may think that drinking fruit juice is better than soda since it comes from healthy fruit.
But here’s the kicker
When you remove the fiber from fruit you end up with pure liquid sugar.
When you eat a piece of fruit your body digests the fiber and the sugars over time. When you remove that fiber the body must deal with the sugar all at once.
This is the same process that happens when you drink a soda. So don’t let food companies fool you into thinking that “all natural” fruit juice is a healthy choice.
How much sugar should you have in one day?
You already know from earlier that the average adult is eating 152 pounds of sugar per year.
But how much should you be eating?
The World Health Organization recently came out with a new guideline on how much sugar is safe to eat.
They recommend adults and kids eat no more than 10% of your total energy intake in the form of sugar.
And they say if you want even more health benefits to limit your intake to no more than 5% of your total energy intake from sugar.
So you might be wondering.
How much is 5% of my daily intake in real numbers?
It’s easy. A 5% daily intake of sugar is 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.
This means added sugars and pure sugar, but does not include the sugar that is in whole fruit or milk sugar.
How to figure out how much sugar is in food
When you start reading your food labels closer you’ll notice one thing very quick.
Sugar is likely in most of the foods in your house. It’s in 77% of the food in American grocery stores.
Sugar is everywhere!
To figure out how much sugar is in your food is very easy if you know what to look at.
Food Label – The first place you can look for sugar is on your food label. On the food label you’ll find sugar listed in grams (g).
You already know from earlier that you want to limit your sugar to 6 teaspoons a day.
So how do you convert grams of sugar into teaspoons?
4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon
So if you are reading a food label and you see 24 grams of sugar, you can find out fast that’s 6 teaspoons of sugar.
When in doubt, grab your phone and use the calculator to figure out how much sugar is in that food fast.
Ingredient list – Another place you can look for sugar is on the ingredients list on your food label.
The main ingredient is at the front of the list and the other ingredients follow. So if sugar is the 3rd ingredient on the list, then you know that sugar has the 3rd highest quantity of the ingredients.
Are there other names for sugar?
How many names for sugar can you think of?
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup…and that’s about it right?
There are 56 names for sugar!
So when you are reading your food labels you have to be on the lookout for 56 possible names of sugar.
Kind of sneaky right?
Some of these you have likely heard before. Some you may have never heard of before.
But food companies are putting some of these in your food, so it’s wise to be on the lookout for them on your food labels.
Even though many of these are “natural” sugars, the effect they have on your body when you eat them is the same.
You want to do everything possible to limit these forms of sugar.
56 Names For Sugar
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
Cane juice crystals
Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar)
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Brown rice syrup
Corn syrup solids
Some of these you will not see in most of your food. But you will have to read your food labels with a watchful eye to find the rest.
And food companies will try to trick you by using words like “organic” or “all natural” or “real sugar”.
Don’t let them fool you!
Sugar is sugar, and if you can avoid any type of added sugar in your food, you will be better off.
How to break your sugar addiction
When you eat sugar, there is a part of your brain that becomes happy.
It’s called the nucleus accumbens
The next time you eat sugar, you need a little bit more to make that same part of your brain happy.
This is why sugar becomes addicting for you. You crave that reward that you get from the sugar so you eat enough to get it.
And as you eat more sugar, it does more damage to your body.
So how can you break the sugar addiction cycle?
There are not any magic pills or chants you can say to stop liking sugar. But there are some things you can do to get out of the cycle of eating so much sugar.
The good news is that once you are eating less sugar, you will crave much less sugar. You may even get to the point where sugar tastes too sweet when you do have it all the time.
That sounds crazy right?
All you have to do is train your brain to get those same rewards from real foods and then you won’t crave foods loaded with sugar.
Tips to quit your sugar addiction
I’m not going to give you any tips like “take a walk” or “get busy” for when you are craving sugar.
Those tips may work for some people, but let’s face facts here…those tips suck for most of us.
The real fact is that quitting sugar is hard but you can do it!
Want to know the best part?
Once your body gets used to having little to no sugar you won’t crave it. And the better news is that can happen in a few days sometimes.
But when you do feel like something sweet, try these simple tips.
- Eat some fresh fruit – I know it sounds like it won’t work, but an awesome piece of fruit will calm those sugar cravings fast. And since fruit has fiber, it will also fill you up a lot faster than pure sugar.
- Eat some sugar – What? Isn’t this the opposite of kicking the sugar habit?
I know that you live in the real world, right? And in the real world never eating sugar again is going to be hard to do. So if you have not had any sugar in a few days and you can’t stand it…then have a little bit.
What is a little bit of sugar?
Remember earlier when you learned how much sugar the World Health Organization recommends?
Hint – it’s 25 grams a day (6 teaspoons), at most.
So if you can eat a sweet treat that is 10 or 15 grams of sugar and you haven’t had any other sugar that day then go for it.
- Eat a lot of fresh foods – OK, this has to be a joke right?
Not at all. I bet it’s hard to imagine now, but when you fill your gut with great foods you will not crave sugar as much as you do now.
You will even find yourself reaching for a snack that isn’t sweet at all.
I mean it. Make an awesome 3-bean salad or some 1 pan Mexican quinoa.
After you eat that, if you need something sweet then grab one of those apples or oranges.
- Eat a plant based dessert. There are recipes like this one and this one that will amaze your taste buds.
These aren’t 100% sugar free, but they have natural sugars in them and not very much at all.
The best part is that your sweet tooth will thank you for them, I promise.
What’s the bottom line?
I know these tips may seem too easy or too stupid. That’s the point. There are no magic cures for sugar addiction. There aren’t any pills you can take.
You have to decide you are sick of being sick and take control of your life. If it’s hard then try eating 1 apple a day and eating 1 less sweet thing per day.
Try that for a week if you have to. Then the next week eat one less sweet food and add more fruit.
“But fruit isn’t as good as candy” I can hear you saying, right?
What’s going on here is that your body likes sugar so much that foods with natural sugars seem boring to you.
They aren’t though.
Fruit will be your best friend soon.
Once you get processed foods and sugar out of your diet you will see how awesome a good piece of fruit can be.
So let’s answer the question.
How many grams of sugar should you eat per day if you want to lose weight?
Since everybody is different it’s impossible to put an exact number on it. But if you stick to 25 grams or less per day like the World Health Organization recommends you are off to a great start.
If you read every food label and look for hidden and added sugar in your food you will have no problem at all staying under 25 grams a day.
And when you eat less than 25 grams of sugar a day you will soon notice that you crave it less and that “whole foods” taste much better.
And of course you’ll find that losing weight is a lot easier than spending 4 hours a day at the gym.
Do you think you can limit your sugar to 6 teaspoons or less a day?
Let me know what you think in the comments!
How Cutting Added Sugar Helped One Woman Lose 180 Pounds and Counting
Topping out at 350 pounds (lbs), mom-of-three Lisa Fantocone says her persistent headaches, joint pain, acid reflux, and fatigue weren’t enough to compel her to lose weight. Neither was a family history of type 2 diabetes, or her doctor’s warning that she was at risk of developing the precursor of the chronic condition, prediabetes.
Fantocone, 39 years old and now 170 lbs, says it was at her third child’s first birthday party about four years ago when she finally decided she needed to make a change and take her weight loss seriously.
“I was cleaning up the kitchen, and as I looked at the leftover cake, cookies, and candy, I realized this was my normal, not a special occasion,” says Fantocone, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California, a suburb about 42 miles east of Los Angeles. “I even disliked how I looked in the photos with my son, so I deleted them, which was devastating.
“I was done living that way,” she adds, “and I knew I needed to be able to lose weight so I could be healthy and keep up with my son. From that day forward, I made myself more of a priority.”
RELATED: How to Beat Type 2 Diabetes With Diet and Lifestyle Changes
How Cutting Back on Added Sugar Helped Her Drop the Unwanted Weight
To lose weight, Fantocone decided to home in on a specific problem area of her diet: added sugar, an ingredient commonly found in American fare and one that features in the nearly 60 percent of calories that come from Americans’ ultra-processed food consumption, according to a study published in November 2015 in the journal BMJ Open.
“Primarily for me, definitely is true that sugar is probably one of the most addictive things that you can possibly put into your body,” Fantocone says. “Even to this day, if I eat sugar consistently or a couple of times throughout a week, I’ll notice that I’ll want more again. I had to build that awareness in myself that was what was happening.”
Fantocone started to read ingredient labels, pay attention to the amount of sugar in foods, and make smart substitutions, such as olive oil and fresh vegetables instead of packaged pasta sauce, which commonly contains added sugar.
She focused on getting enough protein from foods like eggs, turkey, and yogurt, plus plenty of vegetables and a moderate amount of healthy fats, like avocado, to help keep sugar cravings at bay.
For snacks, Fantocone ate berries or a handful of nuts and she made it a point to drink 100 ounces of water every day. She planted a vegetable garden in her backyard and cooked all of her meals ahead of time to make sure she always had healthy fare on hand. “The pressure cooker is a lifesaver,” she says.
RELATED: What Are the Best Nuts for People With Type 2 Diabetes?
Can Cutting Sugar Lead To Weight Loss? What the Science Suggests
Registered dietitians and public health officials alike agree sugar consumption is a major cause of weight gain and obesity in the United States, but the link between sugar and weight gain is complex.
While natural sugars found in fruits and dairy are healthy as part of a whole food, the problem, experts say, is the sugar that’s added to our packaged, processed foods. In addition to containing added sugars, which offer no nutritional value, these foods are usually high in calories and unhealthy fat.
“Added sugars are added calories without the nutrition, so it adds energy to your overall diet without really increasing the diet quality,” says Angela Lemond, RDN, owner of Lemond Nutrition in Plano, Texas.
According to a meta-analysis published in January 2013 in the journal BMJ, decreasing intake of “free sugars” that are added to foods, and naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups, and fruit juices, is associated with a small amount of weight loss, and increasing sugar intake is associated with a small amount of weight gain.
Studies also show that the type of carbohydrate matters. In fact, a review published in 2012 in the journal Food and Nutrition Research found a diet high in refined (white) grains — which the body processes similarly to sugar — was associated with weight gain, while a diet rich in whole grains was linked to weight loss. “Refined grains remove the bran out of the whole grain, which removes a lot of the vitamins and most — if not all — the fiber,” Lemond says.
Unlike whole grains that have fiber, which takes up more space in the stomach and takes longer to digest, refined grains are broken down more easily and don’t stave off hunger as long, which can lead to eating more and weight gain.
For example, white rice doesn’t have any added sugar, but it’s quickly converted to glucose (a type of sugar) in the body and mimics the effects of added sugars.
Sugar, even when it’s naturally occurring, can be sneaky. For example, honey or agave nectar is natural, but once it’s isolated and added to a food as a sweetener, it’s an added sugar that can contribute to weight gain, Lemond says.
Artificial sweeteners may also be a weight gain culprit. According to a meta-analysis published in July 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, people who drink one or more artificially sweetened beverages a day were more like to gain weight.
RELATED: The Best and Worst Artificial Sweeteners for Weight Loss
How to Cut Sugar From Your Diet to Help With Weight Loss
It seems that no matter how much awareness there is about the links between sugar, weight gain, and other health problems, Americans are still eating too much. According to 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume about 130 lbs of caloric sweeteners per person each year.
Employ the following tips to help reduce your intake:
Read Nutrition Facts Labels
To cut sugar from your diet, reading ingredients labels on your food is key.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, as there are more than 50 names of sugar, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When you read the ingredients list on your food packaging, you might not even see the word sugar! But ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), cane sugar, corn syrup, and brown rice syrup are indeed the sweet thing you’re looking to limit, the organization points out.
There’s also the challenge of believing foods that seem innocent based on claims like “all-natural” and “healthy” on their packaging (think: cereal, tomato sauce, and dips) don’t contain added sugar, when in reality, there’s a good chance they do if they come in a wrapper or a box. The fact of the matter is you won’t know what you’re putting into your body for sure unless you look at the label.
The good news is that in 2016, the Food and Drug Administration announced an updated Nutrition Facts label, which includes a line for added sugars, to make spotting the sweet stuff easier. While some manufacturers have already rolled out the new labels, U.S. companies have until 2020 to do so.
In the meantime, don’t let foods with added sugar dupe you into thinking they’re sugar free. “Know what’s in your food,” Lemond says.
RELATED: 7 Foods With More Sugar Than You Think
Avoid Packaged Foods and Reach for More Whole Foods
One of the best ways to cut sugar from your diet is to focus on noshing whole foods instead of packaged, processed foods, like cookies, cake, candy, granola bars, and cereals. Whole foods include fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Although your body may by now be primed to crave sugar, the more whole foods you eat, the more you’ll come to enjoy them. “Your taste buds will adapt,” Lemond says.
Don’t Stress Over Natural Sugars in Dairy and Most Fruits
For most people, natural sugars found in whole foods aren’t something to worry about. Dairy products contain lactose, a natural sugar, but you also get essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D (when added), potassium, and magnesium. Likewise, fruit is loaded with vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, and phytonutrients and are high in fiber and water, which promotes satiety, keeps you feeling fuller longer, and helping prevent weight gain. “If it’s naturally occurring, you shouldn’t stress about the natural sugars that are included it in, because you’re getting other nutrition with it,” Lemond says.
Still, it is important to recognize that some fruits, like papaya, pineapple, and mango, are higher in natural sugars than other types of fruit. That’s not an issue for most people, but those with type 2 diabetes should be mindful of portion size with these kinds of fruits, due to their potential to spike blood sugar. Fruits like raspberries, apples, and oranges have a relatively lower risk of throwing blood sugar levels out of whack.
RELATED: The 8 Best Fruits for People With Type 2 Diabetes
Be Mindful of Your Entire Plate
Although fruit is part of a balanced diet, you shouldn’t overdo it either. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults consume 2 cups of fruit a day. If you have insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, though, be sure to should speak with your healthcare team about how much — and which types — of fruit you should consume, along with your overall diet.
At each meal, focus on building a healthy plate that includes quality, lean protein, like poultry and fish, a moderate amount of healthy fats, like avocado and olive oil, and foods that have naturally occurring fiber, like green, leafy vegetables and whole grains. Aim for foods that have 3 grams of fiber or more per serving. “All of that helps slow down the rate at which your body breaks down and uses it for energy,” Lemond explains. “Focus on what to put on your plate instead of what to leave off your plate.”
Following a Sustainable Low-Sugar Diet by Indulging Occasionally
Once the weight started to come off, Lisa embarked on an exercise plan. She started slow — first riding the stationary bike and then running up to 8 miles a day, five times a week, and she hired a trainer to keep her accountable. “Knowing that somebody was going to be checking in on me was an accountability that I hadn’t had before,” she says.
Lisa realized she also had to quit using food to deal with stress and instead find a new way to cope. “Thankfully, at this point I have been able to make exercise my stress reliever. If I go three days without going to work out in some form or fashion, I feel anxious,” she explains.
RELATED: 6 Great Exercises for People With Type 2 Diabetes
Although she would like to get down to 150 lbs and put on more lean muscle mass, Lisa says balance is key, so she’ll make room for a few bites of cake at birthday parties here and there. “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you’re far more capable of things in life than you give yourself credit for,” she says. “I have so much confidence in myself, I feel I could do anything.”
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I GAVE UP SUGAR FOR A MONTH
by Jonathan Meadows, running coach
As someone who doesn’t add sugar to my coffee, rarely drinks fizzy drinks, whose breakfast hasn’t come from a box with a cartoon on it since forever and doesn’t load up their shopping basket with biscuits, cakes and chocolate – I don’t seem like the kind of person who needs to take on the challenge of quitting sugar.
However, I do have a sweet tooth and I volunteered to take on the challenge to quit sugar for a month. So I did.
My weaknesses for sugar are:
- if there’s chocolate in the office, I’ll have some. Then I find that I keep coming back for bits throughout the day…
- If there are cookies laid out at someone’s house, you can bet I’ll take one – then a few more…
- If I’m offered cake, it’s unlikely I’ll say no to a slice…
Basically, when I start, it’s very hard to stop. So I decided to cut myself off and see what happens.
The first 2 days of the no-sugar challenge
Here is an overview of the beginning of my no-sugar experience.
Day 1, January 1st*
I opt for scrambled eggs with healthy fats from an avocado, bacon and tomatoes for a healthy breakfast – we’re off to a good start. However, with New Year’s Eve being the night before, there’s some bottles to tidy up, bowls to wash and a chocolate fondue to put away.
On the way to kitchen to put the chocolate away for the next 31 days, I break off a chunk and eat it before I even realize what I’ve done.
Yep, chocolate for breakfast (you can do that when you’re grown up and don’t live with your parents anymore). After 50 minutes of sugar-free living, my challenge of quitting sugar is already over….we’ll call that a false start. But, tomorrow is a new day, so another chance, right?
*Jonathan originally completed his challenge in January 2017.
Day 1, Take 2, January 2nd
I stayed up a bit later than I should have, so I set myself up to be tired and low on willpower on my first day of the challenge.
- Breakfast: It’s a sugar-free breakfast of porridge, berries, and flax seeds. I didn’t prepare anything for lunch – tired and no meal prep, I’m really making this easy for myself!
- Lunch: I head to a sushi place near the office figuring sushi is a good choice. As I’m in the queue I remember you add sugar to sushi rice. Overpriced sashimi for lunch it is. The first day back at work kept me busy and nonstop all day, which usually would have me reaching for something sweet, but I stay strong and keep satiated on nuts.
- Pre-run snack: Another time I sometimes reach for a sweet treat is for a pre-run snack to give me a little pick-up and extra energy, not tonight. Baked salmon, green beans, and sweet potato turmeric wedges make the 3rd and final sugar-free meal of the day. Day 1 of quitting sugar is done.
It’s day 2…
… and I haven’t prepared my lunch again. Clearly I didn’t learn anything from day 1.
Improvised sugar-free lunch:
I quickly decide on mackerel fillets, microwave rice, and peas from the supermarket. Except they’re out of mackerel and frozen peas. I try to find the canned peas (passing the chocolate aisle twice), only to find the ingredients on the label say peas, water and sugar! Why is there hidden sugar in a can of peas!?
Seemingly sugar is added to nearly all packaged foods; not even peas are safe. The green beans appear to have been saved the same sugary water fate and the tin says it contains only green beans and water – which is what I’d expect. I opt for a trout fillet and head back to the office. That’s about as good as it gets when it comes to an improvised sugar-free lunch.
After two days, I already learned…
- Having learned my lesson the hard way that Meal prep is key to avoiding and successfully quitting sugar, so I begin avidly preparing and planning my meals in advance for the rest of the month.
- I also ensure I should keep a bag of nuts nearby or with me as my go-to healthy snack during my challenge.
- Social settings provide a challenge when you’re trying to quit sugar, but I’ve found the key is to eat in advance and accept that you’ll have to decline things you previously would have accepted without hesitation. It also helps to be surrounded by supportive people.
Giving up sugar isn’t easy and willpower will be required should you choose to do it! Quitting sugar has become a hot topic in the last few years and for good reasons. Learning more about sugar really opened my eyes…
If you want to succeed, educate yourself about sugar
During my challenge I educated myself about the topic by watching a few films and documentaries about our sugar consumption, which were truly eye-opening.
Why is sugar so bad?
Sugar is everywhere; in fact, it’s in 80% of packaged food.
Did you know that…
- Sugar is highly addictive and it wreaks havoc on the body.
- Not only does it send your energy levels up and down, it can also do the same to your hormones. Over time, the constant fluctuations will leave them unbalanced and not working as they should.
- When we eat sugar, insulin is released by the pancreas in order to remove glucose from the blood. Eventually, this constant request, mixed with high levels of insulin and glucose, leads the pancreas to produce less insulin over time, which causes insulin resistance – the precursor to diabetes.
- Also, if the energy from sugar isn’t burned soon after consumption, it’s converted into fat and gets stored in the body.
- Find out more about why you should consider quitting sugar.
Quitting sugar and weight loss
During my challenge I lost around 3kg (granted my challenge started right after the typical season of excess that is Christmas). Apart from that, I continued my running and ate as I wished (as long as it was sugar-free of course!).
I noticed around 2 weeks into my challenge I looked more defined, not bad for someone who hadn’t been to the gym yet in January. Which makes me wonder what kind of fat is lost when sugar is removed from the diet. Around the same time I realized I was on a high-fat, moderate-carb and protein diet – nuts, cheese, avocados, and peanut butter became regular snacks. Main meals were made up of carbs or veg, along with fish or meat. Which likely made me more fat-adapted, someone who burns fat for energy instead of sugar or readily available glucose.
Summary: These 5 things are the biggest benefits of quitting sugar
I learned a lot during these 30 days. But the best part is that the biggest lessons I learned came along with some really nice, unexpected benefits…
1. Realizing how much sugar you really eat
Sugar is lurking everywhere. Check the products next time you go shopping, read the labels of a range of items and you’ll find out just how many of them contain “hidden” sugar. Sugar comes in many forms. The label might not say “sugar”, but if the words end in ‘ose’, it means it is still a sugar. A “healthy” breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, and fruit with a glass of orange juice can contain up to 14 teaspoons of sugar – the recommended daily amount is 7 teaspoons.
2. Increased focus and mental clarity
The first 2 weeks felt like I was bit hazy. I had a few nights of poor sleep and some long days at work during this time, but this felt different to the usual feelings of tiredness. After about 2 weeks something changed. I snapped out of my haze and suddenly felt more focused with more mental clarity than I’ve had in a long time. I’m guessing I went through a bit of a sugar detox.
3. More energy and no energy slumps
Since quitting sugar, my energy levels have gone up and I’m no longer looking for a sugary treat to give me a boost. I wake up feeling more refreshed and have higher levels of energy. That’s all-day energy too; that 3pm afternoon slump is gone and I’m no longer looking for a sugary fix to remedy it.
4. Improved skin
Since quitting sugar, I’ve noticed I have a less oily T-Zone (the forehead and nose). Excess sugar intake can cause oily skin, so instead of applying products to the outside, maybe looking at what’s going on in the inside is the answer to skin problems (sugar can also cause spots and even wrinkles!).
5. Love of cooking
I regained my love of cooking. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I always cook relatively healthy meals.
Since most sauces were out the question and a whole range of products no longer allowed on my plate, I needed to cook pretty much everything from scratch. This got me making old recipes I’ve not made in a while, as well as researching and cooking new meals. You know exactly what’s in your meal if you make it yourself! I really feel that this is the key on how to detox from sugar.
Will I continue to eat sugar?
Will I eat products containing sugar again? Yes. If someone brings birthday cake into the office? Sure. If there’s tiramisu on the dessert menu in a restaurant? You bet. But will I be more mindful of products containing sugar and aim to limit my intake? Absolutely. A sugar free diet is not my aim – education and creating awareness is!
About Jonathan Meadows:
Jonathan is a keen marathon runner with a personal record of 2:54. He likes to read about new fitness trends and ways to constantly improve himself and is always up for a challenge.
We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
The sugar-free diet plan is a must-try if you can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.
The sugar-free diet plan could be the diet for you if you always need your 4pm chocolate fix… Do you spend the whole afternoon in a sugar-slump? Or crave biscuits and fizzy drinks when you’ve had a long day? You could be one of the 75% of us addicted to sugar! Although we all know how bad sugar is for us, giving it up is another thing altogether. Especially as so much of it is concealed within products that we think should be good for us – like cereals or granola bars.
But help is at hand with diet guru Monica Grenfell’s Sugar-Free Miracle diet that will help kick your addiction and drop up to 10lbs in 4 weeks.
Why is eating sugar that bad for me?
They say a little of what you fancy does you good, but it’s unhealthy to treat yourself every day – if you do, too much sugar could be sabotaging your figure and your health.
Blood sugars naturally rise after a meal and insulin swings into action to stop the level rising too high. But regularly having too much sugar can throw your system and the insulin stops doing it’s job – next stop, diabetes.
Plus, all the extra calories could be standing between you and your dream figure!
Credit: Getty Images
What can I do about my sugar addiction?
The good news is it’s easy to conquer sugar addiction. Stick to this plan and you’ll not only whittle your waist but those energy levels will soar.
Start by kicking the sugar rush: This diet works by cutting out sweets, desserts and anything sweet tasting, like fruit juice or dried fruit, for three days. Then you follow up with a low-GI diet. Foods with low glycaemic helps stabilise blood sugar and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
So what does the Sugar-Free miracle diet look like?
Days 1-3: Follow the 7 golden rules
1. No desserts, no fruit and no sugar in drinks.
2. No juices, squashes or diet colas.
3. Drink tea, coffee (no sugar or sweetners) milk, plain water.
4. No ketchup, brown sauce, Thai or Chinese-type sweet and sour sauces.
5. Base your meals around meat, fish and eggs.
6. A carbohydrate breakfast of unsweetened cereal is allowed.
7. Portions must be small – after seven mouthfuls, stop eating.
Days 4-7: Add a little of what you fancy
As days 1-3, but add a healthy dessert in the evening, such as fruit salad, yogurt or fromage frais with stewed fruit.
So what can I eat every day?
- Shredded Wheat with sprinkling flaked almonds and 250ml of skimmed milk
- Skinny latte, 2 rashers of bacon, 1 poached egg, grilled tomatoes
- 1 Oatibix, 250ml skimmed milk, 1tbsp blueberries
- Baked cod with chopped tomatoes, peppers and garlic, carrots and butter beans
- Chicken stir-fry with vegetables
- Cold, salmon or tuna salad
Credit: Getty Images
- Wholewheat pasta salad with tuna, 1tsp mayonnaise, chopped peppers
- Wholegrain chicken or salad sandwich
- 40g cheese or 3tbs low-sugar baked beans on 2 slices buttered wholegrain toast
- 30g porridge, 200ml skimmed milk. 1 boiled egg
- 2 eggs, any style, 1 slice wholemeal toast and peanut butter
- 1 Oatibix, 200ml skimmed milk, 1tbsp blueberries
- Roast chicken wrapped in bacon, served with carrots, peas and gravy
- Vegetable curry with 2tbsp brown or wild rice, side salad.
- 1/2 avocado filled with water-packed tuna, 1tsp mayonnaise. Green salad
- Prawn, mayonnaise and lemon open sandwich with 2 slices rye or granary bread
- Wholewheat spaghetti with a Mediterranean vegetable sauce. Green salad
- 40g cheese or 3tbsp low-sugar baked beans on 2 slices buttered wholegrain toast
Credit: Getty Images
- 2 slices granary toast with marmite
- 1 bagel with 1/2 fat cream cheese
- 2tbs Bitesize Shredded Wheat, 200ml skimmed milk
- Low-fat burger, grilled. Mixed salad with sweetcorn
- Salmon fillet baked, with veg
- 2 slices cheese on 2 Ryvitas with a sliced tomato
- Seafood risotto, green salad
- Vegetable curry with 3tbsp brown rice
- Grilled fillet steak with mushrooms, tomatoes and a baked sweet potato
- 30g porridge, 200ml milk
- 2 slices granary toast, lightly buttered with 2tbsp tinned tomatoes
- 2 Shredded Wheat with 200ml soya, rice milk or skimmed milk
Credit: Getty Images
- Avocado and prawn salad
- Cold chicken and salad in a tortilla wrap
- 40g hard cheese with fruit and celery
- Small portion wholewheat macaroni with tomato and vegetable sauce, sprinkling Parmesan cheese
- Small bowl lentil soup with 2 slices granary bread and Flora
- 4tbsp mixed vegetable chilli sauce, served on 3tbsp brown or mixed rice
- 1 Shredded Wheat, sprinkling sultanas, 200ml skimmed milk
- 1 boiled egg, 1 slice granary toast, Flora
- 40g toasted muesli, 200ml skimmed milk and 1tbsp plain yogurt
- Baked cod, peas and carrots
- Granary sandwich filled with Brie and grapes
- Cheese salad
- 1 small vegetable pizza with mixed salad
- Small slice stilton and broccoli quiche, with hot vegetables or salad
- Cheese or spinach 3-egg omelette.
- Baked sweet potato
- 2 eggs, any style, 1 slice wholemeal toast and peanut butter
- 1 Oatibix with 200ml skimmed milk
- Smoothie made with 1 banana, 6 almonds, 1tbsp oatmeal and 300ml skimmed or soya milk
- Cold cheese omelette in strips on salad with sweetcorn and peas
- Meatballs in tomato sauce with 3 green vegetables
- Bowl of carrot, spinach or vegetable soup with small granary roll and butter
Credit: Getty Images
- Wholewheat spaghetti with 50g smoked salmon and 1tbsp crème fraiche
- Quorn fillet in lemon and black pepper, served with coleslaw
- Jacket potato with cottage cheese and sweetcorn
Day 7 – Cheat Day!
One day a week you can pick what you want from the other days a be a bit more generous with the portions. Plus you’re allow 1-2 glasses of alcohol and one sweet treat e.g. 2 biscuits, small slice of cake- but not in your first week!
If you’re having a go at the Sugar-Free Miracle diet let us know how you get on on our social media pages!
Despite what most people think, I—an avid runner and nutrition writer—can’t just eat whatever I want.
I still need to fuel my body and my miles with whole foods, good fats, fruits and veggies, and make sure I’m not eating more than I’m burning.
But I’d been hearing a lot about the no-sugar craze and some talk about if sugar is really bad for you, and it got me thinking about my diet. The truth is: I have an insane sweet tooth. I eat ice cream every day. I even held a taste test at Runner’s World once. So if anyone could stand to cut back on sugar, I figured it was me. I gave myself 30 days to see what would happen. But it wasn’t all or nothing—I made a few guidelines on how to cut out sugar from my diet:
No Refined Sugars
Natural sugars, on the other hand, were fine. I would not cut out fruits, and I would still be able to sweeten my (full fat!) plain yogurt with a little bit of honey, for example.
No More Than 8 Grams per Day
My go-to breakfast is the aforementioned yogurt with granola, so I looked for stuff that contained fewer than eight grams of added sugar. If I’m being honest, I made that number up: I’m not a registered dietitian (although I work with them quite a bit). But 8 grams seems like an appropriate amount of sugar, especially if it’s mostly natural.
Finding a granola with so little sugar turned out to be difficult so I ended up making my own and adding a little bit of honey for sweetness.
I Could Still Have Fun
This was about cutting back, not depriving myself and feeling miserable, so if something came up (a work birthday party, a nice dinner with dessert), I wouldn’t turn it down. Besides, I’ve learned over the years that it’s easier to form good habits if you’re not so strict with yourself. A total sugar deprivation probably would have lasted until day two. Okay, okay, day 1.5.
Through the experiment, I learned a lot of things—most of which were surprising. Here are the top takeaways based on my experience.
1. I felt lighter—at first.
As you might expect, I felt great for the first few days. The key word there is “felt.” A couple of days wasn’t long enough for the change to have had a physical effect or move the needle on the scale. Maybe it would have if I’d been eating nothing but fast food for three meals a day. But I had gotten so excited at the prospect of cutting back on my sweet tooth that it boosted my motivation. At the end of the 30 days, however, I didn’t end up feeling any different.
2. I uncovered a different kind of willpower.
I don’t feel like I lack in the willpower department—I’ve run seven marathons, and I’ve prepared for all of them. I’m not scared of putting in hard work, whether it’s 90 degrees out or in the single digits. But when it comes to my sweet tooth, all bets are off. During Passover, for instance, I won’t touch a crumb of chametz (wheat, corn, rice, beans) because it’s not allowed. But in general, I just can’t say no to a few scoops of ice cream.
This experiment helped me see that I could turn down that 2 p.m. bite of dark chocolate or the nightly bowl of frozen awesomeness, and that did feel good.
3. My skin broke out.
You hear stories of people cutting out sugar (or some other “bad” thing), and their skin glows or their hair becomes silky. This did not happen to me. In fact, I broke out in chin acne. To be fair, I’ve been struggling with acne on and off for a while, so my dietary change may not actually have been the cause, but it happened within a week of cutting out most sugar so I’m noting it here.
4. I ate more fruit and nuts.
I love fruit. I’m getting better at eating veggies (thanks to my local CSA!). But in order to satisfy my sweet tooth, I turned to fruit. I noticed I was feeling so much fuller due to the fiber content (something I often write about, but it’s always nice to be validated firsthand). Organic cashews (unsalted, roasted) became my staple snack. High in fat, yes, but filling, tasty, and easy to munch on.
5. Sugar is in EVERYTHING.
No, seriously. I thought I knew this when I read this article on deceptively sweet health food. “Hidden sugars” blah, blah. But no, really. Sugar is in everything. (So is gluten, actually.) I learned to read nutrition labels even closer than I had been, which helped me make healthier choices. And that’s a habit I can take with me beyond this month-long experiment.
6. I got creative.
Making a homemade granola is just one example. I realized something my friend has been saying forever: It’s best to just make things yourself. I love making cookies, but they’re packed with sugar. So I took one of my favorite recipes and tweaked it to make it a little healthier. Instead of Nutella, which I normally add to my oatmeal (along with protein-packed peanut butter), I made an avocado-based chocolate spread, sweetened with honey. And for better or worse, I took a few bites of that in place of my ice cream.
7. I actually eat pretty well.
I’m not going to lie. I thought that by dialing back my sugar the weight would fall off and I’d be at my lean and mean racing weight. You’ve read how that happens, right? But I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t gain weight either.
I realized that, despite my sweet tooth and my nightly bowl (okay, okay, scoops straight from the carton) of ice cream, I eat well and don’t have much to “cut out.” Sure, if I wanted to shed ten pounds and get to some elusive race weight, I could probably do it. But I’d have seriously sacrifice by cutting out all sweets and dialing back my caloric intake, which during marathon season, may not be as high as it should be anyway. So, chalk one up for me, for eating a pretty balanced diet and performing pretty well on the road.
Over the years I’ve learned that depriving yourself of certain foods or food groups is the worst thing you can do to your mind and body. I used to cut out carbs. I couldn’t maintain a healthy weight. I was miserable. Once I started eating everything in moderation, my weight stabilized; I was happier; and I stopped feeling like I was missing out on things.
Where am I now, you might ask? I’m not as strict as I was during that month-long period. But I am more mindful—or I try to be. I read the labels closely. I ask myself if I really need that square (or two) of chocolate that has (somehow!) made its way onto my desk. I try to limit the amount of ice cream in my freezer. And of course, I run a lot.
No, I can’t eat whatever I want, but a sweet treat tastes even sweeter after a good workout.
Heather Mayer Irvine Freelance Writer Heather is the former food and nutrition editor for Runner’s World and the author of The Runner’s World Vegetarian Cookbook.
How to Detox From Sugar in 10 Days
Here’s the not-so-sweet truth. We are killings ourselves by consuming truckloads of hidden sugar.
Sugar Is the New Fat
Despite 40 years of Americans being brainwashed into thinking that fat is bad, it turns out sugar—not fat—is what makes you sick and overweight.
The facts are in, the science is beyond question. Sugar in all its forms is the root cause of our obesity epidemic and most of the chronic diseases sucking the life out of our citizens, our economy, and, increasingly, the rest of the world. You name it, it’s caused by sugar: heart disease, cancer, dementia, type-2 diabetes, depression, and even acne, infertility, and impotence.
The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar a year. That’s roughly 22 teaspoons every day for every person in America. And our kids consume about 34 teaspoons every day—that’s more than two 20-ounce sodas—making nearly one in four teenagers pre-diabetic or diabetic.
Flour is even worse than sugar. We consume about 146 pounds of flour a year. Think about it. That’s about one pound of sugar and flour combined every day for every man, woman, and child in America. And flour raises blood sugar even more than table sugar, even whole-wheat flour.
Food Addiction: Is It Real?
Here’s another shocking fact: Sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine.
Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder. It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings—leading to uncontrolled overeating. This is not a limited phenomenon. It’s the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight. In one study, Harvard scientists found that a high-sugar milkshake (compared to a low-sugar one) not only spiked blood sugar and insulin and led to sugar cravings, but it caused huge changes in the brain. The sugar lit up the addiction center in the brain like the sky on the Fourth of July. Think cocaine cookies, morphine muffins, or smack sodas.
Why You Need a Sugar Detox
We need a clear path to detox from sugar, to break the addictive cycle of carb and sugar cravings that rob us of our health. And it only takes 10 days or less.
That’s why I created The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. I invited more than 600 people to try it out, and they lost more than 4,000 pounds in 10 days. But more important, they did it painlessly by enjoying powerful addiction-reversing foods that rewired and reset their brains and bodies. No cravings, no bland or boring diet food, no deprivation—just abundance and delight. And at the end of the 10 days, they got their bodies and their minds back, and learned a new way to eat and live that will last a lifetime—a long one.
Top 10 Big Ideas to Detox From Sugar
1. Make a decision to detox.
In my book, there are three simple quizzes to help you learn if you need to detox. If you answer, “yes” to any of these questions, a sugar detox is your ticket to feeling great quickly and losing weight painlessly.
The first is the diabesity quiz.
- Do you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes? (90 percent of Americans have not been diagnosed.)
- Do you have belly fat?
- Are you overweight?
- Do you crave sugar and carbs?
- Do you have trouble losing weight on low-fat diets?
- Do you have high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, or been told your blood sugar is “a little high?”
The second is a food addiction quiz.
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry?
- Do you experience a food coma after eating?
- Do you feel bad about your eating habits or avoid certain activities because of your eating?
- Do you get withdrawal symptoms if you cut down or stop eating sugar or flour?
- Do you need more and more of same bad foods just to feel good?
The third is the FLC Quiz (or the Toxicity Quiz). FLC stands for Feel Like Crap. FLC Syndrome has a list of symptoms including bloating, gas, reflux, irritable bowel, joint or muscle pain, brain fog, memory or mood problems, sinus or allergy symptoms, and more. Millions of us have FLC Syndrome and don’t realize that we are only a few days away from health and happiness.
2. Be a turkey (a cold one).
There is no way to handle a true physiological addiction except to stop it completely. Addicts can’t have just one line of cocaine or just one drink. Go cold turkey. But you won’t have to white-knuckle it because if you follow these 10 ideas, you will automatically reset your body’s neurotransmitters and hormones.
Stop consuming all forms of sugar, flour products, and artificial sweeteners, which cause increased cravings and slow metabolism, and lead to fat storage. Also get rid of anything with trans or hydrogenated fats and MSG (watch for hidden names). Ideally, for 10 days you avoid any foods that come in a box, package, or a can, or that have a label. Stick to real, whole, fresh food.
3. Don’t drink your calories.
Any form of liquid sugar calories is worse than solid food with sugar or flour. Think of it as mainlining sugar directly to your liver. It turns off a fat storage machine in your liver, leading to dreaded belly fat. You don’t feel full, so you eat more all day and you crave more sugar and carbs. It’s also the single biggest source of sugar calories in our diet. That includes sodas, juices other than green vegetable juice, sports drinks, and sweetened teas or coffees. One 20-ounce soda has 15 teaspoons of sugar; Gatorade contains 14 teaspoons of the stuff in one bottle. One can of soda a day increases a kid’s chance of being obese by 60 percent and a woman’s chance of type 2 diabetes by 80 percent. Stay away.
4. Power up the day with protein.
Protein, protein, protein at every meal—especially breakfast—is the key to balancing blood sugar and insulin and cutting cravings. Start the day with whole farm eggs or a protein shake. I recommend my Whole Food Protein Shake.
Use nuts, seeds, eggs, fish, chicken or grass-fed meat for protein at every meal. A serving size is 4 to 6 ounces or the size of your palm.
5. Eat unlimited carbs (the right ones).
Yes, that’s right, unlimited carbs. Did you know that vegetables are carbs? And you get to eat as much as you want. There is one catch. I only mean the non-starchy veggies such as greens, anything in the broccoli family (cauliflower, kale, collards), asparagus, green beans, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, fennel, eggplant, artichokes, and peppers, to name a few.
Avoid potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash and beets—just for 10 days. Also skip grains and beans for 10 days. It supercharges the results so you lose weight and feel great.
6. Fight sugar with fat.
Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Fat makes you full, balances your blood sugar, and is necessary for fueling your cells. Along with protein, have good fats at every meal and snack including nuts and seeds (which also contain protein), extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, avocados, and omega-3 fats from fish.
7. Be ready for emergencies.
You never want to be in a food emergency when your blood sugar is dropping and you find yourself in a food desert such as an airport, the office, or in a maze of convenience stores, fast food joints, and vending machines. You need an emergency food pack. I have one with me all the time and it’s filled with protein, good fats, and good snacks so I never have to make a bad choice. Here’s what’s in mine:
- Packets of Artisana nut butters and coconut butter
- Almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds
- Salmon jerky or turkey jerky
- A can of wild salmon or sardines
- Unsweetened wild blueberries.
8. Swap distress for de-stress.
If you are stressed, your hormones go crazy. Cortisol goes up which makes you hungry, causes belly fat storage, and leads to type-2 diabetes. Studies show that taking deep breaths activates a special nerve, called the vagus nerve, that shifts your metabolism from fat storage to fat burning and quickly moves you out of the stress state. And all you have to do is take a deep breath.
Try my Take Five Breathing Break. It’s something you can do anywhere, anytime. Simply take five slow deep breaths—in to the count of five, out to the count of five. Five times. That’s it. Do this before every meal. Watch what happens.
9. Put out the fire (of inflammation).
Studies show that inflammation triggers blood sugar imbalances, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and type-2 diabetes. The most common source of inflammatory foods other than sugar, flour, and trans fats are hidden food sensitivities. The most common culprits are gluten and dairy. We often crave the foods we’re allergic to. Without them we feel lousy and want more. Quit gluten and dairy for 10 days. Getting off them isn’t easy, but after just 2 or 3 days without them, you’ll have renewed energy, relief from cravings, and will see many of your common symptoms disappear.
10. Get your Zzz’s.
Getting less sleep drives sugar and carb cravings by affecting your appetite hormones. In human studies, depriving college students of just two hours of the recommended eight hours of sleep led to a rise in hunger hormones, a decrease in appetite-suppressing hormones, and big cravings for sugar and refined carbs. You want more energy if you don’t sleep, so you go toward quickly absorbed sugars. Sleep is the best way to fight against the drive to overeat. You literally can sleep your cravings and your weight away.
You can find all of these ideas and a goof-proof, step-by-step plan of how to make them work for you in my book, The 10-Day Detox Diet.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Follow the Author
I’ll put the summary upfront: using the principles and plans in the 10-Day Detox Diet, I lost 12 lbs in the first 10 days, a total of 21 lbs in the first 30 days and now 30 lbs total in the first 50 days. (Update: as of August 2015 I’ve lost 60 lbs total). In addition, my overall feeling of health and my energy levels increased greatly.
A little about me: I’m in my mid-fifties and am a relatively big-framed guy who stands 6’1″ and weighed 310 pounds when I started this plan. That was about 110 lbs overweight as my ideal weight is about 200 pounds (it’s been a long time since I’ve been there so I’ll let you know for sure when I get there).
This book was recommended to me by a life coach I was seeing. I purchased the 10-Day Detox Diet, read it thoroughly and loved the sound science and principles behind the ideas. Following the plans in the book, I prepped my refrigerator and pantry, purchased vitamin supplements and fiber pills, tapered back on Dove dark chocolates (my main addictive habit), picked the day I would start and jumped in.
I haven’t felt hungry since.
Good things that have happened in the first 50 days: I lost 30 pounds and 1.5 inches off my neck and 3 inches off my waist (just a representative sample; I slimmed down in other places on my body as well). My cravings for fatty foods and sugar disappeared. I’m sleeping better, some nagging inflammation in my knees cleared up and my digestive elimination challenges cleared up. My patience increased for handling both my interpersonal relationships and life’s little problems. I have more energy for work and throughout the day. My overall feeling of health improved greatly. I feel like, after all the efforts I have made to lose weight over the years and after all the ups and downs my weight has been through, I’ve finally found the right set of intellectual tools to approach eating. Feeling this good is motivation enough to keep me eating healthy for the rest of my life.
After about 20 days on the plan I also went back to Amazon and purchased Dr. Hyman’s Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook to expand my access to additional recipes. Once I got the hang of how Dr. Hyman combines the ingredients for dishes and meals, I started experimenting with carefully modifying some recipes to tweak them for my own particular culinary preferences. If you use good common sense it’s easy to mix and match ingredients and spices to tailor dishes and meals to your liking. I enjoy cooking and like to experiment in the kitchen. Your mileage may vary and the provided recipes are just fine the way they are presented. I’ll keep doing this as long as my weight loss continues apace and my overall feeling of health stays strong. If I go too far afield, I’ll just move back closer to the original recipes.
The real trick now is making sure I eat healthy over the long term. I already passed my first big test: a long overdue vacation at an ocean-side resort with lots of social interaction and eating out at restaurants. During the short trip I managed to lose 5 lbs instead of gaining weight as I likely would have in the past. Once again, I feel like I have the tools I need in Dr. Hyman’s program to handle all situations.
Side note: I did a sleep study three months ago and was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Many overweight people who snore loudly like me have sleep apnea and don’t know it. Since I was tested, and prior to starting the 10-Day Detox diet, I started on a CPAP machine and have been diligent about using it so I credit this with also helping me to have the energy to face up to my dietary challenges. I think it would have been much more difficult to lose weight without also dealing with this condition first.
I believe good health is a combination of restful sleep, breathing fresh air, drinking lots of fresh water, eating healthy food of high quality, mitigating stress and exercising regularly. I feel I have the other items in order and now I will tackle the stress and regular exercise portions.
Best of luck on your particular journey toward health. The 10-Day Detox Diet continues to work well for me, perhaps it will work for you too. Highly recommended.
Update July 2014: In the first 100 days I have lost 44 lbs and feel great. I’m sticking with the principles laid out in Dr. Hyman’s books as they are working well for me.
Update September 2014: I hit my halfway point and I’m now down 55 lbs. This feels great as I’ve struggled with my weight most of my adult life. Best of all, others around me have taken inspiration. One person I know has lost over 40 pounds in the last three months just by utilizing information from Dr. Hyman’s books that we talked about and is now at his ultimate goal weight and is very trim! I’ll get there too. The key for me is that I don’t feel deprived. I eat plenty of good food but now just the food that is good for me. The rate of my weight loss has slowed but is still steady. I now need to concentrate on making regular exercise a part of my life.
Update January 2015: My weight loss has plateaued at 55 lbs down for the last 4 months and I still have 55 lbs more to lose. I just saw my cardiologist and he is very happy with my progress and my blood work showed huge improvement from before I started this lifestyle change to now. To continue my weight loss I need to trim back my portion sizes a little and start exercising consistently. I’m confident I’ll get to my goal weight of 200 lbs or less in 2015. I’m sticking with Dr. Hyman’s program.
Update August 2015: This hasn’t been a linear and easy journey but I’m back on the right path. Earlier this year, I slowly put on 10 lbs to 265 lbs as a response to stress from challenges I experienced both professionally and personally. Also, I noticed Dr. Hyman’s program shared many similarities with the Paleo diet and I experimented with combining the two programs. I feel my main problem is portion control. I have the mistaken idea that if something is healthy to eat you can have as much of it as you want. This is not true for me particularly when it comes to animal proteins and nuts.
No excuses though. I started exercising regularly and have been briskly walking for about 40 minutes per day, 7 days per week for the last three months. The scale didn’t move for me though until I made some changes to my portions that were holding me back. I trimmed back on my animal protein portions at each meal, cut out the snacking on cheese that had crept in and reduced the portion size on nuts that are my go-to snack. Now, between the portion control and regular exercise, the scale is going down and I’ve lost 15 pounds in the last month. I’m now at 250 lbs for a total weight loss of 60 lbs. My goal weight remains 200 lbs so I have a ways to go but I’m feeling good about what I’m doing.
I have recommended the 10-day Detox Diet to several people who have asked me how I’ve lost weight. Those that have purchased the book, read it thoroughly and adopted Dr. Hyman’s principles have successfully lost weight and cleared up some health concerns as well. I continue to highly recommend this book and the info it contains. Be well!
5 Lessons Learned from Going Sugar-Free for 10 Days
The World Health Organization recommends that we consume less than 25 grams of added sugar per day, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just updated their dietary guidelines to recommend people consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. Do you know how much added sugar the average American-myself included-actually consumes daily? Eighty-three grams, more than triple what our most esteemed health orgs suggest. Yikes.
As if weight gain and cavities weren’t enough, high sugar intake has also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer-it’s enough to scare anyone into taking a closer look at their diet. I consider myself a healthy eater. I know to add protein or fiber to every meal, avoid processed foods, and eat my fruits and veggies. I don’t have a candy or two-a-day soda addiction to kick to the curb, but a big part of my diet is flavored yogurts, pre-made sauces and dressings, and grains. Spoiler alert: Those all contain sugar. So after reading about the USDA’s new rules, I decided to challenge myself to go 10 days without sugar-including limiting my intake of honey, pure maple syrup, and other natural sweeteners. (Check out these 8 Healthy Foods with Crazy-High Sugar Counts.)
But before I gave up the sweet stuff, I questioned what it would do to my body-would I crave it more than usual? Is there such a thing as a sugar detox? “There are many theories on sugar and addiction, but I don’t think there’s any concrete evidence proving that a person can be addicted to sugar,” says Marie Spano, R.D. and sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks. She thinks the habitual intake and oh-so-good taste are actually what make it difficult to kick a sugar habit (see: The Science Behind Your Sweet Tooth). No one said this was going to be easy!
Lesson #1: Breakfast Without Sugar Is the Most Challenging Meal
My first attempt to eliminate sugar, breakfast, proved to be harder than I anticipated. My go-tos: yogurt with granola, avocado toast, or cereal all contained sugar. Luckily, I drink my coffee black, so I didn’t have to alter my morning infusion of caffeine too-that would have been unbearable. I knew bagel day at the weekly office meeting-which fell on day eight- would be a big test. Bagels have both sugar and gluten, and in my mind, there is no acceptable substitute. Resisting this temptation was the toughest ordeal of the two weeks, but I held strong.
Sugar-free breakfast was an eye-opening experience. Before I even left my apartment, I was consuming more sugar than I even realized. (Do you know how much sugar you’re consuming? These healthy bloggers thought they did.) Gluten-free oatmeal made with unsweetened almond milk, cinnamon, and apple slices became my challenge breakfast of choice-by the end, I didn’t even miss adding brown sugar! The challenge forced me to pre-plan to avoid a breakfast of convenience, but I ended up finding one that tastes good and is good for me. Another bonus: It kept me full until lunch, yet I didn’t feel bloated like, ahem, a bagel tends to do.
Lesson #2: Meal Planning Is the Key to Any Successful Diet
Almost every Sunday, I meal plan and grocery shop for the week. The importance of this routine was never more apparent than during this challenge. Even when I was tired, lazy, running late, I was able to stick with the challenge because of my prep work. (We’ve got 10 No-Sweat Meal Prep Tricks from Pros.) I also ended up eating a ton more vegetable servings. Rather than starting with a grain, I planned meals around vegetables, then added in protein and healthy fats. My spiralizer got a lot of use!
But not eating many carbs throughout the challenge made me very tired every afternoon. I’m a solid five-days-a-week exerciser-usually a mix of running and bodyweight exercises. I’m not a morning person, so I typically work out when I get home from work. During these 10 days, though, I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to make dinner and shower. My reps took more effort and my runs felt harder than usual. The dietary changes I made for the challenge may have cut my carbohydrate or caloric intake too low, explained Spano. To prevent this, “replace sugar-containing foods with naturally sweet foods and increase total carbohydrates from starches and grains,” she suggests.
Lesson #3: Moderation Is Better Than Elimination
All wine has sugar. This fact was researched in-depth on day seven, when I was having a rough day and desperately wanted to go home to a glass of red. I did learn that while hard alcohols-gin, vodka, whiskey, and rum-don’t have added sugar, mixers are loaded with the sweet stuff. I always thought gin and tonics were a healthy option, but it turns out, 12 ounces of tonic water could have 32 grams of sugar-more than the daily recommended amount for adults. I did drink during the challenge, but opted for liquor on the rocks or mixed with club soda (which is sugar-free). I’ll admit, gin and club soda isn’t as good as a gin and tonic, so I’m making the switch back. The occasional glass of wine, cupcake, or piece of chocolate is worth the added sugar to me. However, I will keep my consumption to a minimum-I’ll just savor it that much more now. (Can You Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight?)
Lesson #4: Sugar Is Added to Everything
Over the 10 days, I became very comfortable with a nutrition label and the numerous different terms for hidden sugar. Every single meal, snack, and drink had to be carefully vetted to ensure it met the requirements. The amount of sugar in sauces and dressings surprised me. I bring salads to work almost every day for lunch, and two tablespoons of dressing alone could have 15 grams of sugar. Makes you think twice about adding a little extra! (Should Added Sugar Appear On Food Labels?) But I was pleasantly surprised to learn prepared hummus doesn’t contain added sugar, and when mixed with plain Greek yogurt, it’s a great substitute for dressing.
I did avoid takeout and restaurants for the 10 days, because it’s nearly impossible to know if sugar is added to dishes. This time period included Winter Storm Jonas, so if that doesn’t show dedication, nothing will. But I’ll fully admit this isn’t a sustainable goal-10 days was definitely my max. I missed Indian takeout! To avoid added sugar when eating out, “be very careful about sauces and dressings, including anything ketchup or BBQ based,” advises Spano. She suggests asking for sauces and dressing to be served on the side so you control the amount. And choose oil and vinegar for salads instead of heavy sauces to avoid even more sugar.
Lesson #5: Eliminating Sugar is Not a Weight Loss Miracle
While the number on the scale didn’t change after 10 days, the decrease in carbs did make my stomach appear flatter and more toned. My roommates even commented that I looked like I lost weight. This phenomenon had more to do with fewer carbs and calories (see Lesson #2) than my lack of sugar.
“Many foods that contain sugar can cause bloating, including carbonated beverages, chewing gum, and candy-they all increase the amount of air we consume,” explains Spano. My toned stomach was probably a circumstance of the challenge, but not a direct result of less sugar. Either way, I’ll celebrate small victories.
Cutting out sugar completely isn’t a realistic permanent lifestyle change, but this challenge did reaffirm my goal to eat clean, nutrient-dense foods all year long-with the occasional splurge. Spano suggests cutting down on your sugar intake on a permanent basis by “consuming fewer sauces with added sugar, looking for cereals that are low in sugar and high in fiber, and cutting down your consumption of candy, cookies, and other sweets.” Easy enough! Now if you’ll excuse me, a glass of wine is calling my name.
- By Shannon Bauer
Will Cutting Out Sugar REALLY Result in Weight Loss?
What happens when you eliminate sugar from your diet? For many of us, sugar is the primary source of empty calories in our daily diets, meaning it is pretty safe to assume that removing it from your daily diet could result in weight loss. Before you decide it’s time to forgo your daily Coke or Mountain Dew, swear off cookies and cake forever, and even stop eating your favorite tuna sandwich on white bread, here’s the truth about whether or not saying goodbye to sugar will really result in weight loss.
In Simple Terms, The Answer is Yes
Although this may not be the answer you are looking for, it is true that you will lose weight simply by cutting out sugar. On the other hand, if you continue to eat sugar, your changes of gaining weight grow higher and higher.
The Science Behind It
When you eat sugar, your body automatically goes into overdrive producing insulin and pulling glucose into your cells and prompting your body to hold on to fat for future use. This, of course, causes weight gain. At the same time, the fructose found in sugar can only be metabolized by your liver. Unfortunately, this is where it gets turned into fat and later secreted into the blood and distributed throughout your blood cells. These cells will become bigger and bigger, causing your body to secrete more leptin. Over time your body will develop a resistance to leptin, blocking any sensations of fullness and causing you to eat more.
It is also worth noting that when you opt to take sugar out of your diet, you are also eliminating quite a bit of carbohydrates. The carbs you do consume will come from veggies, grains, legumes, and meat. Not only will this add to the weight you are losing by eliminating sugars, but it will also target excess fat that has accumulated in your abdomen.
All Those Empty Calories
The average person consumes around 42.5 teaspoons of sugar every day. This is an additional 680 calories that offer no nutritional value and do little more than sit there and accumulate. For every 3,500 calories you consume, you gain 1 pound, which can happen quickly simply by consuming too many empty calories. Instead, replace these sugary foods with something healthy and low in calories.
Say Goodbye to Processed Foods
Let’s face it. Many of the sugary sweet treats you love are highly processed, yet offer minimal nutritional value. When you eliminate sugar, you will have to incorporate more natural, unprocessed foods into your diet. Not only are these foods much healthier, but they tend to have considerably less calories and fill you up faster. Thanks to your decreased caloric consumption and less snacking due to being full, you can expect to lose even more weight.
Can You Really Stop Eating Sugar and Still Enjoy Food?
If you are thinking to yourself that there is no way you could possibly live without sugar, you just might be surprised. You can eliminate sugar from your diet and still be satisfied. You just have to know the best substitutes. Here are a few of your best options that are free of the chemicals you will find in manufactured sweeteners.
- Applesauce: Plain, unsweetened applesauce is the perfect substitute for sugar in some of your favorite sweet treats. It can be used to make muffins, cakes, brownies, cookies, pancakes, and more.
- Bananas: Bananas are ideal for sweetening up smoothies, baked goods, and even homemade ice cream and popsicles.
- Agave syrup: Made from the nectar in the Blue Agave plant, agave syrup is often referred to as “honey water,” though it also has a bit of a caramel taste to it. In recipes, a ¾ cup of agave syrup is equal to the sweetness you get in 1 cup of sugar.
- Stevia: A powdered extract of the South American stevia plant, stevia is an herb that is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. It is frequently used to sweeten oatmeal, baked goods, and sugar free protein bars.
- Molasses: Molasses is often used as a substitute for brown sugar when baking. It’s a great option when making gingerbread cookies.
If you’ve decided that it is time to quit eating sugar, you can expect to lose weight. But remember to not get complacent. It is important to always supplement with exercise. There are tons of fun workouts you can get into. Set a trampoline in your backyard and get in a workout. Visit sites like www.fitnessfinest.com for recommendations for trampolines. You can also get into Zumba, Yoga, or any other type of dance workout. It’s really up to you! Just make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy so it won’t feel too much like exercise.
What happens when you eliminate sugar from your diet? For many of us, sugar is the primary source of empty calories in our daily diets, meaning it is pretty safe to assume that removing it from your daily diet could result in weight loss. Before you decide it’s time to forgo your daily Coke or Mountain Dew, swear off cookies and cake forever, and even stop eating your favorite tuna sandwich on white bread, here’s the truth about whether or not saying goodbye to sugar will really result in weight loss.
9 months and 8 days ago, my fiancé and I were slumped on the couch, flipping endlessly through Netflix trying to decide on a movie to watch. When he doesn’t want to watch chick flicks and I don’t want to watch action films, our middle ground is usually a documentary. So we mindlessly clicked on “Fed Up” without realizing it would change our health forever.
By the end of the film, which focuses on sugar as the leading cause of childhood obesity, we were both painfully aware of the extra pounds that had snuck on over the course of the worst winter in the history of Boston. Our steady 7-Eleven diet of donuts and soda had left us feeling pretty terrible, and Easter candy had only added insult to injury. I was close to my heaviest weight of all time: 168 lbs. I had also been sick frequently throughout the year for no apparent reason.
I knew something had to change, but I also knew how much I loved sugar. (Hint: it was A LOT!)
My love affair with sweets and treats dated back to childhood, when I used to sneak entire boxes of Little Debbies cakes at a time. It was woven into my happiest memories (birthday cake, baking brownies with mom, Capri Suns by the pool) and was also a great source of comfort during hard times. I just didn’t think I could give it up, even though I knew it was ruining my health.
When we reached the end of “Fed Up,” the documentary presented a challenge: Try going just 10 days without sugar. Emmanuel looked over at me and dared me to try it with him. I laughed at him, but a little voice in the back of my head wondered, “What if?” So I agreed to play along, but only for three days instead of 10.
THE 10-DAY CHALLENGE
Those first three days were incredibly eye-opening. We went to the grocery store to pick up some sugar-free foods, reading the nutrition labels as the movie suggested.
We were shocked to find that everything we loved contained sugar. Favorite snacks like Chobani yogurt and granola bars contained about 15 grams of sugar, which is Fed Up’s recommended DAILY intake. Say whaaa?! Even ketchup, a staple condiment, was nixed from our grocery list.
The hardest part of grocery shopping was finding approved breakfast food. We both loved cereal and milk, but even the “healthy” cereals contained sugar. We finally settled on oatmeal (not the kind that’s packaged in envelopes, but the kind of oats that come in a canister). This was the happiest surprise of our shopping trip — we could buy enough oats to last us a week for $2/person. Since we weren’t eating fruit, at least for the first ten days, we mixed the oatmeal with pecans instead.
I’m not going to lie…the first three days were painful for me. Emmanuel practically had to restrain me from my late-night sugary snacks. I was incredibly grumpy and had zero energy. But at the end of the three days, I hopped on the scale and was shocked to find that I had already lost five pounds. I’m sure most of that was water weight, but it was enough to inspire me to try to join E for the rest of the 10-day challenge.
It took me about five days to kick the physical symptoms of sugar addiction. Because I didn’t want to go through that withdrawal cycle again (it sucked!), I kept my diet very strict. I didn’t eat bread or drink any alcohol, and I even avoided natural sugar. That helped me get through the initial phase as quickly as possible.
THE FIRST TWO MONTHS
After getting to 10 days, I had dropped another 5 pounds and couldn’t believe it.
I was eating the same amount of calories as I had been eating during the winter, but the difference was that I was now eating REAL FOOD. I started looking forward to hearty salads. I actually didn’t feel hungry all the time, like I had when I was living on sugar. By the end of the 10 days, I was down to 158 lbs and felt WAY better. I imagined what could happen if I just kept going. So I resolved to make it to a year.
Over the course of the next two months, I dropped another 25 pounds for a grand total of 35 pounds. That’s where my body decided to stay — right around 133 pounds. I weighed more than that in high school. Crazy! I thought I might put some of that weight back on since I had dropped so quickly, but it never came back. Nine months later, I’m still happily sitting at that weight. I’m three sizes down and have never felt better. Besides catching the flu once, I haven’t been sick since May 2015.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SUGAR AND ACID REFLUX
About a month after quitting sugar, I started to feel super nauseous in the evening. The nausea got to the point where I would have to stop what I was doing and sit down for the rest of the night. It was even preventing me from sleeping well. After mentioning it to my brother, who had been treated for acid reflux, I figured out that my symptoms were very similar to his.
After doing some Googling, I learned that a diet high in sugar forces your body to increase acid production to keep up with digestion. My best guess is that my body had been used to producing a high amount of acid to cope with my high-sugar diet. However, when the sugar suddenly disappeared, my body was now producing excess acid. This resulted in a miserable couple of weeks! Finally, I gave in and decided to temporarily cut out coffee, which seemed to really aggravate my symptoms.
Coffee had been a huge crutch for me during sugar withdrawal. Instead of having dessert, I had several cups of coffee throughout the day. But the only thing worse than a life without coffee is a life with debilitating nausea. So I quit coffee for two months straight.
I still needed a treat to look forward to every day, so I started drinking Starbucks Passion Tea without sugar. I also discovered Dandy Blend, a yummy instant coffee substitute made from dandelion & chicory root.
The acid reflux worked itself out over the next several months, and I was able to gradually re-introduce coffee. I still can’t have more than two cups a day, but I sure am happy that it’s back in my life!!
After making it through three months without sugar, I knew I wanted to keep going, but I needed a game plan to make this a permanent lifestyle change. SO, I created two rules for myself:
- Once a month, I would treat myself to an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (Phish Food hands down!)
- For two weeks in December, all bets were off. For me, it would be pretty impossible to separate sugar from the holidays. In the name of tradition and my personal sanity, I decided to eat sugar (in moderation) at holiday parties and family gatherings.
The monthly ice cream is probably the main thing that has kept me going. Although I no longer physically crave sugar, I really miss using it as a crutch when I’m stressed out. I miss the memory of sugar more than the sugar itself, so it really helps me to have one cheat day a month to look forward to.
Interestingly, although I still love the taste of ice cream, my cheat day has made me increasingly sick each of the six months I’ve been eating it. The first month, I definitely didn’t feel great, but it didn’t affect me too much. By the sixth-month cheat day, eating a pint made me physically ill, including scary heart palpitations (which it turns out aren’t dangerous in the short-term, but sure aren’t fun!). I pretty much have to go straight to bed after eating it, and I feel horribly sluggish for the next couple of days afterward. I might need to think about scaling back my cheat day from now on. It seems that my body is no longer used to processing such a huge amount of sugar at the same time.
SO…WHAT CAN I EAT?
This is the question I hear most: If I can’t eat sugar, then what can I eat?? Here’s what I settled on:
I eat oatmeal every day. It only takes me three minutes to prepare, two of which I’m running around getting ready for my day while it’s in the microwave.
- 1 cup (dry) of Quaker Oats (the old fashioned kind, NOT the quick kind)
- Add water and sprinkle frozen blueberries on top
- Microwave for 2 minutes
Boom! Delicious and never gets old. If I want to mix things up, I include pecans instead of blueberries. Emmanuel likes to mix peanut butter in with his…what a weirdo 😉
I’m super lucky to have a SweetGreen right around the corner from my office, and I go there a lot for lunch! If you’ve never tried their salads, you’ve gotta pay them a visit! They use locally-sourced ingredients and unique combinations, resulting in the most DELICIOUS combinations. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of eating there.
I first quit sugar in the middle of busy season for photographers, so I really didn’t have time to cook. I needed a way to eat healthy food without breaking my bank account, and I found it in the form of The Foodery. They deliver meals made from scratch every week, and they really saved my butt in September and October when I was too tired to move at the end of the day!
If I need a quick dinner and can’t make it home, I grab a salad bowl from Chipotle or Boloco (local to Boston).
I also started batch-cooking and freezing meals whenever I could find a couple of hours. I discovered the magic of the slow cooker and never looked back. Here’s the one I bought after reading tons of reviews.
My favorite slow cooker recipe so far is this Lentil Sweet Potato Chili. Sooo good!
…TO BE CONTINUED
This year has really opened my eyes to the value of putting good food into my body. I’m proud that I had the willpower to make such a huge lifestyle change, and you can do it too! I’m happy to answer any questions and help you figure out how to make a sugar-free lifestyle work for you! You can reach me at [email protected]
EDITED TO ADD:
I’m blown away by the feedback I’m receiving tonight — wow! I thought I would publicly answer a few questions from my inbox:
1) What about fruit?
I quit fruit completely for the first 10 days and didn’t eat much at all for the first few months, just because it reminded me of missing sugar. But now I can eat it just fine. I learned that the main difference between sugar found in fruit and refined sugar is that the fiber in fruit causes your body to process the sugar more slowly instead of turning it straight into stored fat. This article does a great job of explaining that.
2) Do you eat bread?
I didn’t eat any for the first three months. Although it’s not completely off-limits now, I just don’t crave it like I used to. Another benefit of quitting sugar!
3) Do you still drink alcohol?
Before, the main reason I looked forward to alcohol was because sugary cocktails tasted delicious!! So now that sugar is out, I don’t really crave alcohol either. I drink maybe once every other week, and when I do it’s usually a glass of red wine. It’s so much less expensive to go out now, too!
E & me, taken in November 2015 by Justin & Mary Marantz! Could not have gotten through this sugar-free journey without him!
Sugar: should we eliminate it from our diet?
Sugar seems to have developed a reputation as the big bad wolf in relation to health. Medical News Today have reported on numerous studies associating sugar intake with increased aging, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer. Such research has led to many health experts around the globe calling for reductions in recommended sugar intake, with some saying we should cut out sugar completely. But is it really that bad for our health? We investigate.
Share on PinterestSugar is a crystalline carbohydrate that makes foods taste sweet. There are many different types, including glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose and sucrose.
Put simply, sugar is a crystalline carbohydrate that makes foods taste sweet. There are many different types of sugar, including glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose and sucrose – also known as table sugar.
Some of these sugars, such as glucose, fructose and lactose, occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and other foods. But many of the foods we consume contain “added” sugars – sugar that we add to a product ourselves to enhance the flavor or sugar that has been added to a product by a manufacturer.
The most common sources of added sugars include soft drinks, cakes, pies, chocolate, fruit drinks and desserts. Just a single can of cola can contain up to 7 tsps of added sugar, while an average-sized chocolate bar can contain up to 6 tsps.
It is added sugars that have been cited as a contributor to many health problems. In December 2014, MNT reported on a study in the journal Open Heart claiming added sugars may increase the risk of high blood pressure, even more so than sodium. And in February 2014, a study led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) associated high added sugar intake with increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Perhaps most strongly, added sugars have been associated with the significant increase in obesity. In the US, more than a third of adults are obese, while the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years.
A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increases weight gain in both children and adults, while a review paper from the World Health Organization (WHO) notes an increase in the consumption of such beverages correlates with the increase in obesity.
Are we becoming addicted to sugar?
In support of these associations is Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California-San Francisco and author of the book Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, who claims sugar is a “toxic” substance that we are becoming addicted to.
A 2008 study by researchers from Princeton University, NJ, found rats used to consuming a high-sugar diet displayed signs of binging, craving and withdrawal when their sugar intake was reduced.
Share on PinterestDr. Lustig: “We need to wean ourselves off. We need to de-sweeten our lives. We need to make sugar a treat, not a diet staple.”
“We need to wean ourselves off. We need to de-sweeten our lives. We need to make sugar a treat, not a diet staple,” Dr. Lustig told The Guardian in 2013.
“The food industry has made it into a diet staple because they know when they do you buy more,” he added. “This is their hook. If some unscrupulous cereal manufacturer went out and laced your breakfast cereal with morphine to get you to buy more, what would you think of that? They do it with sugar instead.”
In her popular blog, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow cites sugar addiction as one of the reasons she decided to quit sugar completely.
“The bottom line is that sugar works the addiction and reward pathways in the brain in much the same way as many illegal drugs,” she writes. “Sugar is basically a socially acceptable, legal, recreational drug with deadly consequences.”
Statistics show that we are certainly a nation of added-sugar lovers. According to a report from the CDC, adults in the US consumed around 13% of their total daily calorie intake from added sugars between 2005-2010, while 16% of children’s and adolescents’ total calorie intake came from added sugars between 2005-2008.
These levels are well above those currently recommended by WHO, which state we should consume no more than 10% of total daily calories from “free” sugars – both naturally occurring sugars and those that are added to products by the manufacturer.
In 2013, however, MNT reported on a study by Prof. Wayne Potts and colleagues from the University of Utah, claiming that even consuming added sugars at recommended levels may be harmful to health, after finding that such levels reduced lifespan in mice.
Is eliminating sugar from our diet healthy?
The array of studies reporting the negative implications of added sugar led to WHO making a proposal to revise their added sugar recommendations in 2014. The organization issued a draft guideline stating they would like to halve their recommended daily free sugar intake from 10% to 5%.
“The objective of this guideline is to provide recommendations on the consumption of free sugars to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases in adults and children,” WHO explained, “with a particular focus on the prevention and control of weight gain and dental caries.”
In addition, it seems many health experts, nutritionists and even celebrities like Gwyneth have jumped on a “no sugar” bandwagon. But is it even possible to completely eliminate sugar from a diet? And is it safe?
Biochemist Leah Fitzsimmons, of the University of Birmingham in the UK, told The Daily Mail:
“Cutting all sugar from your diet would be very difficult to achieve. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products and dairy replacements, eggs, alcohol and nuts all contain sugar, which would leave you with little other than meat and fats to eat – definitely not very healthy.”
Many people turn to artificial sweeteners as a sugar alternative, but according to a study reported by MNT in 2014, these sweeteners may still drive diabetes and obesity.
The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests artificial sweeteners – including saccharin, sucralose and aspartame – interfere with gut bacteria, increasing the activity of pathways associated with obesity and diabetes.
What is more, they found long-term consumption of artificial sweeteners was associated with increased weight, abdominal obesity, higher fasting blood glucose levels and increased glycosylated hemoglobin levels.
“Together with other major shifts that occurred in human nutrition, this increase in artificial sweetener consumption coincides with the dramatic increase in the obesity and diabetes epidemics,” the authors note. “Our findings suggest that artificial sweeteners may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”
Sugar can be part of a healthy, balanced diet
Instead of steering away from sugar completely, many health experts believe it can be consumed as part of a healthy diet, with some noting that sugar also has benefits.
Share on Pinterest”Like all sources of calories, sugars can be consumed within a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle,” says Dr. Alison Boyd.
“Like all sources of calories, sugars can be consumed within a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle,” Dr. Alison Boyd, director of Sugar Nutrition UK, told MNT. “Sugars can often help to make certain nutritious foods more palatable, which can promote variety in a healthy, balanced diet.”
Some researchers say our bodies even need sugar. “It’s our body’s preferred fuel,” Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University in New Haven, CT, told CNN. “There’s a role for sugar in our diet. After all, what’s the point of being healthy if it’s not to enjoy living?”
The American Heart Association (AHA) – who recommend women should consume no more than 100 calories a day (6 tsps) and men should consume no more than 150 calories a day (9 tsps) from added sugars – disagrees, stating that our bodies do not need sugar to function properly.
“Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food,” they add. But even the AHA do not recommend cutting out sugar completely.
Tips to reduce sugar intake
While sugar can be a part of a healthy diet, Dr. Katz makes an important point that almost all health experts agree with – “we eat too much of it” – which is evident from the aforementioned reports by the CDC.
As such, health experts recommend reducing sugar intake to within recommended guidelines. The AHA provide some tips to help do just that:
- Cut back on the amount of sugar you may regularly add to foods and drinks, such as tea, coffee, cereal and pancakes
- Replace sugar-sweetened beverages with sugar-free or low-calorie drinks
- Compare food labels and select the products with the lowest amounts of added sugars
- When baking cakes, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by a third
- Try replacing sugar in recipes with extracts or spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, almond or vanilla
- Replace sugar on cereal or oatmeal with fruit.
More needs to be done to ensure the public lower their sugar intake
While there are things we can do ourselves to reduce sugar intake, Prof. Wayne Potts told MNT that more needs to be done to encourage us to do so:
“The disease states are a terrible scourge to individuals and the cost to public health care is tremendous. Since individual behavior can make major advances, we should use a variety of methods such as public awareness campaigns, taxation and more firm regulation.”
Dr. Boyd pointed out that the food industry has worked hard to offer the general public a good range of sugar-free and no-added-sugar products. “Soft drinks are one good example,” she says, “with more than 60% available on the market now being low calorie/no added sugar.”
She added, however, that foods lower in sugar may not necessarily be lower in calories. “In some cases, the reformulated recipe can contain more calories than the original. Research shows that diets high in sugar tend to be low in fat, and vice versa.” She added:
“The key thing to remember is that sugars occur naturally in a wide range of foods – including fruit, vegetables and dairy products – and can be consumed within a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle. As always, balance and variety in a diet is the most important thing for people to remember.”
Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Grand Adventure
By Eve O. Schaub, Special to Everyday Health
Once upon a time, I was healthy; at least I thought I was.
Sure, I lacked enough energy to get me through the day, but with all the commercials on TV touting energy drinks for America’s tired masses, I always assumed I wasn’t the only one suffering. And sure, everyone in my family dreaded the coming cold and flu season, but again, I thought come January everyone develops some degree of germophobia.
At least, that’s what I thought until I heard some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. According to several experts, sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this made sense to me — a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome. One in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer.
According to this theory, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.
A Bright Idea
I took all of this newfound knowledge and formulated an idea. I wanted to see how hard it would be to have our family — me, my husband, and our two children (ages 6 and 11) — spend an entire year eating foods that contained no added sugar. We’d cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice. We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.
Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.
Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier. What I didn’t expect was how not eating sugar would make me feel better in a very real and tangible way.
A Sugar-Free Year Later
It was subtle, but noticeable; the longer I went on eating without added sugar, the better and more energetic I felt. If I doubted the connection, something happened next which would prove it to me: my husband’s birthday.
During our year of no sugar, one of the rules was that, as a family, we could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month; if it was your birthday, you got to choose the dessert. By the time September rolled around we noticed our palates starting to change, and slowly, we began enjoying our monthly “treat” less and less.
But when we ate the decadent multi-layered banana cream pie my husband had requested for his birthday celebration, I knew something new was happening. Not only did I not enjoy my slice of pie, I couldn’t even finish it. It tasted sickly sweet to my now sensitive palate. It actually made my teeth hurt. My head began to pound and my heart began to race; I felt awful.
It took a good hour lying on the couch holding my head before I began to recover. “Geez,” I thought, “has sugar always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”
After our year of no sugar ended, I went back and counted the absences my kids had in school and compared them to those of previous years. The difference was dramatic. My older daughter, Greta, went from missing 15 days the year before to missing only two.
Now that our year of no sugar is over, we’ll occasionally indulge, but the way we eat it is very different. We appreciate sugar in drastically smaller amounts, avoid it in everyday foods (that it shouldn’t be in in the first place), and save dessert for truly special occasions. My body seems to be thanking me for it. I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I somehow no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. But if we do come down with something, our bodies are better equipped to fight it. We get sick less and get well faster. Much to my surprise, after our no-sugar life, we all feel healthier and stronger. And that is nothing to sneeze at.
Eve O. Schaub is the author of Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She holds a BA and a BFA from Cornell University, and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her personal essays have been featured many times on the Albany, New York, NPR station WAMC. You can join Schaub’s family and take your own Day of No Sugar Challenge on April 9, 2014.
Read more stories of struggle, strength, and survival on Everyday Health’s My Health Story column.
Keeping tabs on how much sugar you’re swallowing is an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. The empty calories from added sugars in desserts, some drinks and candy can lead to weight gain and spikes in blood glucose levels.
The good news is that cutting down on sugar may be easier than you think.
Get started cutting down on sugar with these tips:
- Toss the table sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses. Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there.
- Swap out the soda. Water is best, but if you want something sweet to drink or are trying to lose weight, diet drinks can be a better choice than sugary drinks.
- Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
- Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list.
- Add fruit. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
- Cut the serving back. When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
- Try extracts. Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
- Replace it completely. Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Substitute. Switch out sugar with unsweetened applesauce in recipes (use equal amounts).
- Limit Non-nutritive Sweeteners. If you are trying to lose weight, a temporary fix to satisfying your sweet tooth may be with non-nutritive sweeteners. But watch out! Make sure that swapping sugary options for non-nutritive sweeteners now doe=sn’t lead to eating more later.