I kicked off 2017 by resolving to remove all added sugar from my diet for two weeks.
I have an insane sweet tooth, and I noticed my sugar cravings were getting worse and worse. I’ve been acutely aware of how sugar negatively impacts long term health and how it’s essentially empty calories. After one too many holiday indulgences, I was inspired to give my system a reset and try the no sugar challenge.
The trickiest part of the challenge for me was not giving up sweets, but actually avoiding the savory sauces and condiments in a typical restaurant meal. I let myself eat fruit, but I avoided high sugar to low fiber ratio fruit such as grapes. I also stopped snacking on the dried mango and pineapple that we stock at work, as well as the rest of the prepackaged snacks since almost all had added sugar.
I tried to avoid high glycemic carbs in general such as white rice and white bread, though I had pizza and homemade wheat sourdough loaf in my diet.
I wasn’t perfect during the two weeks, but I ate cleaner, definitely had withdrawal symptoms, and noticed a reset of my tastebud sensitivity to sweetness.
I had a minor headache, but it was probably from dehydration. I felt good otherwise. My first meal of the New Year was white pizza for lunch. For dinner we had cheese, homemade bread, and homemade Zuni chicken. Not a bad diet when you can indulge in pizza and cheese!
This is when the hunger set in. My body was struggling to find its missing primary fuel source of sugar. I ate the same amount of calories as usual, but I was starving! My hunger would go away after a bit, but come back after eating a sugarless meal.
While dozing off on the couch that afternoon, I had weird thoughts about sugar levels draining from my body and wondering if I would die. I’ve never had anything remotely close to these thoughts before. It must have been the withdrawal talking – very odd indeed.
Back to work today. I woke up feeling refreshed and clearheaded, but I was definitely more hungry. I craved sugar in afternoon and had snap pea crisps instead – one of the few snacks we stocked without sugar. It tasted like cardboard. My usual go-to protein punch of plain Greek yogurt and sugar free peanut butter tasted terrible as well. It was like my taste buds were punishing me.
My head felt foggy and distracted in the late afternoon. Meetings were hard to focus on. My sugar cravings intensified. My mouth tasted gross, and my eyes seemed bloodshot. I felt like my judgement was impaired driving home, and sure enough I scratched my car parking. (And no, I’m not normally a bad driver!)
It seemed like the worst of the withdrawal symptoms had passed on Day 3. The next few days I experienced hunger and occasional mild headaches. I did try an unripe watermelon on Day Six, and I perceived it as one of the sweetest I’ve tasted! I confirmed with others that it was indeed a very unsweet watermelon. I didn’t finish the slice because the perceived sweetness made me feel like I was breaking my diet.
Routine set in, and I was feeling good! I believe my body shifted from sugar burning to fat burning first (as nature intended) since my frequent hunger cravings died down.
My cheat days. I had no sweets, but on Day 10 I attended a friend’s birthday dinner at a spot with a set menu and cocktail pairing that definitely contained sugar. I skipped dessert. I also fudged dinner the following two nights with garlic eggplant takeout and Thai curry, both of which I’m sure had sugar in the sauce. I was acutely aware of anything remotely sweet.
Back to business as usual. I’ve gotten the hang of things, and my withdrawal symptoms seem to have completely disappeared. I could do this for much longer!
I lost track of days, so I actually stopped my diet on Day 16, one extra day over two weeks. My first sweet? Pumpkin pecan pie from Ikeda’s in Auburn, CA on the way back from a Tahoe weekend. It was tasty, but not mind-blowing, omg amazing!! Prior to my two week detox I would have probably felt more of the later, as sugar was an addiction. Sweets would send pleasure spikes to my brain and urge me to have more. This pie slice was good, but I didn’t feel the urge to finish every last bite.
Was this is sign that my body had successfully changed its relationship with sugar during this reset? TBD, but I’m definitely happy I did it. A nice side effect was that I dropped two pounds in two weeks despite skipping my routine gym workouts for most of the diet.
As I write this 10 days after my challenge end, I’m back to enjoying sweets, but in much smaller portions. I’m continuing a high fat diet to feel fuller longer. And I’m more mindful and attuned to the sugar content in my food. I might even try a 30-day reset sometime!