No Sugar Coating: I gave up sugar for 30 days and this is what happened

Did you know the average American eats or drinks the equivalent of 20 teaspoons of added sugar each day—even though the daily added sugar limit is less than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men? Lowering added sugar can reduce obesity and the risks of disease that come from obesity—like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

This Carebook blog didn’t start as a place for personal experiences. We’ve got a team of researchers who carefully curate information for you. But… the team behind Carebook is just a bunch of real people with real struggles and real health goals—like you and your family. So we decided it might be valuable to share this “real” stuff, too. I’ve recently been on an unexpected journey, so I’ll start.

About me. I’m:

  • a Carebook employee (not a doctor)
  • a 40+ mom of four busy teen boys
  • overweight
  • a sugar addict + carb-oholic

How this no-sugar journey started

The honest answer is: I’m not really sure. In November, I was doing a lot of research and writing about all the added sugar that’s in our food. Maybe you saw some of those posts on our Carebook Technologies Inc. Facebook page or the blog? I can’t prove my theory, but I think after enough “repeated” exposure to all the facts about how too much added sugar is toxic, something clicked. That’s right: On December 26, 2017, I had a really (weird?) unexpected desire: I was going to confront my sugar addiction and see what would happen if I left added sugar out of my diet. (Full confession: my partner thought I was NUTS for spontaneously choosing the holidays to do this sugar-free thing. After all, we had company coming for snacks, drinks, and dinners! We had a New Year’s party planned! But seriously, the decision to try this was like a switch that flicked on—and I’ll be honest… I don’t often get unexpected urges to do healthy stuff. So I jumped in.)

My plan, my rules

I knew I’d do better with a good plan, so I made rules for myself:

Commit for 30 days—I would do this for thirty days, no matter how difficult it got. I recently read about “hardship.” It’s hard to deal with cancer. It’s hard to deal with a loved one’s death. But by comparison, in my privileged world, it’s NOT hard to give up a few foods. I held this thought every day.

Conquer one day at a time—At the start, when I contemplated 30 full sugar-free days, it seemed too daunting and I almost talked myself out of it. But since I knew I was addicted to sugar and carbs, I decided to try thinking about giving up these up the way other addicts look at conquering their demons. I would only deal with one day at a time. I knew I could talk myself off of those sugary ledges if I only had to make it until the end of a day and get to the next one. This helped me SO MUCH.

Consume no added sugar—I do better with simple, hard-and-fast rules. I did some reading and decided that to do this right, I had to be ruthless with carbs, too—so when I gave up sugar, I also gave up empty carbs.

Drink tons of water—I bought a new, shiny water bottle and said, “hands off!” to the boy children in the house who normally borrow—and don’t return—my water bottles. I carried it everywhere.

Avoid alcohol—I like the occasional glass of red wine. Again, I decided it was just easier to cut this out, too. So I consumed no wine (or beer or delicious gin and tonic—not even New Year’s champagne!).

Pretend weight doesn’t matter—Let’s get real: Of course I want to be a healthier weight. But I didn’t want this first month to be about that, so I didn’t get the scale out until the very end.

Document everything—I kept track of all my food. It was an eye-opener, because even if you aren’t consuming sugar and empty carbs, the calories from eating fatty things add up. It was surprising… but I indulged this first month—something I’ll change going forward.

My journey!

Days 1-5—I’m in my own twisted reality show

Days 1 and 2 are totally fine. I’m fueled by whatever insane and irrational urge to exorcise the evil sugar demons in my body. But days 3-5? I question my sanity. A lot. In fact, I may actually hold back tears when my kids eat pizza in front of me. And I dream about large loaves of sourdough bread. I ask myself why I feel the need to inflict this pain. But I, sugar-free queen, prevail! (Oh. I also learn I’m a raging cheese-o-holic. But since cheese abstinence isn’t a rule, I eat lots of it.)

Days 6-10—Detox and olives

This stage hurts. (I’m going to call it detox and I don’t think that’s too dramatic.) I feel very sad. I get a massive 2-day headache. I am likely the grumpiest person on earth. My one win? I learn just how much I love olives. In fact, I rewarded myself with one beautiful, big, green olive each night between my dinner and bedtime. (That’s the toughest no-sugar time for me.)

Days 11-15—Say what?

Okay. The headache leaves and something VERY unexpected happens. The angry, inflamed eczema on my legs disappears. I’ve been suffering with this for two years and saw an allergist who poked me with needles, couldn’t find any allergies, and had me experimenting with different laundry soaps. The eczema is seriously gone, people. Of course, this could be a coincidence… but I doubt it. (Oh, and I still want pizza more than air, and I’m still eating too much cheese—BUT I’m no longer dreaming of sourdough loaves—the small wins matter!)

Days 16-20—I glow, I cry, I resist being preachy

These are dark days. But then, my yoga instructor mentions that my skin is glowing. Somehow this pushes me to keep going. In fact, I look in the mirror extra this week, trying to convince myself that glowing skin is better than a grilled cheese on sourdough. Also, I get my teen children to start looking at their sugar intake—UM HAVE YOU CHECKED THE “HEALTHY CEREAL” sugar values?! (Honestly, I vowed not to turn into a preachy sugar-free-maniac-mama, but I owe it to my kids to at least raise their awareness. Hopefully it’ll lead to some revelations.)

Days 21-25—I say no to poutine (a miracle)

I travel to Montreal this week. That means I longingly gaze at the poutine my colleagues are consuming. (Poutine is my favorite food.) It’s a miracle: I. Don’t. Have. Any. I repeat: “poutine will be here tomorrow if you want some” over and over—I seriously survive one meal at time this week. (I also don’t have wine or desserts and confirm that I’m pretty much a salad and western omelet superstar.) Oh, and I try new cheeses….

Days 26-30—Um… I survived! Am I less sweet?

True confessions: On day 28 even though I can see the finish line, I have to cross the street so I don’t walk past my favorite bakery. But I actually enjoy my can of tuna, and the blackberries I have for breakfast taste sweet—I savor each one. And on day 30? I weigh myself. I’m down 5.5 pounds. This feels significant! Also, I guess I’ve changed my mind about not turning into a sugar-free-maniac-mama because there’s suddenly no white rice in our house and we have a brown-rice discussion at the table which is met with a few teen grimaces. I can handle it.

My next steps… (Hint: they’re sugar-free ones.)

I can’t ignore that my skin looks nice and my eczema has gone away. To me, these things speak to me in a really personal way about how good it’s been to get rid of the added sugar in my life. And I love that my clothes feel just a bit better. At this point—now that I’m not dreaming about bread products ALL THE TIME—I think I’d be really dumb not to keep going. I need to do some modifications—things like more fiber, more yoga, and less cheese. I may also give myself permission to have a few bites of poutine, or a glass of wine. But I’ll have to form some rules around that so I don’t veer too far from this weird and unexpected sugar-free path I’ve found myself on.

Bottom line: I’m not a doctor and I don’t do everything right. But this sugar-free experiment? It feels like I’m taking a few good steps (one foot in front of the other, one day at a time) in the right direction.