By now you’ve heard the buzz. It’s all over the place. Sugar has a bad rap. You may have heard these lines: Sugar is as addictive as cocaine. (you scoff, but how long can you go without it?) Sugar makes you fat (despite the fact that Twizzlers are labelled “a fat free food.”) Sugar contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver disease, and insulin resistance. Sugar compromises your immune system. Sugar feeds cancer. Sugar is sweet…and so are you.
With such sensational, scary claims, it is almost hard to believe. Can the sweet stuff really be so bad? The more you read, the more you wonder.
If you want more info on the detriments of sugar, check out this concise, informative article published in Forbes magazine: What Sugar Does to your Brain. I for one, had always focused on what sugar does to my thighs, not my brain, so this was eye-opening. The fact that a chronic sugar habit can cause depression, not to mention obesity, diabetes, and even dementia, caught my attention. So many of us are waiting for a big diagnosis before we change our eating habits, but knowing that eliminating/reducing my sugar intake can just plain make me feel better about myself is enough for me to kick the habit and shelter my kids. The habits I start now will prevent the heartache of degenerative illnesses later, but immediate effects are available for the taking TODAY. Life is hard enough without sugar coating my brain!
I urge you to research the effects of sugar if you aren’t already familiar. I highly recommend the movie Hungry for Change (available on Netflix now!) as a way to have a candid discussion with your family about sugar. Learn all you can. But more than that, try it out. You can argue with scientific studies and stats all you want, but you can’t deny how your body functions (or doesn’t) when you test it yourself.
Be brave, be bold…embark on a sugar fast. You can do it. I recommend at least 2 weeks. It can take that long to get the white stuff out of your system and “reset” your tastes. Also, if your sugar fast is too short, you will experience the withdrawal symptoms and not the benefits. Hate to resume your sweets on a sour note! Think about it, what are you willing to try? My friend Tori, from the blog Tori’s Tasty Treats, is embarking on a 9 month fast! Set a goal that will be challenging, but doable.
Not only will the sugar fast reboot your sweet tooth and show you how your body functions without it, it will also draw attention to how much sugar you–and your family by association–consume. This info will help you make powerful decisions at the end of your experiment!
Just know you have to be strong, expect it. I find Days 3-4 are usually the hardest. You will battle cravings, but also withdrawal symptoms. Intensity depends on how much sugar you are used to. Watch for headaches, irritability (maybe warn your neighbors) and fatigue. In extreme circumstances, you can feel like you were hit with the flu! It is easier to get through the yucks when you realize what they are. In fact, knowing that sugar causes such mayhem in my body only strengthens my resolve to see it thoroughly purged! By day 6, symptoms will be mild and by day 7 you should have smooth(er) sailing. Check out tomorrow’s post to see some tips to help with your sugar fast.
If you can wrap your brain around that, you are ready to go. So what will you knock out during your sugar fast? That depends on how far you are willing to go. I am suggesting 3 levels of sugar fasting, see which one you are willing to try:
Three Levels of Sugar Fasting
No sugar (white, brown, powdered, the works), no corn syrup (especially HFCS), no artificial sweeteners. Remember, that means DIET sodas are off limits. Aspartame especially is more dangerous than sugar! There are plenty of healthy alternatives to these ingredients for you to choose from. Read my article on sugar substitutes to help you navigate these. Giving up sugar sounds simple enough, until you realize sugar is hiding EVERYWHERE. Do yourself a favor and be as diligent as you can in cutting sugar from your diet, you will reap the rewards!
Besides the harmful sweeteners, try temporarily forsaking all added or concentrated sweeteners, healthy or otherwise. The concept is simple: you are reprogramming your taste buds. The average American is overloaded with flavor, accustomed to super sweet and amped up ingredients. Think of all the times you see adjectives like “Bold, Max, Super, Xtra” or other words that suggest some sort of dare involved in eating the product. When you eat that way, you miss the more subtle but savory array of tastes in natural foods. If you can step off the sweet wagon altogether and just enjoy food in a simple state, your buds will acclimate. After 2 weeks, a glazed donut won’t just be sweet to you, it could cross into repulsive. A candy bar will make you run to the produce aisle. You will notice that greens are sweet, and a strawberry will taste like candy! You can go back to natural sweeteners if you wish, but you won’t need or crave as much.
If you are willing to go the extra mile and truly experience the benefits of a sugar detox, try eliminating all white flour from your diet too. That’s right, fight the white. White flour is metabolized in the body the same way white sugar is, causing insulin spikes and other problems. If you can’t cut it out, reduce refined flour as much as possible. During your sugar challenge, learn to equate (white) flour with sugar when you see it on labels.
Whichever level you choose to start with, know that you will have to read labels. You will be shocked to see where sugar is hiding! Please be diligent, give your body a fair chance.
Back to candy-coated reality. Back to the frosted everyday goodness. Before you jump headfirst into a pool of syrup, think carefully about your wellness and see if you notice any changes. Be thorough as you consider the following:
- How would you rate your energy level?
- Have you noticed any changes in your focus and clarity?
- How is your sleep quality?
- How is your general mood?
- Are your cravings for “junk food” stronger or weaker?
- Describe your appetite? Is it steady and controlled or fluctuating?
- What other differences, if any, have you noticed?
Inevitably (maybe even immediately) you will once again succumb to that white temptress, sugar. When you take your first bite of something sweetened, take note. Is it sweeter than you remember? Maybe a little too sweet? Your tolerance for sweet will be lower, your tastes have changed. Try to keep it that way!
In my experience, you will feel like a clearer, cleaner, stronger you after a detox like this. You may even look at the root beer float in front of you and think “you know, I really don’t want that in my body!” You might find your love affair with the sweet stuff has been downgraded to a crush, or maybe even annoying ex status!
You may not decide to abstain forevermore, but odds are you will have a new awareness of how much sugar you actually consume, where you can cut back, and why you should.
It can be done. This coming from the girl who used to eat sugar packets as an appetizer while waiting for a meal. (And I don’t just mean as a kid!) It can be done, and it is worth it.
If you do the sugar fast, let me know! I would love to hear your experiences. You can even Facebook yell at me during your frustrating moments, as long as you promise to share the love when you’re buttoning up your skinny jeans too!
Question: Do you think the detriments of sugar are exaggerated? Do you think sugar should be eliminated, reduced, or be eaten freely?