I Banned Sugar From My Diet for a Week and Here's What Happened
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I Banned Sugar From My Diet for a Week and Here's What Happened

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I Banned Sugar From My Diet for a Week and Here's What Happened
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Just Say No

I don’t think of myself as having a sweet tooth. Sure, I enjoy some ice cream every now and again, but do I have an issue with sugar? No way. Or, that's what I would have said if you'd asked me before I banned sugar from my diet for a week. Whether you're looking to limit your sugar intake due to a health condition such as Type 2 diabetes, are trying to lose some weight, or just want to take a break from the sweet stuff or cut back a bit, read on to find out what the experience of a sugarless week was like for me.

(Note: Before making any changes to your diet, be sure to consult with a health professional. The following is based on personal experience and should not be construed as medical advice.)

The Rules
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The Rules

Banning sugar for me meant no white sugar, brown sugar, fructose, honey, agave, or fruit. The only exception would be a half cup of berries a day, which is about 7.5 of the 50 grams that are the recommended daily intake for an adult female. I would also avoid foods that have sugar added, like ketchup and most yogurt, as well as beer, wine, and cocktails with any added sweetness.

Artificial Sweeteners
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No Fake Sweets, Either

The other rule I gave myself: no artificial sweeteners. Sure, they're not technically sugar, but they have some potentially undesirable health effects, and felt like cheating in this case. The only source of added sweetness that I would allow myself was Stevia, a natural sweetener 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar, low in calories, and generally recognized as one of the safest of the sugar substitutes. I ended up just using it once, but it was good to know that it was an option.

Worries
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Worries

I go to the gym around three times a week, and normally reward myself with a few squares of my favorite dark chocolate. Not that I need the chocolate, but it sure helps. What if, without my reward, I wasn't as faithful in my gym habit? What if I was cranky more often without sugar? Or tired? Could I really do this?

Research
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Research

I knew that, without a game plan, it would be all too easy to go off track. So, I browsed the internet for advice from people who had gone off sugar as well. From what I read, I would need lots of good protein and fats to stay full, and some of my favorite veggies around for snacks.

Stocking Up
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Stocking Up

Next, a trip to the grocery store was in order. I picked up staples like eggs, whole grains, and veggies. I also let myself splurge on some favorite foods — cultured butter, Spanish olive oil, organic avocados, and unsweetened local greek yogurt. If I was going to make it, it would take lots of healthy fat and protein.

Picking a Day
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Picking a Day

I chose to start on a Wednesday. I didn't want to start over the weekend, when I was out and about and could easily give in to the temptation of a doughnut at my favorite coffee shop. I also didn't want to start on a Monday, because if it happened to be a terrible Monday (likely), then my willpower could very easily disappear when I came upon my favorite chocolate. Wednesday was far enough away from the start of the work week that I wouldn't be cranky about having just ended my weekend, but also far enough away from the next weekend that I could get my act together for a few days before being tested by weekend bliss.

Day One
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Day One

I don't love eggs for breakfast, but they ended up making the most sense. I initially wanted to do a not-so-sweet cereal, like Cheerios (one gram of sugar per cup, thank you very much), as a quick and healthy start, but then I looked at the sugar content of milk, which was 12 grams per cup or a quarter of my recommended sugars for the day. Sure, it wasn't added sugar, but lactose is sugar — and that was more sugar than I was comfortable with.

Breakfast
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Breakfast

Eggs it was! I prefer them scrambled, and decided to treat myself by stirring in a bit of cream cheese and chives midway through cooking. The whole thing took all of five minutes to prepare, and I was impressed at how delicious it was. I added a tablespoon of milk to my coffee, and felt smug about how easy this was going to be.

Stealing Your Free Time
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Hunger Pains

That smugness lasted until 10:30 a.m., at which point I noticed that I was getting hungry. Strange. I pushed on until noon, and by then I was ravenous. I grabbed a Cobb salad, and finished it in approximately three minutes. Still hungry, I grabbed another cup of coffee and doctored it up with a dash of stevia. I felt a bit better, but still didn’t feel completely satiated. Actually, a nap sounded good.

Detox Cravings
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Detox Cravings

These feelings of hunger and exhaustion were the case for the first few days. Despite eating perfectly filling meals, I spent more time than usual feeling hungry and/or tired, as my body slowly adjusted. I spent most of my time thinking about what I was going to eat when the week ended. Doughnuts! Ketchup on French fries! Ben & Jerry's! Even bananas! Working out helped keep my energy up, but I did miss my chocolate treat — at least for the first few days.

Day Two
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Day Two

Thursday was awful. My mother, not knowing that I was avoiding sugar for the week, sent me a package of her famous cookies — my favorite food in the world. There are much bigger problems in the world than my temporary and self-imposed lack of sugar, but at that moment, not being able to have a cookie was just about the worst thing I could imagine. I quietly, defeatedly put them in the freezer, then texted a friend to meet me at our neighborhood bar. I drank two well-deserved martinis that night.

Day Three
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Day Three

Friday night, rather than going out, I went to the gym, then went to the store for a couple protein-heavy snacks, like chunky peanut butter (without added sugar, of course), bacon, chickpeas, and the ingredients for keto bread. I threw all the bacon in the oven when I got home to keep in my fridge for when I needed a snack. The chickpeas were used for making fried chickpeas, a perfect salty (and sugar-free) snack. Keto bread was quick, easy, and maybe a bit too delicious — I ate the whole mini loaf for dinner, slathered in butter.

Day Four
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Day Four

By Saturday, the manic cravings started to subside. I was still tempted by the doughnuts at the greenmarket and the chocolate on sale at the grocery store — well, to be honest, I bought some of the chocolate, but for later — though it was easier to say no in the moment. As a treat, I stopped by my favorite cheese shop and sampled a few of my favorite creamy cheeses, eventually settling on Nettle Meadow Kunik, a luscious triple crème made with goat's milk and cow cream in upstate New York. At $36 a pound, it's not cheap, but I deserved a splurge.

Day Five
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Day Five

Sunday was easy. Rather than open myself up to temptation again, I invited friends over for brunch and made shakshuka, my favorite quick and easy dish. Later, when I went to the gym, I barely missed my chocolate reward — the berries felt like a treat when they were the only sweet thing I’d had all day.

Day Six
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Day Six

Monday is never my favorite day, and I expected it to be even harder after banning sugar for the week. Nope. If anything, I had more energy and my mood was more balanced. I can't remember the last time a Monday was so easy.

Shape Up Without a Gym
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Day Seven

The final day. Or was it? I felt so clear and energetic and positive. Waking up was pleasant, my workout was a breeze, and the bumps in my day felt manageable. If being off sugar improved my mood this greatly, I'd be happy to do it for longer than a week.

Results
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Results

Other accounts I've read of giving up sugar mention side effects like weight loss and clearer skin, and I did not notice either of those things, though perhaps I would have needed to go longer than a week. My sleep did slightly improve, though, and after that first horrible day, I only needed one cup of coffee in the morning. After the cravings subsided, I wondered what all the fuss had been about.

In the Face of Temptation
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In the Face of Temptation

When that next Wednesday came and I could finally have sugar again, I didn't. Instead of rushing to the ketchup, the Ben & Jerry's, the doughnuts, the brownies, or any of the other few dozen sugary treats I had dreamt about, I had a banana with peanut butter. Christine from four days ago would have been shocked and appalled. But Wednesday Christine didn't want extra sugar, and didn't need it.

Next Sugary Steps
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Next Sugary Steps

The first sugar I had was my post-workout chocolate, and that's been the bulk of my sugar since the detox. There is something so satisfying about a few bites of dark chocolate after a good, hard workout. Plus, dark chocolate has loads of health benefits, and just as importantly, I really enjoy it. For me, it's a worthwhile indulgence.

Would I Do It Again?
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Would I Do It Again?

Was banning sugar for a week hard? Of course. Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, after having done it, I think more about the sugar that I eat as part of my day, and indulge far less. If it doesn’t feel like a special treat, I don’t do it. Especially considering all of the evidence that suggests it’s not all that good for us, I’m much better off avoiding it with only a couple well-deserved treats here and there.