We’ve all heard about sugar cravings and withdrawals, but I wanted to see what would really happen when I had no sugar for eight full weeks. Does living without sugar live up to its promise of more energy and a smaller waist size? You can see our 30 day elimination results here or read on to see what eight whole weeks of going without sugar yielded for me. Let’s find out!
A Not-So-Sweet Story
Is sugar really so bad for you in the first place? Here’s what we know. In 1972, a British scientist named John Yudkin wrote, “If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned.”
Since then, the food industry has made it a point to limit added sugar, focus on real foods (i.e. food in its most natural state), and address the growing obesity rate in the US and around the world.
If only. The truth is that since then, the sugar industry has only grown, capitalizing on the sweet tooths of children and busy parents with the convenience of sugary cereals, snacks, and desserts. And that growing obesity rate, which was 15% of Americans in 1980, turned into 35% by 2000.
While the consumption of sugar is of course not solely to blame, Yudkin observed that sugar, which is processed in the liver where it then turns to fat, is “a pure carbohydrate, with all fibre and nutrition stripped out.” It was sugar, he found, that had a greater link to the growing rate of heart disease.
It’s not just the consumption of sugar that has become alarming, but that sugar is now so pervasive in our food culture that limiting it or cutting it out completely can feel overwhelming. That’s why I went eight weeks without sugar to see if all its promises and challenges were true. Here’s what I found!
Why I Went 8 Weeks with No Sugar
For some background, my name is Athena and I’m the head of education for HUM. I have a passion for beauty as well as a certification in nutrition from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I’d heard about Sarah Wilson’s 8 Week I Quit Sugar program back when I was in nutrition school living in Australia, but was never able to fully commit to the program.
Then on the first day of spring this year, I decided I really wanted to clean up my diet and get more energy, so I took the plunge! I chose the I Quit Sugar program because I really believe in her philosophy. It’s not about cutting calories—which never works for me because I feel deprived and rebel—but about adding more nutritious foods. She makes the distinction that fructose is what we want to avoid in sugar, as fructose is what makes us eat more, converts into fat, and makes us sick. She also allows for certain types of red wine and coffee, so you can still enjoy the things you really love!
My goals for going eight weeks with no sugar were to have more energy, lose inches around my waist, feel lighter, and most importantly attain a healthier lifestyle full of whole, nutritious foods.
Week 1, feeling
For this week, I was supposed to limit my intake of sugary drinks, desserts, high fructose fruits, and chocolate. Luckily, this wasn’t that hard for me since I already don’t like sugary drinks or eat too much dessert. I do love fruit, however, so I’m happy that the first week was just a transitional period to slowly reduce sugar. It’s a much easier way to transition so I can mentally prepare!
It’s not part of the program, but I also decided to give up coffee for the first week to help detox. It was hard at first, but I began having hot water with lemon in the mornings to replace my coffee, and it actually made me feel a lot better!
My week 1 results:
I didn’t notice too much of a difference in my skin or weight. However, I did feel clearer in my thinking, a little more energized, and less anxious.
My favorite recipe this week:
Cauliflower rice with coconut oil, salt, pepper, cayenne. Delicious!
Week 2, feeling
This week was the one I was most afraid of— the first week I had to give up all sugar, including fruit, so the body can recalibrate itself. I learned that the body cannot tell what it actually wants with sugar in the way. As Sarah Wilson states in the program, “Whenever sugar is in the system, this is impossible to know as we are responding to cravings, highs and lows, and not true hunger and need. It takes about two months to find your blank slate. After that, it’s over to you.”
I also realized that you have to be super careful about added sugar when eating out at restaurants. I went out to a Thai restaurant in Malibu and asked for a green curry, but had to have them remove the sugar because they add so much for flavoring!
My week 2 results:
Skin has cleared a little. I’m very aware and sensitive of added or artificial sugars in all foods.
My favorite recipes this week:
Organic eggs with grass-fed butter, avocado, spinach, and bacon. The trick is to add more healthy oils, fats, and protein to satiate my sweet tooth.
Tip of the week:
Watch documentaries and read articles on why sugar is bad. It’ll totally get you motivated! My favorites are the documentaries Fed Up and The Secrets of Sugar.
Week 3, feeling
This week, I finally started to get used to not having fruits. I don’t like the taste of coffee as much, and I can tell if something has even the slightest bit of sugar or artificial sweetener.
I’m starting to crave chocolate and sweets, especially when I’m tired. When this happens, I force myself to eat real food. I’ve found that maybe I wasn’t actually craving sweets, but was just tired or bored. The trick is to have healthy foods chopped, washed, and ready to grab for a quick fix!
My week 3 results:
I lost about three pounds this week. My stomach feels more toned and slim.
I’m also saving money on coffee and by not eating out as much. I’ve been cooking way more. I feel better, save money on eating out, and crave less junk food!
My favorite recipes this week
Lamb with vegetables, broccoli salad, and chicken with celery puree.
Tip of the week:
Meet the nine C’s! These are nine snacking alternatives to sugary treats: chia seeds, cacao, chai tea, coconut oil, coconut water, coffee, cheese, chicken, cinnamon. These have helped a lot!
Week 4, feeling
I’m starting to get used to everything and have fewer cravings for sugar, caffeine, and even alcohol. My body is changing even more and so are my taste buds, so it’s very interesting to observe. I’ve substituted Greek yogurt (full fat of course!) for ice cream and other sweets. It really does the trick when I’m longing for something naughty. I add in some chia seeds and it’s amazing.
My week 4 results:
I had more energy, slept better, and felt more hydrated.
Tip of the Week:
I’ve been crowding out and staying busy when a craving kicks in by running errands or taking a hot bath to get my mind off of it!
Week 5, feeling
This week was so much easier! I’m totally used to no sugar now, and actually prefer it. I have my recipes and go-to foods and snacks down to the T now. I’m beginning to actually enjoy it. I’m nervous to go back to sugar because I don’t want to open that door back up. I have to be careful when I can start letting it back in.
My week 5 results:
I feel like I lost five pounds in my stomach area and feel lighter and more clear minded.
My favorite recipes this week:
My breakfast: green powder mixed with water, plus this brekkie below:
Tip of the week:
I’ve been making my lunch every day and eating at home almost every night. I think this is the key to staying healthy and eating only pure, real foods. Instead of meeting friends for dinner or lunch, I can meet them for coffee, tea, a glass of wine, or a walk or bike ride. It’s making me get more creative!
Week 6, feeling
At this stage, we’re able to incorporate about one serving a day of certain fruits (like raspberries, kiwi, and blueberries) and low amounts of sugar back into our diet. This week went pretty well overall, but I was getting some cravings toward the end. I noticed that once I opened the lid to allowing some sugar in with a few fruits, I wanted more. Sugar is so addicting once you open the taste for it again; your brain releases different hormones and the cravings kick in.
My week 6 results:
I have cravings for gluten-free cakes and organic ice cream. I used to think of them as healthy, but they’re actually loaded with sugar. I have to be careful with foods that claim to be natural or healthy, and always read the labels.
My favorite recipes this week:
This week I started my day with Raw Beauty green superfood powder in water to alkalize my body before I eat anything. It’s been amazing; I feel more energized and crave less sugar. Plus my digestion has been working really well!
Week 7, feeling
I feel like my habits have pretty much changed. It’s amazing that after a few weeks you can change a habit. I wake up craving the superfood nutrients from my green powder; my body loves them. Actually, the thought of coffee isn’t appetizing to me at all first thing in the morning because my body doesn’t feel like it provides me with any vital nutrients.
My week 7 results:
I feel much more hopeful for many other things I want to change knowing it only takes a few weeks of awkward adjustments. I’m now totally craving my green juice in the morning and not coffee at all which I NEVER thought would happen! It’s the best thing ever.
My favorite recipe this week:
One other thing to mention about this week was it was Cinco De Mayo, and I love margaritas! I ended up making a healthy version with the fruits I was allowed: a bit of tequila, fresh grapefruit, lime, coconut aminos, and sparkling water.
Good news when it comes to alcohol! Sarah says, “Wine, beer, and pure spirits contain minimal fructose because the fructose in the fruit used to make the spirit is what converts to alcohol.” So luckily this week I could add in the small amounts of sugar in these fruits and tequila to make my healthy margarita!
Week 8, I Made It! Feeling
I made it! I can’t believe I did it! I survived the eight weeks and I feel awesome. I took away a lot of gems and lessons that I’ll definitely continue to use.
My Results from 8 Weeks without Sugar
1. My digestion has totally improved, and I feel much more balanced and healthy.
2. I’m way less bloated.
3. I lost 5 pounds.
4. I have more energy in the morning.
5. I’m in a better mood.
6. I’m able to think more clearly.
7. I have less anxiety.
8. I’ve learned about my taste buds and what I actually crave and want!
New Healthy Habits I’ll Continue…
1. Continue to drink my Raw Beauty green superfood powder mixed in 12 oz. of cold water first thing every morning.
2. Substitute dessert for fresh berries, a glass of wine, or little bit of grass-fed cheese with nuts.
3. Treat myself with full-fat Greek yogurt with chia seeds—and sometimes raspberries if I want a touch of sweetness—instead of ice cream.
4. Snack on homemade “nut bark” instead of chocolate: almond butter mixed with coconut oil, cacao nibs, and coconut chips. Lay it flat on aluminum to freeze, then break up so it is like a chocolate almond coconut bark.
5. Opt for gluten-free whenever I can.
6. Always choose grass-fed and organic meats and dairy.
7. Cook more meals at home and take lunches to work to save money. Plus, it’s therapeutic. It’s not as hard as I thought! It only takes a bit of planning and dedicating time for yourself which is harder thAn you think. Make it fun, play some music, and enjoy a glass of vino or lemon water while you do it!
8. Choose red wine instead of sugary mixed drinks. (Good news! Red wine contains minimal fructose; the fructose in grapes is what ferments to become alcohol.)
9. Have some type of green in every meal—breakfast, lunch and dinner!
10. Make water interesting with lemon, cucumber, or berries and ice so I drink more water and less coffee.
11. It was also great having a buddy to do this with. We gave each other ideas, motivation, and encouragement, so it’s a great tip to take forward anytime I want to change my habits!
Although it was difficult at first to let go of the cravings, I think it was SO worth it to get back in touch with my taste buds and see what my body actually wants. I feel much more in control of my food choices and what I put into my body. That’s what I really wanted to get out of this experience. I’m also much more aware of which foods contain sugar. I look forward to continue learning what my body actually wants so I can feel happy and full of vitality, life force, and natural energy!