Quitting Sugar: Reflections On The First 2 Weeks

I decided to give up sugar at the beginning of March. I’m not necessarily religious, but my husband is Catholic and I usually join him in giving up a vice during Lent. Quitting sugar  — or at least limiting how much we eat — has been a goal for both of us for a long time and this seemed like the perfect time to try.

Sugar is definitely my vice and I’ve tried to quit before. I unfortunately didn’t have much long-term success quitting sugar the first time, despite feeling great without all that sugar in my system for a few months. Sugar has been a lifelong struggle for me, and is even the center of a long-running joke among my friends. At sleepover parties in grade school, I got extremely grumpy — and kind of scary — when I ate too much sugar because I hardly ever had treats or soda at home (something I appreciate now — thanks mom!) It was so bad that my friends all noticed and joked not to feed me any cookies or I’d bite their heads off. Honestly I think sugar still has that effect on me. I’ve just gotten better at dealing with the sugar hangovers.

 

Why Is Sugar Bad?

Most people agree that too much of any one thing is bad, so why would sugar be any different? Unlike most food groups, sugar is addictive and even small amounts can affect your health. I’m not just saying that. Research shows sugar is as addictive as cocaine and that it increases your risk of heart disease, among other things.

The main reason I think sugar is dangerous has nothing to do with sugar itself. It has to do with marketing. The sugar industry continually downplays the negative effects of sugar, making it hard for consumers to decide anything for themselves. How do you know what to believe when so many experts are telling you sugar is no big deal? And hey, I’m obviously not an expert. But I do know how I feel when I eat too much sugar, and it’s not a great feeling. I’m going to side with the people who tell you to take everything you hear from pro-sugar industries with a grain of salt.

 

Thoughts So Far On Quitting Sugar

This isn’t my first attempt at quitting sugar, but a lot of feelings from my first attempt are coming back to me. Here’s what’s going through my head during first few days of attempt number 2:

  • Sugar. Is. Everywhere. You don’t really notice it when you’re not trying to avoid it. Now that I’m trying to quit, advertisements, people’s lunches at work, my own pantry, and the aisles full of candy at the store are really popping out at me.
  • Sugar is in a lot of foods you wouldn’t expect. I had to teach myself how to recognize sugar in all its forms. Pretty much any ingredient with the suffix “-ose” is sugar.
  • It’s so much easier to quit this time. Last time I tried quitting was almost two years ago. I had never attempted to stop eating sugar before then and the cravings were insanely bad. I had major withdrawal. This time I honestly don’t feel like I’m missing out. I suppose that’s good news for anyone else who’s afraid they can never quit. Speaking from my experience, I think it might actually be possible to give up sugar for good.
  • Having a “cheat day” is a terrible idea. Last Sunday, we got some treats at the store and decided we earned them. I ate a whole bag of sweets and instantly felt like garbage. Eating that much sugar made my head feel like it was filled with syrup. Now I realize sugar always makes me feel like that, but it was hard to notice when I ate it every day.
  • I haven’t lost weight but I feel better about how I look. My skin might be getting clearer. I’m feeling pretty healthy, like I’m running at full capacity for once.
  • I don’t think I’ll ever give up sugar completely. Thinking back to the first time I tried quitting, I was trying to figure out why I failed. I think I set my standards so high that it was unrealistic to maintain them, which made the lazy part of me just give up. If I want a chai latte once a week, I think I can do that without spiraling out of control.

 

The Next Steps

In the next two weeks, I think I’ll put together a few lists to help make quitting sugar easier. One will be a list of simple things to tell people when they ask why I don’t eat sugar. The other will be a guide to fighting cravings without caving in. These are two things I wish I had the first time. I think they’ll still help on my second sugar-quitting attempt.

Do you want to quit sugar? The first time I gave up sugar I was inspired by the book I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson. If you’re looking for a good resource, definitely start there.

Stay tuned for the lists and my update on the next two weeks!

Robin Pletzer

Robin lives in Hopkins, MN and works at a local nonprofit. She has a BS in English from UW-River Falls where she met her husband in a creative writing class. In her spare time, she can be found exploring state parks, drawing up blueprints for her dream teardrop camper, writing, and knitting (follow her projects on Instagram @knitwander).