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I Quit Sugar and Here Are 3 Things That Happened

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

what happens when you quit sugar

Do you know that on average we eat around 14 teaspoons of white sugar a day? That’s about half of what the health specialists recommend.

Eating 14 teaspoons of white sugar may seem excessive, but trust me, it is not. I always thought about myself as someone who eats healthy. I have been following a plant-based diet for over 20 years, but I consumed an enormous amount of sugar without knowing about it.

But a few years ago, I hit the bottom of my physical and mental health and needed a way out. To conquer stress, depression, burnout, and grief, I embarked on a sugar journey. If you are thinking about quitting sugar for just a week, a month, or for good, read on to find out what happens when you quit eating sugar.

Is Sugar Bad for You?

You most likely have heard many stories about sugar and may be wondering if sugar is bad for you. In a nutshell, the consumption of refined sugar can lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, inflammation, or cardiovascular disease.

I suspect that you are like me and know about the health risks. I certainly knew that and still consumed refined sugar. Well, one thing I have learned during my wellness journey is that we rarely do things based on the knowledge we have.

We do things based on our emotions.

But putting emotions aside and looking from the biochemical side, we need to make an important distinction here. We need to look at the type of sugar we are talking about and its source. Because not all sugar is bad.

First of all, sugar is a type of carbohydrate. It occurs naturally in products such as fruits and vegetables (glucose), fruit (fructose), milk (lactose), and wheat and barley (maltose). And it is needed for your body to function correctly.

The other type of sugar is commonly referred to as refined sugar. It is mostly added to products to enhance their flavour or as a preservative. Your local GP would call this type of sugar empty calories.

So, it is not that all sugar consumption is unhealthy. It is what type of sugar you eat that makes the difference.

What Happens When You Quit Sugar?

There is a direct connection between the overconsumption of processed sugar and the quality of your emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. So, before you even embark on a journey of quitting sugar, you need to ask yourself what you want to get out of it.

When I decided to quit eating sugar, I was trying to figure out how I could boost my energy levels and stop the emotional rollercoaster. I lived in a constant state of stress, battling depression, burnout, and going through a grieving process. To say that I wasn’t feeling motivated and showing up as my best self would be an understatement.

And the more research I did, the more convinced I was about the refined sugar involvement. So, I eliminated all sugar from my diet (the naturally occurring too) for eight weeks. Today I consume naturally occurring sugar and don’t consume refined sugar at all.

What I am about to say next may seem scary, but refined sugar is very addictive. And when you quit an addiction, the first thing that happens is the withdrawal symptoms. I experienced muscle pains and aches, headaches, irritability, fatigue, and low energy.

But once the initial withdrawal symptoms were gone, something else happened. Here are the three main things.

#1 My Taste Buds Changed

Have you ever eaten Brussels Sprouts and said that they were bitter? Or maybe you ate a piece of cake and found it very sweet? It was your taste buds talking.

I used to put two teaspoons of sugar into my morning coffee, otherwise, it wasn’t sweet enough. I would also sprinkle some sugar on top of my grapefruit to make it taste less sour.

My sugar-free diet started with eliminating all sugar, the refined and the naturally occurring. I started slowly by reducing my sugar intake, first by 25%, increasing to 50%, then 75%, and then cutting it completely.

I eliminated any obvious sugar-loaded products such as sweets and products with hidden sugar, like for example ketchup. And as the weeks progressed, I removed all fruit (including tomatoes) and even certain vegetables (e.g. beetroot). Until I didn’t consume any sugar at all.

After eight weeks, I started adding foods with naturally occurring sugar, such as vegetables and fruit (hello tomatoes, kiwi, and apple), and other products like coconut yogurt.

The first thing I noticed was that the food tasted different. Not necessarily bitter, but just different. It shows how our taste buds are programmed to want sweet things. In a way, they become numb to different tastes.

It means that something that is not bitter will taste that way to us. But to reprogram your taste buds, you need to strip them of all sugar so they can re-learn flavours again.

Today, I cannot tolerate refined sugar. What’s more, even one small piece of cake made of natural sugars such as dates, coconut, or fruit is too sweet for me.

#2 I Stopped Having Sugar Cravings

I used to start my days with black coffee and two sugars. I was busy and didn’t have time to have a sit-down breakfast in the morning, so my go-to was muesli bars. If you think about it, by mid-morning, I have already consumed enough recommended sugar intake for the day.

I often felt energized once I was loaded up on my muesli bars. But that energy wore off quickly, and I felt depleted. So, of course, I was looking for a quick boost of energy and reached out for something sweet.

Biochemistry 101 teaches us that our body uses carbohydrates (aka sugar) and fats for energy. Carbohydrates are converted for quick delivery, therefore, are used first when we need to spring to action. They also burn more quickly.

Because the energy distribution is uneven, you have ups and downs with your energy levels, and you experience mood swings. In addition, any carbohydrates that your body burns to produce energy need to be replaced.

That is when you will be looking for something sweet to eat to fuel up. You have sugar cravings.

And when you are hungry, what do you usually eat? I know that it wasn’t kale for me. I ate whatever was easy, fast, and convenient. And that almost always meant processed sugar.

Because I couldn't get grocery-bought products (they usually contain sugar), I had to stock up on meals that were sugar-free.

Planning in advance what and when I eat gave me a better chance of controlling my blood sugar, managing my energy levels, and eliminating impulse buying. I still do that today.

#3 I Had More Energy

My goal in quitting sugar was to increase energy levels. But to be honest, the first few weeks were tough. And the withdrawal process left me with even less energy.

So, what changed?

You see, the principle in making any changes in your habits is that what is removed, needs to be replaced. I was eliminating all sugars from my diet, but at the same time, I was adding more healthy fats.

As mentioned earlier, our body uses carbohydrates and fats for energy. While carbohydrates are used when we need a quick boost of energy fats are used for a slow burn. It means that when your body uses fats to burn for energy, you can sustain it for longer.

I noticed that I didn’t have drastic blood sugar drops anymore, and my energy levels were even. I also didn’t rely on quick boosts of carbohydrates to lift me up.

Because I felt more energetic, I felt motivated to be more active. Energy creates energy, so the more I exercised, the more energy I had. Without the added sugar.

Is It Worth It to Quit Sugar?

My way out of stress, burnout, and depression was by eliminating refined sugar from my diet. I also changed my taste buds, stopped my sugar cravings, and increased my energy levels.

The journey wasn’t easy, especially since, whether you realise it or not, sugar is very addictive. And the first thing you experience will be withdrawal symptoms. But quitting eating sugar is worth it just to learn the effect it has on the biochemical level.

Don't be afraid to shake up the way you eat. We often follow a familiar path out of habit. But unsupportive eating habits can be stopped. And for me quitting sugar was stopping a habit that no longer served me.

So, how about you? Is there a habit in your life that you would like to quit?

Ready to uplevel your wellness and get started with a plant-based diet? Get your copy of my NEW e-book The wholehearted diet. Discover the power of plant-based eating, stress less, and have more energy.

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