Week 4: Giving Up Sugar

No, Not Sugar!!!

I've decided to give up sugar for a week. I don't mean all sugar, just the added stuff. No cakes or cookies, no tasty pumpkin-flavored treats, no sauces with added sugar. I will still eat fruit, so if I'm really craving something sweet, I can have grapes. But I'll stay away from most sugary things, including natural and artificial sweeteners. Other than my Diet Coke problem, I already stay away from artificial sweeteners, so that's not a big part of this for me.

I've given up sugar before. I've given up a lot of foods, for a few months at a time, when my husband tried to figure out what was causing his eczema via the elimination diet, which we did twice because he refused to believe the results (it was dairy). We ate a lot of rice, chicken, and peas. There were other options, but I'm drawing a blank on them. We could have maple syrup and most fruits on that diet, just not ones that could cause eczema. I did the diet with Eric because it was easier than trying to eat two different diets, I wanted to be supportive, and I was curious if I'd react to anything. I did have slight reactions to pork and onions, but that was really about it. Some problems I'd experienced previously, such as joint pain, went away with the diet and never came back.

Me being force-fed my own wedding cake almost 11 years ago

Me being force-fed my own wedding cake almost 11 years ago

I didn't have any reaction to adding sugar back in. Still, I've long considered myself a sugar addict. I used to be the person who always got dessert, and who chose a sweet treat any time there was an option. When I think of weddings, the first thing that comes to mind is the cake (although I've been seriously put off by the popularity of fondant icing, which ruins the cake for me). When I think of childhood food, I think of Little Debbies (Oatmeal Pies and Fancy Cakes, especially) and Kook-Aid.

So when I read about the hazards of eating sugar, I worry a little bit. Yesterday, knowing that I was going to be giving up sugar today, I had a chocolate shake. You know, just in case somehow I NEVER GET TO HAVE A SHAKE AGAIN. The horror.

Reasons to Give up Sugar

If you Google “effects of sugar,” you'll find numerical lists that go up over 100. That's a lot of side effects!

Here are some of the most common problems:

  • Weight Gain – Empty calories. If you've ever tracked your calories, and I have been for about six months now, you know those sweets really bump up the total number. My shake yesterday had 900 calories. That's more than a meal, wasted on a treat.
  • Diabetes – An awful illness that you don't want to bring on yourself, period.
  • Chronic Disease – Regular sugar intake can increase your risk for other chronic diseases, including cancers and heart disease.
  • Others – Sugar is well-known to be bad for your teeth, but it's also bad for your liver, because fructose is processed in the liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, anyone?

This article, 10 Disturbing Reasons Why Sugar is Bad For You, has good information and links to sources, for those of you who want to decide for yourselves if any of this is true or not.

On a personal note, heart disease runs in my family, and a few years ago, before I did the elimination diet or any other sugar-limiting diet, I used to sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a pounding, racing heart. This always followed an evening when I ate a lot of sugar right before bed. Which is something I stopped doing, once I figured that out.

What Should I Give Up, Exactly? And Can I Still Drink?

I will not be eating any obvious sweet things, no more fruit than usual (one or two pieces a day), no fruit juice, no sweet alcoholic beverages (no sparkling wine or chocolate beer), and no added sweeteners of any kind, natural or artificial.

Glucose and fructose occur naturally in plants and fruit, and table sugar is a mix of the two. For my purposes, I'm going to give up added sugar, not fruit. The website I Quit Sugar with Sarah Wilson has a good discussion about this choice, if you'd like more information.

And can I still drink alcohol? I love to drink on weekends and when I go out. Eric brews beer. In my mind, giving up alcohol is a whole different issue from giving up sugar. So I'm not going to. Again, I Quit Sugar has another good article, Can I Drink Alcohol?, that almost completely excuses my continuing to drink.

One of the things she mentions is a lower tolerance when not eating sugar, and I have experienced that before. Once when coming off the elimination diet, and another time when I was trying a low-carb diet. So I'll be drinking carefully this week.

One could probably make up a thousand different “no sugar” diets, but that's the one I'm going with.

The Benefits

Then I went to Belgium and took pictures of sweets, because, you know, that's what normal people do. 

Then I went to Belgium and took pictures of sweets, because, you know, that's what normal people do. 

Here's what I hope to gain from this week of no sugar:

  • a better idea of where I eat sugar on a regular basis
  • a break from all the pumpkin and other sugary treats I find this time of year
  • a break from the Diet Coke addiction I keep coming back to
  • a better appreciation for the natural sweetness of fruit
  • a slightly healthier diet

My Game Plan and Resources

I've been using My Fitness Pal to track my calories, so I'll use that information as a measure of my sugar intake.

MFP gives me a baseline sugar allowance of 544 grams per week. Last week, that was bumped up to 648 grams through activity, but I logged 691 grams. 43 too many.

The week before, it was bumped to 659 grams, and I took in 773. 114 too many.

The week before that, bumped to 597, took in 618. 21 too many.

That's a trend I don't really want.

Other than just avoiding sugar and continuing to log my food, I plan to go through the kitchen today and get rid of or hide things I don't want to eat. I'm going to let my friends and co-workers know what I'm doing, in hopes that they'll be supportive, although I'll probably get just as many trying to tempt me.

While I don't think a little sugar here and there will kill me, I do think I'm probably eating too much and might have lost track of where it's all coming from. So I hope by taking this challenge, I'll end up more aware of the sources of sugar in my diet and hopefully be able to cut back in the future.  

I hope you'll consider joining me!

Read more about this challenge: 

Week Four: Dietary - No Sugar

  1. Day One
  2. Day Two
  3. Day Three
  4. Day Four
  5. Day Five
  6. Day Six
  7. Day Seven