An Ode to Sugar

by Tammy Strobel on July 2, 2012

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Why I’m Quitting Sugar. by RowdyKittens

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Ever since my step-dad, Mahlon, passed away I’ve been eating a lot of sugar. In the weeks after his death, the only food I felt like eating included fruit, flavored yogurt, and scones. My drink of choice? Frappuccinos.

In short, my diet has been sugar heavy and if I’m really honest with myself — and you — it’s been this way since Mahlon had his first stroke in January. By March, I noticed how horrible my eating habits were and considered quitting sugar. I finally decided to give the challenge a try after my friend Vic emailed me. We decided to do this as a team and to hold each other accountable during the next few months.

So on Sunday, July 1, my no-sugar plan began. I went to the co-op and loaded up on eggs, nuts, coconut flakes, cheese and more. The first week of the program is all about scaling back on the amount of sugar you eat. I love this strategy because I don’t accept outright eating bans well and it gives me time to start developing a new habit. As Sarah says, “This first week is about a few easy, simple changes that aren’t too detailed or complicated, but that get you aware of options.”

I’ll be following Sarah Wilson’s no-sugar plan, gauging how the experience feels and writing about it too. I have a feeling that it will be good for both my body and mind.

Have you ever given up sugar? Share your story in the comments section.

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Want more information on quitting sugar? Check out Sarah Wilson’s ebook, I Quit Sugar.

1 Meg | One Love Meg July 2, 2012

I can’t believe I am actually reading this post right now. I was just researching online how I can get rid of a bladder infection (sorry if this is too much info) but it said the reason for it could be too much sugar and or bread. I am traveling and have had way more sugar and bread than I normally do at home. I think that I am in need of a no sugar make-over. I am going to check out this book you are using. I am sorry about your step father. I lost my step father last year, he was the reason I became vegetarian and cut out a lot of unhealthy choices in my life. I think it’s time to get back on the right path for long lives! Thanks for re-inspiring me!

2 Patricia July 2, 2012

I’ve given up sugar a couple of times in the last few years. Each time I do really well with no refined sugar at all for about a month at which time I start to feel like I’m “cured” and that a little bite of this or a little bite of that won’t hurt me… only to wake up a few weeks later to find that I am once again fully in the grips of sugar’s sweet clutches.
More recently I’ve gone with a more moderate approach. Not giving it up completely, but cutting back and being honest with myself as to why I want to eat the cookie (usually it’s emotional, not physical) and trying to deal with the emotion instead of numbing it with sugar.

I’m going to check out Sarah Wilson’s plan and may give no-sugar another go. Good luck with your no-sugar plan!

3 Cynthia July 2, 2012

Love the audio addition! I’ve put on way too many extra pounds over the last few years and finally reached a point where I’m very uncomfortable, low on energy and tired of not fitting into my clothes. Sugar is definitely a weakness for me, especially when I’m stressed. Then there’s the idea of food as a treat: “I deserve this chocolate bar because I achieved such and such”, but it’s not a treat to my body and this way of viewing food has to change. The no sugar idea seems like a good way to get rid of the worst food from your diet; I’ll be checking out Sarah Wilson’s plan and am looking forward to seeing how you tackle the challenge of sugar detox!

4 Kate July 2, 2012

Thanks for posting this! My partner and I recently decided to cut way back on our sugar intake but weren’t sure what “counts” as sugar and what doesn’t. I’ll have to check out Sarah Wilson’s book and look forward to reading about your experience as you “quit sugar.”

5 Brittany July 2, 2012

What is the almondy granola-looking stuff? I can’t tell what it is but it looks like it would be delicious!

6 Tammy Strobel July 2, 2012

@Brittany – It’s a sugar free granola from Sarah Wilson’s cookbook. Totally easy and yummy. My version included: 3 cups of coconut flakes, 2 cups of nuts, a dash of cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of chia seeds and about 4 tablespoons of melted butter. I mixed it all together and baked it for 20 minutes. Totally yummy!

7 Tabita July 2, 2012

The first time I gave up sugar was the spring before my wedding, 17 years ago. Since then I’ve done it several times with varying success. Most recently, I decided to do it as part of my year-long wellness project. However, this time I took a slightly different approach. Rather than cutting out sweets, I’ve cut out refined sugar. So I still enjoy honey, maple syrup, and a bit of agave nectar. This drastically cuts down simple carb intake, because most products are made with cane sugar or other unnatural sweeteners. I love it!

The most interesting discovery is that if I tell myself that I’m not going to eat any sugar, I end up eating it only on special occasions, which is exactly what I wanted to do (but I could never make it happen). Best of luck to you, and I will look forward to learn more about your Sarah’s no-sugar plan.

8 Jennifer July 2, 2012

I cut sugar nearly 100% out of my diet a few years ago, after being someone who could exist eating only cake, pie, and candy all day long. I felt better and after a few weeks, I didn’t even crave it any longer.

9 Jody Wright July 2, 2012

Hi Tammy,

It’s great that you were able to be mindful and notice the changes in your eating habits even while so many intense experiences have been going on in your life. I gave up sugar (in the form any processed sugars and most processed foods) a few years ago after working with a naturopath to try to improve my digestion as well as my relationship with food in general. While the first few months were definitely difficult, what I found after 3+ months was that sugary foods became less and less appealing, to the point where smelling even a highly processed muffin is totally revolting to me now and I wouldn’t be able to swallow it if I tried. I am completely uninterested in most desserts, and I no longer feel like sugar is a “treat” that I can eat if I “earn it” – it makes me feel so nauseous and yucky when I eat it that it takes no willpower at all to avoid it. I had no idea how much processed cereals and grains were affecting my blood sugar levels, and thus my hunger and energy levels before I eliminated sugars, and now I feel much more stable and happy, both physically and emotionally with respect to my relationship with food. I think your approach of avoiding an outright eating ban is essential – it’s much more effective and healthy in the long run than trying to change too much too soon. Good luck, and enjoy observing your experiences! Also, enjoy being grateful that we have access to so much excellent fresh and low-sugar produce in our part of the world!

10 Natalie July 2, 2012

Coincidentally I have been cutting down on these things as well after a recent trip to the doctor. I wish you success in your journey! Thanks for sharing it…it makes me feel not alone. :)

11 bethany July 2, 2012

I’m so happy to hear that you’re giving up sugar! For mostly selfish reasons, I admit… I’ve been thinking about giving up sugar for months. I don’t eat a ton of sugary treats, but it’s definitely something I crave and that out-of-control feeling of needing to satisfy a sugar craving tells me that it’s not a healthy relationship. I haven’t taken the plunge, mostly because I haven’t found a guide that I trusted. So congratulations on recognizing a need for yourself and then taking action to address it. I look forward to learning along with you and hopefully jumping in behind.

12 Kathi July 2, 2012

I cut most sugar out of my diet 5 weeks ago. I say most, because there seems to be “hidden” sugar in most processed foods (but I have cut out most processed foods, as well). For me it is easier to quit cold-turkey and I have read that as long as you are eating even a little sugar, you will crave it. I don’t miss it terribly, but I do “cheat” on average about every 10 days or so. Mostly on special occasions where homemade goodies are present. I have noticed that when I allow myself sugar on these occasions, it does seem to renew my cravings for it and I have to be very rigid about policing myself for the next couple of days…

13 Sarah Moriah July 2, 2012

I gave it up for 4 months in 1997 and I’ve regretted coming back ever since. My Nana has been off sugar for roughly 10 years and she looks beautiful for a 75 year old woman.

I highly recommend reading “Suicide by Sugar” by Nancy Appleton. Every time I read it, it’s a surge of motivation to keep going.

I’m slowly weeding it out. Being Celiac it’s hard to lose most grain based carbohydrates and also give up sugar, once I’m comfortable with my grain based carbs again I can go full fledged.

14 Alannah July 2, 2012

When I was about 13, I spent a month or so with my aunt in Michigan. She did not have any sugar in the house (except fruit), and when I got back home I told my mom I didn’t want to eat it any more. I went until my senior year in high school without eating any processed sugar (a trip to France was what got me eating it again). It’s funny though, ever since that time I easily get sick when I eat large amounts of sugar. I especially have to be careful with chocolate, because sometimes a really rich piece of cake will make me feel physically ill/nauseated. My system has never been able to handle sugar in the same way since I went for those 5-ish years without it. I make an effort to limit the amount I eat now (and I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, to be honest), but it’s still in nearly everything!

15 Sandra / Always Well Within July 2, 2012

Good luck, Tammy! I find myself reaching for sugar too when I feel stressed or feel I need / deserve a treat. You look like you are stocking up on some fantastic foods though so I have every confidence you will do well. I lived for several years without sugar, but now that I can tolerate it a bit it’s more of a challenge not to be tempted! You’re an inspiration.

16 Karen Marston July 2, 2012

I’m giving up sugar at the moment too – I’m starting with replacing all the processed things I would normally eat (chocolate bars, muffins, etc) with fruit. Every time I get a sugar craving, I’m making myself eat fresh fruit. If that doesn’t work, I’ll eat a Nakd bar (made of dates, cashews and cocoa). If that STILL doesn’t work, I’ll allow myself a small treat of whatever it is I’m craving. So far it’s working and I haven’t snacked on any processed sweet treats!

17 Sondi July 2, 2012

Sugar was the hardest thing for me to give up when I changed my diet. I tried to cut it out several times, but didn’t have much success – I always went back to it. It wasn’t until I truly understood what sugar was doing to my body and my health that I found the willpower to nix it for good. I have natural sweeteners on occasion (raw honey, dates, etc.), but the chocolate bar/candy aisle and dessert menus no longer tempt me. I just no longer crave refined sugar. You can do it!!

18 Frank Martin | Modern Monkey Mind July 2, 2012

I’ve been making some changes to diet myself and finding an improvement in quality of life, the most recent change being that I went vegetarian last month and, except on one or two occasions (maybe), intend to stay that way, eventually going vegan. Giving up sugar has been on my list as well. I’ve cut back on it a lot recently, though I generally have a small amount in my coffee in the morning (well, and the decent size box of junior mints I just finished off probably had a TON in there too.) I’ll be looking into the links you posted and likely joining you in your challenge, and blogging about it too!

19 Rose Byrd July 2, 2012

Tammy, I pretty much have cut out most sugar–except for the occasional, super-naughty, convenience store honey bun I still allow myself after several miles of power-walking! Therefore, I really like your friend’s plan to not go to extremes with cutting down on sugar. Love your shopping list for this first week. I still favor cheese and nuts and fresh fruit slices for snacks, along with a touch of all-natural peanut- or almond-butter. Wishing you all the best with your sugar banning eating plan! Still praying for your comfort is missing Mahlon!

20 Davi July 2, 2012

My brother and I gave up sugar and gluten in early March. Since then I’ve lost about 20 pounds and feel much better. My brother is a chef and occasionally he will make a black bean chocolate cake that is to die for. It does have honey in it, but no processed sugar or gluten. We try to keep that as a treat every so often. I find that I am an all or nothing person. If I even eat one little bit of sugar, I seem to lose control. I live in the South, so I found it hard to give up my sweet ice tea. But water will do! lol As time goes on, I find it easier to stay away from all of the processed foods and the candy aisle. I’ve been enjoying all of the black berries, cherries, and strawberries that have been available lately. I find that berries have just enough sweetness to keep my sweet tooth at bay.

I pray that you find peace as you walk through this difficult time. Just recognizing where your eating is coming from is amazing. Have fun finding alternatives to fill that sweet tooth void!

21 Pix July 2, 2012

Interesting topic! I’ve been addicted to many things, but sugar is the most persistent (mostly because it’s the most in-my-face). I’ve given up sugar in various ways, but the most distinct was for 2 months a few years ago, when I didn’t eat any sugar/natural sweeteners/gluten/refined grains. To be honest I found it to be a totally unsustainable diet, and I don’t remember feeling distinctly different – until I began eating white flour again, when it totally floored me and made me feel like my mind was a mushy cloud, and very tired. I have given it up for shorter periods since then, and I do notice that my energy (physical & mental) is more stable.

I do, however, flip-flop back and forth on this issue, which I haven’t heard others mention yet: Moderating or eliminating sugar is great, but it also alienates me from society to some extent. It makes many things difficult, like eating out, sharing celebrations (“what? you don’t want birthday cake?”), and sharing meals with other people who don’t share my eating habits. Sugar is a part of our society, and I do feel it has its place in the realm of celebration and other energetically high contexts. I also feel it’s more important for me to thankfully accept what’s offered to me when traveling/sharing with people, than to strictly say no sugar… For me the goal is to learn mental control and healthy emotional coping to be able to moderate my intake, rather than eliminate it. I commend you for experimenting with your own body to find out what’s right for you.

22 Cynthia July 3, 2012

@Pix I would have to agree. Cutting out one type of food completely can be very difficult to sustain. As much as I would agree sugar can be a very bad thing, it’s in too many food items to be able to comfortably eliminate it completely. While I’m happy to not follow /conform to everything society does, I do enjoy taking part in events and sharing food with friends and family, thus the occassional cake, pastry, glass of wine, etc. The key is moderation and learning mental control and better coping techniques – not easy, but so worth it once you start to see the results and feel better.

23 Sandra @ Living Lagom July 2, 2012

Sugar is my kyptonite. I’ve tried on many occasions to give it up, but I always end up back on the white stuff. My naturopath told me to avoid it as I suffer from adult acne. And even though I know I could have a nicer complexion, it’s not enough to keep me from consuming it! However, the more I think about my bad sugar habit, the more it’s REALLY starting to bother me that it has such a hold on me. Giving up sugar is something I have to stop telling myself I need to do and just do it!

24 Aime Lopez July 2, 2012

It is very nice to hear you! great idea about the audio!! you should open a Radio Station, The Rowdykittens Radio!! ;) and a lot of talks about what you write!! ;)

Ok, Sugar… just to give you an Idea about my relation with sugar, I have a white Cat named “Sugar”… how can I defend my self after that!!??…. I started with a Nutritionist last week, and start a “diet” that basically is NOT a Diet because if you see the schedule of the food I need to eat, is only healty food.. not junkie food…. so basically is based on fruits.. A lot of fruits and vegetables… so I´m trying, not saying that I´m doing everything just as the doctor said, but I stoped eating cookies (I´m a cookie monster) and I stop drinking sodas (my bad! I know!) and I stop eating sweets.. so I think is a good start.. but the most important thing of all is that my husband supports me.. so he said if you are going to do it, I HAVE to do it too!!.. so now we are doing it together!! so we are just buying healty food… no more junkie food in the house, that’s the rule… :)

25 stone free July 3, 2012

just passed my second kidney stone this morning. both times i have lost weight, as i have not felt like eating. over the years i have realized how much snacks/sugary desserts & treats i’ve eaten. sugary drinks, coffee, dairy (things i don’t consume) are reasons people get kidney stones. not sure why i started getting the stones, but it has made me think more about what i do consume that may contribute. i’ve always also wanted to get down to my ideal weight. of course i will miss my chick-fil-a (chicken sandwich place in “the south” florida) icedream cones, but the empty calories never really did anything for me anyways. thank you for your post! encouraging.

26 mark owen-ward July 3, 2012

So glad you posted this. We hear so much about “fat” being the bad guy, but actually its Sugar. Sugar is poison, plain and simple. As a paleo orientated personal trainer, I’d say 99% of my clients (at the outset) are addicted to sugar. And many times, they are getting that sugar from “low-fat” foods. Yes that low-fat yogurt is loaded with sugar or perhaps its called “modified maize starch”. Sugar is a nightmare for the body and we are not supposed to eat it. In previous times (like the last 10,000 to 4 million years) we didn’t get sugar. If we did, it was rare and dangerously acquired honey. You might shout yeah but what about fruit? Again, fruit these days bears little in common with fruits of a few thousand years ago which had not been selectively improved to be sweet and juicy. There is loads of information about this stuff but look at robbwolf.com for starters and also read The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith (previously vegan) for more insights. Also worth reading “Lights Out: sleep, sugar and survival” by TS Wiley and Dr Bent Formby. A final thought look at the massive uptake in sugar intake over the past 100 years from a few ounces to pounds of the stuff annually – check out this video (after the 25 second advert) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

27 Rebecca July 3, 2012

Tammy, I gave up sugar for 30 days (Jan 2-31, 2011). I had my last sugar on a Sunday and by Thursday I felt like a new person (I also gave up high fructose corn syrup, while ruled out 90% of processed food, it seemed). I allowed myself the following instead:
~date sugar for cooking
~breads, sparingly, if made with brown rice syrup or organic evaporated cane syrup
~pure maple syrup
~honey

It was really hard at first and I had to do a lot of new shopping and do my own cooking. Going out to eat was so difficult (for salads, I got just olive oil).

I immediately noticed an improvement in my energy levels and digestion (no more bloat, gas, and worse).

Unfortunately, I like sugar, and after the 30 days were up, I slowly slid back into my old habits. I could subsist entirely on bread and cheese and the occasional chocolate if left to my own devices.

I read your recent post about giving up sugar and I think I will pursue it; I downloaded Sarah’s e-book!

28 minky July 3, 2012

Yup, hubs and I quit sugar. Just about 5 years ago.

The decision was initially made when we were forced to learn everything there is to know about diabetes, when our beloved pooch became very ill, and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. We had no idea how damaging too much sugar is to the body until this point. We went through a lot of ups and downs with him, learning how to check his blood sugar, making sure he always had the right dose of insulin (2x a day), and most importantly figuring out what foods helped him stay controlled.

Shortly after our crash course in all things diabetes and negative effects of excess sugar/carbs in the diet, I was diagnosed as prediabetic…that sealed the deal for hubby and me. With both of hubby’s parents already type 2 diabetics, and with my prediabetic diagnosis, we knew that if we didn’t make some serious changes, both of us were surely going to be heading down the same road…a road we didn’t want to be on. Thankfully, we had done so much research and already had begun to radically change our eating habits based on all we learned to help our dog, that there was a good chance I could beat this thing before it got any more serious. Fast forward 5 years, our fur baby recently passed away, but lived to the ripe old age of 14! My blood sugar is normal, and we can both honestly say, living without constant sugar/carb fixes has become easy to do. Eating sweets can feel very comforting, but once you are aware of the damage it does to your system, it becomes difficult to take comfort in eating it.

Sometimes, we’ll let ourselves have a little sugary treat. Maybe once every couple weeks (and a small portion), but we don’t make a daily habit out if it like we used to back in the day. If you think it sounds like torture, I promise it’s not.

Truthfully, the adjustment period is the hard part (craving city), but once you get through 2-3 weeks, your body gets off the sugar rollercoaster, and you could stare a birthday cake in the face and not even want a bite! We don’t miss sugar. Period. And you’re hearing this from a former snickers addict, ha!
Our biggest tip, try not to cave during that adjustment period, learn to make all of the things you LOVE without sugar, flour, or refined grains…it really can be done. Dreamfields pasta, and Carbquik low carb flour have been a Godsend for us. Those two things allow us to make a lot of our old favorites without without crazy blood sugar spikes.

Sorry to make this post so long, I just wanted to assure anyone with an inclination to reduce or eliminate sugar (for health reasons or otherwise) that it can be done. Be patient with yourself, do tons of research, know that you’ll need to use some good old will power for a few weeks, but it’ll be smooth sailing within a short time. Although it may feel like a sacrifice, it’s actually an investment in your health, and you’ll start reaping the rewards before you know it. If you’re anything like us, and others we know who have adopted this lifestyle, your sense of wellbeing, both physically and emotionally will skyrocket once your off that sugar rollercoaster. Best of luck Tammy and all on this path!

29 Mariah July 4, 2012

I also have a huge sugar problem. When I eat it I can’t stop, want more, more and more–until I feel sick. Recently I realized that the migraines I have had since age 45 are exacerbated by the supposedly healthy dark chocolate I was eating daily. That brought me up against the whole sugar question AGAIN. And I have decided to just cut it out of my diet–even honey and agave. It has just been a few days and already I am sleeping better. From my past experience, I know that after several weeks the craving for sugar disappears. The trick for me is not to give in to the notion that I can have just a little. If I do, I am right back on the roller coaster again. Maybe some people can manage it, but not me. Good luck Tammy on your sugar-free journey. Thanks for the inspiration.

30 Sara July 5, 2012

I’ve quit sugar more times than I like to think, but I feel I’ve learned a lot because of doing it. I begin to feel tired, bloated, unfocused and then I stop using sugar. I say using, since it’s clear to me that that’s what I do with it; to stay awake(when I should just sleep more) and especially to keep disturbing emotions like fear(usually fear about fulfilling my dreams) at bay. Then I stay away from anything and everything sugary for a month or two and, then slowly fall off the wagon again…But I find it better than the alternative, i.e. eating sugar all the time :) At the moment I’m doing well without sugar and hope to stay that way!

Good luck with finding non-sugary sweetness in life and strength in dealing with your grief! Great pics.

31 Scott Milford July 8, 2012

Tammy,

I gave up sugar last October 2011, just before Halloween. That meant having to navigate through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years celebrations without sugar in almost every form imaginable, which included fruit, wheat (in any form), and anything containing processed sugar or any variations of high-fructose corn syrup. The only sugar I consumed was only what occurred naturally in the vegetables I was eating.

As you’re discovering, quitting sugar is not for the faint-of-heart. But the benefits are so worth it. Now, I’ve allowed a little more sugar in my diet by adding some occasional fruit and wheat, but still not very often. If I want a treat, say a slice of chocolate cake on a special occasion, I have it. But I had to wait long enough to KNOW that I had completely broken my addiction to sugar so that when I had something with sugar, it wouldn’t cause me to go on a sugar-frenzy and binge on carbs until I couldn’t see straight.

What a lot people don’t realize is that eating sugar for many years actually breaks your metabolism, which is a big reason they become and stay addicted to sugar. Eating better, healthier foods, with little or no sugar causes your metabolism to normalize and breaks the physiological addiction to sugar.

It can be an exciting adventure to quit eating sugar. And I’m so happy for you that you’re on this adventure. Best wished and good luck!

Cheers,
Scott

If you care to read about me and my journey, go here: http://quittingsugar.com/about/

32 Liz T. July 10, 2012

Hi Tammy,

I’m a new visitor — just dropped in on a random blogwalk — and I am so sorry to hear about your step-dad’s passing. I lost my husband of ten months to cancer in 2010, and during his 3-month illness and the following months of emotional chaos, I used Diet Coke as my crutch. I knew what I was doing and gave myself latitude during those darkest days. I knew it was time to quit when I found myself buying 64-oz Big Gulps at the 7-11. It actually started making me sick, which is what gave me the push I needed to stop.

I think taking control of a crutch, like you are with sugar, is a great indicator that you are starting to emerge from the hell of a recent loss. Be gentle with yourself tho — it took me a full year after Neal’s death to be certain I had my feet under me. Give yourself lots of grace, and don’t worry if your footing seems unsteady from time to time. (Here are some **virtual hugs** from a stranger!)

33 Tammy Strobel July 10, 2012

Liz – Thanks for stopping by and sharing a little bit of your story. I sincerely appreciate the kind words.

Be well,
Tammy

34 Scott Milford July 10, 2012

I wish I could “Like” comments here. I would “Like” Liz T’s comment. :-)

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