I Tried a Sugar-Free Diet for Six Weeks

It seems like every year there is a new fad diet that labels what is normally an essential part of a diet as a “baddie.” One year it was fat, which prompted the production of a whole slate of fat-free, and in my opinion tasteless foods. Just a few years ago gluten was labeled as the big bad-for-you diet item. This had people depriving themselves of delicious foods such as bread, baked goods, and pasta, something I could never do. It also sparked a lot of weird gluten-free labels on things that would obviously never contain gluten – for example, popcorn. This year the big baddie seems to be sugar, and while I have always thought fad diets like going fat-free or gluten-free are ridiculous, I decided I would try the sugar-free thing for six weeks.

 

Why I decided to try to eat sugar-free for six weeks

As I said, I’m not usually a fan of fad diets, so why would I decide to put myself through the somewhat torturous process of excluding sugar from my diet? Well, for starters, I felt like I was somewhat addicted to sugar; not to the same extent as someone who is addicted to smoking, but I definitely felt that I was consuming sugar a lot more than was probably good for me. Because I felt like I was consuming too much sugar, I wanted to see what the effect of going sugar-free would be. Would my skin be clearer? Would I feel like I had more energy? I decided to try it out and see what would happen.

The plan

The general concept is pretty obvious: go six weeks without eating sugary food. For me this meant things that are typically considered dessert, like cookies, cake, chocolate, and ice cream. Additionally, I tried to avoid foods with too much added sugar like flavored yogurt (pro tip: plain yogurt with your own sweetener like honey has less sugar than pre-flavored yogurt). I also tried to avoid sugary drinks like specialty coffees and pop. 

Cheating and challenges

It is very difficult to go six weeks with absolutely no sugar, and of course there were some challenges to consider. One of the largest challenges was what exactly to decide to eliminate, because sugar can be found in just about anything. My solution was to try and have things that only contained natural, unrefined sugars, like honey and fruit. Also, as far as baked goods were concerned, I did allow myself the occasional homemade bran muffin, because if you compare the health benefits of my homemade oh-so-good-for-you muffin and a store-bought granola bar, my muffin would win hands down. There were also certain scenarios where breaking my sugar-free rule was necessary. For one, when I was invited over to a friend’s house for dinner and they served dessert it was easier for me to just enjoy it rather than explain why I couldn’t eat it. Sometimes, one square of dark chocolate was needed to help me avoid mental malfunction. (Pro tip: dark chocolate contains way less sugar than milk chocolate and can be equally, if not more, satisfying).

Results

So after six weeks of depriving myself of sugar, were there any results that were worth going so long sans sweets? For the most part, yes. I definitely noticed that my skin was a lot brighter and clearer and I had way fewer breakouts. I also felt like I had much more energy; I was able to get a lot more done in the day and not feel completely burnt at the end of it. I also noticed that I slept pretty well during those weeks, and despite stress levels being fairly high around midterms I was able to deal with the stress even without my comforting chocolate bar by my side. I did, however, notice that while my craving for sweets did eventually diminish, my craving for salty foods like potatoes chips went up.

Lessons learned

Although going six weeks without sugar was challenging, I definitely gained some insight and benefits from the experiment. Initially I would have pretty intense cravings for something sweet, but eventually those cravings went away. Once the constant craving for sugary treats subsided I realized that while having desert is delicious, it is not necessary to eat it every day. In fact, you will probably enjoy it a lot more if you limit yourself to once or twice a week. When you do treat yourself to something like chocolate or a piece of cake you should sit down and actually take the time to enjoy it. By slowing down and thinking about what you are consuming, you end up being way more satisfied with what you just ate.

Tips if you want to try this

If you happen to be inspired by this article to try to eat sugar-free or to eat less sugar in general, here are some tips to help you achieve your goal.

1. Treat yourself in ways other than food. For example, buy yourself a new lipstick or t-shirt after having gone a week or so without sugar.

2. Make your challenge realistic. It is almost impossible to cut out sugar altogether, but if you set yourself well defined and realistic boundaries it makes it a lot easier to stick with your plan. Plus, it’s okay to cheat every once in a while; sometimes it’s necessary in order to avoid mental malfunction.

3. Even if you slip up, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, enjoy the delicious food item you are about to have. If sugar isn’t your weakness and snacks like salty foods are, check out this Canadian Living article on healthy craving substitutes. If you do decide to try the sugar-free diet or any kind of elimination diet, I would love to hear from you about how it is going.

 

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