Eight weeks ago, I made the big decision to give up sugar. I have Autoimmune Metaplastic Atrophic Gastritis, a condition where my immune system attacks the cell walls of my stomach and leads to digestive problems. Because of my diagnosis, I became a modified Paleo eater about three years ago, meaning my meals mainly consist of fresh vegetables, fruit, organic grass-fed meats, broth, and no grains, dairy, gluten or processed sugars.
But though my diet had kept my symptoms at bay for three years, I still felt sugar had a hold over me. That's because I'd still make raw desserts with natural sweeteners (like pure maple syrup) and I'd add sugary fruits like banana, dates, mangoes and grapes to my daily smoothies. I also snacked on some fruit throughout the day as well, because I felt I needed the treat.
But I was suffering from bad skin breakouts over my shoulders and back, and was living with very heavy, debilitating period pain. So when I saw that Sarah Wilson, who wrote "I Quit Sugar," was running an 8-week program on cutting sugar, I jumped at the chance.
Sure, I could probably create healthy, sugar-free meals myself, but I knew I needed structure and guidance to really break the habit, which is what Sarah offered.
At this point, I didn't really think I was living with a lot of sugar. But as the big changes over the next few weeks showed, it's only after you cut out all sugar that you see how much you're really consuming.
Week One: This Feels Easy!
I began my first week with such ease. The only difficult part for me was snacking, as afternoons slumps used to be the time when I reached for my desserts. Instead, I started replacing sweets with nuts and seed crackers topped with avocado and tomato.
I was doing great, and by the end of the first week I was feeling like I could go the whole eight weeks with no cravings whatsoever. Well, I may have been getting ahead of myself.
Weeks Two and Three: Cravings Kick In ...
By the time the third week rolled around, intense sugar cravings had begun to take over. I was experiencing everything from fatigue to frequent mood swings. But I reminded myself that it was a detox withdrawal from all that sugary white sweetness, and that I just had to ride it out.
I found that it really helped to add in more fats like coconut milk in my tea, up my intake of nuts for snacks, and make sure I was drinking enough water.
Weeks Four and Five: I Feel Fuller Longer
At around week five, I started to notice a dramatic difference. Before I started the challenge, I usually needed to grab a snack every two hours, or I'd experience low blood sugar symptoms like dizziness, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. But for the first time in three years, my sugar levels seemed stable and I felt fuller for longer periods of time.
Week Six: My Skin Begins to Clear
At this point, I began to notice a change in my complexion as well. After I went off of birth control pills around the time of my diagnosis, I've battled with bad breakouts and cystic acne ever since. I had tried literally every herb, vitamin and food intolerance plan — all helped but nothing totally cured it. But after six weeks of being off of sugar, I finally saw some progress as my skin started to clear.
Week Seven: I Can Handle Small Amounts of Sugar
As the seventh week rolled around, I began to reintroduce small amounts of low-fructose fruit, like berries, into my diet. This is what Sarah Wilson's plan suggests, as it’s a way to see how your body responds to bringing back sugar.
I added berries to my smoothie once a week, and was pretty impressed. No longer did I feel the pull of wanting more. I've always had a very strong addiction to sweets, but for the first time I could actually see the serious hold sugar had over my life.
Week Eight: I No Longer Crave Sugar
So here I am in week eight of my challenge, and I can finally see how much better I feel without sugar. My skin is healthier, my sugar levels feel stable, and I now have the willpower to stop and feel satisfied without having the sugar cravings hang over me.
I'll still be keeping small amounts of sugar, such as low-fructose fruits, in my diet — but I no longer need it on a day-to-day basis. My complexion has finally cleared and I had two pain-free monthly cycles while off sugar, which hasn’t happened in a long time.
Sugar-free is now a way of life for me, and something that I believe will allow me to continue to heal.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock; Eyes of Love Photography