Because I'm a functional nutritionist, people often assume I don’t struggle with cravings. But the truth is that I didn’t grow up eating blueberries and kale. For years, I relied solely on sugar, pizza, and bagels to get me through the day—and the result was certainly no picture of health. As a young woman, I could barely stay awake in class, had bouts of depression, and slept until noon.
I was a scholarship athlete in college, and I worked out three hours a day, so I assumed I was healthy. I ate what I wanted, whenever I wanted. Still, I would fall asleep shortly after drinking a Venti Frappuccino. I knew something wasn't right.
While my psychiatrist prescribed meds, my intuition pointed to sugar instead. It just didn't make sense that she'd increase my dose without asking how I slept and what I ate. Slowly I began to remove many of the high-sugar foods from my diet, and soon after I came to see a remarkable difference.
Here are the biggest ways my life changed when I ditched sugar for good:
1. I became more aware of my eating habits.
I started to realize just how much I was relying on M&M’s, pretzels, Frappuccinos, and energy bars. I had no idea how much sugar I was actually consuming until I began reading labels. Slowly and surely, I became more mindful in my choices and created new habits, and ultimately, a new normal around food.
2. My energy increased.
Initially, I felt tired. But after a few days I adjusted, relying on my own body’s ability to produce energy. Soon, I'd no longer need to rely on caffeine or sugar.
3. I stopped sleeping until noon.
Literally, getting up before noon on the weekends used to be a major victory for me. But shortly after ditching sugar, I starting popping out of bed. I couldn’t believe it. I had always bought into the notion that I just wasn’t a morning person, but life without sugar has proven this to be false.
4. I found mental clarity.
I used to feel like I had cobwebs in my brain. I was incredibly forgetful, which limited my workplace productivity and efficiency. Now, without sugar, I no longer suffer from brain fog and forgetfulness. These days, it’s just cute kitten videos that periodically keep me from crushing my to-do list.
5. I lost weight.
When I was eating sugar, I couldn’t lose weight, had a hard time building muscle mass, and was constantly craving sweets. Once I ditched sugar for good, my body stopped using glucose as fuel and looked to burn fat more readily.
6. I became less anxious.
Crashes in blood sugar affect your energy production and in turn your ability to respond peacefully or anxiously to external stressors. Sugar consumption also suppresses the protein Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that seems to be low in people who suffer from depression and anxiety.
7. I saved money.
I've done the math and found that skipping the sugary protein bars, chocolate, lattes, and pricey cocktails saves me well over $200 a month. Throughout the course of a year, I save over $2,000, which I can now use for travel and adventure! #win-win
8. My skin cleared up.
The #1 compliment I now receive is usually about my skin. It still shocks me given that my skin was once never anything to write home about. “You have a glow about you,” people often say.
9. My relationships improved.
Having more energy, better clarity, more patience, and feeling better about myself (independent of external stimulants), had a big impact on my relationships. A shift was evident; I began attracting more positive people into my life.
Plus, ditching sugar has also helped me find my calling: The wisdom from my wounds, as they say, of being a complete sugar addict was that my struggle was not in vain. Once I ditched sugar, I gained the confidence and desire to help others find sweetness beyond sugar.
Elisa Haggarty is a Functional Nutritionist & Lifestyle Expert and founder of Culinary Farmacy. Elisa is tired of the status quo that posits disease as synonymous with old age and your genetics as your fate, and firmly believes that each meal is a chance to impact mental and physical health. She is a graduate of The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, The Natural Gourmet Institute and of Full Body Systems with Holistic Nutrition Lab.
To learn how to kick sugar from your diet and reduce inflammation, visit: www.culinaryfarmacy.com