Every January—which then transitions into every month—we tell ourselves this is it; this is the time we will finally tackle our sugar habit. Few of us have succeeded in the long term. But for those who don’t cave in at the sight of a chocolate chip cookie, cutting (or cutting back on) sugar can have a real impact on your health and well-being. Is 2016 the year you confront your sugar addiction? Scroll through to find out what you expect when you give up sugar!
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, you will think about (and crave!) sweets. You’ll miss a lot of your favorite foods, most of which probably won’t even be traditional sweets like candy, cookies, and cake. but rather those sneakily sugary foods like bagels, peanut butter, and your favorite salad dressings and sauces. Don’t be surprised if you find your mind wandering to thoughts of off-limits foods while you’re performing everyday tasks. For a lot of people, breakfast is the hardest meal of the day because most of the typical go-tos are loaded with sugar—oatmeal, yogurt, granola, toast, and the list goes on. It may even force you to rethink your routine. You might have to give up those mid-morning coffee runs with your co-worker if the vanilla lattes are just too tempting.
One more obvious point: It’s going to be hard, especially in the beginning. As with anything, breaking a habit or starting a new one is work. Day one will be a breeze. Your convictions will be strong, and all you can think about are the positive changes you’re about to experience. After that, things take a turn. On top of craving sweets and carbs, you’ll be grumpy and irritable. You may experience mood swings or feel more anxious, restless, and even depressed. For the first week or so, you’ll go through a range of these withdrawal symptoms. That’s right; withdrawals from sugar are not that different from withdrawals from drug and alcohol addiction. Of course, the specific symptoms and their severity and duration will vary depending on the size of your sugar habit. Some people stop experiencing negative feelings after the first week; for others, it can take into week three.
Now onto the good stuff. Around week four, you’ll stop feeling so moody and irritable. And you’ll stop craving sweets. Most people describe it as a rather surprising, if not shocking, feeling that just comes out of nowhere. Someone will offer you something sweet, and you’ll decline it. Not because you have to but because you want to. The urge to eat sweets will have completely vanished. Or you’ll wake up in the morning or hit that 3 p.m. slump, the times your mind usually starts racing over gummy bears and caramels, and that simply won’t happen.
One of the more unexpected experiences people who ditch sugar report is the backlash from friends and family. Be prepared to encounter a few extreme and unsupportive reactions. You’ll probably run into some questions and judgment from your happy hour crew—those who don’t want to be alone in eating sugar and don’t want to feel guilty about continuing the bad habit. Certain friendships may by challenged when you can’t be the go-to call for wine night anymore. And don’t be surprised if your family pressures you eat. At family get-togethers and holidays or celebrations, your family may expect and encourage you to indulge in all their treats like you used to. On the flip side, not everyone you tell will be a naysayer about your decision to go sugar-free. Many people will be encouraging, supportive, and even inquisitive. And most people report better reactions from their male friends than their female friends.
After all the cravings, mood swings, and battles of will, you’ll come out feeling better than ever. Most people lose at least a few pounds, which will leave you feeling lighter. But the majority of those who go sugar-free count weight loss as the least notable of the benefits. Expect to sleep better, have more energy, and feel more clear-headed. You’ll experience fewer headaches and less bloating, and you won’t feel as hungry. And your skin will look clearer and brighter than the results delivered from any professional-strength exfoliating peel.
Even if you don’t stick with a zero-sugar lifestyle in the long-term, your eating habits will change for better. You’ll be much more aware of the sugar content of the foods you eat, and you’ll probably be more sensitive to tastes—especially sweet. Things that hadn’t previously tasted sweet at all, like almonds or milk, will take on a new flavor. And the baked goods and candy you used to love will probably taste too sweet for you. You won’t want a sweet snack in the late afternoon; instead, you’ll crave protein.
Ready to kick your sugar habit? Scroll through for the tools to get you started!
Have you ever tried to quit sugar? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!