How and Why I Gave up Sugar


Sometimes you feel as if you’re doing everything right with your health - cooking at home with whole foods, exercising, getting more sleep. But you still don't feel like your best you.

This was my husband and me right after the New Year. We were eating well and exercising regularly, but something wasn't right. We felt bloated and exhausted and just unhealthy. It was time for a change.

Sometimes even if you're eating a "clean" diet, you may be consuming something that doesn’t agree with your body. A particular food could be a superfood for someone else, but less than super for you. Instead, you could notice gastrointestinal distress and inflammation. And, the negative reaction may not be something diagnosable. You may have visited your doctor and endured allergy testing with no positive test results. But, you know something's wrong. How on earth can you figure out what might be irritating your system?

That's when elimination programs come into play.

An elimination program isn't meant to be sustainable long-term, but it creates a baseline so you can reintroduce foods back into your diet, identifying what triggers the unhappiness in your system. You can then remove the troublemaking food and adjust your lifestyle.

There are a number of elimination programs out there. Micheleused The Virgin Diet to discover her food intolerances. After research, my husband and I decided to try Level 2 of The 21-Day Sugar Detox  by Diane Sanfilippo.

For three weeks, we eliminated sugar in its many forms from our diet. With studies and research emerging about the negative effects of sugar consumption, it made sense to not only eliminate the obvious dessert foods, but also remove sugar’s many disguised forms, both natural and synthetic, thus killing the cravings that cause even strong-willed people to cave.

For 21 days, my husband and I committed to eating:

  • free range, humanely-raised animal proteins and fats
  • fresh vegetables
  • natural fats, including butter, ghee, coconut oil, and homemade lard/tallow

We did not eat the following:

  • products with gluten or soy
  • dairy
  • sugar-based anything
  • natural or artificial sweeteners (i.e., honey, molasses, maple syrup, etc.)
  • fruit
  • starches
  • alcohol
  • vegetable or crop-based cooking oils or fats

My first shock once beginning the program was realizing just how much sugar is in our food, and how it’s disguised by many names. Even if you don’t drink soft drinks or eat a lot of dessert, you still unknowingly eat massive amounts of sugar in bread, fruit, and even in some veggies. That makes your taste buds immediately crave sugar, and they don't distinguish between artificial or natural. The goal is to remove sweetness from your taste buds entirely for three weeks so you no longer depend on it.

I won’t lie. The first week of the program was tough. Your body goes through a detoxification process called Candida (yeast) die-off, possibly resulting in gastrointestinal distress, depending on the amount of Candida in your system.  This amount is related to the amount of sugar you eat and your previous antibiotic usage. It may seem difficult, but trust me, you'll get through it and feel better!

During the three weeks, I began eating more veggies than I ever had before. Even though I thought I already ate a lot of vegetables, the InDependent food challenges helped expand my horizons beyond what I was used to. I actually found out that I like Brussels sprouts and avocados!

I also took a more invested role sourcing my food. Since we were only permitted grass-fed/free-range animal proteins, I got to know the farmers who raised our food and was very selective in when we ate animal proteins. If I didn’t know the producer or have extensive knowledge of their product, then I wasn’t eating it.  We ate animal proteins less often, becoming more creative in our food choices. Rather than buying seemingly cheaper processed food, I bought fresh, seasonal produce at the commissary and meat in bulk from the local farmers’ market to freeze for long-term cost savings. I also made cooking oil from scratch (except butter and coconut oil), because it was extremely easy to do myself.

The best part of the program was that using The 21-Day Sugar Detox book I was able to find simple recipes, many of them containing five ingredients max. My kind of cooking! The recipes were so delicious that we've integrated many into our post-detox dining routine.

After the completion of the diet, my husband and I had both dropped 10 pounds and had more energy than ever before. But that wasn't the goal of this project. Our goal was to understand the way our systems work. We realized that while my husband is fine with dairy, I'm definitely not. Neither of us handles wheat products well.  Neither of us has problems with fruit.

Taking Ownership of Your Health: How and Why I Gave up Sugar We now make it a point to read ingredient lists rather than nutrition labels.  We now are much more aware of what we eat.  We take responsibility for how we feel.  This sort of control over how we feel is empowering.

My husband and I did this together as a team and held each other accountable for our success. We got through the tough detox times together (that first week of Candida die-off) and celebrated on day 22 (Valentine’s Day!) with a big dinner out.  The overall reward was taking control of our diet and best of all, our health. And we’ve never looked back.

Do you feel like you would benefit from an elimination program? Tell us why in the comments below.