"I Quit Sugar ... And Nothing Happened."
Marygrace Taylor is a regular contributor to EatClean.com and a freelance health writer and recipe developer forGlamour, Redbook, Prevention, Women’s Health, Fitness, Vegetarian Times,and other national titles. She has many self-taught travails in clean eating and loves to live healthy—except when she’s stuffing her face with fudge brownies.
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We’ve all read the stories where a sugar addict chronicles his or her attempts to stop eating all sweet stuff, only to feign shock when said addict discovers that every packaged food item under the sun contains added sugar. And then, he or she must overdramatize the withdrawal symptoms. Rest assured, this isnotthat story. (Lose up to 15 pounds WITHOUT dieting with )
As someone who writes about nutrition for a living, I’m well aware that added sugar lurks in everything from tomato sauce to protein bars. It’s one of the reasons I buy few processed foods and why I’m able to keep my added sugar consumption to an average of 6 teaspoons per day. (In case you’re curious, it comes mostly from putting honey in plain yogurt, as well as a few dark chocolate chips after lunch, and—my Achilles heel—a small ice cream bar after dinner.) On occasional treat days, I may get a little more sugar, in the form of Ben & Jerry’s or a fudge brownie.
I’ve long admired people who’ve quit added sugar completely and envied the laundry list of improvements they cited after ditching the toxin. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me: What if I—someone at a normal weight, who already eats pretty healthily—stopped eating added sugar, what benefits wouldIgain? I decided to cut the stuff out of my diet for 2 weeks to find out.
If you’re into clean eating, going a measly 14 days without added sugar might not sound like a long enterprise. But for someone who enjoys a few, occasional sweets as much as I do, it felt like a god-awful eternity of deprivation. My morning yogurt and fruit wasn’t as delicious without the small swirl of honey. My homemade tomato sauce, which normally gets a spoonful of granulated sugar, tasted flat. Replacing my nightly ice cream bar treat with alternatives like dried figs or a pomegranate just didn’t cut it. (Fruit is fantastic, but to me, it’llneverbe dessert.) Sriracha, which contains added sugar, was no longer an option to squirt into scrambled eggs or veggie bowls. And my weekly cocktail—an Old Fashioned, complete with a sugar cube and maraschino cherry—was a no-go.
MORE:Five Ways to Strip Sugar from Dessert
The worst part was Friday nights, when my husband and I almost always share a dessert. Usually it’s ice cream from the aforementioned Ben & Jerry’s or cookies from the Italian market down the street, but obviously, those treats were now forbidden. Not wanting to miss out on our tradition completely, I tried making a Paleo-style coffee cake sweetened only with pureed apples. Which, truthfully, would’ve been great for breakfast smeared with some almond butter. But as a dessert, it was dismal.
Quitting sugar didn’t seem to offer any magical physical effects, either. My skin, weight, and energy levels all stayed the same. This was increasingly disappointing. (So much sacrifice for so little gain!) When I asked NYU clinical associate professor of nutrition, Lisa Sasson, about it, she wasn’t surprised: Benefits are mostly accorded not to clean eaters like me (and you, perhaps), but to average Americans who take in as many as 25 teaspoons of added sugar per day. If they cut back to the American Heart Association’s recommendations of 6 or 9 daily teaspoons of added sugar for women or men, respectively, they’d see some changes. I was already at the AHA’s recommended level of 6 teaspoons, so cutting down to zero wasn’t going to get me amazingly clear skin or a six pack.
That realization was big. I was depriving myself only to be at 0 teaspoons of added sugar. And if a little bit of sugar contributed to my happiness? Well, that’s worth something, too. “We shouldn’t forget the pleasure that we get from food,” Sasson says. “Completely villainizing added sugar is getting into extreme territory, and for what? To live three weeks longer?”
That was the (sweet) music to my ears on a Friday night at the end of my 14-day added-sugar ban, as I dug into my first dessert in 2 weeks: a slice of homemade pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream.
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