I quit sugar completely for a month and this is what happened

I was basically addicted to sugar, so I decided to put those claims about the benefits of going sugar-free to the test.

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  • I stayed away from anything containing sugar for 31 days straight, and the results were pretty surprising.

  • I'd heard about the long list of health benefits that supposedly come from cutting the sweet substance, but I was skeptical. The thing that pushed me over the edge was a suggestion from my physical therapist to try eliminating sugar in hopes of helping my chronic neck pain and headaches - other patients had had success in the past.

  • Before my sugar fast, I wasn't the most healthy eater. Most mornings, I had a bowl of Captain Crunch and some sort of hot drink loaded with flavored creamer or straight white sugar. I always had treats laying around my house, and I went out for dessert frequently with friends.

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  • It wasn't until I had to completely avoid sugar that I realized how much I usually ate in a typical day - even unsweet things like crackers and peanut butter are secretly loaded with sugar!

  • My sugar fast exceeded my expectations by far when it came to results. Here's what happened:

  • 1. Goodbye acne

  • I didn't have terrible acne beforehand, but I did have some blackheads plus occasional pimples. At the end of the month, my skin was not only SO much clearer, but it also wasn't as red or blotchy.

  • 2. Muffin top shrinkage

  • I didn't see any sort of huge weight loss transformation (though others do), but cutting sugar definitely did give me a little more room in my jeans. I suspect if I had continued past one month, the scale would have dropped more.

  • 3. Headaches no longer had control

  • It was incredible - within days of quitting sugar, I went from miserable, pounding headaches every day to occasional small headaches. And it just got better from there. By the end of the month, I barely noticed any headaches at all.

  • 4. Less neck and back pain

  • Along with a drastic decrease in headaches, I also saw a decrease in my constant neck pain and secondary back pain. My husband was pretty happy I no longer came home every day asking for a neck massage.

  • 5. Meals were more satisfying

  • Before my sugar fast, a lot of my meals were overly sweet, especially breakfast. When I had relied on sugary cereals for the first meal of the day, my stomach was growling by well before noon. And then my typical sandwich with white bread for lunch didn't exactly hit the spot. But when I was forced to find new meal options, I prepared and ate more real foods - eggs, oatmeal, nuts, veggies. And they were so much more filling and satisfying.

  • 6. No mid-afternoon slump

  • Apparently sugar is the culprit of that measly afternoon slump a lot of us experience. You know, when you'd give anything for a nap but you still have hours left in your work day? After quitting sugar, that tiredness and low energy feeling disappeared for me.

  • 7. Saved money at the grocery store

  • I'm not talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars, but I noticed my weekly grocery receipt was much lower than usual. I was buying oats in bulk instead of pricey name-brand cereals, and fruit instead of Ben and Jerry's.

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  • 8. An overall good feeling

  • I really did notice an overall health improvement that I can only describe as "feeling great." I didn't realize how groggy and heavy sugar made me feel until my sugar fast made me light on my feet. I had more energy throughout the day and at the gym, I got better sleep and I even felt an improvement in my mood.

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  • Sticking with it despite temptations

  • Of course, making such a drastic change to your diet is a sacrifice, so it won't be easy. The hardest part for me was saying no in social situations, like when I was out to eat with friends and they ordered dessert, or when my boss brought churros to work for everyone. Also, I had frequent dreams about eating ice cream or cake (which was pretty funny, but it increased my cravings).

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  • Naturally, I had cravings for sweets. When they hit, I discovered a few ways to resist. One way to fight late-night dessert cravings was to brush my teeth - the ritual and minty aftertaste signaled to my body that it was done eating for the day, so the cravings subsided. Another way was to give myself healthy "treats." Sliced apples dipped in nut butter was a go-to, along with a shake of almond milk, frozen banana, peanut butter and straight cocoa powder.

  • Tips for others wanting to give it a go

    • Go through your house and throw out all sugary culprits (if other people in the house aren't cutting sugar along with you, ask them to stash their treats somewhere else). Getting sugar out of sight will make it a lot easier.

    • Set clear lines. So you're going to cut sugar, but to what extent? Will you still eat white breads and pastas, fruit juices, honey or non-sweet foods that contain minimal amounts? These are questions you should have a sure answer to before you start.

    • Beware of tricky food labels. Often, a product won't list "white sugar" on its ingredient list. There are many different names for added sugars, so don't let a seemingly healthy granola bar fool you when "anhydrous dextrose" is the second ingredient listed.

    • Have the right mindset. Don't go on a sugar fast to punish yourself because you're unhappy with your body. Do it because you love your body and you want to make it feel great.

  • No one will react exactly the same to a change in diet, whether it's cutting sugar or joining Weight Watchers. But it's safe to assume that cutting your sugar intake will improve your overall health.

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McKenna Park is a staff writer at FamilyShare. She's a happy wife, puppy mama, ice cream addict and film nerd. Website: www.mckennapark.weebly.com

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