What happens when you quit sugar? A lot of good stuff, but also a lot of, well, annoying stuff. 8fit recently ran a 21-day sugar detox challenge to help 8fitters break up with sugar for good and find new, healthier ways to satisfy cravings. As 8fit's resident social media aficionado, I felt inspired to join in myself and share my story.
Wondering who I am?
My name is Emily. I work on the editorial team here at 8fit and also teach weekly yoga classes in the office. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ve definitely seen me there. In addition to loving writing, yoga and all things nutrition and fitness-related, I also love sweets. I was very eager to start my detox journey and experience the benefits of quitting sugar.
Full disclosure: I don’t normally eat foods with added or processed sugar or artificial sweeteners. They’re something I consciously cut out of my diet almost two years ago. Of course, I can’t always control added sugar when I’m eating out, but I definitely don’t add it to meals I cook at home. You might be thinking, “Sounds like you don’t have a sugar problem!” Well, I love honey, maple syrup, fruits and dried fruits. While these natural added sweeteners do contain slightly higher amounts of antioxidants and minerals, they’re still sugar and therefore have the same blood sugar-spiking, addictive properties.
Understanding my sweet tooth
My sweet tooth developed as a child. I loved sugary cereals, chocolate chip cookies, homemade brownies and ice cream. Ice cream was on the menu before bed every night. This kind of snacking got increasingly healthier as I got older, but the habits still stuck. I found myself always reaching for “sweet” snacks over savory ones, and while those snacks didn’t include processed sugar, they still contained high amounts of natural sugars.
Recently, I started to notice my sweet tooth was a problem when I would pass by the 8fit snack kitchen after lunch and grab a square (or two) of dark chocolate out of habit, not because I was hungry. I also started to notice that I was enjoying a spoonful of honey after dinner because I like the sweetness to “cleanse the palate.” I’m also the queen of making desserts “healthy” by swapping processed sugar for natural stuff.
Benefits of not eating sugar
It was clear to me that sugar was becoming a problem, so when this 8fit Sugar Detox idea came about, I volunteered without hesitation. 🙋As someone who has worked in the fitness and nutrition industry for quite some time now, I’ve learned of -- and studied -- the addictive qualities of sugar so I know exactly why my sugar-eating habits haven’t died down.
That said, I also know that cutting out sugar from my diet would produce some favorable results. Here are some common benefits of not eating sugar include:
- Weight loss: Sugar has calories, but no nutritional value; eating sugar causes us to crave even more sugar
- Reduced bloat: Artificial sweeteners are notorious for causing bloating
- Mindful eating: Consciously avoiding certain ingredients (in this case: sugar) leads to more mindful eating habits
- Better dental health: Sugary sodas, juices and candies create an acidic, cavity-promoting environment in the mouth
- Sustained energy: Sugar crashes become a thing of the past; experience stable energy levels all day long
What to eat on a no sugar diet
Spend a few days -- or a week -- assessing your diet. Read every label, check the ingredient list on all the recipes you cook, and pay attention to how much fruit you consume. After a few days of this, you should be able to identify your problem areas and know what to add or eliminate.
The best way to gain control and detox from sugar is by preparing and cooking your own foods. Cooking my own meals is already part of my routine but for some, this might be one of the biggest challenges. Buy as many fresh vegetables and fruits low on the glycemic index as you can and keep meals simple. If you must buy something like hummus, nut butter, yogurt or dairy alternatives, choose foods with a short ingredient list and zero added sugar.
Ideal foods to eat
During a sugar detox, we encourage you to focus your meals around things like fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, good sources of protein and unsweetened dairy because the natural sugars in these foods are paired with complementary nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.
If you must have something sweet, try:
- 2-3 servings of fresh fruit per day paired with protein or fat (e.g. unsweetened yogurt, a handful of nuts, cheese, etc.)
- Fresh jam or jelly without added sugar
- Homemade flavored water
- If you have alcohol, choose wine, light beer or spirits with soda water
Foods to avoid
There are a number of foods to avoid on a no sugar diet. We don’t encourage fruit juices or smoothies with juice added. Even if these juices don’t have added sugar, they have fiber removed leading to similar blood sugar-spiking effects on your body.
Here are some foods to avoid:
- Processed sugars (cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, maltose, liquid fructose)
- Processed foods with real or artificial sugar added
- Limit dried fruit and other fruits high on the glycemic index (bananas, pineapples, carrots, watermelon)
- Limit high-sugar vegetables (parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes)
What happens when you quit sugar
Now I’d like to share my personal 21-day sugar detox experience week by week. Each week had highs and lows tied to energy, temptations, mood swings and cravings, too.
- Week 1: During the first week, I felt energized but had to work hard to fight the post-lunch sugar craving a couple of days. I noticed then when I drank enough water and ate a big, fresh salad for lunch, I didn’t experience those post-lunch cravings. I only wanted something sweet because it tastes good. Over the weekend, I was traveling and found it difficult to resist ice cream. To satisfy my sweet craving and beat the heat, I drank extra water and opted for green-forward juices and smoothies each day.
- Week 2: The second week I was pleasantly surprised to find I was even more energized than the week before. I woke up refreshed, felt invigorated through the “afternoon slump” period of the day and had loads of energy to keep moving and grooving after work.
- Week 3: The last week was a little tricky. My family came to visit and I had to balance eating out with the sugar detox challenge. I was able to cook some meals at home and avoid sugar at lunchtime, but dinner was out of my hands. I did my best to choose foods that didn’t have any added sugar, but couldn’t be sure about some of the sauces and dressings. I didn’t let this loss of control stress me out. Instead, I ate mindfully, I stopped when I was full, and I resisted dessert even though everyone else was having them.
After the 21 days were up, I was proud of myself. It’s been two weeks since the challenge ended and I still haven’t gone back to adding honey, maple syrup or agave to my coffee, oatmeal or smoothies. I also haven’t indulged in many sweets -- only a pastry. When I taste something sweet, it tastes extra sweet -- which is a turn-off. This challenge helped me make a needed change and I’m so happy I gave it a go. I feel energized, my bloating has gone down and, while I wasn’t eating poorly, I’m definitely more veggie and protein-packed meal focused.
Your sugar detox plan
If you’re interested in trying the 8fit 21-day sugar detox on your own, you’ll find some useful resources here. The official challenge (with weekly rewards) has ended, but you can still give it a go on your own to help kick your sugar cravings and find that added support from the 8fit community on social media.
Here’s the plan — remember to tag #8fitSugarDetox and #8fit in your photos for extra 8fit community support:
- Day 1: Why are you doing this challenge? Post a photo explaining your “why” on Instagram.
- Day 2: Time to rid your pantry and fridge of any sweet temptations and go shopping. Share a picture of the sugar temptations you’re getting rid of (or hiding).
- Day 3: Juices and sodas are big sugar culprits. Share a photo of a healthy beverage you enjoy today.
- Day 4: Dehydration leads to false feelings of hunger and sugar cravings. Share a picture of your tall glass of water or photo showing how you’re keeping track of how many glasses you’ve had.
- Day 5: Fit Friday! Moving helps curb sugar cravings. Share the way you’re staying active today. Maybe it’s a walk, bike ride, dance class, squats while making dinner — whatever.
- Day 6: Share a picture of a healthy, no-sugar meal you’re enjoying today. Recipe ideas here!
- Day 7: You’re one week into your detox. Are your feeling sugar withdrawals or cravings? Share a selfie and explain how you’re feeling.
- Day 8: Going into the second week, you might be in need of some motivation. Post a photo and in the caption share your favorite motivational quote.
- Day 9: Did you do any meal prep this week? Share a photo of a meal you prepared ahead of time. No prep? No problem. Do some today and share a picture.
- Day 10: Time to brag about breakfast! What did you eat today?
- Day 11: Time for a mid-challenge fridge and pantry check-in! Share a picture of the healthy, sugar-free foods in your fridge or pantry.
- Day 12: Get out for a walk, take the stairs or make time for an 8fit HIIT workout. That last one is super easy because most workouts are 15-minutes or less. Post a sweaty selfie or a screenshot of the workout you just completed.
- Day 13: Need a healthy dinner idea? Here are some sugar-free recipes you’ll find in your 8fit app! Try one and post a photo.
- Day 14: Another week done and dusted. Do some meal prep to stay on track for the final week and share a photo of the process. Here are some yummy lunch ideas.
- Day 15: It’s always good to start the final week with some motivation. Post a photo of someone who inspires you to live your healthiest, happiest life.
- Day 16: Craving dessert but don’t want to give into sugar cravings? Here are some no-sugar “sweet” treats from the 8fit app. Share a picture of the treat you’re enjoying today.
- Day 17: Read this article and then post a photo showing how you’re following through with tip #2.
- Day 18: The challenge is almost over! How’s it going? Post a photo and use the caption to describe how you’re doing.
- Day 19: It’s that time again — time for more movement! Kick any yearnings for sugar by going for a walk, run, or bike ride. Share a photo as proof.
- Day 20: You’ve eaten a lot of healthy things during this #8fitSugarDetox. Share a photo of your favorite sugar-free meal.
- Day 21: Can you believe you made it to day 21? Pat yourself on the back and post a final recap of how you feel at the end of this challenge.
We can’t wait to see your progress through this #8fitSugarDetox journey. Remember, If you fall off the wagon, get back on. Use these 21-days as a learning experience.