Can you stop your sugar addiction?
As someone who has completely eliminated sugar from his diet, there is only one way to quit:
No weaning off. No giving yourself a grace period—none of that.
You stop your addiction to sugar by cutting it off completely.
Let me justify what I’m saying
A few years ago, I had stomach problems.
A lot of stomach problems.
None of them were serious in the sense they had the potential to put my life at immediate risk, but the problems were somewhat painful, happened daily and were extremely annoying.
For example, I couldn’t take a sip of water in the morning without having a fit in the form of acid reflux. If I wanted to workout or go for a run, I had to be finished eating a minimum of 5 hours prior—even if I got hungry again in the meantime—to avoid throwing up my food while exercising (something that took plenty of trial-and-error to figure out). Frequent chest and stomach pains kept me up at night, which led to fatigue, stress, anxiety.
Point being, it sucked.
And sugar was the problem.
Of course, I didn’t know that. And as a college football player trying to pack on pounds, I was eating boatloads of it. Not sugar in the way you’re used to thinking of it—I wasn’t eating a bunch of candy, cake, or ice cream. My diet consisted almost entirely of protein and carbs.
Carbs in the form of starches.
At the time, I didn’t know the body broke down starchy-carbohydrates—potatoes, breads, pastas—the same way it does a tablespoon of sugar. Actually, I didn’t know starches were essentially a chain of sugars. That said, I didn’t know sugar weakens the immune system, and feeds illnesses in the body. And I certainly wasn’t aware that my body was addicted to carbohydrates and sugar.
I spent months putting up with the symptoms of an unknown source and saw countless G.I. doctors in the meantime to figure out what was wrong with me. I had regular blood tests, screenings, scopes, upper-endoscopies—none of them fielded any accurate results.
One night in June, I was out to dinner with my family at our favorite Italian restaurant. As always, I got penne abruzzi. About five bites into my meal, I had to put my fork down and stop eating—my throat clogged up, as if it had forgotten how to swallow.
That was the last straw.
I was sick of dealing with the constant barrage of intestinal issues on a daily basis. Sick of not being able to drink a glass of water without my throat burning. Sick of having to finish my breakfast by 7A.M. if I wanted to be able to workout at noon.
The next morning, I quit sugar—cold turkey.
I completely eliminated sugar from my diet (besides naturally occurring in fruits, which I ate in low quantity).
I didn’t know exactly how sugar was the problem, but since I had been putting up with stomach problems for quite some time, and getting virtually nowhere with doctors, I had done a bit of research on my own. I talked to people I trusted to be honest and knowledgeable on the subject. I read articles on health and wellness, studies on some of the symptoms I was having and read as many books on nutrition as I could.
At some point, it became apparent that sugar—in all forms—was the common issue.
So when my body had enough, and I wasn’t getting any help from the G.I. doctors, I figured no sugar was the best decision I could make for myself.
I took up a paleo diet—eating strictly vegetables, fruit, and meat. That’s it. No dairy, no grains, no sugar.
Here is how the following 6 weeks played out:
The first few days were filled with fatigue, impatience, headaches, constant hunger. It was an absolute nightmare. I had an unbelievable craving for sugar and felt hungry regardless of how much I ate. I was tired, couldn’t focus on anything and was constantly pissed off.
After about two weeks my headaches were gone, and I was able to manage my hunger a bit, but I was still tired a lot of the time. My acid reflux became less violent and happened less often. I wasn’t really having any stomach pains anymore either.
Three-and-a-half weeks without sugar, my acid reflux had completely disappeared. I no longer felt tired. Actually, I felt more energized than I had in a long, long time. I couldn’t remember the last time my stomach bothered me and noticed incredible changes in cognitive ability—I wasn’t ‘spacing out’ at all, felt less anxious and more relaxed.
And by the 6-week mark, I was a completely changed person. No stomach pains. No acid reflux. Constant energy. No anxiety. And not to mention, my palette had completely changed—food that I thought was bland or bitter in taste suddenly burst with flavor.
Again, I only tell you my story to explain why I’m qualified to answer this question. No, I’m not a doctor or registered dietician or nutritionist, but I know what it’s like to live life without sugar (again, besides those naturally occurring in fruits).
And if you want that life for yourself, you need to quit, cold turkey.
Weaning off sugar slowly only prolongs the process, making it harder to quit completely.
The moment you start to take sugar out of your diet, you can literally feel it through mood swings, headaches and fatigue. Regardless if you cut out one form of sugar or multiple, you’re going to feel like shit.
If you cut out, say, sweets like cookies, cake, and candy, you’ll start to experience symptoms and think, “Geez, what’s going to happen when I stop putting sugar in my coffee? Or when I stop eating bread?”
It makes completely quitting all sugar look virtually impossible—and you end up convincing yourself that some sugar is OK (which it’s not).
If you’re going to quit sugar, quit it completely.
Yes—the first few weeks are going to suck.
You’re going to get headaches. You’re going to feel like shit. You’re going to be tired. You’re going to have mood swings.
But all of that would happen anyway if you try to wean yourself off of it.
You would cut out one thing—i.e. sweets—deal with the symptoms for three weeks, maybe start to feel a little bit better, then decide to cut out another sugary item, having to go through the same symptoms all over again.
Cutting off all sources of sugar at once sucks, but it is—without question—the best way to quit your sugar addiction.
As long as you’re relentless in your discipline, and stick to your diet plan religiously, you’ll make it past the initial three-week hump and start to reap all the benefits of living life sugar-free.