By Sarah Wilson, Special to Everyday Health
When I first quit sugar, I treated it as an invitation to try out a new way of living, just to – you know – see how it went (It went well, thanks!).
My physical and mental health were transformed in a matter of weeks. I then shared how I did it with an eight-week detox program, and a stack of people joined me at the party. Three years later and I’m still asked, almost hourly, “So you quit… and how do you feel?”
Before I share, let me also say this:
Quitting sugar is not a diet. It’s not about crazy draconian rules and restrictive one-off weight-loss stunts. Indeed, it can be distilled into two supremely sensible concepts I reckon we all just get, intuitively:
1. Quitting sugar is a way of living without processed food. When you steer yourself away from sugar, it – by necessity – cuts out pretty much everything that comes in a packet or box. When people baulk at my no-sugar status, I calmly point out that I simply don’t eat garbage. It’s that elegant.
2. Quitting sugar is about eating like our great-grandparents used to, before the additives. This – again by necessity – sees us eating whole, un-mucked with foods that were commonplace before the advent of modern metabolic diseases. One hundred years ago we ate eggs for breakfast, meat at lunch, vegetables prepared simply, fruit as a treat and drank our milk whole. One hundred years ago type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cholesterol issues were a much less significant problem.
So, back to the question. I quit sugar, and how do I feel?
My answer is this: Great.
So great I’ve just kept going and going.
Over time, I’ve let these principles that guide my eating – of experimenting, crowding out poor choices with better options and being gentle – unfurl a little further. And they began to inform the way I exercise, shop, make decisions (from what dental floss to buy to which city I’ll live in next) and the way I keep my life balanced and meaningful.
How Quitting Sugar Improved My Health
1. My skin cleared and my wrinkles disappeared.
I believe that sugar reacts with proteins in our bodies, changing their structure to form toxic advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which accelerate the aging process. Sugar makes collagen and elastin less supple, radiant, elastic and resilient, and more susceptible to sun damage. My skin changed dramatically when I quit, within weeks. I have fewer wrinkles now that I did five years ago. Many other quitters report the same.
2. I lost weight.
I put on weight from my thyroid disease a few years back and hadn’t been able to shift it. In eight weeks I lost quite a bit of that – not too much – but visibly I looked less puffy and I feel like I’m the right weight for my age and height and food-quantity choices. I now have a flat stomach – no more bloating or fluid retention. Seriously. I just don’t get it any more.
3. I eat better.
No deprivation, ever. I eat abundantly and freely. I replace sugar with fat to satiate, fuel and provide me with fun foods to eat and I don’t ever feel as though I’m missing out. The ultimate aim of quitting sugar is to return to our natural appetite, like when we were young kids. Now that I have quit, I let my body choose what it wants, confident that now that it’s not addicted to sugar, it will naturally choose what’s best.
4. I have more self-control.
A study published by the American Psychological Association found self-control is a limited resource we need to manage through our day so that it doesn’t get worn out too early. The scientists advise limiting the number of restrictive mandates in our lives to save our self-control muscle for the stuff that really matters. So: don’t diet. Save your muscle for matters of love, career and travel, and who you want to be in life. I have regained my natural appetite and the freedom that that allows… Golly, it is magic.
5. I healed my thyroid.
My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland) is what got me to quit sugar in the first place. It pretty much crippled me a few years ago, some side effects of which included: whacked-out blood sugar, screwed-up hormones, a predisposition to diabetes and high cholesterol, mood fluctuations, weakness to the point of not being able to work or walk for nine months, weight gain and much more. All of the above are now stable or overcome. I will have to manage my disease for the rest of my life. But I can do this now and live a long, well life, something others with my disease, including my uncle and grandmother, were not able to do. I’ve wiped out my antibody markers, something my doctors find astounding. I believe quitting sugar did this.
I’m not alone in feeling a drastic improvement after quitting sugar. Many of the 250,000+ people who have completed my 8-Week Program have had similar results. Have you quit sugar? What results did you see?
Sarah Wilson is an author, TV host, blogger and wellness coach whose journalism career has spanned 20 years across television, radio, magazines, newspapers and online. She is the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine (Australia) and was the host of MasterChef Australia, the highest rating show in Australian TV history. She is the author of the Australian best-seller I Quit Sugar, now available in the United States. She’s also authored the best-selling series of ebooks