45 days ago, I was determined to make the most out of the upcoming season of Lent by sacrificing something which would be challenging to me. I sat down, made a list of everything that would be hard for me to give up, and was not surprised by the answer that topped my list: sugar. Without a doubt, my number one addiction for as long as I can remember has been sugar. After avoiding this thought for years on end, I finally decided to bite the bullet and quit sugar.
Tomorrow is Easter, which means that today is the last day of Lent. Whew. This is a day that I never thought would come about a month ago. These past 40 days during which I quit sugar have been eye opening, surprising, challenging, and satisfying – just to say the least. Giving up sugar has been a challenge I avoided for my entire life. Cutting out sugar seemed to be a challenge that I would not be able to conquer, so I avoided it at all costs.
I am so happy that I finally decided to face my addiction head on. By quitting sugar cold turkey 40 days ago, my body went through quite a dramatic sugar detox. Whether or not everything I experienced was due to giving up sugar, I’ll never know for sure. But I have seen immense changes in my body and mind these past 40 days, and today I’d like to tell you what happened.
Here’s What Happened When I Quit Sugar for 40 Days
And so the sugar detox begins…
Prior to my experiment with giving up sugar, I like to think that I was living a fairly healthy lifestyle. I drink 80 ounces of water a day, generally steer towards whole foods at meals, exercise 6 days a week, and rarely drink alcohol. My mind and body were well in order and functioning at a high capacity.
I surprised myself by how eager I was to begin the challenge of quitting sugar for good, and couldn’t wait to get started. I ambitiously wrote a blog post detailing the strategies I planned to use to help me succeed as I quit sugar for 40 days. These strategies were ones to which I had given a great deal of thought, and very much expected to work.
Or so I thought.
Day one started out fine. I had my usual breakfast, snack, lunch, and didn’t even notice the fact that I had given up sugar until mid afternoon. The afternoon is the time when I usually bounce down the stairs, find our candy dish, and take out a few pieces to tide me over. Then I’d have an apple to compensate and tell myself that I was eating a healthy snack. On this day though, all I could have was the apple. I was a bit bummed to miss out on my mid-day sugar kick, but was able to avoid any major pitfalls and frustrations. After dinner, I had popcorn instead of ice cream and rolled my eyes at the fact that it wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
Days two through the end of the first week were HARD. Not the most challenging time of the 40 days, but without a doubt still hard. Day two was when the reality of the commitment really sunk it. This is when I realized how long 40 days actually would be. I heard that McDonald’s was bringing their Shamrock Shakes back out and told myself that I would thoroughly enjoy one once this whole experiment of quitting sugar was complete – only to realize that by the time the 40 days were over, Shamrock Shakes would be gone. Noooo.
It seems that I decided to quit sugar at the hardest time.
The season of Lent is actually 46 days long. Sundays are considered holy days, a day of rest, and a day when you are allowed to indulge in the thing that you were sacrificing during the season. Each Sunday I allowed myself to eat sugar, not my usual amount, but a normal amount of sugar throughout the day.
By the end of week one, I was fully looking forward to Sunday. My husband’s birthday cake had been staring at me in the refrigerator for the entire week, and I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I quickly ate my lunch and gulped down the cake in less bites than I should have. It was gone before I knew it and just a few minutes later my stomach felt really nauseous.
Giving up sugar only got harder.
Week two was by far the most challenging of the entire process. Week two was the week where everything hit in full force: cravings, moodiness, laziness… you name it, and I probably experienced it. Saying no to sugar was the most challenging this week. I never fully realized how much sugar I consumed on a daily basis until I added up the calories. I realized that on an average night, I was eating over 500 calories of ice cream, plus 100 calories of chocolate syrup. And that’s just at night, not even including the calories I consumed from sugar throughout the day. Yikes.
Deciding to quit sugar may have been a bigger challenge than I realized.
So with over 600 calories suddenly taken away from my diet, it was really challenging trying to replace them. All of my runs and workouts felt sluggish, waking up felt impossible, I was tired all the time, and felt like I couldn’t eat enough to finally feel full. Quitting sugar started to feel like a lofty goal, one that was silly for me to believe I could accomplish in the first place.
I’d read about all of the withdrawal symptoms addicts experience, but never truly expected to experience them myself. Boy, was I wrong. This week was the time when all of the moodiness and crankiness hit in full force. I felt annoyed by everything, and so lethargic all day long. My face started to break out in random bumps, different from any sort of acne I had ever experienced. Week two was a struggle.
Despite the struggles, I continued to challenge myself to quit sugar.
By the time Sunday came around, I was really excited to indulge in some sweets. I eagerly sat down with a bowl of ice cream at night, but was unable to finish it. I began to notice that sugary snacks tasted a LOT sweeter than they used to. The ice cream was almost too much for me to handle. I was unable to finish it, and at this point didn’t even want to.
Week 3 was the turning point in my sugar detox.
By week three, everything started to settle down. I discovered some healthy snacks to eat during the day that kept me full and helped avoid any cravings. I was proud of myself for making it through the beginning of this sugar challenge without cheating, and wanted to continue giving up sugar for the rest of the 40 days.
Grocery shopping started to feel more like an achievement, as I finally found myself getting most of my groceries from the perimeter of the store rather than the prepackaged middle aisles. I was beginning to feel really proud and satisfied. By the time Sunday came around this week, I was questioning whether or not I should even have a sweet treat since I was doing so well. I decided to have a small bowl of ice cream and again noticed that it tasted significantly sweeter than usual, and left me feeling very sluggish.
From there, my journey of giving up sugar continued to improve.
Each day felt a little easier, until I got to the point during week 4 where eating no sugar felt normal. I was able to sit around my family while they all ate birthday cake without drooling, and eat popcorn while my husband had cookies each night. Sundays felt like an extra challenge, and I felt really motivated. Deciding to quit sugar finally felt like a great idea, and I knew I was going to be able to accomplish it.
So here we are, on day 40. Tomorrow is Easter, which marks the end of Lent. This is the last day of my sugar detox. Looking back on the past 40 days has been so eye opening, and I am entirely surprised that so many of the effects of quitting sugar that I had heard about turned out to be true.
The most significant results I’ve experienced since I quit sugar:
- My face stopped breaking out! I have been dealing with random breakouts throughout the month, as well as significant break outs once a month for as long as I can remember. Last year I discovered that our tap water was contributing to a significant amount of the bumps I was getting on my face, and switching to a water filter made a huge difference. However, it didn’t completely change things. I can honestly say that after the initial few days of quitting sugar (hello, detox breakouts) I have not had a single breakout. This is game changing for me!
- Running has started to feel easier, and I have been able to make significant improvements in my speed. Whether or not this has anything to do with my decision to quit sugar, I don’t know for sure yet. But I can say that for the past month, my runs have all felt significantly easier. The miles have gone by with ease, and I am hitting paces that I never have been able to during my tempo and interval runs.
- Sweet foods taste even sweeter. It seems that I had almost become immune to the taste of sugar. I remember countless times being around my friends or family, sharing a treat with them, and them telling me that they could not finish it because it was so sweet. I never understood how they could turn down a dessert until now. Even naturally sweet foods like honey and fruit have started to taste much sweeter. I am able to satisfy my sweet tooth much quicker now, and say no to large portions of sugary foods.
- I feel so much better about myself. Whether it’s just a feeling of pride in knowing that I was able to completely quit sugar for 40 days, or it’s because my emotions are much more stable, I don’t know. But I have felt much more confident, happy and less stressed throughout this past month.
So the ultimate question: am I going to quit sugar for life?
As of now – no, not entirely. But I am so happy with the changes I have seen since giving up sugar that I definitely want to continue. My plan is to continue eating sweets on weekends, but quit sugar entirely during the week. The only exceptions I will make are times when we are out somewhere different during the week (like vacation, etc.) or if it is a special occasion.
If there were so many positive changes in just a month after I quit sugar, I can’t wait to see what else is in store. Giving up sugar for 40 days was one of the best things I have ever challenged myself to, and I am so proud of accomplishing it. It turns out that life without sugar is pretty awesome, and giving it up just makes it that much sweeter when it’s back.
Interested in learning to quit sugar? Check out my journey: