‘i quit sugar’ check-in: it’s been 14 months!

 cookie no thanksI had a little reality check moment with myself the other day: I've been off sugar for 14 months. Since before two Christmases ago. What began as an 8-week experiment with Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar has become a permanent fixture in my way of living -- I did not expect that to happen, nor did I expect it to be so easy to stick to. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about sugar -- particularly a [healthy] sweet recipe she'd come across and was emphatic I try to make at home. It sounded good, but I wasn't totally excited by the idea of making it. To be honest, I am now so physically aware of what the sensation of having sugar is like that I don't want it. I can pretty clearly forecast into the future how I will feel after I have something sweet - puffy, tired, moody, headachy - so much so that choosing not to have it in any form has become second nature.

In case you didn't see my first review of what going sugar free involved, here's a recap for you. In the past 14 months, I have avoided [almost entirely]:

  • sugar, in all its forms (including white sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, demarara, etc)
  • natural sweeteners (honey, agave, coconut sugar, maple syrup, etc)
  • fruit sugar 

Before deciding to give it up, my sugar intake was minimal (no soda, candy, or chocolate bars; occasional vegan frozen yogurt; wine, some fruit, agave), but the shift I noticed from removing even just these few things has been incredible. 

I don't feel like I'm missing out, because I'd rather feel the supercharged, super-happy energy of being off the white stuff than have any at all. It's just not worth it to me anymore, and that has been one of the most powerful motivators behind continuing to eat this way for over a year. It's not about looking physically better or having dropped two dress sizes, although those have been happy bonuses. The biggest shift has been in my mood and mental clarity throughout the day. Back in April, when I first wrote about quitting sugar, I noted that I felt like a nicer person without sugar. Let me tell you: this continues! I feel so much more even and grounded. (According to Macrobiotic theory, sugar has a highly expansive energetic quality; caffeine, alcohol, and drugs do, too. There is something wild about feeling just a little more centered most of the time... which is difficult to feel when our energy is flighty and unsettled.) 

I have dabbled a little in sugar over the last 6 months to see what might happen and if I could reintroduce it without throwing my good groove off. Some highlights have included:

  • a sweetened tea latte at a little place I love in NYC -- I felt headachy and super irritable for the rest of the afternoon. Not worth it.
  • a bite of vegan gluten-free cake at a friend's holiday party -- I felt on edge. Ick. Not worth it.
  • banana -- namely in a couple of smoothie situations where I've neglected to ask for it to be omitted, and one time I intentionally tried a blended drink that included banana anyways. The cravings reignited almost immediately, and I spent the rest of the day feeling puffy and lethargic. Not worth it.
  • berries have been okay from time to time, but I notice that even something low-glycemic like goji berries or blueberries reactivate the crazy sugar monster's cravings and I end up feeling insatiably hungry the rest of the day. No thanks. Not worth it. 
  • juice -- during last fall's 3-day juice cleanse. I spent about a week recovering from the minuscule amount of sugar from the apples, pear, agave and coconut nectar in a couple of those juices. My digestion was all over the place and I felt unreasonably puffy. Lesson learned: our next juice cleanse will be veggie-only. Not worth it.
  • honey, just because it came home with us in some Christmas presents -- it was promptly removed from our kitchen on account of the immediate brain-hold I felt taking over after one spoonful in some tea. Not worth it (who likes to fight with their brain?!)

Turns out: nope, sugar just isn't going to work for me long-term. And that's okay! Once a body is detoxified, having even just a tiny bit of sugar can quite jarring. For some people, reintroducing it produces a feeling of 'Oh, that's nice! I've missed that. A bite is enough, thanks'. For me, I just feel physically off, my cravings resurface, and I don't like the funk I get into. That's motivation enough to call it quits long-term. 

The great thing is that I have discovered that sweet veggies [sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, squash] and flavorful healthy fats [a little almond butter + coconut butter, avocado with gomasio, or this freezer fudge] make incredible substitutes for those craving-filled moments. The one exception I make on a daily basis is a little soy milk in a [wee] latte, which has a touch of sugar, which I don't notice affects me negatively or exacerbates my inner sugar monster. We've also worked some apricots and bee pollen into recipes in the last year, without too much trouble. And also wine. Of course wine. Sometimes. :0) Great to know there is such a thing as balance... for some people, it will be a little more flexible than for others. The big lesson to take away from any experiment like this is learning to listen to what your body wants. When we acknowledge that packing our system full of things it doesn't like isn't doing us any favors, we start to notice what does do it favors... and what allows us to thrive. 

What's been fun for me is sharing this adventure with other people and seeing how their experience plays out. Oddly enough, the friend I mentioned above (with the recipe suggestion) found herself in a house packed with sweets for two full days not long after our conversation. She told me afterwards that the idea of 'knowing that I will feel unwell if I have sugar' really stuck with her. She had just a few tastes of sugary stuff over the weekend - not because she was worried about 'being skinny' but because she didn't want to feel physically gross - and felt awesome the whole weekend. I was thrilled to hear this! How does sugar impact you right now? Do you notice a difference if you have it or not? Do you crave it? (Is it brutal or what?!) Please feel free to share in the comments section below.

sugarfree comparison

So, all in all, an interesting first year off sugar! If you're looking to go on your own sugar-free exploration, let me know! I would love to support you through it. 

Check out this page to set up some time to chat: I am thrilled to have launched customized plans to help my clients end their sugar dependency. Let's create one for you that will help you break it off with sugar in a painless (and truly deliciously joyful) way. Best part? It's not dieting... it's food-horizon-expanding! 

Wishing you sweetness this week in all the best ways.

amy be well signature

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in health coaching info, homepage featured, musings
5 comments on “‘i quit sugar’ check-in: it’s been 14 months!
  1. Joel says:

    This definitely resonates with me. Although I have to acknowledge it’s hard to see how your bod could ‘notice’ something like a teaspoon of honey, I certainly felt incredible by day 8 of your cleanse. I’m sure the other foods-to-avoid played a role in that too, but maybe the sugar accounts for mood more than the others. I’ll probably continue to avoid most of them at this point!

    • amyheight says:

      Good for you, sir! It’s definitely an interesting experience to start to uncover what your system is telling you. It becomes more and more apparent as we take off the layers of non-food and sugar that tend to coat us from the inside-out. Underneath them, it seems, is a whole lot of access to a whole lot of interesting signals. Glad you’re feeling great! Keep it up.

  2. Zoe Green says:

    Hello Amy!

    I love your site, keep up the good work! I too have been 100% sugar free for about 12 months, like you this includes absolutely no trace sugars (like in salad dressing, foods, sauces, vitamins), no honey, fruit, sweet/starchy veggies, or other sweeteners (apart from Stevia: more on that below).

    The biggest shift: my mood- this could be attributed to MANY of the diet changes that I have made ( caffeine out, clean meat in, etc etc) but I know cutting sugar has helped with a low mood, and also rid me of a lot of “post-food guilt” that still clings to me even after years and years of working on an old eating disorder. So wonderful, right? I have been liberated. I have zero cravings and I am not tempted to “cheat”……But, I’ve discovered that I am not absorbing iron, so I started researching, I somehow came across these two articles and I would LOVE your thoughts on them.

    Danger of Stevia: a) http://www.nutritionbynature.com.au/1/post/2013/02/q-a-mondays-stevia-quinoa-almond-milk.html
    b) http://empoweredsustenance.com/is-stevia-bad-for-you/
    **Note the part on hypoglycaemia and hormone mimicking

    Need for Sugar: http://empoweredsustenance.com/sugar-its-your-friend/
    **This blew my mind, but I cant find resources to support it

    And since it is related and I was mainly following the Whole Approach candida protocol: http://empoweredsustenance.com/busted-candida-myths/

    Again, really love your work and would like to hear your thoughts.

    Also, a partner and I have started a podcast on health and we would adore having you call in and share your experience and expertise. If you’re interested let me know.

    Good work and good luck!

    Peace, Zoe Green

    • amyheight says:

      Zoe, thank you so much for this! I appreciate your thoughts! Congrats on your sugar-free adventure. Isn’t it wild how the little tweaks make such a difference for the body? Proud of you for sticking with it!

      I am excited to give these articles a read: stay tuned! And absolutely: let’s chat! I would love to touch base about the podcast — sounds super exciting!

      Take care of you,

  3. amyheight says:

    Hi Zoe, thanks so much again for sharing these articles — really great reads! I completely agree that there is a place for sugar in the diet: it just needs to be done well. Natural sugars and unrefined sweeteners – if eaten in appropriate amounts to one’s unique body – can be a great addition. Healing the gut (which any whole-foods, mainly plant-based, low-grain approach can help with) will alleviate a lot of the issues that cause/ worsen Candida, and once these are straightened out, many people find they can reintroduce trouble foods, including sugar, without too much trouble.

    My issue with things like stevia and xylitol, apart from their highly refined nature, is that anything we ingest that has zero calories (apart from water) is confusing to the system, especially if it’s sweet. This is where we run into trouble with insulin resistance, unnecessary weight gain from too much insulin circulating in the body/ not enough actual sugar to break down, metabolic depression and adrenal fatigue (this is where the hypoglycemia/ hormonal mimicking bit plays in, contributing to the body’s confusion). What we eat is meant to be fueling, so when the body doesn’t get what it expects to, it can become a little unbalanced. I like to liken this to bleach: bleach has no calories, but it doesn’t mean it’s a good option. :) I always recommend that if you need some sweetness, have some of the real stuff (honey, molasses, agave, coconut sugar, etc), and really savour it. It will do less damage in the long run than zero-calorie stuff. (Sugar can be your friend if consumed in reasonable amounts on occasion; plus, having sugar from other sources (starchy veg, etc) is where the real powerhouse fuel comes from.)

    To your point about iron: we best absorb iron when it’s paired with Vitamin C, so if your intake of fruit and brightly coloured starchy veggies is low, then your body might be missing a key to absorbing some of the good stuff in the meat/ legumes you do consume. (Are you having beans and legumes at all? Shellfish? If not, the issue might be less about absorption and more about just not enough intake.) Have you had your levels tested recently?

    Thanks again for your post — some really terrific food for thought here!

11 Pings/Trackbacks for "‘i quit sugar’ check-in: it’s been 14 months!"
  1. […] incorporating just a tiny smidge of bee pollen throughout the week for subtle sweetness – in light of giving up sugar – as it’s gentle on the system and has a low glycemic load. For me, pollen doesn’t […]

  2. […] I had found my thing! (Read more about my adventure in sugar freedom and life 14 months in.) […]

  3. […] fish sauce [don't love it, and didn't have a vegan alternative prepared], and brown sugar [because I'm off the sweet stuff]. Instead, I swapped in kale and extra baby bok choy [it was readily available at the […]

  4. […] go-to’s at the ready for those moments when a sweet craving strikes. The great thing about being off sugar – well, one of the many great things  – is that my craving for sweet stuff has […]

  5. […] go-to’s at the ready for those moments when a sweet craving strikes. The great thing about being off sugar – well, one of the many great things  – is that my craving for sweet stuff has […]

  6. […] Michael Height, sweet adventurous guy that he is, has taken on a commitment to quit sugar (a la I Quit Sugar) for the month of August. So, when the last of his Panda Puffs and Nature’s Path cereal were […]

  7. […] eating from the mid-range of the energy spectrum… see veggies, whole grains, etc. above. :) Read a little more about the I Quit Sugar experience — it’s been 20+ months for me at this point. […]

  8. […] If you’re interested in checking out the cookbook, please visit theI Quit Sugar store. Because the book also includes the 8-week program for breaking up with the white stuff yourself, it’s a fabulous investment! And, if you’d like more information on my sugar-free journey and the work I am doing with many of my clients, check out this post here.  […]

  9. […] It’s been a dessert-y month over here in the From the Ground Up kitchen! Surprising, and also so so so good. I’ve been experimenting with some gentle sweeteners like maple syrup and coconut sugar to see how we can work in a little burst of sweet without undoing the awesomeness of the last year’s I Quit Sugar adventure.  […]

  10. […] you’ve been following the blog for awhile, you’ll know I quit sugar over two years ago. While I didn’t think I was in a bad place with the sweet stuff prior to giving it up, I […]

  11. […] got talking about food – of course – and how sugar is such an innocuous additive. I mentioned I've been off it for two and half years and what a difference it has made to my being. He told me (and I agreed) that it would be so much […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.