Arielle Calderon has made a wonderful transition from a diet full of sugar to a healthy, nutritious diet filled with whole foods. What inspired this life-changing decision? Arielle’s sugar addiction. Her sugar consumption had spiraled out of control which was highlighted by her visit to many bakeries to get sugary pastries the day before she embarked on her sugar-free journey. “I knew this was not a good choice for me, and it only confirmed my toxic relationship with sugar,” she realized.
Why You Should Quit Sugar
Sugar is an empty calorie food because it has only calories and no nutritional value. Surprisingly, sugar hides in 74% of packaged products which means that unless you eat a diet of exclusively whole foods, you are probably eating an incredible amount of sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 9 teaspoons of sugar per day for men, 6 for women, and 3-6 for children. Some sodas can have up to 11 teaspoons of sugar in a can so if you drink a can of soda, you’ve already gone above your daily limit. (1)
Most Americans consume a lot more sugar than the recommended amount. A study found a link between an excess amount of added sugar and cardiovascular disease. American adults who get 17% to 21% of their calories from refined sugar are at risk for dying of cardiovascular disease and the risk doubles for those who consume more than 21%. (6)
A study found that people who consumed drinks sweetened with sugar had a higher risk of developing diabetes type 2 and metabolic syndrome which affects your blood sugar levels. (5) Another study showed that sugars containing fructose such as high-fructose corn syrup contribute to diabetes. (4)
A recent study found that girls who consumed a diet high in sugar-sweetened soft drinks in adolescence and early adulthood were more likely to develop breast cancer later in life, especially before menopause. (3)
According to a study, children between the ages of 2 and 9 who ate more refined sugar and processed foods were more at risk of developing chronic inflammation later in life than children who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. (2)
The 30-Day Sugar Cleanse Challenge
Arielle lost 100 pounds two years ago, but has been struggling with her weight management and bingeing for years. After a period of dieting, she would go on a binge spree and eat lots of sugary foods.
“For me, sugar IS a drug,” she says. “When faced with my food demon, it’s as if I lose all control and rationality and can only focus on eating a cookie, or brownie, or whatever sugar vessel is on my mind.”
Arielle really needed to change not just her diet, but her relationship with food and especially sugar. That’s when she decided to ditch all foods containing sugar for 30 days and set her own goals and rules.
She wanted to have more energy, fewer headaches, lose weight, save money, stop having cravings, and focus on eating real foods. The rules excluded all sugars including syrups, honey, artificial sweeteners, and products with added sugar, but allowed foods with natural sugar such as fruit.
After a 30-day sugar cleanse, Arielle successfully completed her goals.
Ditching sugar gave her more endurance. “After HIIT or strength training, I usually crash around two or three hours later. I’m much more energized during my morning workouts.”
The change is obvious. Arielle dropped 3 inches from her waist and hips in only 30 days.
After the first few days of the challenge, Arielle’s frequent and painful migraines stopped completely.
During the challenge, Arielle craved less and less sugar. “Hunger levels have subsided pretty dramatically. I am definitely feeling more full throughout the day, which is perhaps due to the fact that I’ve been eating a lot more healthy fats. I think limiting the amount of processed foods I eat is forcing me to be more creative with food and eat things I wouldn’t normally go for.”
A surprising result was that her palate changed and she could taste the real sweetness of the food she ate. “I never detected a sweetness in red bell peppers or cooked onions, but all of a sudden, I am. And I had an apple last night and it tasted like candy.”
“Because I’m planning out my meals, I’m saving way more money and buying fewer groceries throughout the week. I usually spend $100 per week on food, and now I’m averaging about $60.”
Focus On Real Foods
“Because sugar is in most packaged foods, I’m being forced to be more creative with cooking, using mostly whole foods.”
On improving her relationship with sugar, she says that it will be a work in progress. Arielle broke her sugar restriction after the challenge and soon after got a migraine and felt sick. “Reintroducing sugar was an eye-opener, and seeing the effects it had on my body is encouraging me to be more aware of ingredients and my sugar intake.”
Cutting sugar out of your life can be hard in the beginning, but taking small steps will eventually get you there. Clean out your pantry of sugary foods, check the ingredients when you buy packaged foods, and prepare your own food to be certain that all ingredients are sugar-free, healthy, and nutritious.
(1) American Heart Association (2016). Sugar 101.
(2) González-Gil, E. M., Tognon, G., Lissner, L., Intemann, T., Pala, V., Galli, C., Wolters, M., Siani, A., Veidebaum, T., Michels, N., Molnar, D., Kaprio, J., Kourides, Y, Fraterman, A., Iacoviello, L., Picó, C., Fernández-Alvira, J. M., & Moreno Aznar, L. A. (2017). Prospective associations between dietary patterns and high sensitivity C-reactive protein in European children: the IDEFICS study. European Journal of Nutrition, 1-11.
(3) Harris, H. R., Willett, W. C., Vaidya, R. L., & Michels, K. B. (2017). An Adolescent and Early Adulthood Dietary Pattern Associated with Inflammation and the Incidence of Breast Cancer. Cancer Research, 77(5), 1179-1187.
(4) Johnson, R. J., Sánchez-Lozada, L. G., Andrews, P., & Lanaspa, M. A. (2017). Perspective: A Historical and Scientific Perspective of Sugar and Its Relation with Obesity and Diabetes. Advances in Nutrition. 8(3), 412-422.
(5) Malik, V. S., Popkin, B. M., Bray, G. A., Després, J., Willett, W. C., & Hu, F. B. (2010). Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care, 33(11), 2477-2483.
(6) Yang, Q., Zhang, Z., Gregg, E. W., Flanders, W. D., Merritt, R., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(4), 516-24.