7 Lessons from Staying Sugar-Free for 16 Years

Join the Conversation. Have you thought about quitting sugar or processed carbohydrates? Name 3 reasons why.

Heart-shaped foodSixteen years ago today, I reluctantly gave up sugar and processed carbohydrates on doctor’s orders. Although ditching sweets was the last thing I wanted to do, I had no choice, because I felt utterly awful most of the time.

On any given day, I was pummeled by many of 44 inexplicable ailments, including throbbing headaches, ferocious PMS, scary heart palpitations, vicious cravings, embarrassing crying spells, and erratic mood swings.

At the time—remember this was 1998—people didn’t realize that sugar is toxic, that it can trigger heart disease and cancer; and that it can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite many challenges along the way, I finally succeeded in mostly removing sugar from my life.

My sucess in letting go of my sugar and carb addiction is due to:

Quitting sugar and refined carbs was the most empowering, life-affirming, health-promoting thing I’ve ever done. Quitting the sweet stuff made me feel reborn. All 44 of my symptoms vanished — seemingly miraculously.

As I reflect on my 16 years of being sugar-free, I realize that I’ve learned many things. Here are 7 Lessons from Being Sugar-Free.

1)  Being a Sugar and Carb Addict was a Big Blessing.

It’s taken me a while to reach this conclusion, but if I’d never hit rock bottom as a sugar addict, I never would have discovered the joy, peace and calm that I now derive from treating my body with the respect, love, and appreciation it deserves.

In short, because I once flopped so badly by mindlessly, quickly shoving processed carb crap into my face, I now relish putting nourishing foods into my treasured body.

2)   To Strive for Perfection is Pointless.

It’s absurd to try to be totally sugar-free all the time, because sugar, high fructose corn syrup, agave, barley malt and a host of other sweeteners are hidden in thousands of processed foodstuffs, from crackers to cocktail sauce.

Even the finest of chefs tend to slip the sweet substance into their culinary creations. Rather, it’s best to aim for 80 or 90 percent sugar-free.

3)  It’s a Must! Always Pack Healthy Snacks or Mini-Meals.

One of the biggest discoveries I’ve made over the years is that it’s absolutely imperative to plan ahead at all times.

Whenever I leave home, especially when I’ll be stuck on an airplane, in a meeting or out socially, I need to have a selection of healthy foods with me to ward off the blood-sugar blues, which can lead to overeating the wrong foods.

Some of my favorite snacks include cans of salmon, flax crackers, protein power, and nuts. (Stay tuned, because I’ll share more great sugar-free treats in the future.)

4)  Remember: If I Don’t Eat Right, I’ll Suffer Big Time.

One of the reasons I’ve been able to stay sugar-free is that I remember how bad it can get. Cheating just isn’t worth it. It’s simply inevitable that I’ll feel horrible eating either sweets or processed carbohydrates (what I call fast carbs or quickie carbs).

For instance, eating lots of movie popcorn or corn nuts, will give me such annoying ailments as brain fog, lethargy, anxiety, depression, digestive problems, crying spells, and cravings for more of the same fast carbs.

There’s simply “no escaping the terrifying change that occurs against my will,” as I shared in Sugar Shock. “After eating quickie carbs, I become an untamable, irascible “Sugar Shrew,” a fuming, disagreeable “Sugar Monster”; a sobbing, pitiful “Sugar Crybaby”; and finally, a listless, lethargic “Sugar Zombie…

 “…Alas, my dreadful, dramatic sugar-induced transformation is inevitable. As predictable as the moon rising. As sure as the swallows coming home to Capistrano at the same time every year. As expected as the crowds flocking to Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s for an annual blowout sale.” 

And I’m not unique. Millions around the world suffer from mammoth physical and/or emotional turbulence after eating sweets or fast carbs.

5)  When Stressed Out, Temptation Will Strike—A lot.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that if I’m under extreme stress, deadline pressure or emotional turmoil, my calm resolve will be shaken. Sure enough, at that point, fast carbs such as movie popcorn will entice me. More about that later.

6)  Falling off the Wagon Is Okay; Perhaps Even Expected.

You just can’t apply the same standards towards food that you do for alcohol. Unlike booze—which you can totally skip and never drink another drop again—you always have to eat.

This means that whenever and wherever you go, sugary or quickie-carb nonfoods will abound. At times, they’ll strive to land in your stomach—or so it may feel.

What’s more, we’re human beings, which means we’re not perfect. Rest assured that there’s a tremendous freedom in accepting that despite our best efforts, at times, we just won’t eat right. That’s okay. It’s what you do afterwards that counts.

7)  Real Food Tastes Sweeter & Tastier than Junk Food.

When you let go of sweets and fast carbs, you’ll discover your taste buds. Real food, you’ll find, is scrumptious and delectable as opposed to the bland, super-salty, excessively sweet or ultra-fatty taste you get when you turn to quickie-carb foods.

Plus, when you lovingly create your own dishes, you’ll be delightfully surprised at how you’ll savor the flavors.

Learn More About Me. I'm a former sugar-addicted journalist, who quit sugar on doctor’s orders in 1998. Now 16 years into sugar sobriety, I've created many cool tips and tools to help thousands worldwide release their over-attachment to sweets and quickie carbs. I'm also a speaker and best-selling author of Sugar Shock and Beyond Sugar Shock: The 6-Week Plan to Break Free of Your Sugar Addiction & Get Slimmer, Sexier & Sweeter. Get Sugar Shock Blog updates in your mailbox.

Join the Conversation. Have you thought about quitting sugar or processed carbohydrates? Name 3 reasons why.

Special thanks to Getty Images for the photo above. Please note that I'm not sure if can use this so please forgive me and notify me if I can't use it, if you have the rights.

Sugar was once my go-to "drug." Now, I'm an ex-sugar-addicted journalist. ALL 44 of my baffling ailments vanished after I reluctantly kicked the sweet stuff and quickie carbs in 1998. Now, I’m author of the expose, Sugar Shock (Berkley Books, 2006) and Beyond Sugar Shock (Hay House, 2012), which gives you a simple, proven plan to kick sweets. My next book, Crush Your Crazy Cravings™ -- which I'm now completing -- will give you easy, tested tools to squash your cravings for sugar, salt and fatty foods. I’m also a motivational speaker, certified life coach, certified health coach, media guest, and Gab with the Gurus host. I'm also organizer for the upcoming Sugar World Summit. Let’s connect on social media!

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4 thoughts on “7 Lessons from Staying Sugar-Free for 16 Years

  1. Gosh I could nt have put it better as Fenonia Hill….I dont want to have a stroke…..I was always a great business woman but since staying at home with children whom I adore I eat more rubbish than I would have ever done….and the mood swings are unreal…crying bouts…I know they relate to sugar withdrawals. Also I love to keep fit so I want to look and feel better.

  2. Orla,
    My heart goes out to you. The mood swings, crying spells and sugar withdrawals are soooooo awful!
    Might I suggest that you think about your children.
    You do want to be around for them, right?
    Well, when you eat more healthy, you’ll feel better and be a better mother and set a better example for them.