6 Things That Happen to You When You Quit Sugar

No, losing weight isn't on here (though that happens, too).

Most of us are diet savvy enough to identify what we “should” or “shouldn’t” be eating when we’re trying to lose weight or stay fit. We know the caloric content of kale and what makes a protein shake taste better. We understand that staying within a calorie budget doesn’t mean we’ll automatically lose weight or be healthy, because the equation is so much bigger than one number.

What’s not quite as intuitive or well-understood is that there are two kinds of sugar, and there’s a fine line between them.

Sugar has two forms: added and natural. And while the naturally occurring sugars found in, say, an apple aren't as bad for you as the added sugar you'd find in a piece of cake, the fact is that sugar is sugar. In contrast to fiber, protein, or healthy fats, sugar delivers a whole lot of not-very-helpful calories and doesn't keep you full for very long. That means that too much of either form can throw your diet out of balance and have unwanted effects on your body

I’ve always been leery of diets that advocate a complete lack of fruit. But the truth is, our bodies weren’t made to process large amounts of sugar. A lot of dieters will start the day off with fruit and some granola or a homemade smoothie or protein shake, which can add up to more grams of sugar than you might guess. I, for one, didn’t realize that my day’s allotment of sugar was normally blown with my breakfast juice of apples, strawberries, kale, carrot and celery.

I don’t mean to insinuate that fruit is the devil. Because it’s not. However, most of the vitamins and minerals you get in fruit can be found in a variety of vegetables that have a lower sugar content and a higher benefit to your body.

The argument that fruit should be eaten seasonally can come into play here as well: lately, I’ve been made aware (really aware, like in a personal way) of the mass amounts of food at our disposal and how that has changed our health as a generation—so much so, that I never even really noticed what it was doing to my own body. At any time of the year, I can run down to the local grocery and pick up strawberries and blackberries, peaches and pineapples and in the deepest part of winter I can load myself up with some great fruit.

But isn’t that part of the problem? This generation and the ones coming up behind it are plagued with auto-immune diseases and gut issues in astounding numbers and part of the problem is the amount of sugar people ingest on a daily basis. Of course, fruit is only one of many (arguably much more damaging) contributors to the issue: soda, boutique coffees, muffins, breads, yogurt, and a host of other foods have led to our sugar levels running rampant.

So, I decided to pay more attention to how much sugar (and what kind of sugar) is going in my body. I cut out sweets and (for now) have eliminated fruit in favor of becoming a veggie cooking machine.

When I made this change, I thought weight loss would be the only side effect. I’m happy to tell you it’s not. In fact, a host of other things improved—and the effects were noticeable and entirely unexpected. So here’s what happened… for real… when I quit sugar.

1. My stomach returned to normal.

I’m astounded by how many people around me complain of gut issues. From bloating to constipation to cramping and gas, some days it feels like everyone I know is plagued with stomach problems—and I wasn’t exempt. Once I limited the sweet stuff, my stomach got normal. No cramping, no extended visits to the restroom. It stopped gurgling and everything in my digestive area started acting pretty gosh darn normal.

2. I said bye-bye to heartburn and gas.

Seriously. Over the past few years, I noticed an increase in heartburn accompanied with gas in the form of belching (faintly reminiscent of a pot-bellied uncle after Thanksgiving dinner). Since cutting out sugar, the belching and heart burn have come to a complete halt.

3. I’m sleeping better.

I thought my days of a good nights’ sleep were long gone, but since my dietary change, I’ve seen a slow evolution in my nightly rest. I sleep heavy and wake feeling refreshed and ready to begin my day. I guess it’s no surprise that with better sleep my mood has improved. Some days I’m downright annoyingly chipper.

4. I have more energy.

This may seem counter-intuitive to #3, but sugar drains your body’s natural energy. After years of treating sugar as a food group, my body was haggard. I would drag my poor body through the day, drinking caffeine and longing for afternoon naps. But after two weeks of living in a reduced sugar environment, I was sailing through the day, getting work done and coming home at night to cook dinner and do household chores well into the evening when I used to be falling asleep on the couch.

5. The headaches went away.

I’ve been plagued by headaches over the past year or two. I referred to them as “baby headaches”—they were so minor, they almost weren’t worth mentioning. Just a nagging dull ache that I attributed to eye strain or too much screen time. But some days, they would blossom into full thunder boomers that Aleve and Advil couldn’t wipe away. Three weeks in, the headaches have diminished completely. I was surprised, and terribly relieved. Now, I can’t recall the last time I took some form of pain reliever.

6. My gums and teeth started to love me.

What the dentist told you when you were a kid is true—sugar rots your teeth. I’d been having some bleeding and occasional soreness when brushing – especially in the evenings before bed. Now, my gums rarely bleed and my teeth feel a whole lot better.

In the end, I’ve noticed a slight drop in weight, but I’m convinced these other side effects are the more important ones and I’m curious to see how my body will continue to change now that I’ve cut back on refined and natural sugars. I’m realistic too. Once spring rolls around and my local farmers market is flooded with fresh regional produce, I’m sure I’ll see an uptick in sugar. But so long as I’m careful, and I don’t become a slave to King Sugar again, I’m sure my body will continue to thank me. If you’ve cut back on sugar, what are some of the non-scale side effects you’ve seen?

Make it WayBetter

Spend a week logging your food, and then take an inventory of the main sources of sugar in your diet. Which ones do you really enjoy, and which could you easily cut out or substitute? You may be surprised at how easy it is to significantly cut your sugar intake.