I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but during my first pregnancy I took it to a ridiculous level. Not a single day went by without a sweetened drink, dessert, or pastry. Even the healthiest pastries and paleo lemonades contain between 20-30 grams of added sugars. Obviously I gained a ton of weight, but some of the unexpected side effects made being a new mother incredibly difficult. After I gave birth to my first child, and endured 2 weeks of hormonal hell and physical pain, I decided to get serious about my health. Because I was nursing, I didn’t want to restrict calories or foods. Instead I banned added sugars for 30 days. These were some of the many benefits to banning sugar:
Weight loss was obviously on my mind, but it wasn’t a priority. Prior to cutting sugar, I weighed more after birth than before due to massive water retention from medications and hormone imbalances. Consuming sugar causes the pancreas to release insulin, which in turn signals your kidneys to retain water and sodium. Within a few days of banning sugar, I was able to retire my flip-flops for normal shoes. Cutting sugar allowed me to quickly shed massive water weight and look a few sizes smaller.
I Remembered More and Focused Better
I was living in a constant fog; forgetting things I did earlier in the day and walking into rooms with no idea why I was there. Our brain only functions on glucose, or sugar particles. Simple sugars found in desserts, pastries, drinks, and processed foods are quickly metabolized in the gut, which causes a sudden increase in blood sugar levels, therefore sending glucose to the brain. Since our brain cannot store glucose, it will try to use it and it is incredibly sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels. Some of the side effects include rapid aging of brain cells, reduced memory, and cognitive deficiencies. It is best to consume carbohydrates with slow release sugars, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits which are metabolized in the liver. By cutting sugar, my brain was able to function more efficiently.
I Had Less Pain
Before cutting out sugar, I felt like I was 65-year-old woman, instead of a 30 year old. My ankles, hips, and wrists hurt all the time. If I worked out, I was so sore I could barely move for days. Sugar is an incredibly inflammatory food. By eliminating it, most of the pain associated with inflammation went away. Within 30 days, I could finally move without groaning and recovered much faster from my workouts.
I Had Better Skin
My skin was a wreck; I had teenage breakouts, a ton of new sun spots, crazy wrinkles, and massive circles under my eyes. In addition to causing body pain, constant inflammation can lead to a slew of skin irritations including breakouts as well as more frequent and severe sun damage.
Moreover, sugar bonds with proteins such as collagen and elastin by forming AGEs, and damages them. The result is duller, less firm skin; more fine lines; and saggy, dark circles under eyes. Cutting sugar reduced my fine lines and breakouts, improved my skin tone, and reduced the amount of sun damage I was seeing.
I Felt Healthier
Being surrounded by germ-attracting kids, I was constantly sick. Our body contains “bad” bacteria, which feeds and thrives on sugar, and “good” bacteria, which feeds on fiber. Constantly consuming sugar causes a severe imbalance, and when the “bad” bacteria take over, some of the common side effects include frequent infection, gas, bloating, reduced immune system, reduced nutrient absorption, and weight gain—and some studies even blame sugar cravings on them. By cutting out sweets, I was better able to fight off colds and had fewer infections.
I Felt Happier
I was a mess—crying one minute, and laughing the next. When I cut sugar, I was much more stable, however anytime I’d allow myself a treat or “cheat day” the roller coaster would start up again. On days when I had sugar, I felt more anxious, I was more likely to lose my temper, and I had a difficult time managing my emotions. For the sake of my family and my sanity, I went much longer without “cheats”. Moreover, your gut produces most of your body’s serotonin, a mood stabilizer, so when there is an imbalance in the gut, such as too much bad bacteria, the result is more mood swings and anxiety. Cutting sugar helped me restore hormonal balance which made me happier overall and more pleasant to be around.
The recommended amount of added sugars a day is 9 teaspoons for men (38 grams) and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women a day. I personally do not count sugars from non-processed foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. However, I do read labels for added sugars, and thanks to new label guidelines it may be easier to separate added sugars from the naturally occurring ones. By keeping blood sugar levels consistently low, when you do sporadically consume something with added sugars, your body is better able to process and dispose of it. I know it’s not easy to cut sugar, but hopefully these tips will help to quell the cravings.
What do you struggle most with when you consume sugar?