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I Quit Sugar For 30 Days And This Is What Happened

No added sugars, no artificial sweeteners, no fake sugars, no honey, no agave, no syrup, no joy.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Hi! I'm Arielle, and I'm addicted to sugar.

Arielle Calderon / Via

I honestly wish the above statement were a joke, but it's not. For me, sugar IS a drug. 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, a chocolate babka from Bread's Bakery (pictured above), or whatever sugar vessel is on my mind.

Upon clicking this article, you are here, I imagine, because of one of two things:

1. You too are interested in a sugar detox and want to know if it really helps with weight management, increased energy, fewer cravings, improved skin, etc.

2. You don’t understand how a human can do such a thing, so you’re curious to see how intense this form of self-torture is.

First, here's the lowdown on added sugar and why consuming beyond the recommended daily limit might not be the best.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed / Via Source:

I think many people associate sugar with cookies and cakes and whatnot, but what people might not realize is sugar is hidden in 74% of packaged foods. This includes breads, pasta sauces, dressings, etc.

Added sugars contribute to a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Women are advised by the American Heart Association to consume a max of 24 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. Do you know how much sugar is in one 12-ounce can of Coke? Ten teaspoons. TEN! This is beyond the daily recommended limit — and it’s just a drink. If you’ve never calculated the amount of added sugar you consume in one day, you should try it. The results might surprise you. If you're interested in learning how to cut down your sugar intake, click here.

So, besides the obvious, why did I decide to do this?

I was hoping to learn a few things from this experiment and adopt habits that I'll actually stick with.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

Leading up to the days of the sugar detox, I behaved like what can only be described as a bear preparing for hibernation.

Arielle Calderon

I knew this was not a good choice for me, and it only confirmed my toxic relationship with sugar. Because I knew I would not be able to eat the majority of everyday pantry items and treats from my local bakeries, I essentially inhaled every carb-heavy, sugar-loaded food available to me within a 10-block radius. I like to think of it as bar-hopping, but for baked goods.

The day before the challenge:

Arielle Calderon

I took this opportunity to clean out my pantry and fridge and actually take a look at the ingredients. I learned that PB2 — my personal lord and savior — has added sugar, despite the packaging saying “no additives” and “all natural.” This was confusing to me because I assumed that if a food product is "natural," it doesn't contain additives.

I hadn’t even gone shopping yet and I trusted no one.

Grocery shopping:

Arielle Calderon / Via Instagram: @ariellesays

I thought the best way to tackle this was to research recipes on Pinterest and make a detailed meal plan of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. This ended up being a brilliant idea, and I learned that I desperately need structure to be successful.

Grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s on a Sunday night was the worst decision I’d ever made — and I once fell for an internet scam and gave away my personal information (I don’t want to talk about it). Anyway, trying to navigate my way around the store — while a bunch of hangry New Yorkers shoved and shoulder-checked your ass with no regrets — was next to impossible. AND I spent even more time at the store because I was diligently reading the nutritional labels as well as the ingredients list.

*Long, deep sigh*

The amount of packages that said “0g” of sugar but then literally had “sugar” in the ingredients list was alarming. According to registered dietitian Abby Langer, if a serving has less than 0.5g of added sugar (or fat), they don’t have to disclose in the nutrition label. BUT they do have to put it in the ingredients list. Basically sugar is in almost EVERYTHING — including turkey bacon, crackers, mustard, dressings, canned fruit and vegetables, canned soups, frozen foods, and just about anything processed.

So, want to see what I actually ate? You can read my entire meal plan here and see my favorite recipes used here.

Arielle Calderon / Via Instagram: @ariellesays

And now, I give you some highlights from my detox diary, in an attempt to show what it really feels like to eliminate all added sugar for 30 days.

Enjoy the roller coaster that is my life.

6 a.m.: "Welcome to hell, Arielle!" —my body and mind

Arielle Calderon

Have you ever been to a bottomless brunch, downed too many mimosas, taken a nap, and then woke up the same day with a killer hangover? That is my current state. I have a bloody, stuffy nose — which is something I haven't experienced in a VERY long time, and I feel like no amount of Advil will give me freedom from this pain. I don't want to get out of bed, but because I feel so shitty, I am also pumped to get hydrated, burn off some calories, and nourish my system with the nutrients it is so desperate for.

7:30 a.m.: I am mid-workout, and just realized I am chewing gum, which has sugar alcohol in it.

Warner Bros.

Lol I've been awake an hour and I already broke a rule. When I say I am addicted to gum, I am not exaggerating. I chew that shit as much as a smoker lights a cigarette. I buy in bulk, pop a piece before and after every meal, and basically just chew until my jaws are tired. I am the living, breathing version of Violet from Willy Wonka. This will be far be the hardest habit for me to break.

12:15 p.m.: Basically every salad dressing known to man has added sugar in it, so I am eating a sad lunch with lemon juice as dressing.

11:15 a.m.: I feel like I've had a continuous headache for the past couple days and I hate everything.

Paramount Pictures

1 p.m.: I went to make lunch after noticing I was literally shaking. I don’t know if it’s because I needed food or because of sugar. Maybe both.

3:05 p.m.: 😩

Arielle Calderon

Honestly, this is aggressive AF. Every month, the office does birthday treats, and on DAY 2 of my detox, they do it — with Dough doughnuts. 😭

3:30 a.m.: I just had a dream about brownies. I am not joking.

12:30 p.m.: I am sad because our catered lunch looks amazing, but because I have absolutely no idea what is in the food, I am going with the safe option (salad).

5:05 p.m.: Sugar is the second ingredient in Wheat Thins. I am not surprised, but I am also dead inside.

9:30 a.m.: I’m actually feeling really good right now. My bloating has gone WAY down and I feel like I dropped some of the weight I gained from my bingeing episodes.

6:45 a.m.: SoulCycle, a supposed safe space, has an entire spread of bagels, muffins, cookies, brownies, and other sugary shit.

Arielle Calderon

I finally woke up feeling energized, I was really pumped during spin class, and then this happens. Like, I came here to sweat and get my mind off sugar, and you come up in here, on a Friday morning, with my archnemesis. 😩

10:05 a.m.: As if the spread at SoulCycle weren’t enough, it is also "bagel Friday" at BuzzFeed. I don’t have super-strong cravings right now — which is nice — but I still want a French toast bagel, because obviously.

Arielle Calderon

5:30 p.m.: I am being trolled at an end-of-the-week meeting.

Facebook: video.php

Every Friday, the video team has a meeting to go over shout-outs and standout pieces of content. When Tasty was up (a BuzzFeed brand that makes recipe videos optimized for Facebook), they showed a video for how to make a French-style apple tart, and one of the directions was to pour 100g of sugar into a bowl. I literally gasped out loud, and two people who know about my sugar detox started laughing. I was screaming.

10:30 a.m.: I went to see Logan, and my friend was eating candy. Even Hugh Jackman’s bulging muscles couldn’t distract me from the smell of Sour Patch Kids.


1 p.m.: When I went to brunch with my friends, to feel less ashamed about being on a sugar detox I told the server I had a bunch of dietary restrictions from my doctor.

11:15 a.m.: My energy is actually really good right now. I don’t know if it’s because I had a large amount of protein or what, but after HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or strength training, I usually crash around two or three hours later.

10:35 a.m.: My coworkers are currently talking in excruciating detail about various types of pie. Particularly Key lime pie, and how it is severely underrated.

Arielle Calderon

I am not joking — at least 10 Instagram followers have sent me this photo:

3 p.m.: Now we are back to pie. BuzzFeed sent an email saying there is free pie in the canteen in honor of “belated Pi Day!”

Arielle Calderon

2:18 p.m.: I’ve been noticing in general that my hunger levels have subsided pretty dramatically.

3:30 p.m.: "Free cookies on the 13th floor!"

Arielle Calderon

5 p.m.: BuzzFeed is officially taunting me.

Arielle Calderon / Via Instagram: @ariellesays

Today they had a Tasty happy hour with Bailey’s drinks, ice cream, and French toast. I didn’t feel like a ravenous beast ready to annihilate my prey, but those French toast sticks with whipped cream looked pretty damn good.

My will to live is getting stronger and I am craving less and less sugar.

So weird, but some foods actually taste sweeter to me now.

Arielle Calderon

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.

I've realized that I'm definitely not sleeping better, but I'm much more energized during my morning workouts.

I was even able to complete more rounds in a circuit of BBG (Bikini Body Guide) than I was last week.

I honestly haven’t craved much sugar at all the past couple days, but today I was personally victimized by challah bread.

Arielle Calderon

It was at a morning meeting I went to, and I could actually taste the eggy sweetness of the bread in my mouth. I kept longingly looking back at it during my meeting and getting distracted.

11:15 a.m.: I kind of overloaded on fruit this morning and now I have a headache and an upset stomach.

Arielle Calderon

I also felt guilty about it, because I knew I was consuming more sugar (regardless of it being natural) than normal. But this also had me thinking about my relationship with sugar again, and even though I ate a little too much ("too much" meaning eating regardless of feeling full), I'm going to move on and just make an effort to be more mindful.

Okay, it’s been 20 days and my skin is not any better.

I’m still breaking out, which makes me sad considering what torture I’ve been putting myself through. Like, at least give me something out of it!

I'm noticing that every week I'm buying fewer processed foods and more whole foods — while also saving money!

2:20 p.m.: There are currently Milk Bar birthday truffles on the free table and everyone around me is eating them and I want to die a little.

6:30 p.m.: Today we went bowling for a team outing and I swear I have never wanted a piece of pizza more in my life. Whyyyyy did I do this??

10:27 p.m.: Apparently I am a masochist because I am scrolling through Instagram, saw a cookie, and then decided to browse the tagged location, and look at 5 million other gooey circles of chocolate and sugar.

Arielle Calderon

It’s getting easier to live without added sugar and I legitimately feel so much better.

4:46 p.m.: Everything was going swell, and then Alvin (our Tasty chef) went and personally attacked me. Exhibit A:

Arielle Calderon

2:45 p.m.: Currently at brunch and the table next to us got the most bomb-looking French toast I’ve ever seen in my life. I am on the edge of grabbing a piece once they turn away.

10:49 a.m.: Alvin is ruining my day again.

Arielle Calderon

I have never had a slutty brownie (brownies with Oreos and cookie dough) before and have always wanted to try one. And the fact that it’s made by our Tasty chef just makes me more sad that I can’t eat it. But honestly, I’m not craving it at all — it just sounds lovely.

I am at the finish line! But now I have extreme anxiety about reintroducing sugar.

3:30 p.m.: In true BuzzFeed fashion, they decided to torment me and laugh in my face by having birthday treat celebrations on my last day of this detox.

Arielle Calderon

Laid out in a lineup is a beautiful assortment of Insomnia Cookies and I’m just like, 😭😭😭.

I’m done! I’m finished! I feel like a rock star! Honestly I want to try to keep this up and see what happens.

Arielle Calderon / Via Instagram: @ariellesays

It’s probably best to slowly reintroduce sugar and not overload with pastries and cake, as I imagine it would upset my stomach. A Levain cookie would be pretty nice, though.

7:30 p.m.: Lol, I ate sugar today and now I am in the fetal position, feeling like I have literally been poisoned.

Taylor Miller/BuzzFeed

Today I went to Avocaderia and had some avocado toast. While it wasn’t super sugary, the bread was amazing and it made me crave carby things. When I got back to the BuzzFeed office, I broke down and raided the snack closet. I had peanut-butter filled pretzels and dark chocolate–covered almonds. To be fair, I had WAY too many, but it seriously gave me a RAGING MIGRAINE. I had a spin class an hour ago and almost didn’t go because I felt physically ill. I wanted to throw up and I feel so full and bloated. This is why we can’t have nice things.

The Results

Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

* Have more energy: Yes

* Clearer skin: Not really

* Fewer headaches: Yes (but I had some the first few days of the detox)

* Improve my workouts: Yes

* Fewer cravings: Yes

* Improve my health: Yes (basing this on the fact that I felt so much better)

* Lose weight: Yes, lost 3 inches from my waist and hips

* Save money: Yes, an average of $50 per week on groceries

* Focus more on real ingredients: Absolutely

* Improve my relationship with sugar: This will be a work in progress

Doing a sugar detox is seriously hard work, and it is definitely not for everyone. I think I went overboard in limiting some types of foods in the 30 days (like mints and vitamins), but beyond anything else, this experience taught me to read the ingredients list. Here are some other notable takeaways:

* Planning ahead and meal-prepping was key to my success. Making the majority of my own food is the best way to guarantee no added sugar, and preparing saved me both time and money.

* Loading up on protein and healthy fats means using more of my Weight Watchers points, but it also kept me full longer, and I snacked way less than I normally do during the workday.

* Cooking with more whole foods and experimenting with a ton of new recipes was actually really fun, and I now have some food staples I didn't before this process (like sun-dried tomatoes).

* 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. Will I continue to eat sugar? Yes — it's not realistic in my lifestyle to never have it. However, in order to improve my relationship with sugar, I need to stop depriving myself and avoiding it entirely and instead be more mindful of my consumption. I'm also going to stop buying anything "sugar-free" and use honey as a sweetener if needed.

Side note: I haven't had a piece of gum since this detox, and for me, that is ONE GIANT WIN.

If you would like to follow my weight-loss journey and life post-detox, you can follow me on Instagram or Facebook.