If you’re a regular sugar eater, whether the sweeteners are natural or refined, and you are cutting back or going cold-turkey, expect to experience some withdrawal symptoms. But you can overcome!
Our family is in the midst of a 30-day no sugar challenge (Beyond Sugar) and of us all, I believe I’m the one who was most used to a constant drip of sweeteners. It has been some years since we’ve had refined sweeteners. When we first decided to eat healthfully, we didn’t even eat many natural sweeteners (raw honey, maple syrup, etc.). But, over the years, I guess I got complacent by thinking – hey, they’re natural; God made them; we can eat them!
Sweeteners Are Not Food
Well, yes, we can eat natural sweeteners. The trouble is, concentrated sweeteners of any kind should not become a substantial part of a diet. They can’t really be called “food” in the sense that food is supposed to maintain life, support growth, and nourish our bodies. Nope. Sweeteners don’t do that stuff.
Constant Drip of Sweetening
I was at the point where I am/was used to a constant drip of sweetening all day long. For breakfast, I’d have a generous scoop of raw honey on my toast or porridge. Throughout the day, I would drink generously honey-sweetened tea. About midafternoon, I’d grab some dark chocolate. After dinner, we’d all have dark chocolate for a dessert. And if I made muffins or cookies, I’d eat some of that, too.
None of these foods were big offenders. Taken by themselves, quite innocuous. But all day, hour by hour, I feel like I was hooked up to a natural sweetener IV. Can anyone relate?
Tough and Tougher Withdrawal Symptoms
Now this week. It has been tough. Yesterday, the 5th full day of not having any sweeteners, was the first day I did not have a headache. The first two days, I felt nauseous and unwell. I’ve had cravings for sweets all week long. I can hardly keep myself from snatching some chocolate from the freezer. I feel as though the symptoms are abating, though, and I’m glad.
I haven’t seen similar symptoms in the children or my husband. I don’t think they were sweetening up like I was. Or maybe the kids are just better at handling it.
If you search on the internet, you’ll find others talking about withdrawal symptoms. If someone is breaking free from an addiction to refined sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup or white sugar), I gather that the withdrawal can be quite painful, wtih symptoms mimicking the flu – chills, sweats, headaches, aches, pains, nausea, etc.
Strategy To Persevere Through The Withdrawal Period
Since now I’ve been through this, the toughest few days of breaking a sugar-addiction, I’m in a good position to share my strategy and what has worked for me to make it through the hardest period. It’s all downhill from here!
- Prayer. I asked God often to help us enjoy our unsweetened foods for their own sake, and to give me strength to persevere.
- I have kept in the front of my mind why I’m not eating sugar. (See my goals and sugar’s ill health effects.)
- Make a conscious choice every time I put something in my mouth; resist blindly reaching for chocolate without even knowing what I’ve done.
- Rest and relaxtion – I’ve read books, taken naps, enjoyed my children
- Drink plenty of water, Kombucha, and unsweetened tea (or with a little stevia, though I don’t like it too much)
- Make nourishing snack foods to satisfy our hunger and delight our taste buds in new ways – the kids are enjoying the new snacks very much!
Of all those strategies, the first two have been key for me and for us. I’m so happy that my husband and children are on board with this. We’ve got to believe in what we’re doing, or we won’t be able to stick with it. We have a great God who will help us in our time of need. The other strategies are ways to get through the body’s symptoms of feeling unwell from the change. They’re important, too.
Whether you’re cutting back on sweeteners altogether, or cutting back some, please share how you’ve handled such big changes in yourself or with your family members! Change is hard and we all need help and encouragement to persevere in making healthy choices!
This is one of a series of posts during the month of May, during which time the Harmon family has vowed not to consume any sweeteners, natural or refined. We call the challenge “Beyond Sugar” and would love to have you join us, in whatever way you feel led! (Get the button here for your own blog or website.) I shared this post in Fight Back Fridays! at Food Renegade and Cutting Back on Sugar Challenge at Naturally Knocked Up.