I Quit Sugar For A Week, And Here’s What Happened

I’m a bona fide sugar addict who can’t make it through a single day at the office without a sweet snack (or five). Here’s what happened when I banned candy, cake and other ubiquitous-in-the-workplace treats from my diet for an entire week.


My Not-So-Sweet Week Without Sugar

Not so long ago, I lived a freelance lifestyle. There are both benefits and drawbacks, but one of the most overt positives to not reporting to an office from nine to five each day is that (I think) it allows you better control over your health. You can, for example, more easily exercise at any point in the day, and you don't have to sit for eight to nine hours without a significant break. What's more, you can—in my experience—more easily avoid junk food, simply by not allowing it into your workspace and by energizing yourself during the afternoon slump in other ways (e.g., taking a walk).

All this is a long-winded way of explaining that since I started working full-time in an office, my health has gone to sh*t. It's not impossible for those with willpower to avoid junk food here, but it is more difficult than it was at home. Each day, it seems, there are donuts or cupcakes or Swedish Fish or some equally hard-to-resist foods that end up causing my well-intentioned carrot-stick snacks to rot, untouched, in the fridge.

Now, nearly one year into my tenure here at TZR, I have become a certifiable sugar monster. Starting around 1pm each day, I'm apt to consume any and all sugar-filled products found within the relative vicinity of my desk. If none can be attained easily, I seek them out as if my survival depends on it. The only way to make it to 6pm, it seems, is to consume copious amounts of sweets. The situation is not good, and while the exact health risks depend on who you ask (see here and here for a couple of perspectives), I personally feel it's quite obvious that eating dessert continuously for half the day, five days a week, is not beneficial to your health. In order to break the cycle, I decide to ban it entirely from my diet for at least a week.

The first thing I must do in order to achieve this impossible-seeming goal is rid my desk of its Willy-Wonka-esque contents, which entails gifting my candy stash. I'm sad to see it go, but I know I'm not strong enough to resist shoving a mint truffle into my piehole. (Does that count as a pun? If so, it's intended.)

As with any detox, the first few days are the hardest. On day one, when I don't have time to make or grab breakfast, my co-worker surprises us with donuts. Even though I know a donut won't fill me up, starving while everyone else shoves sugary sweetness into their mouths around me isn't fun. At this point, I consider cheating already—it's not even 10am on the first day of my experiment. To make matters worse, the movie What The Health has simultaneously convinced me to spontaneously go vegetarian, so my breakfast options are incredibly limited (at least in the vicinity of my office). Even though the film says eggs are as bad for you as smoking (an oversimplified explanation of the data presented), I break and order a $17 scramble from the restaurant downstairs. It's better, I rationalize, than eating a donut.

Throughout the week I'm confronted with moments like this. We celebrate July office birthdays with a sweets-filled soiree. I sit at my desk and work through it, hungry and miserable, while my co-workers drizzle by snacking on the sugar I need to see me through my daily slump. It's torture. Many, many times I consider that no one will know if I sneak a snack or two, but then I remember I have journalistic integrity (read: an ongoing financial need to fulfill obligations such as this story to my employer) and I resist.

About midweek, however, a change occurs. Sugar, somehow, loses its hold on me. (The same happens with meat, for those of you wondering, to an even greater extent. I no longer crave it at all.) When sweets show up in the office kitchen, they barely warrant a glance. At "snack time," or anytime between 2-5pm, I seek out savory options instead of sweets and feel better for it. Overall, my brain fog somewhat dissipates. I'm energized. And, most importantly for a chronic insomniac, my sleep improves.

Before I shout too loudly from the rooftops about the benefits of quitting sugar for a mere seven days, however, it's worth considering that this also required I quit drinking wine, which is otherwise consumed on an embarrassingly regular basis. So, it's possible the mental clarity and reduction in sluggishness I've experienced is the result of near sobriety. I'm no doctor, but this seems as though it could be relevant. Still, I wasn't completely dry during this time (tequila, happily, is sugar-free), so wine elimination doesn't necessarily account for all beneficial effects.

Only one day post-experiment, I'm not yet craving sugary sweets; however I am craving an ice-cold glass of sauvignon blanc. Perhaps instead of a sugar detox, I should consider AA? Stay tuned (but don't hold your breath).

My verdict on the experiment on the whole? It's definitely worth doing. I don't think I could stomach as much sugar as I was consuming pre-experiment now, which can only be positive from the inside out. I'm going to try to keep the ban going—with an exception for the occasional glass of wine—to see if I can erase 20 years from my appearance like this woman claims to have done. To be honest, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be! If you eat sugar in moderation, you probably don't need to bother with a total ban, but if, like me, you're a bit of a gremlin in the sweets department, it might be worth taking a hiatus in order to break its hold over you—just be sure to stock up on tequila first.