Stepping Off the Sugar Rollercoaster

by Michelle Pfennighaus
March 01, 2011

I remember I had a huge, overflowing bag of food ready to be thrown out. It had all come from my kitchen. Soups, sauces, cookies, cereals, juices, crackers, yogurt…you name it. They all had one thing in common.


I’d just finished reading Sugar Blues by William Dufty. The book explained so much about sugar being harmful to our bodies that I decided I’d kick the sugar habit. What did I have to lose? After all, I’d been struggling with digestive problems, anxiety issues and fatigue for years. Maybe this would help.

I resolved to stop eating processed sugar from that very moment on, as an experiment to see how the change would make me feel.

The problem was this. My kitchen was now empty of, well, pretty much everything. I’d thrown out everything that listed any type of processed sugar on the ingredient label, and I was left with some beans, plain rice and a box of frozen spinach. Well, that was going to have to be dinner!

I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to avoid sugar. Over the next few days I spent hours examining labels on everything from sliced bread to sushi. Sugar was everywhere! Going out to restaurants was nearly impossible. Now that I was paying attention, I saw possible sources of sugar in everything on the menu.

But I stuck with it. And I got a little angry! Why did salad dressing have to have sugar in it anyway?

But after about two weeks I felt amazing. I had so much energy! My body felt awesome. My moods were stable and happy. It was super.

Since I’d been so “good,” I rewarded myself with cookies, my favorite treat. I’d have just a few. (Looking back, that mindset alone reminds me of addictive behavior! I’ll have just a few? No way!) Of course I ate the whole box. As soon as I had sugar in my system again, I was back on the rollercoaster. My moods swung up and down, as did my energy levels. After each meal, I found a reason why I should go ahead and have some dessert.

Sugar can hide behind words like evaporated cane juice syrup…

Whoa. Powerful stuff.

Since then, I’ll be honest, it’s been an ongoing struggle between me and sugar. I know I feel my best without it. But it talks to me. It promises me happiness when I’m having a bad day. It lures me into the kitchen at night in search of something sweet.

It is addictive. Plain and simple. The more I have, the more I want.

To stay away, I have to remind myself again and again to prioritize my health. Processed sugar weakens the body. It lowers immune function and causes lethargy. It contributes to diabetes, heart disease and weight gain. It feeds cancer cells, for crying out loud! And it has zero nutritional benefits. The human body does not need it at all.

…or in plain sight in these tempting macarons.

Photo uploaded to Flickr by hynkle, some rights reserved.

What I can’t understand is how such a powerfully addictive and damaging substance is allowed to exist everywhere you turn. I mean, you can’t get alcohol in a vending machine. We’ve outlawed cigarette advertising. Yet foods with processed sugar are sold everywhere, given as gifts, fed to children and advertised constantly. No wonder 99% of my clients come to me complaining of sugar cravings. It’s an absolute epidemic.

Could you benefit from more energy? More stable moods? Weight loss? Then join me in kicking sugar to the curb with these important steps:

Stop feeding the addiction

The more sugar you eat, the more you want. Start like I did. Clean out your kitchen! If sugar is on the ingredient label, toss it—you can even double the good you’re doing by packing up all the unopened and non-perishable products and donating them to your local food bank. And be sure to look for other names that sugar goes by, like evaporated cane juice, cane juice crystals, corn syrup and sucrose. Trust me, reading labels gets easier the more you do it.

Switch to gentle, naturally occurring sweeteners

Processed sugar hits your bloodstream like a sledgehammer. Try sweeteners in their least-processed forms, like raw honey or pure maple syrup. Especially when used in moderation, these will have a much less drastic effect on your body.


Photo uploaded to Flickr by sonictk, some rights reserved.

Make it yourself

Bottled salad dressing almost always has sugar, but I’ve never put sugar in homemade salad dressing! The same goes for lots of things. Food manufacturers add sweetness to make their products taste good despite inferior-quality ingredients. Make it yourself and you’ll automatically be eating less sugar.

Sweeten your life

We turn to sugar when we need a pick-me-up. It gives us a temporary boost of energy and mood. Instead of using sugar like a happy pill, find other ways to increase the happiness in your life. What brings you joy? Surround yourself with these things and your sugar cravings will gradually fall by the wayside.

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