As someone with a sweet tooth, I am constantly craving sugar. Sweets are definitely the best part of my diet and I am not lying when I say that I eat something sweet every day. After surviving my first semester of college, I realized that I can't eat the way that I used to in high school. This adult realization made me think about all of the processed sugar that I consume on campus. So I decided to cut processed sugar out of my diet for a week, because that seemed manageable for me to stick to.
I went into this experiment fairly blind, only reading one article about cutting processed sugar out of my diet before committing to this. My friend tried to convince me to try this a while ago, but we both fell weak to a series of birthdays featuring cupcakes and cakes galore. In an effort to see how my body and my health would be impacted by cutting out sugar, I kept track of the results of this experiment. And it totally surprised me.
Between every meal, I started getting more headaches. Not just the, "oh, this will go away soon" type of headaches. It was the, "okay, time to get some Advil or lay down" type of headaches. This definitely came as a surprise to me. I googled this symptom and found that there really isn't any data to prove sugar withdrawal causes headaches. But I do believe that in my case, sugar withdrawal is what caused my headaches. Although there are other factors that could be a contributing cause.
I was literally, and I mean literally, drooling over a pack of Oreo's in front of me. I have never craved food more in my life than the first three days after cutting out sugar. I was thinking of slutty brownies, ice cream, and cupcakes much more than usual. This side effect did not come as a surprise to me, but the mouthwatering definitely did.
3. Increased Hunger
Usually, I can manage to not snack between meals. But as soon as I cut out sugar, I found myself more hungry than usual. I had to eat something between lunch and dinner to accommodate for my grumbling stomach. This was frustrating because I felt healthier not consuming processed sugar; however, I felt like I was eating more and thus increasing my daily caloric intake. Instead of sweet granola bars or cereal, I ate fruits or peanut butter without sugar to get me through to the next meal.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of my weight because I was eating healthier, but I was also eating way more. To my surprise, I lost one pound in the week that I cut out sugar. Also, my body felt more toned and more in shape. I was more energetic at the gym and going on a run felt less exhausting. I'm not sure if the lack of sugar was the reason for this energy, but it sure felt like a dramatic difference.
Even with the struggle of college dining hall food, I managed to find healthy substitutions to minimize my cravings. I ate cantaloupe after dinner and ate apples between meals. The increase in fruit in my diet helped make me feel like I was still able to eat sweets—but in a healthier way.
My experiment did not lead to any radical changes and I don't see myself ever fully cutting processed sugar out of my diet. My theory is that everything is okay in moderation. Yes, eating well in college can be hard, but it's rewarding to not feel weighed down by tons of sweets. If I were to do this experiment again, I would definitely go for a longer period of time to see if there were more drastic changes.