What Happened When 11 People Tried To Quit Sugar

Photographed by Laura Murray.
You can always tell when a person is "off sugar," because they have an insatiable urge to tell you about it. Whether it's your friend, family member, or that random wellness Instagram blogger you follow, many of us are under the assumption that cutting all sugar from our diet will solve all of our health issues. But for every no-sugar evangelist, there's another person who can rationally explain why you shouldn't give up sugar.
Here's the thing: sugar has been demonized to a ridiculous degree, and the infamous claim that sugar is "as addictive as drugs" is way oversimplified. Our bodies and brains run on carbohydrates, and sugar is the smallest unit of carbohydrates, Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, a registered dietitian and intuitive eating coach, told Refinery29. Sugar is found in lots of nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, and sometimes your body craves those foods. So, deciding to give it up altogether is likely not a good solution.
Calling one food or ingredient "the devil," and cutting it out of your diet completely, has never worked. Restriction intensifies cravings, which can lead to binging and overeating, plus can harm your overall relationship to food. It's absolutely possible for added sugars (in foods like baked goods or dairy desserts) to have a place in a person's diet, but what's tricky is that sugar is often added to foods that you wouldn't expect (like salad dressing or pasta sauce). Those sneaky sources of sugar can confuse your brain, and make it more difficult to listen to your body's internal hunger cues.
Even knowing all of this about sugar, plenty of well-meaning people will likely decide to give up sugar as part of a health-related New Year's resolution. Some of those people may even decide they feel better without added sugar, and never eat it again. To get a better understanding of people's relationship to sugar, we asked 11 people what it's really like to quit sugar, and whether or not it's worth it in the long run.

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