I decided to do a refined sugar fast last month. I ate no processed foods that contained sugar, no baked goods, and I didn’t add table sugar to anything I baked or cooked that I was going to eat. I also didn’t use any artificial sugar substitutes. I did eat fruits and honey.

I chose to do it for 21 days because I always hear that it takes that long to form a good habit. With the exception of the day that I sprained my ankle and spent the afternoon in the ER instead of at my son’s all-star baseball game, I stuck with it faithfully. The day I sprained my ankle, I had a piece of chocolate pity cake. It was kind of worth it.

What I did wasn’t a controlled scientific experiment. I simply had noticed I was reaching for the organic ice cream, the Divine chocolate bars, and the homemade baked goods too often, and I was hoping to break myself of the habit of making those daily choices instead of once-in-a-while treats.

I can’t promise that if you were to do a sugar fast, you would have the same results. I suspect that this was how my body and mind reacted to the absence of refined sugars. Other people may react differently. But, I wanted to share with you my thoughts and findings, because I think they’re pretty interesting.

  • Coffee without sugar isn’t nearly as enjoyable. I went from averaging two and a half cups a morning to one cup.
  • I found I didn’t snack at night. Any snack I wanted after dinner was sugary. After about a week of wandering around the kitchen in the evening trying to find a snack, I stopped doing that. The last couple of weeks, I didn’t even think about snacking after dinner.
  • I realized I didn’t want to eat as often as I did when I was eating sugar — especially sugar in the morning. I wasn’t making trips from my office down to the kitchen as frequently or thinking about eating as often. (I almost wrote “thinking about food as often” but considering the nature of my job, I’m almost always thinking about food.)
  • I ate a lot more fruit than I normally would have eaten. When my thoughts did turn to eating something sweet, it was just about the only choice I had.
  • I have a slight case of rosacea on my cheeks that seems to be getting less slight with each passing year. At the end of the three weeks, I noticed that it wasn’t as bright on my cheeks, something I hadn’t expected. I don’t know if it was the lack of sugar or not. I suspect it could also have to do with being out in the sun more and having more of a tan on my face.
I waited almost a full three weeks after the fast was done to write about it because I wanted to see if I had made any more permanent changes based on the fast.
  • I am back up to my two and a half cups of coffee each morning with sugar. That immediately reverted back to pre-fast behavior.
  • I find myself thinking more before I put sugary treats in my mouth. I’ll eat ice cream, but just one scoop. I haven’t bought a single candy bar. I do need to be more careful with the homemade baked goods (example: the plum clafoutis I made two weeks ago that was breakfast for several mornings straight).
  • I’ve started snacking after dinner again, but not every night.
  • I’m thinking about doing it again — maybe this time for 40 days to see if I have the same reactions.
One last thought. I broke the fast on day 22 with an ice cream cone. It was one of the best ice cream cones I’ve ever eaten. It was a true treat. That’s what I would eventually like sugary snacks to really be in my diet — a true, once-in-a-while treat that I whole-heartedly enjoy.

Have you ever given up sugar for a short time or for good? How did your body and mind react?

MNN homepage photo: TSchon/iStockphoto

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Thoughts from a sugar fast
I went 21 days without eating refined sugars and it brought about some interesting results.