As mentioned previously, I’m doing monthly goals and challenges this year. On my list of potential experiments, I’ve had two in particular that I simultaneously dreaded and really wanted to try.

Giving up sugar, and giving up gluten.

It took 90 days to work up the courage to try one or the other, and I chose sugar, even though I usually think very snobbish thoughts about people who would be so moronic as to give up The Ultimate Fruit of Life. Daily chocolate is often what keeps me from losing my Ever Lovin’ Mommy Mind, and I have at least a little bit of it on a daily basis.

Sugar Love Hate_MG_8407_2257

I wanted to experiment with this both for weight and health – Dysautonomia is a very annoying disease that loves to make you give up everything you love (carbonation, caffeine, chocolate) and force you to take on all sorts of unsavory behaviors* (running, drinking insane amounts of water, lots of sleep) to keep it in line. So OF COURSE, a low-or-no sugar diet is highly recommended.

*The only benefit Dysautonomia offers is the edict of a very high sodium intake – it helps keep you from blacking out as much.

Additionally, I’ve been trying to lose weight this year (using Lose It! again) and stalled out in January after losing an impressive four whole pounds, despite counting calories and exercising every day. So what could it hurt to see what a month without sugar would do.


That was week one. I hated myself. I hated everyone. I hated life. I wanted sugar. I needed sugar. And I couldn’t eat literally anything because literally everything contains added sugar.

Cadbury Mini Eggs.
Salad Dressing.
Candied Pecans.
Chick Fil A Chicken Strips.
Cream Cheese Icing.

It was enraging.

The first week consisted of me picking up something to eat, reading the label, then yelling and throwing it down. In order to not feel like a failure, I allowed myself half a box on my tracking sheet for “no sweets” and a whole box for “zero sugar.” I got a few half boxes that first week as I learned to snack on nothing but peanut butter and eat nothing but nothing.

It didn’t help that the children kept offering me parts of their food and snacks as they always do, only for me to have to answer every time, “I’m not eating sugar, remember?”

“Oh yeah…why.”

Chris can testify to my anger issues that week – they were intense. He encouraged me to maybe just cut back on sugar – surely zero grams was an impossible goal. (I think he just wanted his state of familial happiness back.)

The vortex of that hellish time in my life happened on the first Saturday morning of April. I was prepping Noah’s breakfast that I daily make lovingly by hand (frozen Eggo pancakes) and took my usual Mommy tax of two pieces of the most buttered bits of pancake, as I do every morning.

As I put the bite in my mouth, it occurred to me.

Holy crap.

These pancakes probably have…sugar.

I pulled out the box and indeed. They had the worst offender. High Fructose Corn Syrup.

I looked skyward and yelled out “I CAN’T EVEN HAVE MOMMY TAX!??!?!?!?!”

Sugar Love Hate_MG_8412_2262

I was tormented. Angry. Feeling as if this assignment was ridiculous and idiotic and a fool’s errand and here I was finding out at the end of the week that I’d accidentally been poisoning my body with the exact thing I’d been fighting and hadn’t even APPRECIATED that I was eating The Nectar of Life.

But the cliché is true. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to start to make your way back up.

Slowly, I began to crawl myself out of my angry, unsweetened hole.

I developed routines of things I could eat – and enjoy – that did not have added sugar. My tastes began to change, and things that used to not taste sweet at all now tasted delectable.

And I began to feel better, lose inches, and finally even lose a couple pounds.

I had told myself at the beginning of the month that I’d have blackout dates during this process – Easter weekend (who can pack two kid’s Easter baskets and have zero grams of sugar? That’s unnecessary cruelty) and our beach trip. But when Easter weekend arrived, I experienced the oddest feeling of great trepidation at the thought of allowing sugar re-entry.

We were invited to an Easter party Saturday morning, where there were my favorite type of dessert – Oreo truffles. With white chocolate on the outside, even. For the first hour, I just thought about the fact that I WOULD have one before I left. I finally picked one up and stared at it. I literally felt scared. What would my body do with this foreign object? Did I really want to open this door back up? Would all my feelings come flooding back at me?

Finally, I bit.

The sugar flowed over my tongue like a drop of water in the desert. It nearly tingled. I savored the moment, only daring to have one. It was delicious, it gave me a total headache and made me feel dizzy, but it did not send me into a sugaraholic bender. I could do this.

That night, as Chris and I packed Easter baskets, I allowed myself just a couple pieces of candy. I couldn’t believe I was more afraid of overdoing it than I was eager to allow myself to binge during a pre-planned blackout date. But here I was. I, Rachel Callahan, artisan chocolate connoisseur and rewarder-of-self-with-sugary-treats, was SCARED OF SUGAR.

As the weeks went on, I became less and less interested in sugar. I didn’t lust after it, think about it, or even want it.

And I noticed something else, too: I didn’t particularly care about any food.

I ate when I needed to eat, I didn’t eat as much, and I didn’t spend time thinking about food and obsessing over my next meal.

Once, I was even irritated when Chris wanted to go out to lunch – why waste all that time on something as inconsequential as food? I could just eat a little cheese here…

And so, it seems, at least for me, that sugar was THE addicting quality of food. It was the thing I craved, the thing that drove me back to eating more, and the thing that kept me from losing weight. And, for what it’s worth, one of the things that made me feel bad. The lack of sugar has certainly not cured my daily battle with Dysautonomia, but I have had more good days this month.

FullSizeRender 74It’s that last column there…the yellow-out dates are Easter and the Beach. Even though they were pre-planned days, I couldn’t bring myself to eat ACTUAL sweets while we were at the beach. I am abhorrent.

I haven’t decided what is to be the permanent status of my relationship with sugar. It’s complicated. I cannot possibly imagine parting ways forever, but I do want to have some space from it for longer than a month, so I have semi-committed to continuing our trial separation for 90 days. I still get half boxes some days, and that’s okay. It’s not like I’m truly living the Zero Gram Life – I’m pretty sure that is unattainable unless you never go out to eat and never eat anything that wasn’t made from scratch. But the sheer amount of sugar I’ve not eaten in April – especially from the kid’s Easter baskets which are mysteriously way more full than they would usually be at this point – is pretty substantial.

And I don’t hate it. Not anymore.

Even when, just this morning, Noah offered me a Fruit Loop.

“I don’t eat sugar right now, remember?”

“Oh yeah…” (he put the Fruit Loop back and picked up another color) “But surely you can have this one.”


“You’re not even eating green sugar???”

I know, son. It makes no sense.

11 thoughts on “Pour Some Sugar on Me! No Wait – Don’t.

  1. I think my biggest fear of giving up sugar is the what will I snack on? But I would love to not always crave sugar after every meal; maybe I’ll try Chris’s suggestion of just cutting back

    1. I snack on:
      – peanut butter
      – dried fruit (I didn’t cut out natural sugars – love Trader Joe’s dried peaches)
      – pecans
      – my mom has been making me me sugar free muffins and a special cream cheese with all kinds of yumminess in it because I’m spoiled.
      – cheese
      – baked lays chips
      – grapes

      I used to snack on sugar/chocolate every snack. I missed it awfully at first but now these are great treats.

  2. My wife and I stopped eating sugar in January and are now both down 30 lbs each. We allow ourselves a reset once a month. The thing I miss the most is beer, and it’s been hard. However, next weekend coincides with my birthday and with our reset period, so we’re going to Asheville, NC to visit as many of their breweries as we can fit into a 3-day weekend. I mean, if you’re gonna “cheat,” go big or go home!

    Back to sugar though. Cutting it out it has really made a difference in the way I feel. I have much more energy and feel way less sluggish and bloated than I used to. I still get hit with sweet cravings, and I’ve learned about the wonderful substances known as “sugar alcohols” that give you the sweet and none of the carbs. Yes, they don’t taste completely like sugar, but they are a reasonable facsimile of the real thing.

    I don’t believe in demonizing sugar, and hope one day to add it back to my diet in small doses, but I think that the daily allowance of added sugar recommended by the FDA should be taken a bit more seriously than it is. In men it’s 37.5 grams, which, to someone not eating sugar at all right now, sounds like a 5 lb bag. But, I think after going without it for so long, 37.5 grams should be plenty to satisfy whatever sweet tooth I may have.

  3. In January, February and the first part of March, I eliminated as much sugar from my diet as I could. I felt great. Then, life happened and it’s been seven weeks of feeling sluggish and irritable again. Thanks for reminding me that I can feel so much better when I feed my body well. By the way, is your mom willing to share her sugar free muffin and special cream cheese recipes?

    1. Muffins

      1 cup chickpea flour
      1 cup superfine blanched almond flour
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      1 teaspoon cinnamon
      pinch of nutmeg
      ½ teaspoon salt
      2 tablespoons ground flax seed (opt.)
      Mix above ingredients together in bowl.

      2 bananas
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      1/3 cup coconut milk
      3 tablespoon frozen apple juice (no added sugar) concentrate
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      5 seedless dates
      2 eggs
      Blend together. Pour into flour mixture and gently fold in.

      Add chopped dates or raisins, nuts, or can add blueberries instead..
      Gently fold into batter.
      Spoon into baking cups in muffin pan. Bake at 375 for 16 minutes or
      adjust for your oven. Makes 12 muffins.

      Whipped cream cheese with dates and walnuts

      Leave out a block of cream cheese to soften. When completely soft, use a portbable
      electric blending whisk and whisk until very creamy. Whisk in a teaspoon of vanilla.

      In food chopper put;
      2 tablespoons frozen apple juice concentrate
      3 tablespoons half and half
      8 seedless dates
      Blend these together until dates completely chopped
      Add some walnuts and chop more.
      Then stir this into the whipped cream cheese and enjoy.

  4. This is the second blog post I have read about giving up sugar in two days.. and I really want to try it.

    I felt so bad for this poor writer from BuzzFeed (, seems they have sugary treats in the office on a daily basis.

    The writer did offer up her eating plan for the 30 days, ( and I am thinking of giving it a whirl. There may be a few recipes in there for you to try too.

    Now to just work up the courage. :)

  5. Have you heard of the Trim Healthy Mama plan? I’ve been doing it since late June. Basically, it’s no sugar, no processed carbs (you can eat sprouted or fermented grains, though), sufficient protein at every meal and snack, and separating carb and fat sources. I’ve become much more lax with the carbs/fats separations as the months have stretched on, though, and to be honest I don’t really believe that’s the main reason the plan is successful! I think eliminating sugar and bad carbs makes a world of difference! I’ve lost 34 lbs and gained natural energy, and improved health in many different areas. Plus, no special stuff to buy (it’s not a MLM). The only special ingredient I buy is erythritol to make very occasional sugar-free desserts, stevia, and my in-laws bring me real fermented sourdough bread from an artisan bakery in Arkansas. THM is pretty big in a lot of online circles, but I’ve only encountered a handful of people from my real life who know about it.

    Anyway, all that to say, I’ve become convinced that sugar is pretty much the root of all evil. I don’t see myself ever returning to my former sugary lifestyle. I’m not above an occasional small portion of the toxin for a birthday or holiday, but no more drinking Cokes and sweet tea, eating candy and regular pasta, etc. I’m going through morning sickness again now and trying to figure out what to substitute for the hard candies that worked the last time around!

  6. I had to give up sugar and most starchy , breads carbs last summer due to health issues……I am dismayed to report that I feel so much better…..I now look to food as only fuel….very few cravings……. I am dismayed only because it makes me realize that all the things I loved to eat truly were not good for my body. I eat raw vegetables, a few cooked veggies, fruit, and lean protein. Pretty boring…but effective! As a bonus, I’ve lost 20 pounds. I hardly ever nap. And my health issues have reached “normal” …it’s a insulin resistant issue… now I have to do it for the rest of my life

  7. I tried to give up sugar once. I was SOO irritated and short with my husband and kids that I gave up. It was 10 days of sugar-free angst. I’ve definitely cut back though, and I’m slowly cutting the kids back as well. Not just on sugar, but on highly processed foods and especially anything with food dyes. Those are killer. I did the 100 days of Real Food girl’s 6 week mini-pledge and it really helped me kick off a healthier way of eating for our family. It’s all about preparing. It’s the “quick dinners” on the run that kill me. I had never done meal planning before, but now that I do we are eating WAY healthier. Now if I could just get my husband to stop snacking….

  8. I did a whole30 from mid February to mid March and totally relate to your feelings about no sugar. It has slowly crept back in though so I think I will take this post as my nudge to cut it back out, at least for a while. I really learned to enjoy fruit and salads, which before I previously had no interest in. Congratulations on taming the sugar beast! It’s soooo hard!!!

  9. When I was pregnant with my last child I had gestational diabetes. I kept my blood sugar at an acceptable level by eating next to nothing for months. It was hell. The day she was born I ate French toast drowned in syrup. It was bliss.
    I have been told that a no sugar dirty can help with Dishydrotic Eczema, a nasty chronic skin rash. I wasn’t paying enough attention during my pregnancy so I don’t know if it helped or if I cut it out enough or long enough. I’ve been trying to psych myself up for a sugar fast again but I’ve been held back by fear. Much more than the fear that it won’t help is the terror that it will.

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