The Top Challenges of Quitting Sugar — Solved!

The Top Challenges of Quitting Sugar — Solved!

Kicking added sugar is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, but it does come with a few hurdles — ones you can successfully navigate with a little support and guidance.

When I developed Sugar Free 3 — a three-week eating plan to curb added sugar consumption, stress-eating, and cravings — one of my main objectives was to create a nutrition protocol that was simple to follow and didn’t make participants feel deprived with restrictive calorie counting or portion control.

Thousands of people have responded to the effectiveness and relative ease of the program — and many of them have shared their journeys and challenges in the Sugar Free 3 Facebook Group that is dedicated to answering questions about reducing or quitting added sugar with both expert and crowdsourced advice. (You can join the group whether you’re doing Sugar Free 3 or just thinking about it.)

Below are some of the most universal queries we get — and the answers!

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1. Is It Common to Experience Withdrawal Symptoms — Lethargy, Headaches, Etc.?

woman sitting on couch with headache | quitting sugar

The experience of quitting added sugar is different for everyone, but many Sugar Free 3 participants report feeling icky (a technical term) for the first few days. Eating sugar stimulates the reward centers of the brain, so it makes sense that ditching it could come with some unwelcome side effects.

Common “withdrawal” symptoms include mild headachesfatigue, and moodiness.

The encouraging news? The discomfort usually lessens by day five or six and gives way to renewed energy, restful sleep, and more!


2. How Long Does It Take to Feel the Positive Effects?

Just like with any early, unpleasant side effects, when and how intensely the positive shifts present themselves varies from person to person. But one thing is certain: The positive results will come because the benefits of kicking added sugar are well known. It can have positive effects on weight, skin, and energy.


3. Nighttime Sugar Cravings Are the Worst — How Can I Combat Them?

We all know those after-dinner times when you’re just feeling “noshy” or want that post-meal sweet indulgence. Here are some tactics for thwarting that desire:

  • Drink a “sweet” herbal tea (such as vanilla)
  • Brush your teeth
  • Eat a healthy snack like air-popped popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon
  • Meditate or do some relaxing yoga poses

With Sugar Free 3, you’ll learn to enjoy eating mindfully and begin to recognize real hunger cues, which will help you resist cravings so you won’t automatically reach for chocolate the second you finish the last bite of dinner.


4. Do I Need to Work Out to Lose Weight on Sugar Free 3?

woman stretching before workout | quitting sugar

In a word, nope! Exercise is always a great idea because it comes with a myriad of benefits of its own — but it is not a requirement of Sugar Free 3. And since sugar consumption is a major driver of weight gain, you don’t need to work out to lose weight on this program.

If you do feel up to exercising, it can boost the weight-loss benefits — and you’ll find hundreds of amazing workouts to choose from on Openfit.


5. Why Is Whole Fruit Okay but Juice Isn’t?

Whole fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber — it’s the fiber that’s intact in the whole fruit that helps regulate how quickly the naturally occurring sugars in fruit hit your bloodstream. When you remove that fiber through juicing, the liquid can quickly elevate blood-sugar levels, which leads to unstable energy levels and more cravings.


6. I Miss Dessert — Are There Any Sugar Free 3-Approved Treats I Can Eat?

Yes, there are! The Openfit app is packed with dessert ideas that are easy to make, devoid of added sugar and very satisfying. A few examples: stevia-sweetened dark chocolate, chia pudding, fresh blueberries with coconut, and many, many more. Other snacks you can freely munch on are listed here.


7. On Food Labels, Why Do Some Products List “Added Sugars” and Others Don’t?

nutrition facts label | quitting sugar

Food labels can be confusing and here’s why: Sugar hides in plain sight under over 70 aliases — so spotting them in the ingredients list is tough, unless you know what to look for (Sugar Free 3 teaches you step-by-step how to do this).

However, nutrition labeling laws changed as of January 2021, so going forward, you should be able to spot “added sugars” more easily on all packaged food labels.


8. How Can a Nutrition Facts Panel List “0 added sugars” but List Several Grams Under “Sugar”?

Added sugars are slipped into food during processing, but foods such as yogurt, have naturally occurring sugars — those are the ones listed under just “sugar” on the nutrition label. Why is this natural sugar okay? “Our brains need sugar to survive — natural sugar,” explains dietitian Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Nutritious Life.

These natural sugars appear in many healthy and essential foods, such as fruits and vegetables. The natural sugar breaks down into blood glucose — an important source of energy that your brain and body need throughout the day. “But,” emphasizes Keri, “we don’t need added sugars.”


9. Soda Is a Major Vice — Swap Suggestions?

Soda is one of sugar’s fastest messengers, delivering eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories and zero nutrition, in just one 12-ounce can, according to The American Heart Association. You can get a fizzy fix without compromising your health with stevia-sweetener soda (such as Zevia) or better — seltzer water flavored with citrus or fresh herbs makes for a super healthy stand-in!


10. Why Do I Have to Give Up All Alcohol?

pouring a glass of beer from tap | quitting sugar

Sugary cocktails, most beers, and sweeter wines all either contain sugar or the fiberless carbs that behave like sugars. That leaves hard alcohol, dry wine, and light beers. These three have little or no carbs or sugar to speak of, but they’re still problematic because they’re just “empty calories.” This means that they don’t provide any additional nutrition and they don’t help to keep you feeling full.

Also, people tend to make bad choices when they drink, which is another reason why alcohol isn’t allowed on Sugar Free 3. When you’re not doing the Sugar Free 3 program, consult this guide to gauge the sugar content of wine.


11. Is a “Cheat Day” Allowed on Sugar Free 3?

When I was developing Sugar Free 3, I decided to ban the phrase “cheat day” and replace it with “mindful indulgence.” Once a week, SF3 participants are allowed one (optional) mindful indulgence — that is, anything they want from the Not Allowed food and beverage lists, whether that’s pizza, ice cream or a glass of vino. It’s not a whole day of indulgence; therefore, it won’t derail your hard-earned progress.


12. Aren’t Honey and Maple Syrup Healthier Than Sugar — Why Aren’t They Allowed?

Over the last few years, sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup have developed what I call a health halo — a reputation for being good for you when they might not be. While it’s true that honey, for example, has some health properties, it impacts your blood sugar levels and for that reason it is not allowed for the 21 days of the program. The only approved sweeteners are plant-derived stevia and monk fruit because they don’t mess with your blood sugar.


13. I’m Looking for Rice and Breads That Don’t Have Added Sugar — Do They Exist?

grains rice bread and pasta | quitting sugar

Yes! Bread is one of the sneaky places that sugar hides, so you have to be super careful when choosing. Some SF3-approved brands include Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread and Manna Organics Sunseed Bread. Brown rice is allowed because it is a whole grain — any brand.