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Sugar-Free: Tips and Tricks to Quit Sugar… For Good

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I haven’t eaten refined sugar since Monday, March 30, 2015.

This was not something I had planned for.

This journey began with a dream….

I sat in the doctor’s office and couldn’t believe the words he was telling me. Stage 4 breast cancer. I cried, I questioned, and I denied. I went home and told my husband. I tearfully tried to express just how serious this was. My husband couldn’t grasp it and insisted we return to the doctor together for more information. Within two days I listened to the same information, all over again. The prognosis is grim. Treatment options are limited and most likely won’t have success. We went through the painful task of telling family and friends. I signed up for a radical treatment which made me feel horribly sick afterwards. I was afflicted with vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and non-stop pain in my body. The months of treatment were brutal but not as devastating as the fact that I knew I was going to die… and soon. Through it all I prayed for a miracle and cried desperately to God to heal me and to allow me the opportunity to see my girls grow up. At some point I recalled being told that when you’re sick with cancer you should stop eating all sugars because sugar feeds cancer cells. I quit eating sugar thinking it was my last and perhaps only hope….

All night I experienced this very real dream of being sick with cancer. From diagnosis, to treatment, to the emotions of it… this dream was terrifying and felt so real. You can imagine how relieved I was when I woke up. You can also imagine how distressed I was.

I could not shake this dream from my head.

The next day I came across an article about how bad sugar is for people. Although medical field denies the theory that sugar feeds cancer cells, I couldn’t help but find it very eerie that I stumbled into this article the day after having such a terrifying dream.

Then a day later I went to the library to pick up some holds that had come in. One of the holds I had reserved at least 5-6 months prior… it was I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson.

Friends, I got goosebumps. There was no way I could deny all the warnings and signs. I realized I had to quit sugar… immediately. I picked up the book on March 30th and I haven’t eaten any refined sugar since.

Not too long ago I shared some tips on How to Quit Bad Habits… For Good! These tips came from my experience of quitting sugar.

I’ve encountered many questions since I quit sugar and I thought I would take a few minutes to address them here.

Did you quit eating all sugars including fruit?

No. I quit eating refined sugars as well as anything with corn syrup or gluctose-fructose in it.

What sugars do you eat?

I still eat fruit but I make sure that my vegetable intake exceeds my fruit intake.

I also eat maple syrup, honey, agave, and rice syrup. These are my “permissible” sweeteners but I consume these in very small quantities. Sugar is sugar and minimal consumption is the best.

How long did your withdrawal symptoms last for?

I was tired, weak, irritable, and had non-stop headaches for a little over two weeks. The symptoms were intense in the first week but steadily declined as time went on.

Don’t you miss things like sweets and treats?

At times I do but I have lots of substitutes available. In the book I Quit Sugar, Sarah suggests eating cheese for dessert and it’s a wonderful substitute! Green apple with cheese is also a delightful snack.

If I’m craving chocolate, I eat a tiny piece of homemade chocolate (made with coconut oil, cocoa, and maple syrup). My other favourite chocolate treat is Sarah’s sugar-free nut-ella. As I mentioned previously, these are still consumed in very small quantities.

What started as a bad dream turned into a mission to quit eating sugar. I quit sugar! Check out these amazing, clever, and helpful sugar-free tips and tricks that you can use to kick this bad habit for good!

Sugar-free and dairy-free, homemade “Nutella”.

What about special occasions?

I quit sugar in the midst of girl-guide cookie selling season and several days before Easter. My husband’s birthday is also in April. You would think my timing wasn’t the best but I actually liked being faced with the challenges of these social situations.

I realized that as long as I didn’t draw attention to the fact that I wasn’t eating particular food items, no one noticed my food choices. For example, while everyone ate strawberry shortcake, I ate a few strawberries.

I know you like your wine… did you quit that too?

No way! Sarah shares in her book that wine is permissible in limited quantities. She suggests no more than a glass a day. I drink only 2-3 glasses a week.

Have you lost any weight?

Before I answer this question, I want you to know that weight is not my motivator. A healthy body is my motivation. While I try not to focus on numbers and inches, I did take my measurements prior to this journey.

In 4 weeks I have lost 2 lbs and 2.25 inches. As a 40-year-old woman whose metabolism has slowed down to pretty much nothing, I’m very pleased with my progress.

Is it hard to avoid processed foods?

As soon as I decided I was doing this, I went all in. I bought all my groceries and baked crackers, biscuits, chicken stock, and made a batch of my homemade chocolate. I wanted to make sure that I had a stash of alternative convenience foods readily available for me to snack on.

Grocery shopping was a whole other challenge. Once I started reading food labels, I realized just how much sugar is in everything. Most packaged foods have some form of sugar in them.

What are some of your favourite recipes?

Many of my recipes I got from Sarah’s book. Here are a few of my favourites:

Meal in a Biscuit Crackers

Chicken Stock

Cheesy Biscuits (in the I Quit Sugar book)

Metabolism Boosting Drinks

Coconut Butter

What started as a bad dream turned into a mission to quit eating sugar. I quit sugar! Check out these amazing, clever, and helpful sugar-free tips and tricks that you can use to kick this bad habit for good!

Meal in a Biscuit Cracker, with homemade Coconut Butter, and strawberries.

What are some of your favourite food swaps?

Oh, I love this question because I’m proud about how clever I’ve gotten with substitutes.

* Instead of soda, I drink carbonated soda water with a splash of lemon in it.

* When I’m craving a sugary treat I try drinking a green or a white tea. If the craving doesn’t subside, I opt for fruits low in sugar (raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe, or pineapple).

* I snack on seeds and nuts when I’m feeling peckish.

* Instead of cereal, I have a fried egg with cheese, tomato, and guacamole for breakfast.

What has helped you the most?

I would say mindful, slow eating has helped me the most, especially if I’m satisfying a craving with something like a piece of fruit.

How does it work? Instead of just shoving the fruit into my mouth, I take a small bite of the fruit and close my eyes so that I’m really tasting it. I think about the flavour and chew it slowly so the sweetness explodes from it.

I find this strategy helps me limit my intake sweet foods.

How do you feel?

It took a while to feel different. As I mentioned previously, the sugar withdrawal was brutal. However, I can now say I’m clear-headed, I’m energetic, and I feel healthy.

I’ve had years of horrible stomach aches. We couldn’t determine the cause and for a while I was beginning to wonder if I had a gluten sensitivity. Ever since I quit sugar, I’ve had 2 or 3 mild stomach aches. I have a feeling that sugar was negatively affecting my digestive system and I’m so happy to not have to be dealing with regular stomach aches anymore.

What next?

I think a month without refined sugar is a huge success. I would like to develop my repertoire of sugar-free recipes and come up with a variety of diverse snack and meal options.

I hope these sugar-free tips have been helpful for you… and if you’re thinking of quitting sugar, I say – GO FOR IT!

I’m committed to this journey and I can’t wait to see where the coming months bring me.


Jennifer Bly on sabemailJennifer Bly on sabfacebookJennifer Bly on sabgoogleJennifer Bly on sabinstagramJennifer Bly on sabpinterestJennifer Bly on sabstumbleuponJennifer Bly on sabtwitter
Jennifer Bly
Jennifer Bly
Author of My Kitchen, My Classroom: An Introduction to Homeschool, creator of The Deliberate Mom, Deliberate Homeschooling and regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Jennifer writes about parenting, her faith, and life with her husband and two girls. Jennifer has a Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree with a specialization in Early Learning in Child Care. 

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40 thoughts on “Sugar-Free: Tips and Tricks to Quit Sugar… For Good

  • Janine Huldie

    I definitely do eat a bit too much sugar here at times, too. So, I can’t thank you enough for sharing what you did and how you did this, because I do need help with kicking my sugar habit. I honestly do appreciate it, Jennifer. Thanks :) xoxo

  • Amanda @ Growing Up Madison

    I have actually been contemplating taking sugar out of my diet and now that I’ve read this here today I think that I can do it. I’ve never read her book but you’ve motivated me to get a copy for myself. I’ve never been a sugar fan so I think making the transition might not be too difficult but I won’t know until I try it.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      I wanted to share my honest experience. It was tough at first but every day has gotten easier.

      I loved Sarah’s book. She gradually takes you through the process of reducing and then reintroducing sugar. I went all-in immediately because that’s my personality… LOL – hence the withdrawal. I highly recommend her book (and the recipes in it are great)!

  • Anne Marie

    GOOD FOR YOU! I recently began revamping my entire life by changing how I eat, how MUCH I eat, and by adding exercise to my daily routine 6 days a week. I’ve even cut my coffee intake down to one cup a day, which is huge since I was drinking up to 4-5! It is amazing how these simple changes help our bodies get back to how they should be :-) While I haven’t quite given up sugar, but by limiting my pre-processed foods the amount has gone down dramatically.

    Keep us posted on your progress!

  • Michelle

    Hey I’m proud of you! It must have been hard at first but sounds like you are sticking with it. Good for you! Except, you will have to stop reading all sugar filled blogs out there. LOL – Talk about temptation- I literally have to stay clear of some of them if I want to keep my moderation down. I have to say though since I’ve eaten heathier and defining healthy is different to everyone, I feel better, have more energy and as we age, it is so much better for us. Keep up the good work! Giving up the wine – I’m with you there sister! Amen!

  • Jessica Dimas

    Oh my gosh, you are seriously so inspiring. I REALLY freakin’ admire you and I love how honest you were about the whole process. The two week withdrawal sounds really hard, but the fact that you’re feeling clear headed, energetic, and experiencing LESS stomachaches ON TOP OF losing over two inches is very motivating.

    I’m a sugar fiend, just the thought of quitting makes me feel scared. I feel like I also keep getting signs now too, so it’s on my mind. My mom pretty much did it too and when she’s craving sugar she eats a piece of dark, raw chocolate. She said the same as you, after it’s out of your system and you get used to this new way of eating, it gets easier. Still….lol….you guys are amazing.

    I really loved your backup plan of having all of that homemade food ready and available so you didn’t find yourself in a bind. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      When I decided I was going to write about this process, I didn’t want to sugar-coat anything (pun totally intended). I wanted to be as honest as possible about the process. The withdrawal was hard. It didn’t have to be. In Sarah’s book, she outlines a plan to gradually cut sugar out and then to reintroduce “better” sweeteners. I just cut out everything and limited my “better” sweeteners and fruit intake.

      I’m so glad I’ve embarked on this journey. I’m feeling so much healthier, my mind is clear, and my moods have stabilized (yes, I can be a little moody at times).

      Thank you for sharing about your mom. That’s awesome that she was able to cut out sugar too.

  • Tamara

    What a totally vivid and terrifying dream! So glad it was just that.
    As you know, I cut down on sugar a LOT. I used to eat it all day long. Now it’s once every two days in small pieces, or sometimes even less. Once every three days. I actually prefer honey and maple syrup, and a little goes a long way. And of course, I eat fruit.
    I got the withdrawal headaches badly, and that was tough to get through. And after you’ve cut it down so much, everything is so sweet. Everything! Even pretzels! Ew!
    I will still eat ice cream this summer and cake on my birthday. But I love eating so much less sugar.

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      It was a HORRIBLE dream Tamara! It was so real too. I was stunned when I woke up because in the dream I went through months of illness. So weird.

      I remember you mentioning you had cut back sugar too. I’m still debating how to handle birthdays… I mean cake?! How do I give up cake?!

  • Marina

    I don’t think I could do it. I don’t really eat a lot of sugar, but to be sugar-free, that takes strong will, I don’t think I have that when it comes to food :( But great for you, and wonderful post and tips, as always. Inspirational, definitely!

  • Tiffany-A Touch of Grace

    That dream would have terrified me as well Jennifer! Wow. I’m so proud of the changes you’ve made in your life. The only sugar we eat as a family is when I bake something. We don’t always eat my baked goods though; a lot go to work with the hubs, or my work, or to our nanny and her husband. We try to limit what we do eat as best we can because it is addicting!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      It was such a scary dream but it motivated me to make these changes – so it’s not all bad! I’m so glad I’m off of refined sugar. Although I have been contemplating how I’ll handle my own birthday. I better start making some “practice” cakes. lol

  • Jen@JENerallyInformed

    What a terrifying dream! I have had dreams like that which have motivated me to make changes too. I believe strongly in the power of dreams as a way for God to communicate with you.

    I admire all of your changes, this is something I should do too, but it will need to be a slow process. I just feel a little overwhelmed with life now, but soon….

  • Sarah Nenni Daher

    Okay, so it’s settled. I read the same article, I had a similar dream, and I had to get an early mammogram (and need to follow up in 6 months). I go for days without eating sugar, especially since we don’t eat much processed food, but I think I am going to consciously start on a sugar free path.

    As my metabolism has slowed, I have learned my diet is definitely the change-leader in my appearance, too. I don’t see a downside as long as I don’t become too strict. I mean – cupcakes. Celebrations deserve cupcakes. :) Congratulations on your success!

  • Ashley

    Hi Jennifer! I think it is great that you’re doing this! You have much more willpower than me. I don’t think I can give it up because I like baking too much.

  • Breaking The Momma Mold

    I’m completely impressed with how you are doing. I am blown away when I look at the label of something like my favorite ‘healthy alternative’ sweet treat to see it has 18g of sugar. Ugh. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite recipes that have been helping you make this a successful journey! I am looking forward to trying some out!

  • Rebecca

    Your dream is horrifying! I have vivid dreams like that. I quit sugar too but only because I felt I was extremely addicted! I thought it would get easier but every single day is another battle. Though some days are better than others, for the most part, I’m still dreaming of ice cream and girl scout cookies!

    • Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom Post author

      It was a horrifying dream.

      I remember you mentioning you quit sugar. It wasn’t as challenging as I expected but yesterday my brother was talking about Dairy Queen sundaes and I got some fierce cravings.

      Ice cream season will be a true test for me!

  • Debbie

    Hi Jennifer, that dream was more like a nightmare, but something must have been at the back of your mind to bring it on. I have read about the negative affects of sugar, but until I have a dream like yours I have no motivation to give it up totally (I do limit my intake though and only have one day a week where anything goes food wise, so I don’t think my intake is too high).

    Doing anything that makes you feel good is a great thing and I am ging to check out your homemade chocolate post!


      • Debbie

        If I come across any sugar free ice cream recipes that I think are any good I’ll pass them on! Over ripe bananas make a sweet ice cream, maybe you could make it using honey instead of sugar.