The one thing that stops the more people from committing to a sugar-free diet than any other cause is the fear of sugar withdrawal symptoms. Don’t let that stop you – sugar addiction’s withdrawal symptoms, compared to many other addictive substances, are quite mild, so giving up an addiction to sugar and other refined carbs is fairly easy. It’s staying “clean” afterwards that’s hard.
Other drugs, such as tobacco (and even caffeine) have far longer and more disturbing withdrawal symptoms.
During the first few sugar-free days you may experience headaches, fatigue, depression, drowsiness, skin eruptions, and mucus or throat discomfort.
Some of these symptoms, especially the mood swings, fatigue and drowsiness, probably occur on a daily basis when you’re still eating a high-sugar diet, as the blood sugar rises and falls – but you don’t usually blame it on the way you eat. When you kick the sugar habit you will be very aware that these symptoms are being caused by your recent dietary change, and you should look forward to the day when you will be completely free of them.
A caffeine withdrawal headache might be quite painful, and can last for 2 days or more, while sugar withdrawal symptoms are usually milder but may last for a week or two. Some people may experience little or no discomfort at all, and will simply receive all the benefits of a no-sugar diet almost immediately.
And the benefits are huge – better health, better moods, a feeling of increased vitality and clearer thinking.
Unfortunately, the thought of sugar withdrawal symptoms are a powerful deterrent to healthy change. People often think they’ll feel much worse than they really will, or they think they’ll be miserable much longer. Part of this reasoning is actually caused by the “stinking thinking” created by your addiction.
Knowing how long your symptoms will last will give you the strength to commit yourself to moving through the withdrawal phase towards health. You don’t want to give in to the nagging symptoms that are begging you for that donut just a few hours before the symptoms would be gone for good.
For this reason, it’s important to mark out the time when you know you won’t feel your best. Think of it as a voluntary case of the flu, and commit to working your way through it. In a few days it will be over.
Does that mean you’re free of sugar cravings for good? No.
As mentioned earlier, the hard part is not giving up sugar. It’s staying free of sugar once you’ve gone through the first few weeks. Your mild withdrawal symptoms at first will actually keep you focused and remind you of your goal to start a healthy diet.
It’s later, when you’re feeling healthy and energized, when the lure of “just one” treat can seem like a harmless indulgence. To make sure you stay on your new, healthy diet, you’ll need a plan that will prevent you from sliding back into your old, unhealthy eating choices.