Six months ago I decided to quit eating sweets. It had been a long time coming and in a lot of ways, the process was similar to quitting drinking. I had a few “test runs” over the span of a couple of years before finally taking the plunge, and my most stubborn concerns were more about the social effects than anything else. How would I tell people I don’t eat sweets? Would I have to deal with eye rolls and assumptions that my decisions about what I put in my body are somehow a judgment of others' choices? It all seemed so impossible until eventually, the discomfort of living with a nasty sugar habit outweighed that of dealing with the “what ifs”.
My reasons for quitting were pretty straightforward. I developed a crazy sweet tooth after I gave up drinking, which I’ve come to learn is pretty common for folks who have removed alcohol from their lives after being dependent on it for a long time. At first, I decided to let it be and just focus on staying booze-free, but after a couple of years I began to notice that my behaviours around sweets were similar to the patterns I used to associate with drinking. Those compulsive, addiction-like tendencies were a huge red flag for me, and I decided on Christmas last year that I was finished.
The general consensus (on the internet, at least) seems to be that having an all-or-nothing approach to food is bad and will inevitably lead to unhappiness and disappointment. I can see how that could be true for a lot of people, but in my experience trying to moderate my intake of sugary foods was hella stressful and ultimately not worth the hassle - just like alcohol. So I quit cakes, cookies, candy, and ice cream, and aside from three small slips early on (each the result of being afraid to offend someone who was offering, which I’ve since learned to manage) I've stuck to my decision to remove sweets from my life. And honestly, six months in I’m already ranking this choice right up there with deciding to quit drinking and giving up cigarettes as one of the best of my life. Here’s why:
- No more brain fog. I’m pretty sure that excessive sugar consumption was a big contributor to the burnout I experienced at the end of 2016 - particularly the brain fog, which is thankfully no longer an issue. Having my ability to think clearly compromised was a super frustrating experience for me and something I never want to go through again.
- Less awful cravings. I feel like this is a pretty obvious outcome, but cravings for sugary foods were becoming such a constant and stressful (not to mention distracting) experience for me that it bears mentioning. The cravings were already intense right after I quit drinking and only got stronger the more I indulged them. They faded after the first month or so of saying away from sweets, and now they are very rare and far less intense than they used to be.
- My body feels so much better. I used to get this weird, awful taste in the back of my throat after eating a bunch of sweets and my tongue would feel gross and fuzzy. It was ridiculously unpleasant. Besides that, even a reasonable serving of something like cake or candy would inevitably leave me feeling sluggish shortly after, which had a negative effect on my ability to enjoy life and generally get shit done. I like to spend time outside and move around a lot to keep my mood up/manage my anxiety and those sugar crashes really messed that up for me. These days my energy level is much more consistent throughout the day, with no more nasty afternoon crashes or sugar comas getting in my way. Feeling good physically after so many years of feeling like a pile of human garbage is such a gift and I’m so grateful to have been able to get here.
I’m not going to pretend that I eat perfectly all the time (because I definitely don’t), but I’m really proud of myself for learning to let go of things that aren’t adding anything positive to my life. Also, it turns out that - again, just like with drinking - nobody cares whether or not I’m eating dessert, and if they do it’s a reflection of their own issues, not mine. All in all, giving up sweets has been a great decision for me, and I wouldn’t change a thing.