How to give up sugar

How to give up sugar

bunny_sml.jpgI’ve have to say my biggest weakness (by far) is an addiction to refined sugar. Once I get started on a sugar binge there’s no stopping me! Unlucky for me, this overindulgence of sugar has its side effects, including irritability, PMS, and the worst one – acne.

A lot of people don’t believe that sugar and chocolate can give you bad skin but I’m proof that it actually does. I first made this discovery by accident when I took refined sugar completely out of my diet for a month to treat a recurring case of Candidiasis. I was surprised to find the diet cleared up my skin as well, to the point where it was perfectly clear. It also made my skin tone very even, I no longer had those red blotchy bits around my nose.

The 48 hour sugar cravings

Every now and again when my skin gets pimply or I start suffering from bad PMS, I’ll take sugar out of my diet. No matter how many times I do it, it never gets any easier, there’s always this two day period where my sugar cravings are really intense. I’ll do anything to get my hands on something sweet. Through trial and error, or maybe desperation … I’ve come up with a few tactics that help a lot, which can also be applied when maintaining a healthy diet.

  • When you get a sugar craving try eating fresh or dried fruits. My favourites are organic dried apple and banana chips. Just make sure you check the ingredients for any added sugar.
  • Try sugar alternatives. Xylitol is probably the best sugar alternative that I’ve found because it’s natural and doesn’t affect your insulin levels (so also safe for diabetics!). It’s great for tea and coffee or breakfast cereal. Xylitol can be found at health food supermarkets.
  • Don’t keep sweet food in the house. I have never successfully given up sugar with food around the house to tempt me.
  • Read labels and choose the healthy alternative. There are a lot of unnecessary added sugars in foods, especially jam, juice and breakfast cereals. Unfortunately options are limited when it comes to cereals, I think wheatbix and oats are about it. So, think of alternatives. I like to start the day with a bowl of porridge which I add honey, banana or mixed berries (buy the frozen ones, they thaw out perfectly when stirred into hot porridge) and slivered almonds to. YUM!
  • Get out of the habit of having to eat something sweet after a meal. After a few days you’ll find you can easily break the habit. Try substituting the desserts you used to have with green tea or fruit. Cheese is also another good option, think of the last cheese platter you had at your favorite western restaurant.
  • Girls, be careful when you start your no refined sugar diet. I personally crave sugar a lot more in the lead up to my period so I always start the diet at a later stage in my cycle.
  • Listen to what your body is telling you. I personally need the cold turkey period at the start where I don’t touch refined sugars at all. After a week I can start having a taste of someone else’s chocolate cake they’ve ordered or one of those little cookies some coffee shops stick on your plate when you order tea or coffee. After my symptoms have cleared up (which is usually about a month) I follow a rule of 90% for the body 10% for the soul, meaning 90% of the food I eat is to maintain good health and the other 10% is for pleasure.

Why bother?

It’s not all about PMS and wanting to look good. Eating anything in excess isn’t good for you, but refined sugars are especially not a natural food our bodies are used to.

When we eat refined sugars, they pass quickly into the bloodstream giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. As a result, foods are not digested and assimilated into the body properly. Our blood-sugar level then gets out of whack causing more sugar cravings.

This blood-sugar imbalance can contribute to a range of disease and unhappiness including diabetes, heart disease, immune deficiency, herpes, yeast infections, PMS, loss of memory, nervousness, irritability, negative thought patterns, paranoia, acne etc.

This article from Nexus magazine is one of my favourites. I often refer back to it when I’m on a sugar binge and need a bit of motivation to settle down.
Refined sugar: The sweetest poison of all

It gets easier

After about three weeks into the diet I always find that I can’t tolerate eating a lot of refined sugar anymore. I went out to dinner last night and was the only one who didn’t order dessert. Of course I was offered a taste of everyone else’s which I found was more than enough (and kind of fun to try them all!). My tolerance for rich sweet foods becomes very low.

When I gave up sugar for the problem I had with Candidiasis, I took it to the extreme. I checked every single ingredient label in food items such as sauces and prepackaged meals for added sugar. I didn’t touch one single grain of refined sugar for that entire month. I no longer think taking things this far is necessary. As long as you stick to avoiding the obvious sweet foods and added refined sugars (such as tea, coffee, breakfast cereal) then I think it’s enough.

Watch out for any dizziness when you’re giving up refined sugar for the first time. If you’ve been eating a lot of sugar in your diet for a long period of time, your body can freak out when you completely take it out. Some people may experience dizziness or tiredness as their blood-sugar levels are getting back to normal. I personally have had none of these symptoms.

I’m writing this after about three weeks into my current sugar free diet. I’m in a great mood and my skin is not completely healed but about 90% better. For me, the rewards are definitely better than the five seconds of pleasure I get from eating chocolate.

Frances Kerr

32 comments… add one

  • Gail

    @Kevin #12

    Kevin I am in Brisbane Australia and I have found the most amazing green tea. It’s called Dr. Red Spearole tea – it is green tea with olive leaf, peppermint, grape seed oil and it is really nice to drink. You can buy it on the Net – in tbags or leaves. The trick and it tells you on the box dont brew for more than 2 minutes. I have had had Crohn’s disease for 30 years – I am 4 years medication free by having 3cups of this tea a day. Coincidence? Maybe but I’m not arguing!

  • Neil

    hi guys
    just wanted to let you know that I Suddenley stopped taking sugar the reason behind this was that I have just started to knitt mens 1940s style sweaters and I thought well IF i was wearing them then I would have to look good in them .In the 1st 2 weeks I LOST 15lbs from my gut .But I have to be honest with you guys the withdrawal proccess was not nice .Dizzyness tired hungover and very depressesd!.This is now my 3rd week and it is getting better I just cant belive how my stomace looks now !!!! Neil

  • Heather

    I am on day 7 of a no sugar diet. I am eating vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, nuts, beans, and some dairy. All whole foods. I’m gluten free because I have celiac.

    I have been dizzy and light headed for 4 1/2 days! It’s horrible. I actually feel very energetic today but the light headedness and dizziness is so awful. I feel like I’m walking tilted. I went organic and chemical free about 3 months ago because I have adrenal problems. But I was still eating a lot of sugar, probably to make up for all the other things I wasn’t eating. I keep reading over and over that these symptoms are normal for sugar withdrawal but it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that sugar is literally like a drug and I am literally having withdrawals from it!

    I hope it resolves soon because there is a part of me that wants to eat a few candy bars just to make myself not dizzy, but I know that it will just be a bandaid and not solve anything.

    Please tell me it gets better and it’s worth staying sugar free because right now I am hating the withdrawals.

    • val

      I’ve been off sugar and bad carbs for a year now, I lost 15kgs. Its not easy as there is sugar in so many things. I was struggling with tiredness so my naturepath recommended it to me and I would have good days and bad, until I realised sugar was lurking in so many meals out there. I now know if I have eaten it as I will get a sore stomach and if its a lot I will suffer with the shakes and I’m giddy in the head. The most amazing thing that has happened is my trigger finger and carpel tunnel has healed, well if I have sugar it wakes me up through the night and I have sore knuckles and trigger finger etc is there a bit. My moods are affected if I do eat sugar.

  • Greg

    When I get hungry and really want a snack between meals I either eat half a handful of nuts or stir a couple of tablespoons of unsweetened Greek or natural yoghurt into a glass of milk and that gets me through until the next meal.

    @Kitty – frittata and salad is a meal you can prepare with no sugar and no refined carbs. I love to eat vegetable frittata and salad for brunch on the weekend.

  • Kitty

    Hi – I was wondering what meals you can prepare that are totally sugar free.

  • Olivia

    Hi Fran,
    What an inspiration you are !
    I went to the dentist yesterday, he suggested a sugar free diet….
    I went to the supermarket to make a start, but it was very frustrating, I did not really know where to start, then I found you…
    I am over the moon with some of your suggestions, especially the porridge ideas as that is how I start my day (putting golden syrup on it,so naughty) never thought of bananas or honey, so I am well away with your advice.
    Many Thanks Fran.
    Olivia x.

  • This is interesting, post more often!

  • Eman

    This is one article I really needed to read and I can now understand my loss of memory, bad mood and negative thoughts. Thanks so much for this! :)

  • Niki

    Hi Fran,
    I enjoyed your article. I have made the decision to give up sugar completely and decided to make a big deal of it with friends and family to help me to stick to the program!
    On Facebook I posted the following “Hello, my name is Niki Worrell and I am a sugarholic”. I was not poking fun at AA but quite the opposite. I really think I was addicted to sugar and the only way to stop is to give it up completely. Today is day 4 and I’m doing well so far. Its good to know that other people have tried it and benefited from it.
    I need to loose over 100lbs and this is my first big step!

  • Julianne

    If you are cleansing because of CANDIDA, bananas, honey, dried fruits have sugar content, which will feed the yeast. Three weeks into a cleanse and have any type of sugar you will be back to day ONE. Weetbix also contains sugar. I am a week in withe a total sugar free diet and withdrawals are bad, but hopefully a candida free body, as it has infested most of my organs.

  • Wow well since everyone has admitted, then I’ll do the same. It’s so bad to where if I miss a set time without my sugar I tend to get cranky. Thanks for the post much needed information.

  • rina

    i start a two day liquid detox after that i just decide that i would kick the habit of sugar for good it has been now 5day no craving for sugar or anything sweet i have slept for the first time since high school for 8hrs and i wake up refreashed i have noticed a lot of chance already my skin is getting better and my attutude is better and i don’t pig out like i use to and i am see weight loss small but it is making me happer and healter in the long run i will give my body a month to adujust to this change

  • leisa, sugar is my weakness too and I struggle with it a lot! This article should help you out –

  • Leisa

    I want to give up sugar, because my health is so bad and i can’t find a solution. I have terrible sugar cravings and will eat chocolate or rice and then fall asleep exhausted and feel hung over when I wake up. I no longer drink alcohol because of the terrible feelings even one or two drinks would give me. Is there a diet on this site that I can follow to give up sugar? Wish me luck

  • John

    Im 14 and I gave up sugar and I am going to stick with it for as long as i can, (hopefully my entire life) I gave up all corn syrup products, and stopped eating foods that have sugar labeled in the first 2 ingredients. (pretty much all american foods ha ha)

    Anyway all I want to say is that I feel great I am glad to see that other people are stepping up to do this. I want to live a long healthy life ^^

    I also do Tae Kwon Do, this helps me with that enormously, and the face thing with the acne is actually true I have had acne for my whole life and was on accutane for a while that cleared it up but before I was on that drug it helped my face ENORMOUSLY

  • My biggest weakness ever is a plain old english cup of tea with 2 sugars multiplied a few times through out the day. I love the comfort feeling. If I had to ask for one thing on a desert Island it would be my cuppa.

    I just hate the taste of substitutes in tea like mollasses honey etc. Also if it isnt proper tea it feels fake to me like chamomile etc so to an extent im hooked on caffeine to. Im really trying to work round having my cake and eating it to!!

    I think emotionally Im attached to tea!!

  • Hi Becca,

    You may be experiencing a detox. If we just switch to eating really healthy foods, then we’re only doing a job half right (this is the mistake I made too). So if you stop eating all the junk and start filling your body with good stuff, then the bad stuff HAS to come out somehow. In your case a lot of it is probably coming out of the skin which is why you’re getting acne. We want to encourage the junk and toxins to come out of our bowel NOT our skin.

    So this means drinking a heap of water after you just get out of bed (warm water and lemon works well for me) to encourage everything to move through you. You can go as far as colonic irrigation to enemas to help purge, this is actually a great idea …but to be honest, I’ve always been too scared to do that :)

  • Becca

    HI Fran,
    i quit drinking 3 months ago and started really taking care of myself. i excercise, drink tons of water and eat pretty healthy when i can. i also started breaking out though! i feel like i just can’t win! i did start eating more sugar so that is the only thing i can think of that is causing this. so i’ve been off of it for 2 days. i also started washing my face everyday with a rose cleanser i got from the healthfood store. and i moisturize and i use a toner. perhaps all this is unneccessary though? are alcohol free toners okay for your skin? should i be using only water? and if so, does that clean makeup off? many questions. ha!

  • Corinne

    I am 10 days into my sugar break and have finally hit the dizziness, nausea and feeling quite lethargic. I googled and found this site to see if what I was experiencing was normal and safe. I am glad that I found this site. I have known for a long time that I had to do this and I am finding it easier than I expected. I guess that I am ready for it now. I have given up added sugar, sweet treats and snack foods with added sugar. I still eat a good hearty meal and have sensible snacks. My next hurdle is to give up coffee. I have it black so all I have to do is get past the caffeine withdrawal.

    Thanks for the great message.

  • Hi Kevin, what you could do is drink lemon juice in hot water. It’s very cleansing for your blood, is awesome for your digestion, keeps colds away and tastes great! I used to drink it every morning.

  • kevin

    Thanks, but I’m avoiding the green tea for now as it keeps me up way too long. I’ve been drinking lipton’s green tea but I will search for another brand. Can you suggest any that in your opinion aren’t too strong?

  • Hi Kevin, green tea is low in caffeine so it’s a better option than English teas. It’s also packed full of antioxidants which are great for your skin.

    You don’t have green tea with sugar or milk, you drink it on its own :)

  • kevin

    Hi, you mentioned to avoid tea because of refined sugar. But what about the green tea? You mentioned in your mini course that its really good. So how should the green tea be prepared differently from the others?

  • Hi Tegen, it is definitely the caffeine in coffee that is bad for you, so if you can drink decaf that’s a better option. Also look into how the caffeine is extracted because some use a chemical process which isn’t good. Others use a more natural process which is a lot better for you.

    The problem with caffeine is it increases the stress hormone cortisol in your body and it can stay in your system for up to 6 hours. If you’re into alternative medicine, it can also contribute to blockages in the free flow or energy in your body.

    Having said that, I used to LOVE coffee, and I still really enjoy the smell :) I used to have one every now and again which I think is okay, but after I stopped drinking it regularly I found that it was too hard on my belly!

  • Tegen

    I managed to go down to 1 coffee every other day, but I was missing coffee so much I started looking into health benefits.

    There are a lot of benefits I found on the net so I won’t list them all but one that stood out for skin, was that coffee contains antioxidants, its actually Americans highest intake source of antioxidants!

    I’m not saying that coffee is a cure for acne, but it maybe the milk, sugar the fact that coffee dehydrates you and the stress it puts on the body, that is not so good for skin, I’m not sure.

    Well it will make me feel slightly less guilty when I drink my next cup now, plus the other health benefits I haven’t mentioned here.

    If any one has any information on coffee being good or bad for skin let me know.

    Tegen x

  • Tegen

    Thanks Fran,

    Thats useful information.

    I am a vegetarian too, but I drink alcohol every now and again, I did go to a party and only drank water the other day so I’m not doing bad. Like you suggested I’m using the 90% good and 10% not so good food rule. Giving up coffee is the hardest one for me, I still have 1 most days but replaced the rest with green tea. I’m still getting lots of spots but they seem to be a bit smaller and go a bit quicker!


  • Hi Tegen, dried fruits are a bit of a tricky one. They are an inflammatory food so they can aggravate acne, and they are very high in natural sugars so you can get a sugar spike from them. Just don’t eat a lot of them. If your sugar cravings are bad, it’s better to eat a little bit of dried food than to reach for the tub of ice cream.

    I also don’t like to avoid anything completely. I think it’s good to reduce the bad foods, but it’s okay to eat them now and again. The only foods I’ve ever given up 100% are meat and alcohol which are more for yoga and ethical reasons :)

  • Tegen


    In your mini course bad food no. 6 is Dried fruits, and in this post you suggest “When you get a sugar craving try eating fresh or dried fruits”. Is the dried fruit just bad because of the sugar, and if I’m being strict with my eating should I avoid dried fruit all together?

    Loving your work


  • Just make sure if you’re giving up sugar and opting for green tea, it’s DECENT green tea and you know the right way to brew it. Most people use boiling water and “over-cook” it, resulting in a too bitter vegetable.

    I have an article on my site about how tea can help with sugar cravings.

  • Oh man, that bunny rabbit. I can’t tell you how good that rabbit looks right now…

  • Ali

    Hi Fran!

    I absolutely love your blog! You have inspired me to start kicking my sugar habit and begin eating healthy things like more fruit and veg that my body really needs. I love anything chocolate and would love to start afresh and give my body what it has been begging me to do for some time. I especially like how you said 90% for the body 10% for the soul, it makes perfect sense. In order to keep the right balance I think its good to have just a little bit of sugar now and then for pleasure. I am also inspired to go shopping for nutritous snacks and brekky cereals, I never thought of banana and slivered almonds on porridge, YUM!

    Keep up the good work,
    Your first fan!

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