Diet, Food, Top Picks

I Tried It: 3 Day Sugar Detox


Confession: Aside from the fact that I’m vegan, and have read / written / edited literally thousands of articles on PD-related to healthy eating, I’m not a very cautious person when it comes to my own diet. Of course I’ve been curious whether these superfoods and squeaky clean diets free of everything (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, certain cruciferous veggies, nightshades like eggplant and tomato, high-glycemic fruits, soy, sometimes all cooked foods, and sometimes nuts) could also make me look and feel radiant.

But I have an addictive personality, so if I commit to something, I always go overboard–which is why I pick my battles carefully. And my diet was outside of my top 7 or so priorities, so I just let myself eat whatever I want. I didn’t want to worry about my diet on top of all the other things that constantly require self-discipline.

But on my birthday, of all days, something happened that made me decide to experiment with my diet. I’d been getting a tall soy green tea latte at Starbucks every weekday morning (I know, I know) for at least a few months (!). Then I got a free drink for my birthday, so I made that a grande (of course). What with extra matcha I ask for, this grande GTL probably had as much caffeine as 2-3 shots of espresso. Also, even though I ask for unsweetened, the resulting drink always tastes nice and sugary–which is why I fell in love with it in the first place.

My 3 Day Sugar Detox

It looks so innocent and pretty–and we even wrote about its benefits! And yet…

Throughout the rest of the day, I went through a roller coaster ride of jitters, followed by weakness, and finally lethargy and a deep desire to lie down. And my attempt to revive myself with Lara bars probably only made it worse.

This effect on my body also reminded me how dreadful I look every afternoon these days. More specifically, I look fresh (enough) in the mornings but by 4pm or so, my skin looks dehydrated and ashen. So starting on the following morning I began a 3 day sugar detox–with some surprising results. Here’s what I did:

Day 1

8:00am I’m afraid of my morning without GTL ($4.40) even while getting ready. When I pass the Starbucks right by the subway stop, I try hard not to look inside longingly. I usually start sipping it on the platform and balance the half-full cup in the crook of my arm while typing onto my iPhone. Today I don’t have the same reassuring, energizing drink–and actually fall asleep on my way to work for the first time, ever. I wake up after about 10 minutes and start groggily working on my phone.

10:30am I have a bad headache, which can only be sugar / caffeine withdrawl. Also, this is usually when I would pop open a Lara bar, the one item that I requested at the office and which has promptly become everyone else’s favorite bar also. Instead, I eat an orange. I haven’t checked if oranges are low GI but they seem very harmless to any kind of detox. Helpful even.

2:00pm I’m starving after eating nothing but an orange and a few sticks of gum all morning. We order Japanese for lunch so I get my usual tofu teriyaki bento box–knowing that teriyaki sauce has sugar in it. I really am craving sugar by this point and teriyaki sounds like heaven. It tastes extra delicious today and actually relieves the headache a bit.

4:00pm This is when I would stave off stress and restlessness with some granola and almond milk at the office, but instead I have about a shot glass full of almonds. They’re not even salted and have almost zero fun factor.

6:40pm I’m taking Pure Barre Platform today, which is a cardio version of PB. I was prepared for the toughest workout ever, but while I sweat buckets, it’s definitely not the hardest class I’ve ever taken.

7:45pm Done with barre and instead of going to my fav local organic store Mrs. Green’s, which is where I buy just the tiniest amount of dark chocolate covered raisins after barre (I know!!), I go straight to the subway and get home earlier. Victory!

9:00pm I make some pasta with veggies and marinara sauce. I love Newman’s Own Bombolina sauce which has 7g of sugar per 1 cup serving. That’s 1/2 tsp, which seems acceptable given the rest of the day.

Day 2

7:00am Despite the sweaty Platform class, and abstaining from sugar, I wake up feeling more bloated than ever before. I think it’s just PMS.

8:00am Passing by Starbucks is psychologically easier today! But I have a raging headache right away, and without my trusty drink, I fall asleep on the train. (But, don’t worry, I again wake up and get work done before my stop. The suspense!)

8:45am I swing by Whole Foods and get a stevia sweetened organic cold pressed green lemonade with spirulina by Daily Greens ($7.50). However, when I actually taste it, I’m disappointed by how not sugary it is. But it does seem to help with the headache.

My 3 Day Sugar Detox

10:30am We’re out of oranges, and I snack on a handful of Stacy’s chips and Sabra hummus. I feel a little awkward going savory when everyone else is eating oatmeal, granola, or Lara bars (ugh my fav), but get reassured by reading the sugar count on Stacy’s chips which is 0!

2:00pm Lunch today is veggie plate from Habana in SoHo, which makes the best rice and beans with veggies I’ve ever tasted. Today they hook me up with tons of sauteed mixed veggies. So good–and sugar-free!

5:00pm Afternoon snack is a shot glass of almonds, but this time it’s thankfully salted and a lot more fun to eat.

7:50pm Right before changing for barre class, I get a low-blood-sugar attack. Even during the warm-up, my limbs feel weak and heavy, and my body is hot like it’s trying to rev itself up back to normal levels of energy. But I know that once I power through the warm-up, I’ll feel better, so I stick it out.

9:00pm Swing by Mrs. Green’s and pick up a sweet potato and a block of tofu. I get home by 10 and make baked sweet potato and tofu with veggies. I also heat up the delicious risotto my mom had made and sent to me a couple of weeks ago…eating around 10:30. Normally, I just snack on bananas or oranges when I get home, but since that’s not an option, I have to actually cook. It occurs to me I’m hungrier than usual from not eating my sugar snacks at the office.

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Juhea Kim
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Juhea now lives in NYC with her Oreo cookie cat, Zeus. When she is not writing, she enjoys running in Central Park, yoga, and teaching Barre classes. Follow Juhea on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, Google+ and Pinterest.
  • This is awesome! I have an addictive personality, too, so I tend to vacillate from one extreme to another. I think you’ll find that the more you moderate sugar in your diet, the more sensitive to it you’ll become. Granted, I’ve never had a large sweet tooth, but I totally believe that anyone can reform their taste-buds (we all did to some extent when we went vegan!) if they want to 🙂

    • Juhea Kim

      I’m already feeling the effects of moderating my sugar instead of giving in to every little craving. Vega One tasted 10x sweeter, for instance. And I remember when I was a kid, I disliked really sweet things, including chocolate chip cookies! Part of why I became such a S. Tooth is food culture in America, and another is that going through puberty affected my tastes / appetite. I’m kind of excited to see where this goes. I think I can find a good balancing point. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing. Looking to do something similar and reduce added sugar in the diet. I’m surprised more vegans don’t avoid sugar since the majority of it is not vegan.

    • Juhea Kim

      Than you for reading! My thing with sugar v. vegan sugar is that refusing to eat foods that are otherwise vegan except it has (likely) non vegan sugar will put me in the extremist camp that just won’t let me live normally. I wouldn’t be able to eat at any restaurant except a few vegan restaurants in NYC. I’m happy with the balance that I’ve found with following my moral compass and still being a part of my community. 🙂

      • Jennifer

        I totally understand and think along the same lines. =)

  • Juhea Kim

    well–I’d been treating GTL/ Lara bar as my breakfast, but in order to go forward with this reduced sugar plan, I definitely need to come up with another idea for a savory morning food that isn’t hummus and chips! Though I didn’t have a lot of chips so it was passably healthy, it was just a bit too early. I’m thinking of steamed mixed veggies. 🙂

  • Caitlyn Gibson

    Thanks for sharing, Juhea! I actually don’t eat sugar during the week, but allow myself a treat or two on the weekends (mostly wine haha). It takes adjusting, especially because you need to read ALL the labels. I also don’t avoid fruit, although I do moderate my intake because I have severe hypoglycemia. Def try and eat breakfast! You will feel SO much better throughout the day. My favorite thing are savory oats– oatmeal made with water, mixed with nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, and tons of roasted veggies. I do eat eggs, so I throw a fried egg on there too. It’s amazing and gives me so much energy! If I’m in a hurry, I’ll make a hummus and tomato sandwich with Ezekiel Break– no sugar and tons of fiber and protein!

    I think everyone should lower their sugar intake, AS LONG as it doesn’t come at an expense of other lowering nutritional needs. I think eliminating something from a diet can be dangerous for people who are already health conscious. For instance, instead of eliminating your latte and not replacing it, try a green or chai tea topped with full fat coconut milk or almond milk (Almond Breeze has no sugar!) Good luck my friend!

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