Filmmaker Documents Agony and Ecstasy of Giving up Added Sugars

Filmmaker Documents Agony and Ecstasy of Giving up Added Sugars
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In the long term, giving up sugar and alcohol is an excellent decision for your health. But getting there…well, the detox and withdrawal may not be very attractive.

Of course, when many people think of giving up sugar, they only think of the obvious things: cutting out syrupy sweet coffee creamers, eschewing the display of Captain Crunch at the store, and rejecting glazed donuts. But added sugar is in so many of the foods we consume that many people scarcely give them a second thought; so few people know what it’s like to truly give up all added sugar.

Sacha Harland of decided to rid his life of all added sugar and alcohol to see how it would affect his physical and mental health. Harland visited a sports doctor at the start and conclusion of his journey to get weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar readings. At the start of the month-long experiment, he reported having high cholesterol.

For four weeks, Harland’s breakfast consisted of fruit with sugar-free natural yogurt, eggs, and freshly-squeezed juice. For lunch was a salad. None of that bothered the 22-year-old filmmaker from The Hague, Holland, until he went to a convenience store and couldn’t find a single beverage with no added sugar of any kind, except for water.

From there, things got nasty.

Sugar is highly addictive. Like any addictive substance, the more you consume, the more you crave. Eating sugar makes your blood glucose spike, triggering the production of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. That makes the body crave more sugar, and on and on the cycle goes. While fruit often contains large quantities of sugar, it also contains the dietary fiber necessary for properly digesting that sugar, and therefore don’t have the same effects on the body.

Related: 5 Things that Happen When You Quit Sugar

Harland found that sugar really is everywhere. Good luck finding a packet of ketchup that doesn’t contain sugar.

“The hardest part was letting go of the normal stuff I was used to; not so much the burgers but things like peanut butter was tough, because it’s one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast,” he said.

The misery for Harland kicked in around the middle of the first week. He was cranky, irritable, and maybe even a little bit teary-eyed about his struggle to survive without the sweet stuff. Eating out with friends proves to be a challenge. Even at the movies, Harland has to forego the popcorn and beer. The constant feeling of hunger stalks him everywhere he goes. [2]

An expert advises him to eat unsaturated fat, which is found in foods like olive oil, oily fish, and nuts. This prevents Harland from drinking a bottle of chocolate sauce or beating one of his friends to death with a bag of granulated sugar. [3]

By the end of the experiment, the month of suffering proves worth it, as Harland realizes he is waking up with more energy and no longer craves sugar as soon as his feet hit the floor in the morning.

“The last week is almost over. I get up easier and have energy to spare. That was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think it would make this much difference to my physical constitution,” he tells the camera.

Harland has also lost weight and his blood pressure and cholesterol is down.

Cutting out processed foods not only freed Harland from the chains of sugar, but he also wound up eating less saturated fat, less salt, and fewer additives and refined ingredients.

He says he won’t continue the strict diet, but he will eat a bit healthier.

“The beginning was very hard. But eventually I detoxed from the sugar and it went very well,” Harland says into the camera.

Now try giving up sugar for an entire year.


[2] Science Alert

[3] Daily Mail