© 2016 by Ailar Poormoghaddam

going cold turkey: how I quit refined sugar

January 30, 2017

I have always been a strong believer in eating what I crave and never restricting myself from the foods I love. I didn't really intended to cut refined sugar from my diet but once I started, it was actually more difficult to go back. It all began a little over a year ago when my boyfriend challenged me to a "no sugar diet" after we had both watched “The Sugar Film” on Netflix. For anyone who hasn’t seen or heard of this movie, it’s about an Australian man who decides to test the effects of a high-sugar diet on his body and health. Watching this movie really opened my eyes to the amount of refined sugar (also known as cane sugar) that is within our food. Four grams of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar, meaning that when an item contains 36 grams of sugar, this is equivalent to nine teaspoons of sugar! I started to become more cautious about the foods I consumed and read the ingredients more carefully while being on the lookout for words like “cane sugar” or “evaporated cane juice”. I was surprised to find hidden sources of sugar in products such as hummus, sausage, hot sauce, sushi, bread and milk. 

I do admit that quitting was very challenging, at first. You know that feeling right after you eat a huge meal and feel so full that you want to throw up, but then you spot a moist chocolate brownie and decide to have it for dessert? I used to always feel this way because I often ate desserts, especially chocolaty ones, even after reaching a point beyond fullness after a meal simply because I had such a sweet tooth. Therefore, when I suddenly eliminated refined sugar from my diet, my body went into a state of withdrawal as if I was an addict trying to quit. I’ll be honest, it was very physically painful; I experienced severe headaches, migraines, nausea, muscle/body weakness and just wanted to mope on the couch all day or sleep. I was a zombie with a brain of a sugar addict.   

The truth is that refined sugar is addicting, even more so than drugs like cocaine. Scientists have proven that when we eat refined sugar, the same areas in our brain light up as they do when we consume cocaine, but even more so. The more we eat refined sugar, the more our bodies crave it and become reliant on it to have the same rewarding experience. The science behind this is that eating refined sugar causes your brain to release dopamine (a chemical released in the brain as a response to pleasure and reward). Additionally, refined sugar has no nutrient value, is filled with calories, and can accumulate as fat in the belly. I believe that not many people are aware of how addicting a common ingredient like refined sugar can be and cannot see its negative effects right away on their bodies/brains, as we see in other addicting substances, they are more hesitant about eliminating it from their diet.

Quitting refined sugar made a noticeable difference on my daily habits and how dependent I have become on my food sources for getting me through the day. After a year of quitting refined sugar, every time I eat it now my bod experiences the same symptoms as when I first eliminated it. I always say, don’t force yourself into a diet that restricts you from the foods you love, rather create a lifestyle that embraces everything you love about eating, and that’s exactly what I did! My body no longer relies on the sugar for energy (or pleasure) in the morning or throughout my day. I rarely crave sweets as much as I used to because I have been able to replace those delicious treats with clean and simple recipes using natural sweeteners such as raw coconut sugar, raw honey, raw agave, dates or even just bananas! Now I’m not saying eat all the unrefined sugars you want, guilt-free. I believe everything should be eaten in moderation and in balance with other nutrients in our diet. 

So for anyone trying to eliminate refined sugar from their diet, I will give you a fair warning based on my own experience. If refined sugar has been a big part of your diet, like it had been for me, it will be tough, but only at first. Do your research, find out why you’re doing it, self-motivation is key, and don’t jump into it too quickly. Allow your body enough time to adjust and your brain to become accustomed to this new diet. Make sure to read labels carefully and do your research to know the many names refined sugar goes by. I can honestly say that my body had never felt so naturally energized as it does now that I have eliminated refined sugar.

ps. pictured top left is me taking a bite of my homemade banana pancakes with a rich dark chocolate sauce and bottom right is me at San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square in 2012 about to chow down on the Midnight Reverie.


p.s. top left is a picture of me eating a homemade chocolate banana pancake and bottom right is me in 2012 at San Francisco's Ghirardelli Chocolate Square about to eat a Midnight Reverie. 


I hope this was helpful and I would love to hear your feedback, comments and questions (email me, message me on instagram, etc.) There was a lot of information I wanted to include, but at the same time I wanted it to be short and engaging so feel free to reach out to me and I would love to chat! 

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