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Post-holiday detox: Stay sugar-free for 15 days

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 09, 2024 5:00 am

There are many ways to slow down and declutter after a long holiday rush. You can do solo travel or go on a retreat, simply to rest and recover.

You can be anti-social for a while after a string of reunions and parties. You can go on a fast after a tiring schedule of potlucks and buffets. Or you can exercise like crazy to lose the holiday weight gain.

What if we forego sugar in our diet for two weeks? Sounds easy, but it will surely take effort and determination because we have been conditioned to reach for something sweet all our lives. So let’s count the benefits first, then decide if we can sacrifice two weeks without sugar.

While we are in the process of removing holiday decor, we should also goonpost-holiday (sugar) detox.

What will we get from staying away from sugar for at least two weeks?

Experts say that staying away from sugar for a couple of weeks will result in weight loss, reduced bloating, mindful eating habits, better dental health, better mood, improved sleep and more energy. Bloating has been linked to artificial sweeteners, while anything sweet increases the chance of dental cavities.

Dr. Eric Berg, with 11.3 million subscribers on YouTube, is famous for talking about nutrition and health topics such as the good keto, intermittent fasting, and food as medicine. Nineteen million watched his video “What happens if you stop eating sugar for 14 days” and here are seven of the many benefits he revealed.

“One moment on your lips, forever on your hips” sums up the frivolity of our holiday diet.
Sugar gives us a momentary high but makes us crash as well with tiredness and grumpiness.
  • Your hunger pangs lessen. You are going to be less hungry when you stop eating sugar. Until you complete two weeks without sugar, you won’t know that sugar keeps you hungry all the time. “When you give up on sugar, you become a lot less hungry. Why? It’s because you stabilize your blood sugar levels,” Dr. Berg said.
  • Less fatigue. You feel less fatigue, especially after eating a meal, when you stop sugar for two weeks. When you are eating sugar regularly, you usually feel tired after you eat. “But if you do two weeks without sugar, you’re going to find that you’re not as tired as before after you eat. This means you will no longer have high sugar levels, which make the brain tired. You can achieve normal sugar levels easier, which makes your brain awake,” he promised.
  • Lose excess water and fat. You are going to lose excess water and fat when you stop eating sugar. “For the first week, you are going to dump a lot of water and some fat from your body, but after that, you’re going to be mostly dumping fat. You’ll be surprised at how much fluid retention you had. Some people, within one week, can lose up to 13 pounds of fluid. They are holding that fluid around, and that can’t be healthy for the heart. You will start to see your clothes loosening, especially in the midsection. Your waist is one of the best indicators if you are taking in too much sugar. If you reduce sugar intake, your stomach shrinks, but if you eat more sugar, your stomach expands,” Dr. Berg explained.
When life gets too sweet, energy levels hit rock bottom. Cut down on the sugar rush for a naturally energized and vibrant you!
  • Boosts your mood. You’ll experience a mood boost. “If you were grouchy before, you are now going to be a lot calmer and less stressed. Your cognitive function improves as well, so you are going to feel more focused, have more concentration, and be able to put more attention on your tasks,” he added.
  • Healthier skin. It makes your skin look much better. “You are going to have less acne, and your skin is going to glow. When you consume sugar, your fat-storing hormone levels go up, and androgens, a female hormone, go up, too, which is going to create acne. In the male body, the increased fat-storing hormone lowers testosterone. Once this happens, you are going to have other problems associated with low testosterone levels,” Dr. Berg said.
  • Cleanses your liver. “Your liver starts to become clean of fat as well because your body is going to start dumping fat accumulating in your liver, which you can use as fuel. You are on your way to cleaning out your liver, so it’s no longer fatty. If you have belly fat and you start developing weight gain, chances are you have a fatty liver as well,” he added.
  • Better kidney function. “You are going to experience better kidney function as an effect when you stop eating refined sugar. Take a look at people with diabetes. The kidney is usually the target for their problems. So, when you cut down the amount of sugar and reduce carbohydrates, you are going to improve kidney function greatly,” Dr. Berg said.

How to stay away from sugar for two weeks

Staying away from sugar takes more work than simply not putting the sweet white crystals in your food or drinks. You have to meticulously read food labels. Foods to avoid include processed sugars (brown sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, maltose, liquid fructose), processed foods with real or artificial sugar, dried fruit, and fresh fruit with high glycemic index (bananas, pineapples, watermelons).

Limit intake of high-sugar vegetables like parsnip and sweet potatoes. Avoid any drinks, sauces and breakfast foods that contain a lot of sugar. Calories from drinks are absorbed immediately, resulting in an instant spike in blood sugar. During the detox, stick to water, unsweetened sparkling water, herbal teas, black or green tea, and black coffee.

Who doesn’t love sugar? A whopping 74 percent of packaged food items in the groceries contain sugar.
Some breakfast cereals are 88-percent sugar in weight, and granola bars have even more sugar.

Remove condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, gravy, spaghetti sauce and sweet chili sauce. Ketchup is almost 30 percent sugar. A huge majority of our sugar intake is from ultra-processed foods such as soda, sugary cereals, chips and fast food. Always check canned goods for sugar or its derivatives in the ingredient list.

Even those sold as healthy snacks like granola bars, protein bars and dried fruit can be full of sugar. You may indulge in low-sugar snacks like nuts and seeds, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruits. Some breakfast cereals are 88-percent sugar by weight. Granola bars have more sugar than breakfast cereals. Healthier breakfast options are oatmeal sweetened with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt with nuts and fruits, egg omelet with cheese and vegetables, and avocado on whole grain toast.

Sugar, as listed on food labels, has many aliases such as high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, maltose, dextrose, invert sugar, rice syrup, molasses and caramel. Go for more protein-rich whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairy products, nuts and avocados.

Since sugar is present in 74 percent of packaged foods at the grocery store, your best bet is to cook your food with real, whole foods like meats, eggs, nuts, vegetables and cheese.

Starches, bread, potatoes, fruits and pasta spike blood sugar levels. They are treated by your body as similar to sugar and could lead to blood sugar spikes.