What does sugar withdrawal feel like? It feels like a giant pile of suck.
Every time I've modified my eating habits in the past to reduce my intake of refined sugar (found in cookies, candy, processed foods, etc.) Day Two has offered a very yucky outcome. Just like alcohol withdrawal after a night of too much drinking, the body feels hungover. Around lunch time today, my neck began to stiffen and a headache crept up over the top of my skull. Before I knew it, I was lying down on my bed, my scalp tender to the touch and my stomach fraut with nausea. Within twenty minutes it was all over, but despite my snacking on carrots and hummus and grapes I feel rather sluggish even this afternoon.
The good news is that I know Day Three always feels amazing. What follows the "sugar hangover" is a clarity of the body and mind, and a renewed level of energy that makes the yucky part of Day Two worth enduring.
It also puts a spotlight on just how much our bodies adapt to large quantities of sugar. I literally feel sick because I have stopped ingesting something that is bad for me. You know how drug addicts get the shakes and their symptoms of withdrawal are so terrible that they keep using? Something very similar happens when you deprive your body of sugar. If a food naturally contains sugar (like many types of produce), the amount is low and very difficult to consume in unsafe amounts. That's not the type of sugar I'm referring to. I'm talking the white granular stuff that comes in little cubes and big bags and in liquid form in soda and energy drinks and juice (yes, most juice is full of added sugar... unless you squeeze it yourself). And those "diet" drinks, "healthy fit" yogurt products, "skim" milk, and "low calorie" snack packs? Those are worse! Those contain synthetic (read: fake and not grown in the natural world) sweeteners that are multiple times sweeter than actual sugar, making your dependency on them even stronger.
I gave up soda on June 4th and don't miss it one bit. I occasionally drink lemonade or freshly squeezed juice. Other than that, it's tea and water for me. Sometimes I make my own chai lattes with unsweetened almond milk (it's only 30-40 calories per serving and doesn't have the hormones and antibiotic residues found in fat free milk). But I stay away from energy drinks and electrolyte drinks and juice products. Just because a brand claims to have something nutritionally beneficial ("some" real juice, added vitamins or minerals, "natural" ingredients) does NOT mean it is good for you. It means they are trying to sell you a product made from ingredients that started out as a whole food and were transformed beyond recognition (or sometimes pronunciation) and then injected with a little of vitamin whatever.
My best advice would be this, if you are looking to improve your dietary lifestyle: if a food item is good for you, then it doesn't need to be advertised as such. You occasionally see a promo for eggs or oranges or potatoes, but not really. You see ads for things that have been created in labs or modified in some way... and not for the better. They have to advertise to make you want it. A good rule of thumb is to try to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store when shopping, as many of the processed foods are found in the middle aisles. That's also where much of the added sugar hangs out. That's a great place to start when healthy eating transformations seem overwhelming.
If you're ever endured a hangover, then you can survive a sugar withdrawal. Think of it as your body cleansing itself of a poison. You've likely heard of drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning (and what is alcohol anyway, but a bunch of sugar?); too much sugar is also toxic to your body and causes a number of health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
You may be wondering: if sugar is so rotten for you, then why is it legally allowed to be added to so much food? Another good rule of thumb: don't assume the FDA is looking out for your best interest. Their primary goal is to make money. So are the food companies who make these addictive products. So are the pharmaceutical companies who make a fortune off of your illness due to your poor diet. It is much more profitable to so many corporations if you are sick and unhealthy and addicted to sugar than it is to have a population eating whole foods and not depending on medications. It sounds like a gross conspiracy... maybe too radical, you think? Don't take my word for it! I encourage you to do some research.
And lastly, be sure to start somewhere. Have a Day One so you can suffer through Day Two and enjoy the benefits of Day Three and beyond.