Kicking The Sugar Habit

One man wages war with the almighty sweet stuff—and wins.
Photo: krayt_kopf; dark berry tart with basil

by Peter Davis

Hi, my name is Peter and I’m a sugar addict. I know that sounds très AA, but it’s true. Ever since I could chew food, I’ve been hooked on candy. I crave all foodstuffs fully loaded with sugar: Haribo gummy bears, Hershey’s bars, Pez (I don’t need the cute canisters, just the sugar bricks), bubble gum (Bazooka, Bubble Yum, Bubblicious), Ben & Jerry’s, and any dessert, from the pricey soufflé at La Grenouille to those glistening glazed doughnuts sold for a buck from metal carts on every Manhattan street corner from 6-10AM. Buying a birthday cake to keep in the fridge, as snack food, seemed normal to me.

Then one morning—wham!—I decided to never, ever eat sugar again. I was sick of sleeping badly, looking bloated and spending thousands of dollars a year in the candy aisles of Duane Reade. But I was scared. Sugar and its evil cousin, high-fructose corn syrup, are everywhere, from mustard to chicken stock to bacon. A pal told me kicking sugar was equivalent to battling a heroin habit. Gary Taubes’  The Case Against Sugar is filled with frightening facts. Did you know that sugar contributes to Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and of course obesity? I had to quit. But would I have withdrawals? Pounding headaches? Night sweats? The shakes? How would I survive?

A stint at Betty Ford for bubble gum dependency seemed dramatic. I ordered Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It on my Amazon Prime app, then cancelled the order. I needed to knock this habit on my own. If I was able to quit smoking without Nicorette, acupuncture or a NicoDerm patch, I could give up sugar, too.

I went cold turkey (cue the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream). I 86-ed every last grain of sugar from my apartment. No more Lucky Charms to start the day with a sweet buzz. Bye-bye, extra-large bags of Haribo everything. I read labels on food religiously and carefully. I bought tons of fresh fruit at Whole Foods. I read that dark chocolate—in moderation—is OK. And fancy, artisanal dark chocolate is a big thing right now. I carried Hu, Mast Brothers and Compartes bars with me everywhere. Small nibs of dark chocolate became my methadone. Dark chocolate does have some sugar, but not nearly the amount of say, a Twinkie.

I didn’t have a single headache. Ever. No nightmares. No painful urges to wolf down three bags of Sour Patch Kids in a row at midnight.

I’m truly a new person. Everything feels better. Fitness is more fun because I have more energy and the results—weight loss, toned muscles—happen faster. I sleep soundly and my internal clock has been reset so I am not rifling through drawers at 3AM looking for a sugar fix. Even my brain feels sharper. It astonishes me how much sugar racked my mind and body. I used to jolt awake at weird hours when I was in the throes of my sugar addiction. I’d shuffle half-asleep into my kitchen at 5AM to eat gummy bears.

I have more consistent energy than I’ve ever had in my life. My body is morphing. Within days, my mug—once puffed-out from pounds of sugar—looks more chiseled. Friends comment on how amazing I look. “What are you doing?” they demand. The more compliments I receive, the easier it is to stay clear of The Fudge Company and 7-Eleven’s massive candy selection. Vanity is a great motivator.