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The 7 stages of sugar withdrawal (and why it’s all worth it!)

By Rachel O'Regan |


Blonde woman with the scary expression on her face while eating cabbage leaf.

With an addictiveness similar to cocaine, quitting sugar can come with a host of not-so-fun withdrawal symptoms.

But before you give up on giving up, the I Quit Sugar: 8-Week Program can prepare you for what to expect when you decide to cut out sugar.

And show you why it’s all worth it in the end. 

1. Okay, this seems easy enough.

At this stage, your body hasn’t alerted to the fact that you’re no longer pumping fructose into your system. With your delicious and detoxing 8-Week Program recipes, you’ll feel on top of the world. What cravings?

2. The cravings kick in.

Ohhhh, those cravings. Yep, fructose is one addictive beast and it won’t let go of you without a fight. Plus, the temptation will be everywhere. Some Programmers have actually told us they’d have dreams about giving into their cravings and bingeing on sweet treats. Stay strong. Eat some protein. The best is yet to come.

3. Headaches. Oh, the headaches.

But not before the headaches. Much like when you give up that other addictive vice, caffeine, headaches are a very commonly reported symptom of sugar withdrawal. Time to invest in some aromatherapy oils, and make sure to drink plenty of water (especially if soft drinks or juice were your main source of hydration beforehand).


4. You may feel some aches and pains.

Some Programmers report aches and pains, or even flu-like symptoms, in the throes of withdrawal. One remedy we’d vouch for is a warm bath with Epsom salts, which studies have suggested may help flush out environmental toxins. But if you feel really out of sorts, check yourself out with a doctor.

5. Mood swings may be… less than pleasant.

At this point, your brain receptors are screaming: SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR. Between that and the headaches and the cravings, you may understandably have some gnarly mood swings. It’s helpful to have a solid support network around you during this stage, to help you remember why you started. Luckily, the great folks on our Forums are there to help.

6. Some people even get “the shakes”.

Just like a T. Swift song, your body may need to “shake it off, shake it off”. Mild tremors are linked to stress and blood sugar drops, so try having a snack or herbal tea to see if that helps. And do see a doctor if you are worried.

7. But suddenly, you’ll come out the other side feeling better than ever.

It could be a few days or a few weeks, but you’ll suddenly “get” what everyone was talking about. You’ll feel brighter, clearer and better than ever, as each day without the white stuff gets easier. No more cravings, no more blood sugar roller coasters, no more sugar-related headaches or 3pm slumps.

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what our 8-Week Programmers had to say about getting over the hump:

“Around week two I also had a fuzzy head and my energy was a little flat but this passed quickly. And there were plenty of happy side effects, too. The weight dropped off me. Post-baby pounds I’d been struggling to shift seemed to evaporate and it wasn’t because I wasn’t eating. I was eating plenty. It was a relief to be released from the ‘should I? shouldn’t I?’ dilemma when it came to sweet treats.” – Caroline. Read more about this professional foodie and BBC food writer’s sugar-quitting experience here

“It was hard at the start and I felt sick with headaches, like I’d been hit by a really bad head cold. Then after about a week I started feeling good. Like, really good! I found shopping was hard for the first couple of weeks but once I knew where to go and what to buy it was easy!” – Tabitha. Check out her amazing 15 kilogram weight loss transformation. 

“The carb flu was awful, and I was in quite a mood for the first few days. But after that, the clouds parted, and I could think more clearly than I had in as long as I could remember.” – Rosemary. Find out why quitting sugar inspired her so much she went on to study nutritional therapy

We originally published this article in January 2016. We updated it in April 2017.

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