I Went 10 Days Without Eating Sugar And It Was Harder Than Giving Up Sex

Melia Robinson

Anyone who's ever been single, broken-up, or in a long-distance relationship, as I am, understands the gut-wrenching craving for physical intimacy. The transition between regular sex and celibacy can be tough.

Let me tell you, giving up sugar for 10 days is harder.

I first heard of the Fed Up Challenge when my mom's best friend posted about it on Facebook. Her statuses bragged about how much energy she had after giving up foods containing sugar. She posted photos of her farmer's market bounty with the hashtag "tastetherainbow."

Extra energy? Repurposed Skittles slogans? Yes please.

A couple weeks later I embarked on the 10-Day Fed Up Challenge, a healthy living campaign helmed by Katie Couric, Laurie David, and Stephanie Soechtig, the trio behind the 2014 documentary "Fed Up."

Given that the average sugar intake in the U.S. is 22 teaspoons per day, when the The World Health Organization recommends no more than six teaspoons — and considering my proximity to the office candy jar — I knew this would be a doozy. I didn't know it'd be nearly impossible.

The Rules

The Fed Up Challenge demands you give up all foods that have added sugars. No exceptions, so don't ask. And be warned, foods that have added sugar are pretty much everywhere.

Why go cold turkey? Sugar has the same addictive properties as tobacco and alcohol, meaning the more you eat, the more you need to be satisfied. "The best way to cut your sugar cravings are to cut out all sugar at once," the Fed Up website says. "Otherwise you keep triggering the addiction center in the brain."

Day 0: A Last Hurrah

I wanted to give my friend sugar a proper send-off. So at an outdoor movie screening the night before the Challenge, I ordered an ice cream sandwich made with two Snickerdoodle cookies and a generous scoop of Lucky Charms-infused ice cream. It. Was. Awesome.

That is, until I passed out 45 minutes into the "Heathers" screening with a stomach ache, a textbook sugar coma. I won't miss these.

All day, I craved my usual afternoon Fig Bar (10g), a handful of banana chips (30g), and honey in my hot lemon tea (17g). The lowest blow, however, was the loss of yogurt. I typically scoop a 1/2 cup or so into a blender for my green smoothie in the morning and was shocked to discover that even plain Greek yogurt is forbidden in the Garden of Eden.

When I think of "going sugar-free," visions of cake, soft serve ice cream, and candies dance in my head. But I quickly learned that sugar is everywhere, not just in the sticky-sweet items that line the checkout lane. I'm talking, bagels, skim milk, ketchup, bread, peanut butter, energy bars, and millions more unexpected places.

But, something good came out of it. I realized I needed to set myself up for success.

Day 2: Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

With the support of my team, the office candy jar was emptied and remained empty through the remainder of The Challenge.

I went grocery shopping after work and stocked up on "safe foods": bushels of spinach and kale, fresh zucchini, more spaghetti squash, a carton of egg whites, cheeses, soy milk, fresh fruits, and lots of proteins, like ground turkey and chicken breasts.

The cravings persisted through most of the day, but surrounding myself with alternative snacks distracted me long enough to get through the urges.

By Day 3, I got into a groove with breakfast. I dropped the green smoothie routine and started getting up earlier to make scrambled egg whites with cheese, spinach, and baby portabello mushrooms. And man, did those fill me up.

After scrounging around, I found a Weight Watchers brand oatmeal bread that has less than 1g of sugar per slice. I sandwiched a lean ground turkey patty, made with chopped mushrooms, spinach, and garlic powder and topped with shredded part-skim mozzarella, between two slices of the bread. It was a compromise, but the protein left me satisfied for longer.

By now, I can already start to feel the increased energy. I feel ... purged somehow. Getting up in the morning seems easier, and I'm hitting the snooze button less.

It's cool when you go into something with an expectation — I will have more energy — and that expectation is realized. This doesn't feel like the placebo effect.

Day 5: Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey

But a quick Google search revealed to me that plain, hard liquor is most often in the clear. So I began ordering whiskey on the rocks, which was easier on my wallet because it took fewer drinks to get buzzed.

I counted this swap as a win.

Day 6: "Do You Think The Candy Jar Is Lonely?"

I started to feel like I could run a marathon. A triathlon. A decathlon!

I'm not kidding. Boundless energy. I woke up with vigor (granted, I had been getting seven hours of sleep most nights), only needed one cup of coffee in the morning to stay focused, and made it through most of the day without yawning.

Unfortunately, for those of you keeping score, I still craved a handful of M&Ms from the office candy jar like Charlie craved heroin in Season 1 of "LOST."

Day 7: I've Fallen Off The Wagon And I Can't Get Up

I experienced my first major cheat. And I didn't just dip my toe in to see how the water was. I strapped on my swim cap and dove headfirst into Willy Wonka's chocolate river.

Something remarkable happened. It tasted ... disgustingly sugary.

This is my mom's chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe. I've been eating it for 23 years, and now that I can replicate it in my own kitchen, it's one of my greatest vices. But when I bit into the bread, it made my teeth itch. It tasted too sweet to finish. I couldn't believe that in seven days, my palate had changed, when it took two decades for me to eat a mushroom without gagging.

Day 9: My Oprah Ah-Ha Moment

A cold came on and I became more concerned about contracting Ebola than sticking to the Challenge. I drank a lot of hot toddies with my canned chicken noodle soup.

Sometimes you get sick. Sometimes a tsunami of stress hits. Sometimes your willpower slips, and I decided, that's okay.

But for this sugar-free lifestyle to work, I would have to be more proactive about stopping the cycle. If the intern brings in s'mores-flavored cookies, I don't have to throw in the towel and declare it a "cheat day." It can be a "cheat moment."

In the future, I will try to forgive myself and consider every slip the beginning of a clean slate.

Day 10: A Reflection

Pros: I shed some weight. Since consuming sugar may stall the hormone that lets your body know "I'm full," I felt less hungry during the day and felt satiated sooner. More importantly, I gained massive amounts of energy I didn't know my body could tap into.

Cons: I experienced noticeably more indigestion, likely from eating more complex carbohydrates, cheese, and massive amounts of fruits and veggie. (I'm really sorry, desk mates.) This seems manageable with a Beano regiment and drinking more water to flush out the system.

Very infrequently did I feel like I was "missing out" in a social situation because I was sugar-free. If you looked hard enough, every temptation had an alternative option. At the club? Order plain hard liquor. At the office, grab a handful of unsweetened almonds instead of granola clusters.

Since completing the Fed Up Challenge, I've reunited with sugar-free chocolate pudding (because artificial sugars were banned, too); but I've tried my best to maintain the rules otherwise. Candy cravings persist, but pass more quickly. Still, I've gotten lazy about reading nutritional labels and instead rely on my judgment. The scale at the gym tells me that my judgment is, more often than not, wrong.

Regardless, I'm glad I did the Fed Up Challenge for the sheer satisfaction that comes with completing it.

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SEE ALSO: 15 Terrible Things That Happen If You Eat Too Much Sugar