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We Tried It: The No-Sugar-for-a-Week Diet

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What is it: Giving up sweets in every form for one very long week

Who tried it: Zoë Ruderman, Senior Style Editor

Why she did it: It was around 8:30 in the morning while shoveling a palm-sized chocolate-covered pretzel into my mouth when it became clear I needed to break up with sweets. At least temporarily. I realized my tolerance for sugary snacks was so crazy-high that I had to reset my baseline. Plus, I had a suspicion that all that sugar was zapping my energy. Also, you know, like health and stuff.

How crazy is it on a scale from one to Kim Kardashian’s blood facial?: 11. Sugar is probably my favorite food group. I eat ice cream in the winter. I have dessert after lunch. I once made my boyfriend raise his right hand promise me that when I’m pregnant someday, he’ll go out at any hour of the night and buy me candy. I don’t have a sweet tooth, I have 28 sweet teeth.

As soon as I finished the aforementioned chocolate-covered pretzel, I decided to go cold turkey. No weaning myself off the juice, no slow fade. I do best with clear guidelines so I told myself that I wouldn’t eat any sugar for an entire week. Then I said it out loud to my boyfriend because some experts believe that it’s easier to stick with a goal if you’ve told someone else about it.

It was smooth sailing for the first few … hours. And then an email with this subject line arrived in my in box: Cupcakes! (This is a normal occurrence at the PEOPLE offices and I had steeled myself for it.) I deleted the email, shut my office door so as not to hear the squeals of “This one’s carrot cake!” and “Ohhh, the frosting has brownie bits in it!” and “This tastes like everything Zoë wants in life!”

And then I reached for my consolation chewable kids vitamins.

The rest of the day was easier to get through. I had pitched all of the sweets in our apartment to avoid temptation. I brushed my teeth as soon as I’d finished dinner (it helps signal to your brain that you’re done eating for the night) and went to bed early.

The next couple days followed a similar pattern: Avoid temptation at all costs and power through, chewable kids vitamins in hand. And by day three, I started to realize something: I was snacking less in general. I had assumed that during the sugar-free week I’d replace my sugary treats with other snacks. But it turns out that by taking sweets out of the equation, I ended the vicious savory-sweet-savory-sweet cycle! Did I want a bag of pretzels immediately after eating salad and soup? No, I wanted candy! And without candy, I was left with a revolutionary idea: eat only meals. I know, I know, I’m a visionary, my nutrition book deal’s in the works.

Read about the other over-the-top, kinda crazy challenges editors have completed!

On day five, I went out to dinner with a few friends visiting from out of town, including one who is working on opening up her own cheesecake shop in Barcelona and made it her mission to eat as much dessert as possible while in New York City.

I know what you’re thinking: that I caved. Even I assumed I’d cave. But I held strong and when the server brought five spoons for the dessert my friend ordered, I pushed mine away and sucked down my water as if it were the nectar of the gods, humming quietly to myself to drown out the sounds of them mmming and awwing over the blueberry tart.

The week ended with me hanging out with a bunch of friends and watching the Breaking Bad mid-season premiere. One of the guys had gone out and picked up dinner and snacks for our viewing party. Just before Walter White came on-screen, the friend handed each of us a Klondike Bar.

And I can’t tell a lie: With fewer than 12 hours left in my no-sugar week, I ate that Klondike Bar. And it was delicious. I felt guilty for a few minutes, but I justified that it could be worse. It’s not like it was crystal meth.

The verdict: I’m so glad I successfully completed my no-sugar-for-a-week-minus-11-hours challenge. I think I felt more energetic those seven days and I definitely found it easier to fall asleep at night. Plus, like I said, it led to me grazing less in general and getting my sustenance from meals alone.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve lowered my sweets tolerance. The Klondike Bar and every sweet I’ve had since (fewer than usual!) have tasted richer and more satisfying. Will I ever be the kind of person who can eat a tiny square of dark chocolate after dinner and say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly have more! That was just so decadent!”? No. But I also don’t need to polish off dinner with half a tub of ice cream. Which, for the record, I’ve never done.

Have you ever tried to give up sugar or another type of food or food group you’re addicted to? Any tricks to share?

–Zoë Ruderman

Follow Zoë on Twitter @zoemarianna