I quit sugar for 6 months and this is what it did to my face and body

Confession time: I used to believe my face was destined to resemble a fluffy marshmallow for eternity. It wasn’t just a self-perception; it was a conviction I held onto tightly, reinforced by years of staring at what I believed to be a round, shapeless visage in the mirror. Little did I know that my journey to rediscover my face, body and self would begin with a simple decision: to quit sugar.

My relationship with sugar wasn’t particularly unhealthy — at least, that’s what I thought. Like many people, I indulged in the occasional sweet treat, never realizing the impact it might be having on my skin and overall well-being.

It wasn’t until I started delving into research on nutrition and wellness that I began to uncover the hidden truths about sugar’s effects on the body, particularly on the skin. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it was time for me to take control of my lifestyle and eating habits.

As I pored over studies and articles, I was astonished to learn about the correlation between sugar consumption and various skin issues, including inflammation, acne and premature aging.

Suddenly, the innocent pleasure of indulging in a sugary snack didn’t seem very pleasurable. I soon made the decision to bid farewell to sugar and be more mindful of what I put in my stomach. Goodbye, cakes (and happiness)! To be clear, I wasn’t totally sugar-free. I still ate foods that were made with sugar, but I avoided sweets and anything made with processed sugar, like desserts, candies and carbonated drinks.

Shweta Sengar (Courtesy Shweta Sengar)
Shweta Sengar (Courtesy Shweta Sengar)

The initial weeks were challenging, to say the least. Breaking free from the grip of sugar cravings required a level of discipline I hadn’t known I possessed. But with each passing day, I found myself becoming more attuned to the needs of my body, more mindful of the choices I made regarding what I put into it. I cut sugary drinks and replaced them with herbal teas and black coffee.

Cutting out sweet treats was a little more difficult than expected. I would see people around me relishing a doughnut, and a little voice in my head would say, “You can eat one, or maybe just half?” The struggle to keep such intrusive thoughts away was real. Slowly, I got better at managing my cravings, even during periods when all I could think about was eating chocolates.

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, nutrition editor at TODAY, says that research has found excessive sugar intake is linked to inflammation in the skin and psoriasis flares.

“That said, the daily recommended added sugar is less than 50 grams (about 12 teaspoons), so having some sugar won’t cause inflammation. These studies look at people who eat more than the recommended amount. Generally, skin inflammation presents as pimples or acne, but it may also cause eczema flares, which is linked to dry skin,” she adds.

She also says that artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, have been shown to have the opposite effect on skin. “That said, the studies with aspartame use really high doses and are usually performed on animals, so they aren’t the most conclusive.”

The first tangible change I noticed? My face. As the weeks went by, the puffiness that had once plagued my cheeks began to recede, revealing contours I never knew existed. It was like uncovering a hidden treasure buried beneath layers of sugar-induced inflammation. Suddenly, the face staring back at me in the mirror bore little resemblance to the one I had grown accustomed to — and I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

This is me after the experiment. I noticed my skin became more radiant and my face less puffy.  (Courtesy of Shweta Sengar)
This is me after the experiment. I noticed my skin became more radiant and my face less puffy. (Courtesy of Shweta Sengar)

“Eating more than the recommended amount of sugar on a daily basis may cause weight gain, which may present as bloating or puffiness. The inflammation that the excessive sugar causes may also cause some slight bloating,” Rizzo says.

But the transformation didn’t stop there. Oh no, my energy levels experienced a renaissance of their own. No longer was I subject to the erratic highs and crashing lows that had plagued me for so long. Instead, I found myself sustained by a steady, reliable source of energy that carried me through the day with ease.

And then there was my skin. Freed from the shackles of sugar-induced inflammation, my complexion took on a newfound radiance. I also noticed fewer bumps and acne on my face. It was as if my skin had undergone a rejuvenation, emerging from its sugar-induced slumber to reveal a vitality I had never known.

Rizzo also points out that excessive sugar consumption can promote acne, pimples or eczema flares, all of which are irritations to the skin.

Of course, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. There were moments of doubt, moments when the siren call of sugary treats threatened to derail my progress.

The last six months of my no-sugar resolution have been amazing, to say the least. There are times when I feel like giving in to the occasional cravings, but then I think about my skin and my overall energy levels. In the morning, I eat a big bowl of strawberries, oranges, apples and blueberries, and that is enough to take care of all my cravings.

To anyone considering taking the plunge into sugar-free living, I offer this advice: Arm yourself with knowledge, trust in the process, and, above all, be gentle with yourself along the way. The road may be challenging at times, but the rewards are immeasurable. As for me, I’ll be over here, basking in the glow of my newfound vitality — and reveling in the joy of rediscovering my face, my body and myself.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com