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Sugar is a cruel, cruel mistress—it’s delicious and addictive, but it’s not doing you any favors. Aside from causing weight gain, increased consumption of refined sugar increases the risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and can impact cognitive function and memory, says best-selling author Sara Gottfried, M.D.

It turns out your daily afternoon sugary treat not only gives you major brain fog—according to author David Wolfe, it also accelerates aging. 

It may seem daunting, even impossible, to remove processed sugar from your diet, but understanding all the extraordinary things that happen when you cut it out can empower you to kick the habit. Keep reading.

After an Hour

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Expect withdrawals, even after a few hours. “Sugar is addictive and activates a dopamine response in the reward center of the brain, like a drug,” says Wolfe. Depending on the amount of sugar you consume daily, you might experience varying drops in blood sugar levels, sweating, shaking, irritable moodiness, hunger, and sadness. Gottfried suggests fighting through these symptoms by consuming fresh vegetables with fiber, anti-inflammatory protein sources, and healthy fats.

After a Day

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

The days just after you’ve stopped consuming sugar are perhaps the hardest. “You may have withdrawal-like symptoms including headaches and a drop in energy levels,” says Gottfried. You’ll probably have some strong cravings for something sweet, too.

But already, your body is beginning to heal itself. According to Wolfe, sugar feeds harmful microorganisms, such as candida—which, when overgrown, can affect your gut health. Cutting out processed sugar helps keep those microorganisms in check.

After a Week

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

This is when the magic happens. Your body will quickly start to repair itself once sugar is out of the way, starting with improvements in insulin levels and inflammatory responses. According to Gottfreid, in just 72 hours, as your insulin levels begin to stabilize, other hormones (like those involved in fat storage) will also return to normal levels. Another noticeable difference? Skin clarity and less puffiness in the face, says Wolfe.

After a Month

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

“You’ll realize what sugar has been doing to you, namely increasing cravings, causing weight gain and yeast infections, and amplifying inflammation,” says Wolfe. Why? Because a lot of these issues, as well as hankerings for treats, will be disappearing.

Add to those benefits stable blood sugar levels, improved mental clarity, natural weight loss, and improved gut health. “A healthy gut reduces inflammation in your body and your overall risk for many health problems,” says Gottfried.

After Six Months

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Imagine this: “You will be so far away from the habit of eating sugar that you will not only not want it, but you won’t even be able to look at it,” says Wolfe. Gottfried adds that when you have stable blood sugar levels, you’ll find weight stays off, especially that stubborn belly fat. More important, you’ll be overall healthier: Six months without refined sugar will decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early aging, she says.

After a Year

Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

On a surface level, skin quality and reduction of acne, irritation, and fine lines can be dramatic when sugar is eliminated from your daily diet. Even better, you will see a reduction in overall risk of preventable diseases, like diabetes, as well as heart attack and stroke. Not to mention, you’ll also increase your quality and length of life. Seriously—we’re not sugarcoating it.

This story was originally published in November 2019 and has since been updated.

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