It’s exhausting keeping up with the latest food and health fads. One week it’s fat-free, the next its GMOs, and now I’ve found myself wrapped up in the evils of sugar. The fact is something is going to kill us, so no preaching or judging here. Just a simple tale of how cutting added sugar changed my family’s life.

Several weeks ago as we snuggled on the couch, I cued up the documentary Fed Up, in lieu of my family’s typical Sunday night viewing of America’s Funniest Home Videos. I was sure this would be one of those moments that scarred my kids. However, I took a chance, and they took it like champs. Fed Up is essentially about how the sugar industry has taken over the evil roll once held by Big Tobacco. We were so impacted by the film that we immediately took the 10-day sugar-free challenge. We were going to give up anything with added sugar. If we wanted something sweet natural sugars were the only option. Those first few days it seemed almost impossible, yet seven weeks later and for us there’s no going back.

Since beginning the challenge we’ve been shocked and disgusted to find how much sugar we were consuming. Yes, the typical American diet is out of control but we weren’t typical Americans. We cook and pack our own lunches. Ha! How disillusioned we were. Sugar is literally in everything. From mayonnaise to peanut butter, bread, and pasta, all of our “healthy” snacks and “healthy” cereals and even our organic tomato sauce had added sugar. So we started over.

The first couple of days was so hard I almost cried. I found I depended on my ritual after lunch sweet like a crack addict. I’m also not one to waste, so starting over and throwing “perfectly good” food in the trash made me cringe. It took me some deep breathing to focus and acknowledge, that if more sugar was added it was far from perfectly good, and that I was an adult and could live without my daily cookie. After a couple of days the mid- day cravings waned. I was sleeping better and we all lost weight. For the first time in four years I’ve dropped seven pounds and I’m back to what I consider my regular weight.

We’re not crazy—we still have the occasional birthday cake, and the kids have a treat on the weekends when the occasion arises. Once a die-hard baked-good fan, I find I don’t even want it now. I admit my body is addicted to sugar, and I never want to go through that withdrawal again. My kids can now clearly recognize the negative effects they feel from it. Belly aches, bad night’s sleep, and feeling sluggish are so apparent now, almost immediately after they indulge in sugar overload.

Every day is a challenge. Throw in a teacher who rewards the kids with candy, a sweet neighbor who also happens to be a killer baker bringing a cake to the house, and Halloween already haunting us, this sugar-free thing is not for the faint of heart. But if you really want to see how much sugar is in control of you and our food options, I encourage you to take the Fed Up challenge. Who knows—you may just find you can be so much more productive, sleep better, or fit into your favorite jeans. For us it’s not like we’re giving it up anymore, it’s just normal behavior now and we all feel better.

Here are some brands that helped me give my culinary arsenal a sugar-free makeover:

Duke’s Mayonnaise

Alvarado Street Bakery Bread

Gulden’s Spicy Mustard

Rao’s Tomato Sauce

Red Mills Oatmeal

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