INTRODUCTION You Can Go Sugar Free. It Worked For Me!
By Simply Cleaning Up Your Diet You Will Feel Better Than Ever Before C
ONGRATULATIONS on taking a big step toward boosting your health and well-being. I’m so glad you’re here. This book is not a diet. It’s not a detox. It’s not a cleanse. And it won’t instruct you to do nutty things. Sugar Free 3
works (and it works fast) because it’s an easy and effective way to help you kick sugar, reset your body, and feel totally amazing! And just about everyone could benefit from consuming less sugar, me included.
As the former editor-in-chief of Women’s Health
, I spent many years researching and writing about health, nutrition, and fitness—both fun trends and serious conditions. To be an editor, you need to be endlessly curious, but also pretty skeptical, because a major aspect of the job is sifting through the glut of information out there to determine what qualifies as the absolute best advice to share with readers.
Before starting my magazine career, I was active, but I wasn’t necessarily healthy. I worked out and played sports, but my eating and sleeping habits were all over the map. And yeah, I did a fair bit of partying. I mean, I was a young editor grinding it out in New York City—it comes with the territory! I got invited to glam parties and star-studded premieres and a lot of other excessive soirees. It was fun as hell, but not awesome for keeping my health in check. And when the novelty of going out every night wore off, and I began to delve deeper into health topics, I developed a real passion for wellness. I also discovered just how badly Americans need help figuring out how to take better care of themselves. We’re a nation obsessed with looking good, and yet statistics—or even a cursory glance around a grocery store—prove that we struggle with health and weight management. Our social media feeds and news channels are filled with posts about the latest silver-bullet solution—a cleanse, a fast, a miracle green juice, not to mention the hype around popular diets, such as paleo and keto, that cut out whole categories of food. And still, obesity rates rise. No doubt those kinds of plans work for some people, but they never worked for me, because they are just too restrictive and regimented. And I’m not alone in feeling that way, am I right?
Luckily, this book isn’t about following a fad or a narrow list of allowable foods (grapefruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—I’ll pass). Instead, I’m here to talk about how giving up added sugars for three short weeks can help change your life—and why I devised Sugar Free 3
to help you do just that. A Real Plan for Real People
For most of the year, I eat healthfully, exercise regularly, and work hard to look my best. (I’m not the young, survive-on-fumes editor I used to be!) But there are certain times throughout the year when the balance I normally achieve goes completely off the rails. Summer is one of those times because when the sun comes out, so does the sauvignon blanc…and the rosé…and a few nice chilled reds. I admit it—I’m a wino. Or, more accurately, a wine lover. When I plan vacations, I gravitate to places that are known to be top wine regions—France, Italy, Greece, Argentina, California—because to me, eating and drinking are huge and pleasurable parts of the holiday experience.
And who am I kidding—if they had gummy bear vineyards, I’d visit them, too! Second confession: I am a candy monster. I make no apologies for loving the sweet stuff—specifically, sour gummies and licorice. Yum! There is a certain Swedish shop called Sockerbit in downtown NYC that I find hard to walk past without filling up a bag of sugary, salty (great combo, by the way), chewy candies. Most of my friends have been dragged in by me on at least one occasion.
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with a conscious indulgence here and there. But by the end of August, I am up to my eyeballs in dry white wine and pistachio ice cream cones (my other sweet vice) and feeling kinda crappy. That’s when I know it’s time for a sugar reboot. And this year, rather than trying to do penance by praying nobody invites me to happy hour, I wanted concrete, well-thought-through guidelines. I’m smart and experienced enough to know that recalibrating takes more than a torturous weekend cleanse. While I wanted to make some lifestyle changes, I wasn’t looking for a forbidding forever plan. I just needed to rein it in. Shockingly, I couldn’t find anything to realistically help me do it. So I decided to create something for myself—and for you.
I turned to some of the most respected wellness experts in the country to help me, people that I have used as resources in the magazines I’ve edited—and many of whom I now consider close friends. And we did it. Sugar Free 3 will help you kick sugar safely and effectively, and it’s easier than you could ever imagine. You’ll eliminate added sugars, refined carbs, and artificial sweeteners for just three weeks—and I’ll show you exactly what to eat and what to avoid, step by step. And it doesn’t matter how busy you are or what your lifestyle is, we’ve thought of everything to help you succeed. Even if, like me, you don’t feel lousy on the regular, you will be mind-blown by how much better you feel when you ditch the unnecessary sugar. My skin looked glowier, I slept much more soundly, my digestion improved, and I had bonus energy, which helped power everything else I like and need to do, from exercising to tackling work projects. You, too, can experience these fantastic outcomes and more on Sugar Free 3
. And I promise, you won’t have to do anything extreme. You won’t have to starve yourself or cut out all carbs. The goal isn’t to become some “super clean” eater for life. You’re going to eat whole, delicious food that will keep you satiated. The greatest part: You don’t have to count calories or eat tiny portions.
It’s a real plan for real people. But you don’t need to take my word for it. People like Joslyn B., a marketing manager, and Courtnee S., a Head Start teacher, and Judy G., a stay-at-home mom, and the other test panelists tried Sugar Free 3
and reported back having:
- Healthier-looking skin
- Better quality sleep
- Fewer sweet cravings
- Stronger willpower
- Easier weight loss
At the end of it, in addition to the benefits I’ve already listed, I lost six pounds—enough to help me comfortably fit back into my favorite jeans and feel like myself again. But what was most exciting is that for the first time in a long time I felt in control of my sugar cravings and consumption. And I began to approach my eating and drinking in a new, more informed way. We All Have Our “Thing”
What’s your thing? I mean, when it comes to sugar—what’s the one thing you can’t resist? Is it warm molten chocolate cake or a hot slice of apple pie with ice cream melting into the gooey center? Maybe it’s gulping a fizzy, ice-cold soda on a hot summer day, or sipping a venti Frappuccino (extra whipped cream!) on the way to work, or downing a not-so-nutritious energy drink to keep you going past the three o’clock slump.
Sugar has been a “thing” for many of us since childhood. Growing up in a single-parent household, I had a pantry filled with Fruity Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, and my fave, Lucky Charms (“They’re magically delicious!”). Turns out, at the end of the rainbow pictured on the box was a vat of sugar, not a pot of gold. Our “health food” was Fig Newtons. Our “milk” was Yoo-hoo, the sugartastic chocolate beverage. Telling you this is not to diss my mom in any way. She was doing the best she could, and these kinds of foods were what lined—and still line—grocery store shelves. She didn’t have the health knowledge I have now, so she wasn’t aware of just how detrimental and habit-forming consuming all of that sugar was.
And it’s not like I spent my youth riding the couch with my hand shoved into a cookie jar. I played soccer from third grade through high school. I dated a guy who was into fitness and supplements before it was popular, and who got me curious about nutrition. I also ate “fat-free” when that was all the rage in the ’90s, thinking I was doing a good thing. What I didn’t do was connect sugar with weight gain, or any other undesirable effects. Why would I? I wasn’t overweight, per se. But I wasn’t my ideal weight. My body composition was off: I was soft and puffy, not dense—my muscles were hiding under a mushy layer. I wasn’t sick or lethargic, but I wished I had more energy, more focus. These feelings continued into adulthood.
As an ambitious editor climbing the ladder of the magazine industry in New York City, I’d do cardio classes, indoor cycling, and floor exercises with ankle and wrist weights. But I’d start most mornings by eating a bagel the size of[…]”“my head for breakfast (hey, it’s fat free!) and end the evening with a takeout dinner of Thai food or pizza. By day, I was writing about fashion, beauty, and boys. By night, I was eating Snackwells by the sleeve. Anyone remember those?
When my income increased, so did the size of my kitchen—and my meals. Public relations companies plied me and my staff with sweets they’d send so that we’d pay attention to their products (it worked!). Every week there was a co-worker’s birthday or anniversary to celebrate… with cake; offices, in general, tend to be littered with candy, chocolate, and baked goods. Movie premieres, book launches, and parties always had complimentary sweets, too—with cupcakes so small, it was easy to pop one (or five) in my mouth between glasses of champagne.
Looking at photos of myself from back then, I was a good 10 pounds heavier than I am today, with blotchy skin and tired eyes. It wasn’t until I became the editor-in-chief of Women’s Health magazine that it really hit me: I’d always worked out, but I was eating far more calories than I was burning. After all, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet because it’s way easier to take in empty calories than it is to burn them off.
The same is likely true for you. Even if you aren’t into candy or ice cream, it’s probable that you eat too many refined carbs or artificial sweeteners. The scary thing about sugar—which will be illuminated in this program—is that it hides in foods you may not think are sweet or “unhealthy,” like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, bread, crackers, salad dressings, and yogurt—to name a few of the sneaky sources.
It’s just about everywhere.
As a result, the average American consumes nearly 152 pounds of sugar annually—almost 30 pounds more than we did in 1970. That’s almost 44 teaspoons daily, or three pounds a week! Many of these sugars are classified as “added sugars”—that is, sugars that are added to foods when they are processed or prepared. The American Heart Association recommends that men consume no more than 150 calories in added sugars daily, and women 100. But most of us are eating more than twice that amount—men are getting 335 calories in added sugar, and women 239—every single day! Eating so much sugar significantly raises your risk of life-shortening obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease: A study in JAMA Internal Medicine
found that people who exceeded the recommended daily limit of sugar increased their risk of death due to heart disease by at least 30 percent.
Artificial sweeteners, which are touted as the healthier alternative, come with a laundry list of potential health issues, including—believe it or not—weight gain. Yes, that diet soda you think is helping you stay slim may be making you fatter. It’s Not Your Fault
Our sweet teeth are nothing new. Nor are they totally our fault. In fact, humankind’s “attraction to sugar is part of how we survived as a species. Over the millennia, “humans evolved a strong appetite for sweet-tasting foods,” claims the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Once upon a time, the only way we could consume carbs was through “whole, natural, seasonal, and indigenous fruits and vegetables.” And when we did, we were also rewarded with mega-doses of nutrition and healthy, balanced energy.
Not anymore, thanks to the industrial age. Food manufacturers now use technology to produce highly refined carbs that are inexpensive to make and may be harmful—yet oh so appetizing. To make this test tube food, scientists engineer products to have just the right amount of sweetness to make you crave more…and more…and then stick it in everything from soft drinks to sauces. That’s why the ingredients list on some of your favorite foods reads like a chemistry final. It’s mad science. And we’ve gone mad for it. And with that manipulated food comes manipulative marketing. Foods filled with sugar are often given a “health halo”—called “all natural” or “fat free,” to imply a benefit where there is none. Worst of all, unhealthy foods are targeted at children. Why else would there be cartoon characters on cereal boxes that are placed low on supermarket aisle shelving to meet kids’ eyes.
As a child—and even in my early twenties—I didn’t worry about any of this stuff. I certainly wasn’t thinking about brain health or skin problems or inflammation or long-term effects. At that age, you think you’re immortal and that you have all the time in the world to course-correct.
The truth is, the damage you’re doing to your body starts years—even decades—before it strikes in any conspicuous way. If you’re in your twenties and thirties, you’re likely doing harm that you’ll feel years from now. Lifestyle choices matter. One feature article we did at Women’s Health
really stands out in my mind. It was about the increase in “skinny diabetes” and it explained how even young, slim women are getting Type 2 diabetes, due mostly to lifestyle choices such as eating a consistently unhealthy diet and not exercising enough. Alarming stuff. The point is, you don’t have to be obese to be compromising your health. And you don’t have to be overweight to have a sugar problem. More important, it is never too late to take action.
My Sugar Free 3
light bulb moment was when I realized that of all the things I’m good at mitigating and controlling, sugar is the one that has the tightest grip on me. I can bypass the pasta (when not in Italy!). I no longer eat monstrous bagels. But I’m hard-pressed to go to the movies and not mindlessly scarf down a box of candy while staring at the big screen. And after the holidays, or the end of summer, I’ve maxed out my sugar consumption. I can feel it.
That’s why I wanted to write this book and develop this program. And when I started sharing what I was up to, every single person I told shrieked, “I need that!” Not surprising. Overeating sugar is a near-universal issue.
Again, this isn’t necessarily meant to be something you strictly adhere to long term, though that wouldn’t be a terrible idea. The longer you do it, the more benefits you’ll reap. I just want to be honest about how I use the plan. I am by no means a “perfect” eater…there is no such thing. I eat healthfully 80 percent of the time, and the other 20 percent, I indulge. I am certainly not giving up wine for life!
The amazing thing is, now that the Sugar Free 3
plan exists, we can return to it whenever we need a little extra guidance and support. And thanks to the ingredient education you get from this program and the healthy habits you’ll be asked to institute, the positive changes will likely have staying power. You’ll learn to enjoy eating mindfully and begin to recognize real hunger cues, which will help you resist cravings. (For example, you won’t automatically reach for chocolate the second you finish the last bite of dinner.) You’ll approach every meal a little differently and a little more thoughtfully. And yes, you can even shed excess pounds, more healthily and easily than in the past.
I’m passionate about sharing this program because I know it works, and I’m thrilled that you made the choice to give it a go! Trust me, you can do anything for three weeks. SUGAR FREE 3 SNAPSHOT
These are the essential things to remember:
- It's short! Only three weeks!
- You’ll never feel hungry.
- There’s no calorie counting or
- You’ll never feel hungry.
- There’s no calorie counting or portion control.
- You’ll eat delicious foods from theALLOWED list like:
- Healthy proteins
- Beans and legumes
- Veggies of all kinds
- Healthy fats
- Whole fruit
- Full-fat and reduced-fat dairy
- Whole wheat and whole grain pasta,
wraps and bread
- And other NSA (no sugar added)
Enjoy a Mindful Indulgence once a week
We’re in This Together
- You’ll avoid foods from the NOT
- Added sugars
- Refined carbs
- Artificial sweeteners
Carbs are allowed!
- I developed three ways to follow the plan:
- Like to Cook—make our recipes or yours
- Willing to Cook—semi-homemade
using pre-prepped foods
- Don’t Cook—eat out, order in or take out
- Exercise is optional.
Misery loves company. I’m kidding! But seriously, the buddy system does have benefits. Here are three steps you can take to find the support you’ll need. STEP 1 JOIN OUR COMMUNITY—STAT!
Studies have proven that people who have support and participate in “support groups” have better results than people who don’t. Our test groups for Sugar Free 3
were all part of our online community and it was amazingly helpful. Not just the results and losing 5-10-15 pounds or more in 3 weeks or sharing meal ideas, recipes and food finds but the daily support for conquering cravings and thwarting food temptation. Having thousands of people going through the process just like you, cheering you on and relating to your triumphs (and tribulations) can make a huge difference. “I work in a place that serves alcohol,” said test panelist Mario C. during his first week, “and we’re encouraged to try new beers. So that was interesting. But everybody knows that I’m on this challenge. So there’s an expectation—and an understanding—that for “a few weeks, I’ll be taking a pass on the chugging. I told all my friends, and posted regularly in the Sugar Free 3
group, where I got fist-bump emojis every time I shared a win. My co-workers also cheered me on—even if some acted like my dog just died. No sugar? You poor thing.” STEP 2 INVITE A FRIEND
Tell your friends, spouse or co-workers about Sugar Free 3
and see if anyone wants to do it with you. I bet you could easily round up a group—so many people consume too much sugar. There are so many reasons to do it together; you’re helping them be healthier, it’s more fun, you have built-in support, better focus, less distraction, less peer pressure and fewer sugar pushers (more on that in a second), you can share meal ideas, answer and solve each other’s questions, eat together and support each other if you have any challenges or rough days. STEP 3 DESIGNATE A SUGAR SPONSOR
I was walking by Dylan’s Candy Bar—a brightly colored emporium of bins filled with every conceivable candy—when I felt a magnetic force trying to drag me in. I was about to cave, so I messaged my friend Allie to text me off the sugar-temptation ledge. It worked—whew.
My advice: to help avoid close calls like these, designate one person to be your Sugar Sponsor. Select someone in your life who’s always there for you, the friend or family member who wants you to live your best life. Tell them you’re on the Sugar Free 3
program, and ask them to be on call for you.
Bonus points if they’ve successfully adhered to an eating plan in the past and know what it’s like to teeter on the edge. Even better: Recruit this person to do Sugar Free 3
with you so you have shared goals. Having a wingman or wingwoman who is living a healthy lifestyle makes all the difference. The research proves it: Overweight people tend to drop more pounds if they spend time with their healthy pals, according to a study published in the Journal of Social Sciences
. They lose more weight the longer they hang out together. Your Sugar Sponsor is your accountability partner—and the last thing you want to do is to let him or her down. And when the going gets tough, they’ll make sure you keep going.
Simply put, the more people who know you’re on this three-week journey, the more support you’ll have. It will also prevent you from having to explain yourself each time you need to place a special dinner order, suddenly start taking your coffee sans sweetener, or shockingly (in my case) refuse that glass of wine. Wishing you the best of health, Michele