In our monthly series, GIVING UP, newsroom staffers deprive themselves of a beloved habit and track how it went. In March, Lifestyle Editor Suzy Strutner, 26, gave up added sugar.

Suzy Strutner
You could say I was in love with sugar.

What are you giving up?Im giving up added sugar (which is not the same as naturally occurring sugar, mind you) for Lent.

What made you decide to give it up? I love sugar in a way that sometimes makes me feel like its ruling me instead of the other way around. When a habit starts invading my life like when I miss out on an hour of sleep because I needa fresh-baked midnight cookie or cant get through the day without spending $6 on frozen yogurt I know its one I need to kick. Plus, I tried to give up sugar last year and failed without realizing why, so I wanted to prove I could do it, and do my body a favor at the same time.

How did your friends and family react? People either 1) tell me theyre impressed by my efforts (I started an email newsletter with updates on how the challenge is going), 2) ask if Im STILL not eating sugar, then inquire when Ill be available for dessert dates again,or 3) tell me theyve given up sugar too! Thats my favorite reaction, for sure. Two of my friends ditched sugar last month because I was doing it, which makes me feel like a positive influence.

Suzy Strutner

Did you do any research before you started?Yes, because Ididnt do enough research last yearand wanted to make sure I gave up added sugarcorrectly this time around. My colleagues and I have written a number of articlesabout added sugar over the years, so by now I know that added sugar is never, ever a good thing for your brain or body. Thats major motivation.

Did you slip up? Not yet! Well, it depends on how technical you get. Added sugar is in all kinds of foods, from store-bought bread to mayonnaise to pasta sauce. Ive avoided buying those items for myself, but I havent stopped eating at restaurants. Im sure theres been sugar snuck into a few dishes there. Ive also been eating dried fruit and other forms of naturally occurring sugar, which I learned is not entirely acceptedin the anti-sugar community.

Suzy Strutner
Yup, that cinnamon-raisin bagel has sugar in it, too.

When did you first feel deprived? Two days in, when a giant sundae appeared on the table at my moms birthday dinner.It was tough not to deem it a special occasion and cave in.Most of the time, though, this challenge has been strangely easy. Ive found enough other treats to look forward to like nut butters, banana bites and a granola-dark-chocolate-date-coconut melange that I concoct myself to guarantee sugar-freeness which taste indulgent enough to do the trick. I cant say I havent daydreamed about deep-dish cookie pie, though.

Suzy Strutner
What snack time looks like when you’re eating added sugar.

Suzy Strutner
What snack time looks like when you’re not eating added sugar.

Any awkward social encounters?Im afraid of being a buzzkill when I dont indulge at group get-togethers.Today at lunch, my colleagues didnt order dessert because I wouldnt be sharing it with them. It was a nice sentiment, but I felt like I was holding them back from sugary fun!Another time, at Taco Tuesday with some new friends, I felt awkward passing up margaritas in favor of a tequila soda. (This is NOT a real hardship, I am aware. But still.) I was pleasantly surprised, though, when my friends noticed the move and changed their orders to sugar-free drinks, too.

Notice any changes to your mood?I still get cranky when Im craving something sweet, but my new naturally sweet treats usually do the trick. Overall, I feel like a more capable human. I tend to doubt my level of discipline, but this challenge has shown me I can do anything even deny myself of favorite sugary snacks if I decide to commit.

Changes to your body? I used to sometimes feel sick after eating too much sugar, especially if I mixed it with alcohol. Now, I dont need to worry about my heart racing from a bunch of cookie dough. However, the lack of added sugar has caused me to start indulging in other unhealthy foods like pizza and fries more often, so I cant say I look or feel more fit.

Changes to your productivity? Yes, majorly. I struggle with prioritizing activities and would often spend a night baking sugary goods or venturing off to get ice cream instead ofpracticing healthierself-care habitslike calling a friend or going to yoga. Now that I dont have to track down my sugar fix every day,I have one less chore to complete and therefore feel less guilty about how I spend my time.

Suzy Strutner
Typical after-work activity for a sugar fiend: Bake cookies with different types of sugar, and label them to see which turns out best.

Changes to your relationships? Surprisingly,yes.Posting on social media about the challenge has gotten me in touch with friends I wouldnt talk to as often otherwise.One friend, for example, read my newsletter and sent me amazing sugar-free recipe recommendations. And my former roommate, who now lives in Germany, gave up added sugar too. We text about how its going on two different continents.

Im also more present in-person: During our weekly hangouts, my sister and I used to fight the chaotic L.A.traffic for our favorite frozen yogurt. Now, we sit and drink wine. Maybe wine isnt any better than froyo, but quality time out of traffic certainly is. And at parties, I can focus more on humans because Im not beelining to the snack table. These small changes truly result in more quality conversation!

What does an expert say about doing this? Is there any benefit? Theres no question that quitting added sugar could extend your life, prevent dementia, curb anxietyanddecrease risks of anxiety and heart disease, all while making you a more vibrant personoverall. No expert everpromotes the consumption of added sugar, so eliminating it can only help your body.

Would you do it again? Yes. This is a simplification of my life and diet that Id like to continue, so Im thinking of making it a weekday habit.If not, Ill definitely be back for more next year!

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