We know sugar isn’t good for us: it spikes blood sugar, makes us store excess fat, and leads to inflammation and skin breakouts. To learn how to do ourselves a favor and take a sugar detox, we spoke to the founder of the Sugar Detox Me community, and author of the Sugar Detox Me cookbook, Summer Rayne.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Summer! Tell us about yourself and your journey to mastering the sugar detox.

Summer Rayne: I’m an ecologist by training. My life’s work has been centered around health, wellness and sustainability. Four years ago I started to work in sustainable food systems and took a closer look at what I was eating. I’d always considered myself a healthy eater in general, but it wasn’t uncommon for me to eat half a box of cookies in one sitting if they were just lying around. I wanted to better understand why that was, and also figure out how to overcome my sweet tooth. In essence, that’s how sugardetox.me developed; it was a personal journey that I opened up to others to help them do the same.

I wouldn’t use the word “master”, however, because I think terms like that can actually be debilitating. I explain to people that trying to avoid sugar is like a video game you’re bound to lose sometime, so you can’t get bent out of shape about it. Perfection is in the process. It’s more about having a good foundation that you can fall back onto again and again. That journey — and it is a journey — is just a part of life. That frame of reference has helped me over the years. [This aligns perfectly with our philosophy at Splendid Spoon. It’s those small, repeated changes that enable you to form healthier habits, which ultimately have a big impact on your health. — Ed.]

Splendid Spoon: Do we need to detox from all sugars or just certain ones?

Summer Rayne: To describe the ones I encourage people to avoid, I use the term “free sugars”. These are sugars which aren’t bound by fiber: it includes both refined and natural. When you remove the fiber from food, you increase the sugar loads into your body — whether those sugars are natural, like honey and maple syrup — or refined, like high fructose corn syrup. SUGARDETOXME, the book and the online program, are all about removing free sugars and returning to whole foods.

Splendid Spoon: Why should we go on a sugar detox?

Summer Rayne: Quite simply, most of us overload our bodies with a substance that doesn’t benefit us. Free sugars have absolutely zero nutritional value; and most of us exceed 2–3 times the recommended upper limit of sugar for the day. And notice I say “upper limit”.

Splendid Spoon: How do you recommend we begin our sugar detox journey?

Summer Rayne: I think the most important step to get prepared is by psychologically psyching yourself up. The mental preparation should not be underestimated.

Splendid Spoon: What’s the hardest part of the sugar detox process for someone trying it for the first time?

Summer Rayne: From the experience of doing the detox with others in the online program, it’s the withdrawal symptoms. Not everyone goes through them, but most people do. I tell folks to let their family, friends and colleagues know that they may be grumpy for several days. It’s also important to have “cheerleaders” or people doing the detox with you: they can really help!

Splendid Spoon: What benefits did you see when you removed sugar from your life?

Summer Rayne: My skin really cleared up — so much so that when my uncle saw me he said I looked 10 years younger. Haha! That was a nice compliment. I also got very svelte even though I didn’t lose any weight (according to the scale at the doctor’s office when I went for a physical exam). I also didn’t have energy or mood dips throughout the day. Many of us exceed our sugar intake in the morning hours, me included, and that often sets us up for swings throughout the day. When I changed my breakfast, I essentially changed my life.

Splendid Spoon: If we have a sweet tooth, will a sugar detox help control it?

Summer Rayne: Your taste buds have turnover. You can reacclimate your taste buds, but this happens over time, so you need to give yourself that time. It’s also important to realize that much of what we eat is dictated by our environment, our culture and our stress levels. You need to come to terms with those lifestyle aspects first in order to give yourself the space to make these changes.

Splendid Spoon: What are the key sugar-filled culprits we should avoid?

Summer Rayne: The vast majority of us get our sugar intake from what we drink — lattes, coffees with sugar, tea with honey, juices, sodas, energy drinks — so those are some of the biggies that I would just flat out avoid, or only have them on occasion. Otherwise, things that we may consider “healthy” like granolas, yogurts, cereals, and breads are often laden with sugar.

Splendid Spoon: So, clearly we all need a sugar detox, but do you detox in other ways too?

Summer Rayne: I try to fill my life with goodness. This can mean simplifying my life, or bringing elements into my life that I enjoy, such as gardening, good friends, and conversation. You can say that I’ve detoxed my life from bad energies as much as I am able, and truly feel that I’ve benefited from it.