Review: The 21 Day Sugar Detox

It is absolutely no overstatement to say that the 21 Day Sugar Detox changed my life.

Not only did I see great physical changes (many good, one not so), my whole attitude to food changed. Before doing the plan, I’d estimate that 90% of my foods came from a packet. I very rarely made a meal from scratch and my bag hadn’t contained a packed lunch for 10 years. Seriously.

I’ve split this post into sections so you’re not confronted with a big sprawling mess of emotions and experiences. If you don’t want to read it all, I really enjoyed the plan, would recommend it if you feel frustrated and stuck in a food trap, ailments that aren’t improving or want better sleep and glowy skin.

The 21 Day Sugar Detox

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Before the plan, I was feeling really down. I was eating two boxes (up to 400g) of chocolate a night, munching two packs of Maynards Sours before filing any copy. Barely sleeping and feeling exhausted. I never felt satisfied and could never drink enough coffee. I was constantly itchy, with eczema on my back, chest, legs, arms and dry skin on my face that wouldn’t clear.

One night, I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to change, ordered the book and decided to commit fully to it.

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I know, I’m selling myself as a real catch, right? Well, I also had mood swings and often felt shaky and unwell, which would clear up if I had some sugar.


I’m an all or nothing girl so went for Level 3 of the plan – the hardest, super strict paleo level. It restricted fruit to one portion a day, carbs like sweet potato only after exercise and meant making all of my own meals was essential.

Level 3 is not for the faint hearted. No grains, wheat, gluten, dairy, sugars, limited caffeine. I cleared my cupboards of dates, cereal bars, berries, cakes, Loacker bars and cordial and went for it.


Food prep became my best friend. I prepped everything (and saved a fortune). From muffins and pancake batter for breakfast …

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apple mini muffins


banana pancakes, almond butter, cacao nibs

… to coconut cookies and nuts for snacks…


pistachio prep


coconut cookes

… to salads for lunch…

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leaves, cucumber, roasted veggies, tomato

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lettuce, cucumber, carrot, tomato, tuna

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smoked salmon, cucumber, carrots, lettuce, ACV dressing

… and multi-meal dinners


homemade turkey burgers, lettuce buns and roasted veggies

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chicken and veggies with courgette noodles

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turkey bolognese with a cauliflower crust

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grilled chicken, avocado, stir fried veggies

and a few treats, which I had trouble portion controlling..

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almond butter cups, almond butter


Honestly, I never once felt deprived on this plan. I was eating great plates of colourful, nourishing foods. I felt energetic, my mood was consistently up and I sleep deeper.

I took photographs of my face every day to see if there was a difference. Well, here’s the final result:


So if we go back to my original list of aims for 21DSD and look at what I actually achieved on the plan:

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I still can’t believe how clear my skin is when I look in the mirror. My eczema has totally cleared, I now longer have to stockpile tissues from constant colds, I feel more clear headed. I haven’t felt this good in years.

Food prepping has also meant I’m eating more regularly, meaning less frantic dashes for food and energy in the evenings to workout – something I never had before.

The down side I’ve mentioned a few times on here before – weight gain and a bloated stomach. If I thought I was bloated before, well my stomach now has brought new meaning to that!

I don’t blame this on the programme. I blame it on me. Comfort eating whole tubs of nub butter. Also, I packed myself off with stacks of coconut cookies and roasted salted pistachios every day. I don’t think they’re bad snacks but they are quite high calorie – an apple or nakd bar would more than sufficed.

Future plans

I actually did the 21DSD for 25 days because I felt so good. Then, on Friday night, I cracked into a box of chocolates. Oh boy it was blissful! But the next morning, I woke up with a super swollen face, itchy throat, runny nose. It suddenly hit me “I used to feel like this every single day”, which was quite sobering.

So I’ll be avoiding the foods I’ve been allergy tested for – dairy and wheat – and steering away from sugar. I also haven’t felt any need to return to certain sources of sugar in my diet I hadn’t considered.

Pre-marinated chicken fillets, cordial, ready made sauces and soups – I don’t feel any need to return to these as making my own is cheaper and often tastier. Dates, more fruit and nakd bars are back on the menu though – they’re perfectly portable pick-me-ups. Good raw chocolate is also very much appreciated!

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I haven’t ruled out doing 21DSD again. There are lots of meal plan options in the book and Diane’s other tome, Practical Paleo, and so many exciting recipes to try! My plan is to keep tabs on my sugar consumption and keep my list of symptoms pre 21DSD on my phone for regular checking – if I start seeing them creeping back in I’ll reassess where I am and going back.

If you’re interested in learning more about 21DSD, check out the balanced bites website. It is beyond packed with resources, from a forum, Facebook group, so many many recipes, Pinterest boards – the 21DSD world really is your oyster!

* Do you watch your sugar intake?

* Have you ever completed a ‘diet’ plan?

About Flake And Cake

I'm a reporter based in Bristol who loves to wear stripes, write in shorthand and attempt to make great strides in running.
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29 Responses to Review: The 21 Day Sugar Detox

  1. I watch what I eat in terms of sugar but am probably a lot more lax these days than I used to be. I try to avoid the processed stuff as much as possible – just the odd treat or slice of cake, but my natural sugar intake in fruit etc may be quite high.I’ve been following your journey over the last month or so and have been really interested, especially in the effects you’ve seen on your skin, sleep and energy levels – these are all things I’m working on right now, so I think I will give this a try…not sure if I have the willpower to do the strictest version like you though – kudos! :)

  2. It’s amazing that you got to find out so much about your body doing this. I think it was a brilliant idea. It’s amazing how much food can affect different things (though actually not that surprising really).
    I find dairy has never caused me any issues, nor wheat. But I do know if I eat loads of sugar (and cake) I feel very bloated. I also know that lots of fruit can have the same effect…so I try and limit fruit a bit.
    I’ve never done a diet plan myself and I don’t think I will only because I love the stuff I eat and haven’t had an issues (yet). I know for a fact I couldn’t give up oats or apples. It just wouldn’t happen!

  3. I think you did so well on the plan, and it’s great that it got you trying loads of new foods, and cooking more. Your skin looks amazing by the way. My sugar is pretty much all from natural sources- fruit, dried fruit so I’m not concerned about the level of it, it’s pretty high but I absolutely need that right now with the amount of running I am doing! I’ve done quite a few raw plans, and juice feasts in the past, but balance and just focusing on healthy natural food works best for me.

  4. I was still floored when i did the whole 30 how my body reacted to sugar. I never thought of it as a big thing for me but whoa did I realize how much it actually affected me.

  5. Glad you got on so well with it, and of course learnt loads too. I don’t feel that great when I have yoghurt- it gives me a bit of a tummy ache so I tend to not have much dairy really. I also know that if I have sugary things (sweets or fudge) then I get a bad headache and feel jittery, but overall I am not too bad and think I have a good enough balance. I always fancy dates and nut butter after reading your blog!

  6. Great review! It certainly sounds like you’ve benefited from it. I do try and keep an eye on my sugar intake but without worrying too much about things like fruit unless I’m ‘dialling it up’. I had to think about whether I’ve ever done a diet plan but I don’t think I have in a way that is similar to this – the Whole 30 has sometimes appealed but I think it would be too much meat for me!

    • I definitely worried about eating too much meat – some of the meal plans called for it 3 times a day! I ate it more than I would normally, looking forward to some veggie mains now!

  7. Love how you created a list of why you wanted to start the program. I might need to use that :) Thanks for the review!!!

  8. Matt says:

    I pretty much did the same thing! Started eating lean and clean combined with HIIT and saw dramatic results almost straight away. The best thing about it is, I am constantly eating and prefer the clean way to the processed sugary way anyway! Keep up the good work :)

  9. emma says:

    I am such a complete sugar addict, the thought of cutting it out is absolutely terrifying. Did you suffer from any cravings, or were they counted out by having the nut butters etc? I’m really interested by the whole paleo diet, and would love to try it out. I’m currently doing a juice detox, although it hasn’t exactly gone to plan after having a kitkat chunky today – oops!!!

    • I didn’t have normal sugar cravings a lot but I definitely had some points where what I was eating just wasn’t hitting the spot! I’d say 21DSD is a good way to look at paleo, there are three levels so you can do partly paleo and see how you feel.

  10. leannenalani says:

    Kudos to you for giving this a try. No sugar is scary. My husband just sent me an article over e-mail about how bad sugar is and yet I’m mostly ignoring what studies are saying. Yikes!

  11. Ffion says:

    How you feel reminds me of how I felt after the Whole30 – it’s mad how you don’t realise how bad you felt before until you return to old habits and realise that it used to be normal! I think the 21 day Sugar detox may well be in my future!

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  13. You look positively glowing Claire! It sounds quite similar to the whole30 plan? (I’ve only heard of it but I’m tempted as the guys who follow it report really similar benefits to you as well!) Good luck with your future changes i.e. avoiding dairy/wheat – I too feel so much better off them but I think I’ve just resigned myself to the fact (in part due to my lack of willpower) that I am willing to eat them on occasion (and face the consequences ;) !)

    • Thanks so much Lucy. I have to admit dairy and wheat have been making appearances in my diet quite a bit recently and while I don’t feel quite as sparkling as before, it is worth it for me right now :)

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  18. It’s difficult to find experienced people about this topic, but you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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