Meet the Toronto man who went 1,000 days without refined sugar

A Parkdale legend

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It was an addiction over twenty years in the making.

Every morning, Jason Holborn would pour at least half a cup of sugar into his cereal – usually Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Pebbles. After school, he’d mix a cup of sugar and butter together, eating that while he prepared dinner – almost always pie or cake.

But that was then, and after successfully going 1,000 days without sugar, Holborn says he’s a changed man.

“Foods that used to seem delicious don’t seem delicious anymore,” he told the Toronto Star. “When I look at chocolate bars, I would rather have a banana.”

Holborn’s experiment began in 2011 after he read a New York Times article titled Is Sugar Toxic? Until then, Holborn thought his diet was a small problem. Afterwards, he saw it for what it was – an addiction.

“I used to take a cup of sugar every day and mix it with a cup of butter, and eat it … Sugar was my number one food,” he told The Globe and Mail.

So he started to experiment with kicking the addiction. At first, Holborn tried paying himself a dollar for every day he went without reaffirming his infatuation with sucrose. This would work for a while, and Holborn even broke the 10-day mark a couple times, but he would always cave.

That was when Holborn got a bright idea for this little experiment of his.

Beginning in 2012, Holborn started posting the number of days he’d gone without sugar onto his window. Every day the filmmaker would update the number. The experiment was a success at first – Holborn hit the 10-day mark, then the one-month mark. And then, on day 74, a raspberry peach trifle cake spelt his saccharine doom.

“It was so terrible to have to change the number back to zero,” he said to the Toronto Star. “It really bolstered my determination to get it right the next time.”


And he did, breaking 100, 200, then finally over halfway to his goal of 1,000 days without any unnatural sugar. Holborn admits his experiment is not perfect when it comes to cutting out sugar – he still eats fruit and dairy – but he says he doesn’t eat any foods that list sugar in their first three ingredients.

By day 500, Holborn’s palate had changed. Things he used to consider plain or neutral had changed in taste. “Today, I really love eating sour cream. It tastes so good now,” Holborn told The Globe and Mail. “So I have to be careful not to eat too much of that.”

Now, after completing his goal of 1,000 days without any refined sugar (that is, sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in a food, like in fruits and vegetables), Holborn says that the experiment is anything but finished.

“I’m not going to be celebrating with a Mars [chocolate] bar,” he told CBC. “I smelled one recently. It doesn’t smell the same as it used to. It used to be so delicious. I used to just love it and roll it around my tongue and through my teeth. Now, it smells a little bit chemically. It smells kind of like a factory.”

Holborn did, however, celebrate with a small slice of pumpkin pie shortly after passing the 1,000-day mark.

Read more about Holborn’s experiment in this blog post from his website.