Sunday, November 18, 2012

Goodbye Sugar

With all the stress of this year, I've put on 5kg.

I've not been feeling as well as usual. I've not had the energy I usually rely on to do all the things I like to do. I've been eating badly.

So. Time for a change.

The key to losing weight and being healthier is to cut one third of what you eat. All diets do is tell you which third to cut.

I've decided to cut the sugar. According to Sweet Poison (and my experience!) sugar is addictive. You have something with sugar in it and then you want more. Even if you are not hungry. My book says that if I stop eating sugar, my appetite will return to what it should be and I'll only want to eat when I'm hungry.

The problem is that just about everything in the fridge and pantry are laced with large amounts of sugar - yoghurt, tomato sauce, weet bix... and so over the day I'm consuming around 30 teaspoons without even realising it. Apparently it's the fructose part of sugar that is bad. Fructose is in fruit, but in fruit it comes packaged with fibre and goodness so your body has to work for it.

Here's what I'm trying.

Virtually no sugar for three weeks.

Breakfast - oats and milk
Lunch - Sandwich - meat/egg and salad - no mayo (it's sugary), no tomato. Be careful with bread selection.
Dinner - Normal stuff - meat, vege, rice, pasta - but no sauces that contain sugar.
Snacks - nuts, popcorn, no-sugar crackers, even chips can be okay.

35 hours in and I'm doing okay. The cravings are interesting but manageable.

I'm going to reassess after 3 weeks. The cravings for sugar should be over by then. If
I feel good, I'll reintroduce fruit and use dextrose (the non addictive part of sugar) for occasional treats.

We'll see how it goes. Anyone else tried this?


  1. I'm trying something similar - low carbs, low sugar, high protein - but without much dedication. Still, I'm making progress. Your post has some helpful suggestions in it, thank you!

  2. Sorry, I'm a total sceptic on the fructose in sugar business. Yeah, we consume too much sugar. Most of us could do with eating more balanced diet with less calories and more good stuff. But manufacturing some kind of sugar-substitute to avoid the "unhealthy" part of sugar that is naturally occuring in foods like fruit seems dodgy to me. In a word? Fad.

  3. Sounds like it probably requires a complementary strategy to cut one third of your stress.

  4. Uncertainty = stress. That should get cut over the next few months.

  5. I commented on your facebook status, but I'm a sceptic too.
    Then I found this page on Nutrition Australia's website which might be worth looking at:

  6. The guy who wrote the book has an all-or-nothing relationship with food. He just can't have one biscuit - he'll have 8. Many people are the same. I think that for people like that, it's better to have none.

    2 days in I've noticed that if I don't have sweet food, I feel full. I've always noticed this when I eat well. Three good, unsweet meals a day and I'm full and satisfied all the time. Introduce a piece of cake and it mucks up the whole balance and I find I'm snacking continuously. I did a shop today, according to his rules, and suprisingly little was different to how I'd usually stock if I was trying to buy healthy. I left off a few things - flavoured yoghurt, tinned corn, pasta sauce - and not much else changed. What he's saying is actually pretty basic - check the sugar content of food. There's lots of sugar in things you wouldn't expect to have sugar in. Read the labels.

  7. Karen - that website was also down on his advice to not worry about exercise.

    All year I've been exercising. I've still put on weight. The point he makes in the book is that however much exercise you do, if you are drinking a litre of softdrink a day and eating a box of magnum ice creams, you will put on weight.

  8. I still think you could achieve the weight loss by eating sensibly with moderate sugars though.

    What I learned when I had gestational diabetes was to eat low GI carbs at each meal/snack time to help keep a full feeling for longer, and looking at portion sizes, I think the dietitian told me to have 4-5 carb servings at each main meal, 2-3 for snack times. One serving was about 15g of carbs which I could work out by reading the labels on things. If you stick to roughly those amounts, I guess maybe a bit less if you're not growing a baby, then I don't think you'd put on much weight (I actually lost weight following that plan, without heaps of extra exercising, just what I was doing running around after the kids, and with a growing baby inside!). Even when my GD was at its height I could still eat a square or two of dark chocolate as a snack sometimes without completely wrecking my blood sugar levels so in my view I don't think all sugar has to go. What I did do back then that I also think helped was to cut out all soft drink and juice. I find soft drink isn't thirst quenching anyway, so if I want a sweeter drink I use diet lime cordial or a squeeze of lemon/lime juice in water most of the time with just occasional soft drinks.

    It just sounds like this guy doesn't have a lot of self-discipline. Surely you wouldn't be drinking a litre of soft drink and eating the whole box of magnums once you start?

  9. I was the most sceptical of anyone, and had theological issues (land of milk and honey anyone?)

    But at my wife's behest I cut sugar completely. Exercised less (lots of rainy weather at the time). Lost 10kg in 3 months that I didn't know I had to lose.

    Can't speak highly enough of sweet poisons approach though I've never read the book, just ate the stuff Sarah said I could.

    Moderation doesn't work for me.

  10. Izaac - the 'land flowing with milk and honey' is probably at least as much a reference to the fertility of the soil itself - that it can easily support livestock (milk) and orchards (flowers -> bees -> honey & fruit) - as to anything to do with what our diet should be. After all, we were originally created as vegans - meat eating was a permission given after The Flood.

    Earlier this year I did a period of about 6 weeks (happened to coincide with Lent but that wasn't the reason for it) without added sugar. Not sure about weight since I didn't have a set of bathroom scales at the time but I did notice that I wasn't so hungry.

    By 'added' sugar I mean things like sweet biscuits, cakes and soft-drink, rather than, say, breakfast cereal (but I'm not into sugary breakfast cereals anyway). Part of my reason was that I wanted a bit of a return to childhood when a cake and softdrink (e.g. for a birthday) was a special event because we didn't have these every day (or even every week).

    As for pasta sauces, make your own using lots of veges and tomato paste. Tomato paste has all the 'bits' of tomatoes in it so you still have to 'work' for the fructose to some extent and it hasn't had sugar added to it (or at least the brand we use is just tomatoes).

    Jean - be careful with variants of the Atkins diet - it can be a good way to destroy muscle and give you all sorts of other problems: They can also increase your cancer and heart attack risk, particularly if the protein is from animals, as the only source of dietary cholesterol is from animal products; plants have none. Heart disease is still the biggest killer of born-alive Australian women - 4 times more likely than breast cancer.

    To improve our health outcomes and lose weight, we should all be following a whole-foods, plant-based diet: I'm not there yet but most of my diet is vegan because DH is and he does most of the cooking.

    Sorry for the digression from sugar to protein, Simone, but there's also an interesting article on this site about protein amounts required for optimal health ( which suggests that as a 60kg adult I only need 36-72 g / day, which I can get by eating any nitrogen-based thing (can you say, green leafy vege's - which incidentally also give calcium in its most absorb-able form - amongst other plants).

    1. Certainly I'm not doing the Atkins! Still eating carbs. Just not as much. They make me feel sick anyway. And when I say "more protein" I just mean normal sensible amounts - not lots! - and lots of veges. You can tell I don't know much about diets. I guess people are right who say just eat sensibly and in moderation without following fads.

    2. guess "high protein" was a bit misleading... high veges and moderate protein would have been more accurate! :)

  11. I've been doing this for about 18 months now. I still can't work out why the body needs fructose at all. Nutritionists just seem to say, it's not so bad!
    I eat so much less than I did when I consumed fructose. When I occasionally eat sugar now, I usually regret it (headaches, always hungry), and it doesn't taste as good as I think it will. I haven't banned sugar with the kids, they just don't eat any at home. We can recreate most treats without fructose, and even sucrose eaters don't always notice.

  12. I see I'm outnumbered here :) But I guess I'm struggling to see his argument which seems to be that fructose is a disease-causing poison? (Please correct me if I'm wrong....)

    I think if you cut all fructose containing foods out of your diet, then it follows that that gets rid of pretty much all junk food and processed food, which reduces your overall energy intake. To me, that is what would cause your weight to decrease, not eliminating an (apparently) toxic nutrient.

    If you ate a healthy diet according to the national dietary guidelines, and following the healthy plate and healthy food triangle information, in correct sized portions, then I think you would lose weight. Cutting down on sugar, yes. Complete elimination just seems extremist to me....

    1. Ah, but which food triangle - the one produced in the 50s? or the one from the 90s? or the myriad ones in between? as produced by the US Dep't of Agriculture. Yep, they don't even try to hide the fact that the proportions of various food 'groups' in the triangle were determined by the farmers, not nutritionists. Watch Forks over Knives and feel your jaw drop. :-)
      Essentially, Australia follows the US lead.

    2. This one:
      As recommended by Nutrition Australia :)

    3. I'll stand with you Karen. Balance is the key. Also mostly eating food that remembers where it came from.

  13. What I don't understand is why it's generally acceptable for someone to eat 'gluten-free' if gluten makes them feel crumby, yet it causes such a stir if someone chooses to eat 'fructose-free' if it makes them feel lethargic, bloated, grumpy, always-hungry and craving more, and they feel better off it?

    1. Hear, hear - I have a friend whose daughters inherited their father's problems with sugar. Sugar (doesn't seem to matter what type but could be fructose based since fructose is a component of sucrose) gives them the kind of problems you describe so the most that they want is what they get out of fresh fruit & veg. As far as they're concerned, things like snow peas and carrots are about as sweet as say a gingernut biscuit might be for the rest of us.

  14. I think it's that it seems to me that with these kinds of diets, it's always the one nutrient that seems to be the key to all the world's problems. I think many people decide to go "gluten-free" "fructose free" or whatever the evil nutrient of the moment happens to be, but in doing so they eat far less processed and junky foods which causes them to feel better overall anyway.

    I've asked dietitian friends of mine before about this sort of stuff and they've said that any dietitian who knows what they're talking about would recommend a whole diet approach rather than mass elimination of a single nutrient, especially if it's based on dodgy science. It's great that eliminating it makes you feel better but it's probably because your intake of other healthier stuff has increased in replacing it, not necessarily because every scrap of sugar has been purged. Most people like to enjoy a bit of sugary stuff without too much added guilt :) But if you struggle with stopping at just one Magnum and need to eat the whole box of them in one sitting, then maybe complete elimination is one way to go. I still think if you can keep your intake at moderate levels, eat appropriate sized meals and snacks (this is where I think that many of us, including me, go wrong) and follow physical activity guidelines then weight loss should follow.

    But hey, I'm bowing out now since I'm in the minority....

    And Sarah, I hope we can still be friends even if we disagree on this one ;)

    1. And just to clarify...I am not talking here about people who have medically diagnosed intolerances or allergies to gluten, sugar or whatever. I'm talking about those who just decide to stop eating foods containing these things based on reading books or magazine articles, or hearing about it from a friend. That's completely different :)

      Here's to healthy eating for all of us!

  15. I think the key to losing weight is to cut what you eat by a third. I've cut the fat third before and that worked. I've done the CSIRO thing - cutting some carbs and some fat and replacing them with protein. That worked too. Now I'm trying to cut the sugar. I imagine that this will work too. My overall load of calories is decreasing. I'll lose weight.

    I'm not as extreme as the man in the book. I've never drunk heaps of soft drink or gobbled 4 magnums. I had a very minor sugar withdrawal headache the other day, but that is all. So far it has been really easy to eat well this way. For me it is heaps easier to follow a 'no cake, no biscuit' rule than an 'only very small piece of cake OR a single biscuit' rule. There is so much food on offer to us these days that 'moderation' actually means saying no most of the time.

  16. All very interesting. Karen, I think you have a quiet supporter here. I have no problem with people cutting back on sugar, and I have a self-control issue with sweetness myself (just don't open the packet!), but telling people not to eat fruit spells fad to me. (And I don't believe so much in artificial sweeteners - wasn't "sweet poison" aspartame a few years back? - now it's back round to sugar? My philosophy is the less added chemicals the better - I like what somebody up there said about food that remembers where it came from).

  17. I also am in agreement with Karen and her supporting reasoning. As a Health and Physical Education and Science teacher I've spent a lot of time and head space in the areas of nutrition, exercise and health. And the simple equation that it comes down to is 'calories in' vs 'calories out'. If their equal you weight will stay static, if they are imbalanced, you will either gain or loose weight. Most nutrients or lifestyle factors which are labelled as the 'evil' are because they put the above equation out of balance. As Simone has pointed out any diet in concerned with reducing 'calories in', but any diet (or ingredient elimination) that isn't sustainable in the long term isn't going to reduce this for long and just a general reduction in your 'calories in' is just as effective (which has been shown to be more sustainable in the long term). And any physical activity ('calories out) you do also will have not effect on your weight/well-being if it is not in balance with your 'calories in'.

    Hormones do also have an effect on weight, but there is usually a big part related to changes to your eating/exercise habits caused by the triggers of the hormone imbalances eg. stress.

  18. I decided to get rid of sugar except for two pieces of fruit a day on Dec 26th last year. I have small treats, like when a friend from Bible study brings a lovingly made raspberry tart to the group and it would be rude not to have a small piece, but other than that, just in fruit. I have no more problems with low energy, less headaches, less anxiety, generally happier mood, blood sugar levels stable all day long and have lost upwards of 6kg. I know the critics are concerned, but I feel better than ever. My doctor did a full work up of blood tests on me at the 6 month mark and although I have a Father with type 2 diabetes, there is no longer any evidence I'm headed for it too (and previously there was). I spent the morning running round with my kids at an indoor play centre this morning (on and off while catching up with a friend) but previously I would never have had the energy for that. I love life without refined sugar!