How I Am Quitting Sugar: A Game Plan

“In Chinese health theory, all foods fall on a spectrum from Yin to Yang, with sugar being on the most extreme Yin end, and animal foods (meat, eggs) and salty foods on the extreme Yang end of the spectrum. As our bodies try to maintain equilibrium, if we eat too many foods on the far end of this seesaw, we then crave foods from the other end. So, when you are having a sugar craving, your Yin-Yang seesaw is all out of whack, and you actually probably need to just go ahead and eat sugar to really feel balanced.” (source)
A chart of all Yin-Yang foods (Source)

As you can see on this Yin Yang Food Chart, White Sugar is situated in EXTREME YIN products, along such dangerous substances as Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroine, Amphetamines, Pain killers and tranquilizers, Nicotine, Caffeine and Electromagnetic Radiation.

I won’t start with WHY the sugar is bad for us and why I am quitting it. If you are interested you can read more about the topic here, and here. I would rather talk about HOW I am doing this.

Progress so far: What I have done already

Two years ago, I decided to quit coffee.
As the most of you, I drank it almost everyday. It was terrible. It interfered with my sleep, gave me arrhythmia, sweaty armpits, and a funky taste in my mouth. So, one day I went cold turkey. I switched to black tea instead (with lots of lemon!), and after a year I switched to green tea.

Then I gave up bread.
In my country and culture breads and pastries take up significant part of the nutrition. When I realized it was not that healthy, I stopped eating it with every meal. Now I only eat bread on very rare occasions.

After that, I quit all kinds of carbonated and sweetened drinks.
No colas, no ice teas, no artificial juices. I started drinking water instead. This one was really difficult to maintain, especially — when I was out with friends and they were all drinking sparkling beverages. Also, I stopped consuming sugar with my hot drinks (tea, cocoa). If I really craved a sweet hot drink, I would make a fresh mint tea with a spoonful of honey and I was okay.

Not to feel alone, I even started a public event on Facebook, where more than 400 people joined and started drinking at least 2 liters of water every day (for 30 days).

Acknowledgment of the issue: “We Are Slowly Dying”

The less time left before I turn 30 (I turned 28 a week ago), the more I worry about my health and physical well-being. I am afraid that the years of absence of physical activity, some extra weight, and muscle weakness will sooner or later take its toll. Our polluted environment does not help either. I read books about fitness and nutrition, I look at healthy living magazines, and the more I become aware of all the health issues, the more I act upon my worries.

Last year in august, I happened to move to the Netherlands (where I live now) all alone, and as I had to cook for myself, I had more freedom with groceries and opportunity to change my diet.

I went completely vegetarian during the first month. I quit all processed and flavored foods, as well as highly carbohydrate-rich non-healthy foods (pasta, potatoes, etc). I quit fatty cheese and red meat altogether. I never liked meat, but abandoning cheese was much more difficult. After a month I missed meat. I could feel my body needed it so I started occasionally eating chicken. I started working out — at least 3 times a week. It was all good, but I didn’t lose any weight.

What should I give up?

This made me think: what is it that makes me fat or prevents me from losing weight? What are my favorite and comfort foods? If I had a naturally slim figure or if somebody promised that I wouldn’t gain weight and stay healthy, what would I keep eating all days and nights?

  • Cheese!
  • Pastries! Cakes! Sweets!
  • Salty sticks with Nutella!
  • Chips! With Nutella!
  • OKAY! Generally everything with Nutella!
  • Croissantes! Lots of croissantes!!!
  • Ice cream!
  • Spaghetti carbonara with cheese and cream sauce!

This list went on and on. The reality started to sink in:

Everything I love makes me FAT (or at least prevents me from losing weight).

There was no time for the drama. Life is short, and I need to be healthy and fit for the rest of it. So that’s how I decided to cut out all sugar from my diet and see what happens.

Sugar-free life: What is it like?

Now I am struggling to quit sugar. This has been the hardest challenge in my life so far. Giving up coffee and all the other stuff I mentioned above is nothing compared to giving up sugar. Because, sugar is EVERYWHERE!!!

Do you think I only gave up pastries, ice cream and sweets? NO! I also cannot eat ketchup, mayonnaise, salad sauces; even salty packaged stuff like chips and crackers contain bits of sugar!
Morning cereals contain loads of sugar!
Some breads contain sugar!
My natural healthiest morning muesli that doesn’t even say that it contains sugar — still contains sugar in the form of dried fruits.
And last but not least, ALCOHOL!!! ALL kinds of alcohols contain so much sugar that I don’t even want to think about drinking anymore (and I haven’t!). It is crazy how much sugar we consume without knowing.

Keeping track of my progress:

The more I went without sugar, the more empowered I felt about it. So, this is how it is going so far.

Oh, man, I love them so much!

Technically it’s been 22 days, but I call it 11 days because my first trial started on January 20. I maintained it for 10 days, and on the 11th day, I ate ONE Stroopwafel.

Everything failed. I felt sad and ashamed. Then I got over it and started again.

This time, I started on February 1. It’s my 11th day today and I feel ok.

What were the saddest moments?
My birthday was on 6th of February. I couldn’t eat the birthday cake, or ice cream or drink beer. I provided so much delicious (though unhealthy) food for my guests and I couldn’t touch anything. That was the biggest hurdle in this challenge so far.

What were the strongest moments?
I went out to the clubs with friends several times and I stuck to water instead of getting wasted. I felt happy and powerful about it. I promised myself I would never drink beer anymore. All I am going to drink in the future is a glass of red wine on very rare and celebratory occasions (that conveys passing my exams!).

What helped me: Organization

Differing from the first quitting, this time I developed a more organized approach.

First of all, I got rid of all kinds of sugar products I had in my fridge and cupboards. Yes, sadly or not, I had Nutella jars and cookie boxes everywhere! So that you know —

Being exposed to sugar doesn’t help in the fight against it.

Then, I gave myself a little sympathy prize — during the first 10 days, I allowed myself to eat salty or fatty stuff once in a while! During the second 10 days, I am going to eliminate fat, and in the last 10 days — salt too.

Last, I set up a “post-it note calendar” on my wardrobe door. Scratching another day every evening gives me so much pleasure and pride! I remove the post-it notes, write down my progress on them: moments of weakness and moods, and stick them in my planner.

I have several criteria to measure my days in general:

  • A=Active — I put this on the post-it if I have worked out for at least an hour that day. All kinds of activities count: I do cycling to university and everywhere else in the city (sometimes I walk), I also do Yoga at least twice a week and Body Pump class at least twice a week, etc.
  • F=Full — If I had at least 3 meals that day.
  • H=Hydrated — I use this app to track my water intake every day. If I reach my goal, then I put “H” on my post-it note that day.
  • P=Productive — To track my productivity, I use RescueTime tracker. I put “P” on my calendar if I exceed 50% on my Productivity Pulse.
  • R=Rested — If I had at least 4 cycles of sleep. I stopped counting my sleep time in hours. I use sleep cycles instead (check out this app).
  • U=Uncooked — This is for the days when I eat only raw food (vegetables and fruits).

Also you can add measures like:

  • Sugar-free (I don’t use it, because for me this month is about quitting sugar anyway, so everyday must be a sugar-free day);
  • Fat-free;
  • Gluten-free;
  • Vegetarian;

Or come up with a measure according to whatever your goal is.

I decided to do one thing at a time every month for my body health:

January — quit alcohol
February — quit sugar + maintain alcohol-free diet
March — quit gluten + maintain sugar- and alcohol-free diet

The Game Plan: healthy lifestyle in 8 months

If you want to slowly move towards healthier lifestyle, you can start now and in 8 months your life will totally change.

Month #1: Quit sugar in your hot beverages.
This will change a lot. First of all, your tastebuds will start transforming. You will appreciate the tastes more and not crave for sugar-loaded drinks so bad anymore.

Month #2: Start drinking 2 liters of water every day
This will start cleansing your body. You will eat less because water takes up a lot of space in your stomach and ceases the hunger. Your skin will improve and you will see increase in energy levels.

Month #3: Replace all your hot beverages with green tea and cocoa
If you drink coffee every day — quit now. If you drink black tea — switch to green and herbs.

Month #4: Quit Bread
Bread does no good to your body. It makes you fat, gives extra calories and has little nutritional value. If you cannot quit bread altogether, at least switch to whole grain breads instead of eating white one.

Month #5: Quit Pasta
The same goes with pasta and noodles made of pasta.

Month #6: Quit artificial flavors (ketchup, mayonnaise, etc.) and drinks (sodas, juices, etc.)
I don’t think this one needs a further clarification. Those are just bad.

Month #7: Quit chemically processed foods
If you are still asking why, please read this one article: 9 ways that processed foods are slowly killing people.

Month #8: Quit sugar at large

Month #9: Stick to everything ☺