Sugar, the versatile ingredient that we hate to love, might be one of the reasons why you feel so tired today. You can blame sugar for a whole slew of things: breaking out, that never-ending migraine or even for gaining a few unwanted pounds. So does that mean you should go ahead and cut it out from your diet completely?
Avoiding sugar takes commitment and a ton of willpower, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you’re convinced that the no-sugar diet is the best option for you (and please do talk to a dietitian or doctor beforehand), odds are, you’ll see some great results.
To help you out, two Bell Media employees who cut out sugar from their diets explained what made them try it, and what you need to know before giving it a whirl.
What did your diet include and exclude?
Person 1: My diet, which I based on a strict candida diet, for the first three months was particularly stringent. It included a lot of vegetables… seeds, nuts, eggs, meat and fish. I started making my own bread, pizza crust and pancakes with almond flour and coconut flour. It’s hard to find things without sugar, so you end up making your own a lot.
It excluded pretty well everything else. No fruit, juices, dairy, carbs or starchy veg (so no potatoes, sweet potatoes, no sweet veg like peas or red peppers). I avoided all processed food as most have sugar, made all my own sauces and dressings. No alcohol.
Person 2: I probably should start with the fact that I switched to the Keto diet, which cuts all sugar. The diet focuses on mainly fat as your primary energy source with protein in second and carbs at the most minimal of levels (20 grams per day — for context, an apple has about 15 grams of carbs). My diet basically includes all sources of healthy fats as well as vegetables (with a focus on vegetables that grow above ground, as most underground vegetables are starchy). All foods are not processed (a.k.a. no pre-packaged foods; just fresh).
I exclude basically anything that turns into glucose in my body, which includes sugar (raw or candy), carbs (wheat or beer), starches (potatoes and beans) and fructose (fruit – yes fruit!).
Why did you decide to try it out?
Person 1: I get a lot of migraines, [plus] endless sinus and face pain. Doctors — and I’ve been to many — have been no help, and drugs have been okay, but not entirely effective for my head. I also have a history of sore throats. I read that sinus pain and throat issues can be a result of a fungal infection, [which thrives] on sugar. I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose by changing my diet, and I knew it would up my vegetable intake, so I figured I’d try it.
Person 2: To lose weight, gain muscle at the gym [and improve] overall health.
What physical and mental changes did you see once you started?
Person 1: I quickly felt generally healthier. Within a few weeks, my sinus pain was reduced, and my migraines were basically gone. From three to ten [migraines] a month to none. On days when I really stepped it up with the vegetables, I felt more energized. I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly. In the first two months, I lost about 20 pounds, going from 127 to 107 (I don’t do any exercise, so this was all diet-based). I thought that was too much, so I upped the amount of nuts and avocados I was eating. At this point, four months after changing my diet, I’m sitting around 117.
Person 2: Within the first five days, I did have some general flu-like symptoms as my body adjusted to not consuming sugar and carbs — mind fog, headaches, generally feeling weak and not myself. However, after about the forth day, all of my flu-like symptoms disappeared and I had great energy levels. I also noticed I got a great night’s sleep for the first time in a while.
Going forward though, I did notice that when you eat a primarily fat diet, portion control is a lot easier. I started out using Myfitness Pal to track my calories and [nutrients], but quickly realized that when you eat stuff like meats [and] cheese, your brain knows when to stop. You feel full really quick; in fact, I had to force eating snacks like nuts into my day, because I quickly realized I wasn’t getting the proper calories (according to my food tracker) by just eating until I was full.
How long did it take for these changes to kick in?
Person 1: A few weeks.
Person 2: Five days with the worst of the symptoms being around the third day. After five days, changes in my sleep were phenomenal and probably the first thing that made me want to commit to the diet. I was sleeping eight hours uninterrupted and feeling way more energetic in the morning.
Did you struggle to stick to the diet at any point? If so, what did you find challenging about it?
Person 1: Not so much in the first eight weeks when I wanted to be very, very strict and really cut out all sugars entirely. As long as I was committed to being strict, it was easy. In the third month though, I got a bit cheaty, had some cheese, started having some wine on Fridays. I like wine, so that was a bit of a challenge. Now I have wine pretty well every Friday.
The huge challenge, especially if you work all day, is having to make everything from scratch. There are no ready-made go-tos.
Person 2: Honestly, the worst struggles are always in social situations with friends (even to this date). When pizza is ordered while at someone’s house and you politely refuse a slice, the ensuing conversation about why is always the worst. Most people will think its just some fad, and make comments about how carbs aren’t bad for you and its just calories in and out that matters, so they consider everything you’re doing quite silly.
There were [also] days I’d come home from work and literally snack on raw vegetables as a meal with some ranch or Caesar dressing on the side. This is because I didn’t have the time to cook up a full, healthy meal or maybe didn’t prepare properly. Within the first month, this changed as I started to buy raw ingredients in bulk to save money and started cooking my meals for the week. Now my Sundays are almost ritualistic, in that I spend the evenings preparing meals for the week and spend the week perusing new meal ideas for Sunday.
What would you do differently if you could go back in time and try it again?
Person 1: I’m still doing it. It would be nice to take a cooking course, maybe, to arm myself with lots of recipes. I wouldn’t have started cheating. For me, keeping it strict makes it easier. The three times now that I’ve cheated, I ended up with debilitating headaches. Surprisingly not from the wine! More from peas and beans, which makes me think I might have a problem with those. That’s another good thing about doing this — if you’re trying to find out if any foods cause or exacerbate problems for you, it’s pretty easy to narrow it down.
Person 2: I would probably put some more initial planning into my meal options and preparing them. When you hit the point that you’re basically eating raw vegetables as a meal, it’s easy to just quit and order a pizza. I’m glad I didn’t do that personally, but I definitely had a lack of foresight going into this.
Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this diet before trying it out?
Person 1: Talk to a nutritionist first. I didn’t talk to a doctor about changing my diet and maybe it could have negative effects.
I was never hungry, and I know I’m eating a much healthier diet. As long as you plan and keep a well-stocked fridge, it’s a satisfying diet.
Person 2: I really think it’s incredible and don’t actually consider it to be a diet anymore. Its a way of life, well, my life, and kinda consider it the normal way of eating for humans.
Not having any cheat foods that throw you off your diet in the house is critical if you’re the type of person that can easily give in to temptation.