Busting Sugar.


I lost nearly 30lbs a few years ago with the help of both Weight Watchers and MyFitnessPal. What I liked about tracking my calories was that I could eat anything I wanted, provided that I adjusted my calories in other meals. I could have a burger at a restaurant. I could have chocolate, and brownies, and cookies. I just needed to plan for it.

I’ve kept off about 25lbs of that weight loss by keeping daily track of maybe 70% of my calories. (And running and swimming and biking, of course.)

70% of how I eat is healthy. We make dinner most every night, and it’s usually chicken or fish or vegetarian, balanced and healthy. I try to snack healthy as well – peanut butter crackers, special K strawberry waffles with nothing on it, avocado toast, etc.

The other 30%, though, is absolute crap. I have been having trouble the past year with my sweet tooth, which is somehow out of control.

Once I have candy or brownies or cookies?

I, quite literally, cannot stop.

I’m not kidding, either. The other day? I ate nearly an entire 1lb bag of pretzel M&Ms.

This is disconcerting for two reasons. First, there is a high prevalence of diabetes in my family. My mother and her two sisters were diabetic. My younger brother was diagnosed with it last year. And though my most recent fasting blood sugar was less than 100, which is normal, it was just under 100; a number which is correlated with a higher risk of developing diabetes in the future.

I have noticed over the past few years when I follow a high-carb diet while marathon training as the current running literature promotes, I am more hungry, more unable to eat things in moderation, and I have a lot more ups and downs.

But secondly, and most awful?

That bag of pretzel M&Ms was not mine.

It was Owen’s – a present to him from me, because he, unlike me, loves a few pretzel M&Ms after dinner.

I ate my kid’s Christmas present.

That’s a PROBLEM, people.

I won’t go into just how badly I felt about it, and how he forgave me nearly immediately, because he’s amazing. (He told me I was allowed to eat his M&Ms whenever I wanted.) Still though, that post-it note on the picture above will stay on the bag even when it gets opened.

And putting more post it notes on OTHER things in my pantry.

I am cutting out sugar.

Usually I am very leery of doing radical things with my diet. I lost weight BECAUSE everything was allowed and nothing was off-limits. For me, telling me I can’t have something is fine, until I am in a situation where it’s free and available and then I lose my mind and go crazy.

But I can’t do moderation with sugar anymore. I think I might be even addicted to it.

So I’m going to get radical and cut out sugar from my diet, on purpose, from now until the end of the month.

Because I’m busy and need to keep it simple, here are my rules:

1. No sweets. No muffins, no scones, no cookies, no brownies, no candy, no cake, no pie. Nothing where sugar is a large ingredient, either homemade or store-bought.

2. No processed snacks (like peanut butter crackers); they often have more sugar than you’d think.

3. No (flavored) yogurt or ice cream; limited dairy.

4. No boxed cereal. My plain Irish oatmeal is okay with cinnamon or frozen fruits and maybe a teeny bit of maple syrup, but better for me to have eggs and quinoa or eggs over a sweet potato instead.

5. No juice. I will derive my sugar from whole fruits only.

6. No “fake” sugar – diet coke, stevia, etc, or any chemical which tricks my body into thinking that I’m having something sweet.

Where I’m “cheating?”

The aforementioned maple syrup. If I’m eating something like oatmeal, I’ll allow myself a touch of sweetener.

I will still have half and half in my coffee every morning.

I will still eat bread and english muffins from the grocery store.

If I want a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day, I’ll allow it.

I’m not sure to what end this will be; I am hoping that maybe once I cut out most of my sugar intake and am used to it, I will be able to have something with sugar – in moderation. I don’t want to be “SUGAR FREE!” forever, or get all religious about clean eating.

But I also don’t want to be out of control when it comes to sugar and sweets anymore.

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12 Responses to Busting Sugar.

  1. thalia says:

    Surprised you need to cut out yogurt – do you mean flavoured yogurt as I would have thought natural unsweetened yogurt would be great for your diet being high protein – esp given all the running you do.

    • Karen says:

      That’s a good point. I don’t really like it, so I rarely eat any kind of yogurt. Thus it’s easy for me to say I am cutting it out – it’s unlikely I would have it, flavored or no. We do use plain greek yogurt in place of sour cream in most of our recipes, though. And really, the sugar is in the flavoring, not plain. I’ve edited to include what I meant – flavored yogurt. Thanks for the point!

  2. Katy says:

    I love sugary candy (gummy bears, candy corn, etc…) used to polish off a big box of Dots in couple of days at work. I craved sugar after lunch. Any time I got an annoying email that I didn’t want to deal with, I whipped around and grabbed some candy from my drawer. I wasn’t overweight so I figured it was OK. After reading an article in the NYT about sugar I decided to give it up the candy cold turkey. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/magazine/mag-17Sugar-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 It wasn’t very difficult and I noticed really quickly that the sugar cravings went away. It was amazing. I didn’t cut sugar out completely. I still can’t resist my morning scone. mmmm

  3. Deborah says:

    That is what I love about MFP, too. The flexibility helps me feel less deprived, which helps me stay on track. I am also entertained by the math it makes me do: “this days one serving of kugel is a 3″ square, but my piece was about 2″x1″, so I guess it’s 1/3 serving…” I gained so e weight over the holidays and have been using MFP for the past 2 weeks. I’m amazed at how much better I feel!

    Like you, though, I’ve often wondered if I’m addicted to sugar. What you are doing sounds so hard, although I’m sure you will have more energy and feel less hungry. Good luck!

  4. Catwoman73 says:

    As you know, I did this almost five months ago now, and I’ll never go back. Best thing I ever did for myself. Just be prepared to feel pretty crappy for two to three weeks- the transition is rough. If you’re interested, I can e-mail you some recipes that helped get me through.

    As for yogurt- I don’t eat flavoured yogurt because of the sugar, but one of my fave snacks is to take about 1/3 cup of plain greek yogurt, mix in a mashed banana and a heaping tablespoon of almond butter or cashew butter. Delicious!

    Good luck, and keep us posted!

    • Karen says:

      Recipes – yes please!!!! I just made a “smoothie” this morning with half a mashed sweet potato (leftover from breakfast), a mashed banana (from my freezer), a tbsp of natural peanut butter, and some water. 🙂 Please do share! I emailed you some detailed questions…

  5. Turia says:

    Good for you for making changes.

    I am a binger with sugar too. I will go for weeks not eating it, but then if I slip, all the cravings come back and I suddenly find myself eating it every day. I am trying to be a lot more conscious about it.

    If you are baking, we always cut the sugar in any recipe by at least 50% and it has never affected the success of the recipe. It usually just makes us wonder how sweet the original must have been!

  6. Sugar should scare you, it is addictive stuff! I spent most of last year beating my carb and sugar addiction, to almost trash it over Christmas again.
    I’m not sure how big a thing it is in the States, but in South Africa over the last year Banting or LCHF (Low Carb, High fat) has become such a huge way of life. (google Prof Tim Noakes and the Real Meal revolution – he’s one of our eminent sports scientists) For patients prone to obesity and diabetes it is such a sustainable way of eating. It takes a lot to deprogram the brain from thinking fat is bad, but once you do it, you realise it is the only way! And no, you never can ‘go back to eating normally’. This is my new normal.

  7. Justine says:

    I have a very similar problem … without the time for running/biking etc. … I weigh more now than I ever have non-pregnant. But I’m HUNGRY. I’m not sure WHAT I can eat any more … and I know that I can’t (and won’t) go back to starving myself, which is what I’ve done at other points in my life. No sugar is a good start … I cut out desserts a while ago, but lapsed into fake sugars and occasional treats that don’t do me any good. I have yet to jump on the green smoothie bandwagon, because that sounds like it could get out of control (juices and calories) too.

    Hang in there!

  8. Mel says:

    I’m in the same place as you. I can’t eat it wisely so I’ve decided not to eat it at all. And I’m not letting myself eat after dinner.

    Josh and I were having this argument yesterday because I think sugar IS addictive.

  9. Kate says:

    What? ,Kate is on the internets? Leaving a comment? :>

    Hiya, I just wanted to let you know that I HAVE DONE THIS. I have eaten the last cookie, the special treat for my son, ALL of my sons’ favorite twix bars, the last peep, all of my daughter’s leftover birthday cake, etc., etc., etc. I love sugar. It’s probably not good for me. My children eat their icecream with their arms protectively around the cup…trying to keep mom from eating it if they are not eating it fast enough.

    I am hoping that they find it to be a loveable quirk and not a character flaw. :>

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