Thursday, March 31, 2011

How I Quit Sugar (or, "Holy Crap, I Never Thought I Could Quit Sugar!!")

If you met me when I was in high school, you'd never have believed it.  My lunch every day was a Munster Cheese on Rye Bread sandwich followed by at least one box of Good 'n' Plenties, and more likely than not, a root beer.  I was renowned for my eating prowess, both speed and quantity.  There was a restaurant chain on the East Coast called Friendly's, and my friends would watch in amazement as I downed a whole Reese's Pieces Sundae ( 5 Scoops of Vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, marshmallow, hot fudge, topped with Reese's Pieces and whipped cream) in about 5 minutes flat.  Fortunately for me, I was a quivering ball of energy and constantly bouncing around (of course, who knows how much of that was a sugar high... but still...), so I burned a lot of calories.  I was a little chunky, but it's amazing I wasn't morbidly obese.  

Fast-forward to my post-college days, when my sweet tooth had grown exponentially.  I was a computer consultant for about 5 years, and one assignment had me within walking distance of a Hallmark store.  I would head over there every lunch hour, and come back with a pound or two of my very favorite, Jelly Belly Jelly beans, you know, "for the office," in flavors no one liked but me (licorice, hot cinnamon).   After everyone said no to the beans, I'd plow through the whole bag within an hour, would feel sick and swear I'd never do it again, and repeat the process the next day.

If there was nothing sweet for me to eat in my house, I would literally pour myself a glass of maple syrup, grab a big soup spoon and eat honey out of the jar, or sometimes even eat straight sugar from the bag if there was nothing else available.

My point is, I was horribly, insanely, impossibly addicted to the sweet stuff, and it was only getting worse.  I knew I had to do something before my health was affected by my addiction.  I tried several different tricks to stop the process.  First, I thought I'd try switching from candy to dried papaya, rationalizing this because 1) at least the papaya had some nutritional value to it, and 2) you can really only eat so much dried papaya before you get a stomach ache.  This method worked pretty well-- that is, until my body got used to it, and before I knew it, I was polishing off whole bags of dried papaya without a second thought. 

Last year, the control freak in me took over and decided to get rid of the habit once and for all.  And here's what ended up working for me:

1)  I got rid of anything I could binge on.  Bags of sugar-- out of the house.  Maple syrup-- gone.  Honey's not vegan, so I don't buy it anyway.  I kept fresh fruit and dates around and would allow myself up to three pieces of fruit and some dates every day.

2)  I even got rid of things like whole grains in favor of sprouted grains.  The only bread/tortillas/pasta/etc. in my house are Ezekiel, and I replaced my flour with whole grain sprouted flour. 

Say Hello to my Little Friends.

3)  I replaced all sugar in recipes calling for it with erythritol, and all recipes calling for brown sugar with coconut sugar.   This worked like a charm.  I could still have many of the baked treats I love without the sugar rush, and with a good dose of fiber and nutrients. 

The results: 

With these steps in place, and with my willpower strongly in gear, I was able to stop the sugar madness fairly easily.  In one year, I went from 22% body fat to 14.9% body fat without doing anything else much different.  And even more interestingly, I no longer have the sweet tooth I used to.  I can have a bite of cake without feeling the need to eat the whole cake.  Some things are actually too sweet for me now, whereas before, nothing in the world was too sweet for me. 

My new, sugar-free (about 90% of the time) lifestyle is absolutely sustainable, and I rarely get cravings any more.  For my holiday party last year, I had the same overflowing food and dessert tables that I do every year-- but I did everything sugar-free and with sprouted grains.  Not only did no one know the difference, people kept asking me for recipes and wanting to take treats home. 

I never thought I could do it, but I did it.  And if I can do it, you can, too.  You'll be amazed at the changes your body makes. 

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

1 comment:

  1. Thanx for reposting this - I'm having a hard time with the sugar too (good thing I didn't work in that office with you cuz my biggest problem right now is jelly belly jelly beans - cinnamon + pear flavor) I'll be using ur tricks