Reply To: Can't say no to sugar

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Before starting the diet I was really worried about the no sugar aspect too. I’ve gone days without processed sugar before, and that was hard enough, but no sugars of any kind?

I’ll admit, the first week was tough. The cravings were really bad, and I pass three very fragrant bakeries, and an entire street catering to tourists (=ice cream and local desserts everywhere!) on my daily commute. It seemed like whenever I’d try to distract myself by watching TV, that episode would end up centering around the new crepe shop in town or baking or something.

However, once I got past that first week, it got better. By the end of week two, I had almost no sugar cravings. You can get used to it. For health reasons my sister stopped eating processed sugar altogether about two years ago. I thought she was absolutely bonkers, but she assured me that the desire for sugar does go away.

On this particular diet, you have the added bonus of having so many other things to worry about that sugar becomes a secondary or even tertiary issue. For me, having to go food shopping every third day and cook 4-5 meals a day entirely from scratch (and then clean up afterwards!) has been the roughest part, because I normally ate out all the time. Rather than sugar cravings, I just get general hunger or carb cravings, but those have gotten better with time too.

Now, the question becomes, how do you survive the first week? For you, cold turkey clearly doesn’t work, so you should find a different method. The way I see it there are two good ways to do it: ease in, or go “chilled (not cold) turkey”:

Easing in: every day (or every other day) cut back just a little more on the sugar intake. Start with the worst offenders: cakes, ice cream, things that you inevitably eat a whole serving of. Keep something non-addictive hanging around that you can take a bite of here and there when a craving hits (plain milk or dark chocolate is good for this, I think). Feel free to eat as many “natural” sugars as you want: fruits, milk, etc. They’ll help with the transition. Once the processed sugars are out (and these are the toughest, IMO), you can start cutting back on the natural sugars too. Once those are out as well, cut back on the starchy foods. At this point, you’re most of the way onto the diet anyway, so starting should be comparatively much easier.

Chilled Turkey: If the above-outlined method seems like it would take too long (or “waste too much time” I’d recommend you do what I did, which is replace my sugary/starchy comfort foods with slightly more acceptable ones. Foods like beef, pork, and nuts are not great for stage one, but my impression is that they’re lesser offenders than sugars and starches. So figure out what foods you love that are acceptable or marginally acceptable, and allow yourself to pig out on those whenever a craving strikes. For me, grilled beef with black pepper served this purpose. I also got a nice supply of nuts: hazelnuts and pecans, I found, are amazingly delicious, and wonderful little snack foods. You just pop a few in your mouth, and the craving goes away (particularly good for when you get a craving for snacky-sugary foods like M&Ms or biscuits or something). Seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds make for great potato-chip-like snack replacements. Non-GMO soymilk can be a good soda/etc. replacement as long as you drink it in small amounts (just a few sips at a time).
However, like I said, you shouldn’t actually be eating beef, pork, soy, and nuts during stage one, so you will need to wean yourself off these as well. However, they got me through the first two weeks with zero slip-ups otherwise, so while you might need to be on the diet a tad longer because of it, I think it’s worth it in the long run to give yourself some kind of treat to fall back on.

Other recommendations: when a really nasty sugar craving hits, stop whatever you’re doing and go exercise (outside is best, as is moderate intensity). Doesn’t have to be for very long; if you work in an office, take a short 5-10 minute break to climb stairs; if you’re at home, go for a quick jog around the neighborhood. Do something that it would be hard to eat and do at the same time (jogging, bike-riding, stair climbing, aerobics, etc.). Or do something that you wouldn’t want to eat and do simultaneously (like cleaning the toilet, cleaning out your dusty attic, or weeding the front lawn). If this isn’t possible, get up and pour yourself a full glass of water.
I’ve also found that hunger and cravings disappear entirely when I’m fully engrossed in something. No, TV and Internet surfing don’t count (tend to make it worse). I’m talking about working on an art project, having fun with friends, running errands, etc. Find what activities get you really excited and that’s what will distract you from cravings.

*phew* that was long! Hope it helped!

Anyway, it all boils down to what works for you.