Sugar binges only on weekend: okay or not okay?
September 30, 2010 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I have a sugar addiction. So how much sugar is okay?

I have recently realized that the basis of many of my health problems is most likely a horrible sugar addiction. I typically eat a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fruit and some sort of sweet snack for lunch, a carb heavy dinner, and possibly an actual dessert after that. Not to mention one to three sodas each day.

I would like to curb this behavior, and have already made several steps in the right direction. I am basically moving toward a low-glycemic diet. However, I have noticed with diets in the past that if I don't allow myself to cheat sometimes, the diets don't last. My husband and I would like to initially have sugary items like soda, chocolate, and cereal, on the weekends, and stick to a very low-sugar diet during the week.

My question is, will this hurt me? Specifically, will a regular sugar high each weekend screw up my blood sugar in the long run? I know that any sugar reduction is an improvement, but I am concerned that each weekend I will be completely negating any progress I am making.

(I am not diabetic. Also, I am not looking to completely discontinue sugar in all forms, as many books recommend.)

Bonus question: Does the answer to the above question change if/when I am pregnant? I am not now, but I surely don't want to cause my baby some sort of irreparable damage because I couldn't resist a piece of chocolate cake.

Thanks in advance.
posted by starbaby to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You are pretty much describing this.
posted by Pax at 11:48 AM on September 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

I would try cutting back on the sugar gradually, such that you eat roughly the same amount of, just less overall, sugar per day. Maybe start by cutting out one soda a day. Then soda altogether except for when you really, really want it. Then after a while switch to a lower-sugar cereal. And so on. And eat cake or whatever when you want it, just not every day. After a while, your body will adapt to the lower sugar intake and you'll feel crummy when you eat too much, even if that "too much" is less than what you currently eat.

My parents were both sweet tea addicts for many years, and slowly started cutting back the amount of sugar they put into their home-brewed sweet tea. Now they do a pitcher with just a tiny bit of sugar and honey, and the full-strength stuff they used to drink tastes like candy. They didn't cut out sugar entirely, they just dialed it back a bit.
posted by phunniemee at 11:56 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

When I was on a low sugar diet I remember having about 2 oz of strawberry smoothie and it making me dizzy and nauseated. So I would suggest that you keep your sugar level most days otherwise you may end up with sugar hangovers on the weekend.
posted by saradarlin at 12:23 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

quite simply the best thing that has worked for me to lose serious weight (around 30 pounds) lower my blood pressure, cholesterol etc etc is living by grandma's words: "Everything in moderation including moderation"

indulgence is perfectly acceptable if it remains that: an indulgence. ie a special treat. i wouldn't "binge" on the weekends but if mentally this gives you a effort/reward system that you can really use as motivation (don't eat that donut at the office on Wednesday when i can have an awesome cinnamon roll on Saturday...) then i'm all for it.

many people will tell you that this is NOT a good system, but its truthfully personal and subjective. For some i suspect the motivation they need is the severity of total cold-turkey and could never get away with scheduled cheating....

good luck.
posted by chasles at 12:26 PM on September 30, 2010

It would help us answer this question if we knew more about your health problems that relate to sugar. Without that information, I'd go ahead and say make sure your sugar intake over the course of one week is lower than what it currently is, and keep your weekend binges of sugar at or less than the amount you currently eat on average per day.

But if you're seeing actual health problems, you really should see a doctor and perhaps talk to a nutritionist.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2010

I'm not sure if by "progress", you mean weight loss or just the progress you've made towards eating less sugar. For weight loss, I have had many weekends where my efforts during the week were completely negated by the choices I made over the weekend (especially if your "weekend" is Friday after 5PM to Sunday night).
At any rate, I think you should consider not going back to sugar on the weekends (at least in the beginning) for another reason. This is because for me, the less sugar I ate, the less I missed it. Your palate will most likely completely readjust and you will find things like a strawberry tastes super awesome. Soda will begin to taste shockingly sweet and disgusting.

Everyone's different, but for me, eating too much sugar at once makes it incredibly hard to avoid it in the following days. It's just easier to indulge maybe once a week for dessert (if that), and then not have to worry about it otherwise.
posted by smalls at 12:45 PM on September 30, 2010

I don't think you'll find a fact-based answer to your question. No one really knows the "right" amount of sugar, although nearly anyone, if asked, would agree you are having too much.

If you are serious, I would recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories as an investment in understanding nutrition's dodgy scientific past, our troubled relationship with carbs of all sorts, and their probable impact on us as a result. I'd posit that it will help you make up your own mind for "how much."
posted by johnchristopher at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you really have a sugar addiction (like I do) and your health problems are really related to the sugar (i have polycystic ovarian syndrome--weight gain, irregular periods, hair falling out and growing in unattractive places) then your best best, IMO, is to stop eating sugar completely. I had similar problems with restrictive diets as well, but the no-sugar (and for me no-refined-flour either) diet is the only thing that works. Here's why: as long as I stay completely away from sugar, I no longer crave it the way I do when I'm trying to moderate it. I'm like an alcoholic in that regard--I can't moderate, so my only option is to never eat it.

I lost 50 pounds and have yet to gain it back. I haven't eaten sugar or flour in over 3 years. This is the first time in my life my weight hasn't been on a roller coaster. Any my periods are normal. My whole life is just better. It sounds extreme, but I know that the minute I eat sugar or flour again that everything will go back to the way it was. I slipped for about a month (thinking: I wasn't really "addicted"... I can moderate!) two Christmases ago and, sure enough, all of my problems came back. Including the sugar and carb binges.

I eat nuts and cheese like crazy, sugarfree ice cream, tons of veggies, lean meat, and occasionally berries (but no apples, oranges, or bananas).

Good luck, I know what it's like to have donuts for breakfast, cookies for lunch, pizza for dinner, and ice cream for dessert. It ain't pretty.
posted by madred at 1:02 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

At any rate, I think you should consider not going back to sugar on the weekends (at least in the beginning) for another reason. This is because for me, the less sugar I ate, the less I missed it. Your palate will most likely completely readjust and you will find things like a strawberry tastes super awesome. Soda will begin to taste shockingly sweet and disgusting.

Yes. This. Once you start being able to taste real food, the processed stuff quickly loses its magic.

Not to mention that for some people, cutting sugar out entirely (which it sounds like you plan to do on weekdays) leads to withdrawal symptoms - headaches, dizziness, nausea. If you break up your no-sugar days with one full-on sugar day, you may get these symptoms weekly, and that doesn't sound like fun at all!

(Full disclosure: I had to quit sugar cold-turkey for health reasons in 2003. I did not experience withdrawal, or if I did I didn't notice because I felt so fan-freaking-tastic without it. But YMMV, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there of withdrawal symptoms.)
posted by chez shoes at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

I drink sparkling water or perrier instead of soda, because i like the fizziness. Also I've found it useful for diluting juice or other sodas, so the sweetness is reduced.
posted by lizbunny at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers so far.

The health problems I am speaking of are:

--absolute and constant exhaustion.
--obesity, which I cannot seem to do anything about because I have *NO* energy to exercise.

Thought I had a thyroid disorder, but I don't, so now I'm thinking it's mostly sugar related. So far, I have decided to just cut out a lot of sugar--this week I've been having reduced sugar yogurt (with Splenda) and a string cheese for breakfast, either chili and an apple or a salad with cheese in it for lunch, and low carb dinners such as eggs and facon or chik nuggets with green beans. For snacks I have fruit or nuts or fake pepperoni and cheese. I have juice sometimes, but only if it has no added sweeteners, like Simply Orange and Juicy Juice.

Some of these things have sugar in them, in small amounts, like the chili--canned tomato sauce almost always has sugar, some of the processed meat replacements I eat are sure to have small amounts, etc. I don't want to cut it out completely. I don't eat meat, and I know how hard it is to abstain from an entire type of food when everyone else is eating it. I don't want to do that two times over.

Even now, I will have some extra-dark chocolate when I start getting a no-sugar headache.

My goal is to greatly reduce the effects of sugar on my body. I would like to be able to have a soda on the weekends, or a dessert, or hell, even some pretzels. Every weekend. So that I don't just give up.

So my question is, will I see improvements in any of these areas if I do that? Will I have more energy? Or will I end up diabetic or otherwise unhealthy in the long run? I am not looking for this way of eating to cause weight loss on its own, but rather to give me some energy to initiate the exercise I know will cause weight loss.
posted by starbaby at 1:38 PM on September 30, 2010

I cut down on my sugar intake (in addition to avoiding carbs) in 2003 and lost a lot of weight. In my experience, once I had cut out the processed foods and everything with added sugar, my body stopped craving it.

I realized the other day, as I was ordering lunch, that I was standing next to a huge platter of chocolate chip cookies and brownies - and I didn't crave it. At all. I was almost in tears because that has never happened to me before and it's such a relief. I have always had to argue with myself about not eating sugary treats because I had such a physical craving.

I still allow myself small indulgences. I have small (one serving) size of Starbucks ice cream in my freezer, and I can make that last 2 weeks, because I only take 2 bites and I don't want anymore. I will have a square of Godiva dark chocolate - the bar will last me for at least 2 weeks, sometimes longer. I'm only eating when I truly crave a taste of something and a bite or two satisfies me.

Otherwise, I eat meat, veggies, fruit (talk about something that tastes delicious after your taste buds are working properly!), cheese and nuts. I drink water and tea (with no or very little stevia). I feel great and I've kept the weight off for 7 years. I would suggest you slowly lower your sugar intake and do NOT indulge on the weekends.
posted by lootie777 at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

(in addition to avoiding carbs)

The above should read, "in adition to avoiding simple carbs". I still have carbs, they are important for good nutrition, but boy there are a lot of bad ones out there.
posted by lootie777 at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2010

What you describe may hurt your progress towards reducing your insulin resistance, which is a major hurdle in loosing weight. Insulin controls sugar cravings, and also how we store excess calories. You want to keep your blood sugar as even as possible, and avoid spikes, which contribute to insulin resistance. So, a piece of chocolate after a meal isn't as "bad", or as much of a spike, as a soda on an empty stomach, or a big bowl of sugary cereal first thing in the morning.

If your sugar/simple carbs, are coming with lots of fiber, or some fat and protein, it'll also help modulate blood sugar.

I wouldn't be too concerned with wanting to cheat as you adapt to your new diet. Not only will sugar cravings subside, you're likely going to have your palate adapt to finding less sugary things sweet and satisfying. For example, a few years ago when living on a college meal plan (with free soda refills and wi-fi in dining halls) I would not have enjoyed some of the things I do now like plain unsweetened yogurt, unsweetened tea, bitter chocolate, even orange juice was sour and unappealing to me. It's something you'll adapt to.

I prefer avoiding artificial sweeteners. I'm not really concerned with any kind of alleged impact on health, but I do think it'll keep you wanting the taste of very sugary things. I cringe when I think of some "diet" desserts that people make up (skip to 0:45). I'd much rather have a small piece of real cake, than a big piece of fake sweet cake.

I think a good rule for soda is to treat it as a dessert or snack. It's not something you need to drink with a meal, it's a good 200+ calories in its self. If you're going to buy soda, don't buy a 12 pack or 2ltr, get some fancy real sugar ones in individual bottles. When I'm in my own home, I drink lots of water, but I find when I stay at my (soda loving) parents house, it's almost more effort to drink water than just grab a soda. A nice stainless water bottle makes it a bit easier. You've got to retrain your self to think of water when you're thirsty, and soda as a special treat.

As long as you are not vitamin or calorie deficient during pregnancy I would not worry about it. Theres actually some evidence that shows a baby becomes acclimated to its mother's diet during pregnancy and nursing, as a common diet is a way of being indoctrinated in a community, (which is a good thing for the social animals we are). A variety of foods (maybe even chocolate cake) is a good idea, but also realize how nutrient void sugar and simple carbs are. You're getting pure calories, and no micro-nutrients. If you consider a limited amount of calories a day, you should make each one count as much as possible in getting you to recommended vitamin levels.

The one caveat to that is gastric bypass, which can lead to vitamin deficiencies which can be exacerbated by the nutritional demands pregnancy puts on the body. Same would go for any crash diet or anorexia/bulimia.

It's always a good idea to get pre-prenatal health care and screenings. This can include blood vitamin levels, or prescription for prenatal vitamins before pregnancy. It should also include titers, to make sure your vaccinations are up to date and effective, as something like chicken pox can be very serious during pregnancy.
posted by fontophilic at 1:53 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Try to remain flexible once you start your diet. Tailor it to how you feel and what works for you. I know a lot of people that do the "eat healthy all week, eat whatever I want on weekends" kind of diet and it works for them. However, I've found that kind of eating pattern does not work for me.

I have a sweet tooth and I love chocolate. Going without all week makes me feel deprived, so that when weekends roll around I go overboard and find myself eating more desserts than I normally would, even if I don't really want them. Not exactly healthy. Instead I allow myself one sweet treat per day. That way if I'm really craving a cookie after lunch I can eat it and be satisfied, rather than waiting until Saturday and eating 5 cookies because it's now or never. Plus if I eat a rich dinner on Saturday I don't feel obligated to eat dessert too, just because it's the designated day to eat dessert.
posted by geeky at 1:55 PM on September 30, 2010

I have a huge sweet tooth, but I was able to (mostly) wean myself off daily candy and chocolate and cake by eating fruit instead. I make sure to have at least five pieces of fruit a day distributed throughout the day.

Decidedly less healthy, but also an option that can help you on your way, is sugarless soda and sugarless gum.

As a treat, I have a teaspoon of Nutella after dinner. Straight.
posted by Dragonness at 1:59 PM on September 30, 2010

there are some really great sugar free hard candies out there which help me with sugar cravings - werthers and campino are the best
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2010

The health problems I am speaking of are:

--absolute and constant exhaustion.
--obesity, which I cannot seem to do anything about because I have *NO* energy to exercise.

Yeah. I had those same symptoms. It was insulin resistance. Cutting back on sugar didn't help; cutting out all - and I mean all - processed food did.
posted by chez shoes at 2:34 PM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: I have been tested for many things. I also have recurrent miscarriages, and recently had extensive bloodwork done. This included fasting insulin levels (as well as thyroid, hormone, lipid, STIs, etc.). Everything was normal. *shrug*
posted by starbaby at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2010

I was coming in here to say the exact same thing johnchristopher said, including the recommendation to read Good Calories, Bad Calories which I talk about in nearly every dieting thread.

Sugar makes you tired. It makes you feel ill, even as you're compelled to eat more and more of it. It hooks you in a neverending rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and crashes, that necessitates people to eat it all the time to maintain concentration and energy and to stave off headaches and hunger. You are absolutely correct in guessing that your current diet is just bonkers. Some lucky people with good genes could get away with eating frosted flakes, pb&js, spaghetti and ice cream every day: they're called five year-olds. For nearly everyone else, this diet would lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It will kill you, and sometimes not that slowly. It creates a two-fold clusterfuck on your body: you gain weight because you're consuming a low-nutrient, sugar-dense diet that also makes you fatigued, depressed, anxious and distracted. Fun!

If you're vegetarian for moral reasons, work around the clarion call for a ketogenic/low-carb diet (pretty impossible for most non-meat eaters) by consuming lots of tofu, vegetables, nuts, and cheese. Most of that fake meat stuff is very processed, but it's up to you to decide if you can without it. Eat whole foods, not the pre-packaged health food stuff in the frozen foods aisle. Lay off the pasta and bread and fruit for the time being, as they often have the same neurochemical effects that processed sugar has, and will also spike your insulin levels.

You can do this, though vegetarianism complicates matters. I guarantee that if you resolve to cut out all processed foods, most carb-heavy meals, and eat lean proteins and vegetables, you will drop weight and dramatically increase your energy. You will emerge from the sugary brain fog and wonder how you ever ate cookies and Cinnamon Toast Crunch when they made you feel so listless and sad. Good luck!
posted by zoomorphic at 3:00 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think it's great that you're taking control of your health by cutting out sugar. And I know how tough it is to conquer those cravings and let go of the sweets. While I do think that you might possibly be successful in losing weight by restricting sugar only to the weekends, I don't think that you will be able to successfully address the health issues that you listed by doing so. By indulging on the weekends, you set yourself up for a vicious cycle of sugar highs and lows without giving your body time to adjust to one or the other. By the time you have eliminated the sugar from your system, it will be the weekend again and you start the cycle all over again and there's a good chance those symptoms will hit you even harder because of it.

Instead, I would suggest that you adjust your plan so that you start out by temporarily restricting all sugars for two or three weeks, just until you're able to get your body used to operating with out them (get rid of those nasty no-sugar headaches once and for all!) then slowly reintroduce healthy sugars and starches one at a time, observing how well you handle them and what effect they have on you. As you said, you don't want to cut sugars out completely, but you do need to break the hold that sugar has on you, so this method can help you do that and put you back in control.
posted by platinum at 3:07 PM on September 30, 2010

Also, I just wanted to point out that your normal tests are great news: look at them as proof that your body is working properly, and will work a lot better if you simply change your diet. Remember, it wasn't that long ago when people thought of sugar as a luxury, not an everyday mealtime supplement. While I don't buy all the paleo-diet stuff, I do think they're on to something when they point out that humans aren't really evolved to eat carb-dense foods and lots and lots of sugar. Hence the dramatic increase in first world obesity, heart disease, diabetes and egads, even a dropping life expectancy.

Some people have medical issues that hinder their ability to lose weight, but now you can be reasonably sure you're not one of them. I'm like you - horrible sweet tooth, ate sugar at every meal. I started gaining weight in my mid-twenties after a blissful decade of a naturally fit body. I cut out all the sugar, all the starches, and dropped 15lbs. Many of my worst ADHD symptoms vanished, I have energy to work out 3 times a week in a strength training program, and I have some serious muscles for once in my life. Sometimes I miss Oreos, but they were a fair trade for learning how to enjoy whole foods and not need to constantly snack at my desk all day.
posted by zoomorphic at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, I have been thinking about all of these answers. How about this:

My husband and I cut out sugar for three weeks, as platinum suggests.

THEN, I try what I describe above--eating sweets and things on the weekends if I want them. From what I'm hearing, by then they won't really be as delicious as they are now, I won't want them as much, and I will have broken my sugar addiction? Or I will feel bad and not want to do that anymore? Am I reading all of that correctly?
posted by starbaby at 3:17 PM on September 30, 2010

It is SOOO hard to lose weight by exercising alone. I started out about 50 pounds overweight last October. I did Couch to 5K - it took me weeks to work up to "Couch", BTW - and between October and January only lost about 4 pounds while eating as I always have. It got too disappointing after awhile, and I quit. At that point, I could run 20 - 25 minutes without stopping. Once I stopped running I gained the 4 pounds back. In late spring, I started walking/running again, got hurt, started over in the summer, blah blah. In mid August I finally went on a low carb diet along with a lot of walking and only a bit of running and have already lost at least 11 pounds and my clothes are way looser.

There was one other time I tried to lose weight by swimming a mile every other day - gained 12 pounds. Exercising makes you hungry. You have to have a really good plan to control the eating or exercising doesn't help. Sigh. Believe me. I would rather run a million miles and keep eating Mexican food on the weekends. It didn't work.

Also, on my current low carb diet, I took off a weekend in the middle and ate Pho with egg rolls and noodles and a bubble tea smoothie thing on Friday and Chinese food on Saturday. It took until Thursday with very strict eating to get back to the weight I was on the previous Friday. Can't do that every weekend. Having to re-lose the same weight every week would be WAY too depressing. One bad meal a weekend isn't nearly as bad.

I totally understand that not having soda, etc. really sucks. I, personally, embrace fake sugar gladly. Russell Stover Sugar Free chocolate, sugar free reese's peanut butter cups, Hershey's Sugar Free Chocolate Chips, and my favorite, Diet Coke. It's hard to get used to it at first, but after a couple of weeks of misery, I can't tell the difference. I make Sugar Free Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies with whole wheat flour and scary amounts of Splenda. Not as good as the real ones, but now the real ones taste bizarre and too sweet to me. I am not diabetic, but had Gestational Diabetes with my three pregnancies (hence the years of on and off dieting - it's all been in between babies - I have to watch my sugar when I'm pregnant, but then I throw that out the window when I'm nursing. Don't tell my doctor...)

Also, my sister has problems with depression and says that South Beach vastly improves her mood.

(Also, if you go on a low carb diet you will most likely lose weight much faster than I have. I've only lost 11 pounds in about 6 weeks because I was still nursing a two year old until about 4 days ago. I waited to go on the diet until I got her down to only nursing once a day for about 10 minutes. I'd have waited until she stopped, but was really starting to think that would mean I'd be fat until she started college. From past experience, I usually lose weight way faster than this and have to blame the nursing. We shall see in the next few weeks. My husband's been on the same diet as me and is not exercising and had lost 20 pounds last time he bothered to check. He started out way skinnier than me. Jerk.)

One BIG Tip - when you eat something bad, don't say, "Well, I blew today already, may as well have ice cream and pie and start over tomorrow." That is what I used to do. Very bad. Just say, "Well! That was good! Back to eating good things!"

On preview: Try it for three weeks like you said. I think that you'll lose weight and then when you try eating sugar on the weekends you'll see that having the weight loss stop won't be worth it. You might feel crappy and dizzy for the first week. That will end.

Sorry this is so long - I can apparently talk about this forever. Memail me if you want recipes or whatever. I can go on and on and on...
posted by artychoke at 3:50 PM on September 30, 2010

My sugar cravings took a few months before they went away completely. I now get nauseous when I think about eating a whole (normal) sized cookie. One bite it about all I can handle now, but it took about 3 months for me to get to that point.

Like artychoke, I used splenda, sugar free candies, sugar free gum, etc. until I got to the point where I just didn't want the taste of sweet in my mouth.

If I can suggest one thing as a goal, stop drinking soda completely. Yes, even the diet soda. It's so bad for you, and having 8 or 12 or 20 oz of even diet soda would throw my sense of taste off completely. I recently attended a baby shower where the only beverages offered were an overly sweet punch and soda. I took one sip of soda and had to find a sink, where I poured it out and refilled with water. I'm not going to lie - it's very, very difficult to stop. But after 2 or 3 weeks of abstaining I have never craved soda again. It's been 10 years and I can't tell you how great it feels not to be a junkie on that stuff.

Feel free to memail me, and I'll send you my posting of how I lost the weight. It's 2 or 3 pages, so too much to list here.
posted by lootie777 at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2010

Sounds like a great start starbaby! Hopefully you'll see some good results in the first three weeks that will motivate you to keep going. Remember to reintroduce your sugar slowly and in small amounts, starting with the healthiest ones first like berries and nuts. If you're looking for recommendations on how to do that, you might want to take a look at the newest Atkins book, "The New Atkins for a New You." I know Atkins has gotten a pretty bad rap in the past, but the new version is actually pretty sensible. The first phase (there are four) does a good job of breaking the sugar habit then the second phase helps you figure out exactly how to reintroduce it without letting it take over. It's changed quite a bit from the old 1970's version that most people think of - it even has suggestions on how to adapt the approach for vegetarians.
posted by platinum at 5:24 PM on September 30, 2010

For my money, what you should be asking is not how much sugar is okay but, instead, What can I eat that is pleasurable, healthy, and sustainable over a lifetime? That's not to say I think you should divide food into good or bad categories, instead, I think you should play around with what you eat so the currently pleasurable unhealthy stuff (e.g. sugar) becomes unpleasurable. Then you won't need to give it up; you just won't want it.

Given that you so strongly emphasize exhaustion, apart from giving up sugar during the workweek, I would recommend you consider adding a lot of protein to you diet for a week and seeing how that makes you feel. That means focus every meal on protein first (lean meat, beans, eggs, cheese, fish, poultry), and vegetables second.

Note that if you tend toward hypoglycemia a single protein may not do you until your body learns to process all its food more efficiently; also, some proteins fill you up better than others with a combination of proteins being the most sustaining, with meat/poultry and beans being the most filling and dairy and fish the least.

So consider trying a few meals of meat with eggs and cheese, or beans with cheese, or meat with beans. If I'm right here, and you're able to keep up with your own protein needs (which it may take you some time to sort out, especially if your activity level differs from day to day), you'll feel better almost instantly.

A few other tips:

*If you're trying to avoid empty calories/processed food/drink, the hardest thing to figure out is what to drink. My advice: Get some decaf fruit and berry teas (raspberry, lemon, pomegranate), mix with cold water and some ice. You won't need sugar, unless you have a really sweet tooth; these kinds of cold tea drinks taste really good on their own!

*Eat the most in the morning, again if you're a little bit hypoglycemic, you'll need the extra energy after a long night of "fasting" (i.e. sleep).

*Don't worry about what a traditional meal should be, i.e. a breakfast must include eggs; a lunch a sandwich, etc. People combine everything you can think of for a meal, somewhere in the world, at any given time. If you like lentil soup, sip it for breakfast!

*Eat the odd bit of sugar if you must; but if you can pretty much go off the stuff for a couple of months, you will mostly lose a taste for it. That's the good thing about the caveman diet: It teaches you what food really tastes like, without extra fat, sugar, or salt. And if you want "additives," use herbs, spices, garlic, lemon juice, etc.

*Finally, there's a lot of controversy about how to test for thyroid problems and even how to read the test results. This site has a great deal of information about everything, including testing and symptoms. You may want to peruse it a bit.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:12 PM on September 30, 2010

Oh, apologies, I saw a poster refer to vegetarianism, but I missed where the OP said it when I searched the OP's follow-up posts--until just now. Without knowing the reasons for the OP's vegetarianism, know that I have no intention of offending, but I will say that I've had two utterly exhausted vegetarian friends in the past (plus I was one, for about a decade, too: both exhausted and vegetarian), and it's really hard to get enough valuable protein if you're vegetarian and hypoglycemic. Fish is just not the same. (I know it should be, but it's not; maybe it's the B vitamins in meat and poultry?) Beans are a bit better at providing protein, and beans and eggs are better still. But dairy (cheese and eggs) on their own aren't enough. And soy is goitrogenic, and can heavily irritate the thyroid.

So I don't know. My doctor told me I was the last person who ever should have been vegetarian, and so reluctantly I went back "on" meat. I still, many many years later, like my meat very abstract and unmeatlike.

Now I would never go off again. For some of us, meat is critical to getting enough energy just to function normally.

Something to think about for the OP anyway.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:37 PM on September 30, 2010

I stopped eating sugar a little over nine years ago by following the method described on this site (and in this book). The aspect I like about it - and the aspect that was most crucial in allowing me to successfully give up sugar altogether - is that it involves making a lot of slow, steady changes to all aspects of your diet before cutting out sugar. Eventually, eating sugar/simple carbs made me feel so distinctively shitty so immediately that I just didn't want it anymore. I highly, highly recommend it.
posted by granted at 7:37 PM on September 30, 2010

In reply to your update, yes, that's exactly what people are suggesting, I think.

I did that last year: went off sugar for 30 days, then decided to have a big sugar binge to reward myself, with the intention of eating sugar only on weekends from then on. I made a chocolate brownie, with ice cream and caramel syrup. Took a few bites, was disgusted at the taste (which my husband loved, so there wasn't anything objectively wrong with it), and threw the rest out. Spent the rest of the evening feeling nauseous and dizzy.

Didn't want sugar any more for a while.

(But I gradually re-introduced it through accepting cake or cookies when offered at parties, and after a few weeks it tasted normal again. If you keep your intake low and irregular, you might be able to permanently retain the changes in your tastebuds.)
posted by lollusc at 8:23 PM on September 30, 2010

I did the south beach diet along with some friends a while back, and that involves 2 weeks of absolutely no simple or processed carbs. Add into that a vegetarian wife, and let me tell you, those were two of the hardest weeks of my life. But the strangest thing happened afterwards: There were cookies in my office for a whole day, and rather than eating 5, or not eating any but thinking about how much I wanted to eat them all day, I just ignored them. Never before in my life have I been able to do that.

Once you go a few weeks without any processed or simple carbohydrates, it is amazing how your body doesn't crave them anymore. I made the mistake of slowly going back to my old habits, so the cravings are back in a big way, but now I know that when it gets too bad, I can take a few weeks, and get back to where I don't crave them anymore.

Also, if you are really looking to reduce your carb cravings, don't just eliminate sugar for a few weeks. Eliminate all flour, breads, pasta, etc., and fruits. Eat tons of veggies (although try to avoid carrots), beans, nuts, lean meats, etc. After a few weeks, slowly bring in some fruit, and whole wheat breads or pastas.

It will seriously help to reduce or eliminate the symptoms listed, and once you do it for a few weeks, you won't feel the need for a soda. You start to have yogurt for dessert (it is amazing how sweet those single serving yogurts are, and how much sugar is in them). Heck, I for a little while was even watering down gatorade. If you had told me I would be doing that a year earlier, I would have said you were crazy.

If you try to slowly reduce the sugar, you may be able to do it, but for me, I had to just cut it all out, and it was one of the best things I ever did. Now to just go and start doing it again!
posted by markblasco at 12:13 AM on October 1, 2010

Thirding Good Calories, Bad Calories. I didn't pick it up at first because it seemed like just another diet book. It's not. It's full of really mindblowing facts that are reshaping how I view nutrition (and the bodies that exert so much influence over our perception of it). I thought my mind was unblowable, but this book did it.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 2:07 AM on October 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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