Sugar-free month-long diet
September 3, 2018 8:11 AM   Subscribe

What are some good tips to help myself stay on track?

My girlfriend and I have decided to go on a sugar free/alcohol free diet for a month after Labor Day. We want to challenge ourselves and feel better. While we’re sure that we can easily avoid alcohol, we’re more concerned about sugar. We both have a strong sweet tooths and are suspectible to relying on sweets during stressful times.

What are some tips on staying on track? What do you snack on when you’re craving? Does it get really hard and eventually get easier? Any particular recipes or just plain ol’ advice to help us through it?

Thank you!
posted by morning_television to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
It gets really hard and then gets easier - anecdotally, it sucks hard by about day 3-5 and gets better after ten days to three weeks.

For me, salty snacks (nuts, jerky, etc) are necessary, and I can usually manage to keep some hard candies around and not go nuts on them to manage the craving. I also have to get everything binge-able out of the damned house or I end up huddled in the armchair with a spoon and a jar of honey.

It sucks, but if your metabolism is anything like mine, it's worth it. I end up with much lower inflammation (I have an inflammatory autoimmune condition) and a lot more energy and focus. But the three weeks or so of adaptation suck that which is most vile. Good luck and strength!
posted by restless_nomad at 8:15 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are you talking about processed sugar, or all sugar? Will you still be eating fruit?
posted by Hanuman1960 at 8:27 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Processed sugar. But I also want to dramatically cut down on all kinds.
posted by morning_television at 8:31 AM on September 3, 2018


I do this periodically too, and let me tell you: when you are having a sugar craving, especially after a meal when you would normally have a dessert or a little something sweet, there is nothing that dampens that craving like a coffee. For me, anyway.

I don't even drink that much coffee? But when I'm sugar free, a beautiful, well-made latte is what gets me through those first couple of weeks. After that it gets easier anyway.

Good luck! You'll feel great!
posted by greenish at 8:37 AM on September 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

I decided to go no-processed-sugar for a while, and yeah, it definitely gets easier. (I wouldn't say that I feel hugely better, though, which is a little disappointing.) I think the main thing is just to declare it non-negotiable. Once I start negotiating with myself, I will rationalize anything. Set out the terms in advance, and then stick to them. My big downfall is that I work next to a guy who keeps a big candy bowl outside his office, and I had to tell myself that I cannot take any candy from there ever. Because once I start, I'm going to be eating candy three times a day. Think in advance about whether you'll ever make exceptions: will you eat birthday cake if it would seem rude or weird not to, for instance?

The other thing I'm doing is cutting out artificial sweeteners. I think I need to get used to not eating sweet stuff, and artificial sweeteners interfere with that.

I've given myself permission to spend money on non-sweet food that I like. So I can't have sugary breakfast food, but I can eat avocado for breakfast every morning, which feels a little decadent.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:39 AM on September 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding avoid non-sugar sweeteners: it blocks the abilities of your mind and body to calibrate to a new normal.

Both sugar and salt are pretty easy to re-set on imo, provided you can get through the first 10 days. As a bonus, you may find your general sense of taste improves, so look for that and focus on it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:48 AM on September 3, 2018

I'm with ArbitraryAndCapricious; give yourself permission to swap the sugar (because sugar is a treat, right?) for another treat. I sobered up this past spring, and I drank as much La Croix this summer as I wanted; even if I killed half a 12-pack a day, it was still cheaper than drinking. Eat the avocados or the really nice figs or strawberries or whatever.

If you need a meal ender, cheese scratches that dessert itch for me. (Go ahead and splurge on the really good cheese you don't normally get, see above). Also coffee, as greenish said, or a really nice cup of tea. Bitters in soda water (these are alcohol free and really good, though I can't find a label online to check the sugar content right now) makes a nice mealender too if you're used to an evening drink.
posted by joycehealy at 8:54 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Start low and gradually move to zero. Not all sugar is bad, and your body needs SOME (thus why fruits are crucial to our diet), it's just about what and how much. I am not 100% sugar free but I started by staying at or below the recommended amount put forth by the American Heart Association and the difference is phenomenal. My body also didn't constantly throw hate cravings at me because I allowed it some of it's little vice. Now any time I eat anything too sugary (candy, ice-cream, etc.) I feel gross and it's not terribly enjoyable taste wise unless it is fruit.

Reward yourself with some other sort of food you enjoy when you skip out on sugar and drink water when you have a really bad craving. Pair this with exercise and, again, plenty of water, and your body will eventually stop caring about sugar.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:55 AM on September 3, 2018

I was suuuper sugar addicted and started doing keto 2 weeks ago. The first 3 days were really difficult as my body switched to burning fat instead of sugar. Now I only miss sugar minorly. Fruit will start to taste super sweet in about a week so you can have berries with homemade heavy whipped cream. It’s a healthy treat in moderation and the mouthfeel of the cream with the berries helps alleviate the sugar craving.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 8:58 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

We did Whole30 last summer and it worked well because there was a lot of support online.
posted by k8t at 9:20 AM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tatiana; after going sugar free for a while, even apples taste super sweet. Fruit isn't allowed on Keto but it's one thing I allow myself to 'cheat' with occasionally and I practically climax over pears now.
posted by The otter lady at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2018

I bribe myself off sugar with fat, namely bacon, cream, cheese, and butter. I think it's probably miles easier if you also eliminate carbohydrates and fruit. Then you start craving, instead of dessert stuff, bread and potatoes and oranges and so on. If you stick to this long enough, a bowl of hot black-eyed peas or a ham-and-cheese sandwich becomes an unimaginably awesome treat--and one you'd rather have than a piece of cake, which is now eyecrossingly too sweet.

idiotic thing I eat when feeling too lazy to cook and wanting a mindless treat and I'm deciding not to care that it's technically not entirely carbohydrate-free: those ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas with provolone slices. Plaster the tortilla with provolone, roll into a cigar and consume. I just eat this freezing cold right out of the fridge like a barnyard animal, but it would be much yummier if you toasted it in the toaster oven, first.
posted by Don Pepino at 11:07 AM on September 3, 2018

I find that really increasing the amount I exercise sort of kicks my body into Health Mode and makes this transition easier. In the moment of craving, peppermint tea is also somewhat helpful for me.

You'll probably find yourself also eating a lot of whatever is allowed and sweet. I'd easily go through a pint of cherry tomatoes. It's good to stay away from high-calorie replacements, like how coconut milk also kinda tastes sweet. I'm not saying not to have high calorie stuff, just don't have it be the thing you binge on to get your sugar level up on Day 2, or else you'll feel kinda sick afterwards.
posted by salvia at 11:13 AM on September 3, 2018

Came here to say pretty much what joycehealy said, including recommending a bit of good cheese in place of a sweet dessert after dinner.

I've done a "no booze, no sweets" month for the past several years. I find any physical cravings go away after the first week (and I don't have much of a sweet tooth anyway), so if you can get through that part it gets easier from there. I find the real challenge comes in going without the sense of ritualized reward one often has with these foods and drinks. If you have, say, a habit of eating a cookie after lunch every day before you go back to work, it really helps to replace that habit with something that still feels like a treat. That might be something like going out for coffee more often, or maybe something not food/drink related at all like 15 minutes of pleasure reading—whatever works for you.

This is not the month to be extra abstemious beyond the challenge you already set for yourself—don't replace your post-lunch cookie with glumly munching on plain rice cakes or celery sticks because you're "trying to eat healthy this month" (unless you're really into plain rice cakes, I guess). Likewise I don't recommend using rewards that come after more than a few days to motivate yourself, e.g., "I'll buy myself XYZ wishlist item if I make it through the whole month" because a) that's really far away and b) it doesn't substitute for the pleasurable habit.
posted by 4rtemis at 11:37 AM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Don't eat white flour. Because your body processes it like sugar, cutting that out will help your cravings go away faster, as your blood sugar won't rise and plummet.
posted by nantucket at 12:06 PM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

Allocate lots of time for _having fun_ and _comforting each other_. Since sugar and stress eating is one important way people legitimately comfort themselves, you need to reduce the need for that.
posted by amtho at 12:13 PM on September 3, 2018

I've been doing a low carb / no sugar diet for a few months, like keto but with a bit of whole fruit. I started with a quasi-fast -- two days of green smoothies (500 cal max per day) to reset my diet, which helped I think.

Cutting out carbs along with sugar has been easier than just cutting out sugar like I've done in the past. The cravings go away in a few days instead of a few weeks. You really have to ramp up the protein and fat and make sure you're eating plenty of leafy greens. But after you adjust, fruit seems like an amazing treat!
posted by ananci at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you have, say, a habit of eating a cookie after lunch every day before you go back to work, it really helps to replace that habit with something that still feels like a treat.

This is good advice. I used fancy teas that I liked, but it's up to you.
posted by salvia at 12:53 PM on September 3, 2018

I like having a cup of tea in lieu of dessert, especially non-caffeinated fruit or spice varieties.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 1:49 PM on September 3, 2018

Yeah, in the keto/low-carb trenches, fat is the traditional craving-fighter.

Also, don't forget about flavor - a lot of people for some reason skew extremely bland when making dietary changes, probably to simplify things and reduce sources of hidden sugars, but use spices! Chili powders hot and not, cumin, fennel seed, sumac, throw out the old peppercorns in your grinder and replace with fresh. Get some fresh vinegars, mix up your own "cajun" and "taco" spices (basically the same thing) without sugar in it, big jar of smoked paprika. Liquid smoke, worcestershire sauce, there's a bunch of recipes out there for paleo/keto/Whole30 sriracha plus I've seen at least one bottled on Amazon. Two minute mayo, two minute toum, mustards, hot sauces. Fresh herbs, strong cheeses, and cultured butter. Grill more, if you're able, or up your chops with broiling and pan-searing to bring out the natural sugars in proteins and vegetables.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:59 PM on September 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

1) Make sure you get enough water, protein, and sleep
2) licorice or cinnamon tea when the cravings are really bad
posted by redwaterman at 3:45 AM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

After a few days I didn’t even want carrots with dinner because they tasted like candy. It will probably be easier than you expect after the first week!
posted by stoneandstar at 9:00 AM on September 4, 2018

Every time I have done this, I use a little Peanut Butter when I am dying of cravings. It has a little sugar (so taper off), but it's so satisfying.

I don't believe we need fruit to survive and have gone many months without having any fruit or sugar. I feel so much better without it.
posted by getawaysticks at 3:31 PM on September 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Chimay butter. It's Belgian!
posted by Don Pepino at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2018

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