Sugar begone!
February 20, 2019 8:31 PM   Subscribe

My processed sugar consumption is digging me in to an early grave. Naturally occurring fruit sugars and local honey are ok. Everything else needs to go, but sugar substitutes like Splenda aren't for me (or my digestive system.) What specific programs and resources did you use to help you gradually but definitively quit sugar in the way that I need to?
posted by Hermione Granger to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Whole 30. I didn’t quit (still eat sugar now) but I quit for the month and could have made a clean break if I wanted to.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:54 PM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Seconding Whole 30, it's a great program.
posted by katypickle at 9:08 PM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thirding Whole30. I'm not on it actively anymore but it killed my sugar monster and transformed how I understand food.
posted by k8t at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I got a notebook and wrote down every day of one month at a time. At the end of the day, I put a check in the notebook if I didn't eat any food with added sugar that day. This sounds like nothing but it is a fucking miracle. It's completely transformed my self control around sugar. Yesterday I didn't eat a delicious looking brownie that was offered at a meeting I went to, because if I ate it I wouldn't have gotten my check mark.
posted by medusa at 9:37 PM on February 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

Nth whole 30. Also - lots (LOTS) of stuff I am allowed to have - really good cheese, humus, fruit, and really dense chewy high protein Granola bars. Being at home and not in an office helps, both ease of access and boredom/stress.

I'm not quite doing whole 30 anymore, and I am focused on serious reduction rather than elimination. Cutting out easy carbs (ie bread) seems to really be helping a lot.

Also be aware of triggers - like wanting something sweet with your coffee. I've cut way back in coffee too.

Lastly, I also have a cold - so my appetite is a bit meh and everything sort of tastes like snot - except "spicy". So yeah....if you get a cold take advantage?
posted by jrobin276 at 11:00 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did the I Quit Sugar online program when they had an online program, and it was pretty great. There is still an IQS book and I think it's worth checking out.
posted by hungrytiger at 11:41 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hot or cold cereal - sweeten with raisins or craisins and milk. You will soon not even think of over-sweetening with sugar. If you like raisins, you can substitute them for jelly on your peanut butter sandwich.
Spell check is underlining craisins so I guess it does not know about dried cranberries. Of course, I do know.
posted by Cranberry at 12:25 AM on February 21, 2019 [6 favorites]

I had to dump sugar when doing Keto and it was okay except for the tea. I need sugar in my tea. I used Surkin Gold which has none of the xylitol or other sugar replacers that stomachs hate. It's expensive so I wouldn't bake with it but one can.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:56 AM on February 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Look out for dried cranberries, and craisins in particular — I’ve yet to meet a dried cranberry that wasn’t infused with sugar.

Can you use stevia? You mentioned Splenda, and they do make a version that incorporates stevia, but my understanding of the chemical makeup is that the glycosides in stevia can’t be metabolised by the body, so it may be an option to look into.
posted by myotahapea at 5:36 AM on February 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I use alternatives but not official sweeteners. I will just use a very small amount of date syrup or like you said, honey. Rice milk is also sweet and can be used in desserts. I may use 100% fresh apple juice as a sweetener as well.

I found that making thick smoothies with pears, oats, rice milk and cinnamon helped me not snack on crap.

Can you post a list of which dishes or foods containing sugar you're having a difficult time with?
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:56 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Look out for dried cranberries, and craisins in particular — I’ve yet to meet a dried cranberry that wasn’t infused with sugar.

You can find dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice and I can attest to their deliciousness in oatmeal.

For hot tea or coffee, taper off the sugar until you're using none. At the same time, use cream, half-and-half, or milk. The lactose in dairy milk is also a natural sugar and hits the right spot for me with hot beverages.

Transfer your cravings to savory foods: lacto-fermented pickles, popcorn, nuts (tamari-roasted nuts are fantastic)

Instead of ketchup on eggs, french fries and everything else: mustard, salsa, prepared horseradish (especially on eggs!), mayonnaise (watch out for added sugars in these, too, of course).
posted by carrioncomfort at 6:14 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

This depends a lot on your personality. For me, tapering is entirely ineffective, and going cold turkey is relatively easy. Having a strict rule of "no added sugars" from Day One works better for me than dragging out the process, especially because eating any sugar leads to serious cravings for me, so limiting sugar is more torture than cutting it all out. If I start by not restricting any other foods (i.e. letting myself eat all the other crap I want), it goes really well.

The one exception: PMS. I desperately crave sugar and get depressed, so don't care about sticking to the limits I set. I'm able to get past this by making a rule that I can eat sugar for three days, but then have to stop again. This makes it more likely that I'll stop again than if I let myself fall off the wagon without a backup plan. If you have things that similarly set off your cravings, coming up with a plan for handling it would be a good idea. (Though I don't eat any concentrated sweeteners like honey or maple syrup when I'm off sugar; if you do, that alone could do the trick for you.)
posted by metasarah at 7:48 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I tried Whole30 and got horribly sick with digestive issues giving up sugar so quickly. Which my nutritionist warned me was a thing that could happen. I ended up having to cut back super super slowly. One at a time I gave up the different sugary food groups. First cutting out cake and cookies. Slowly cutting back in Dr Peppers. Then giving up ice cream.

I used to eat cookies and ice cream and drink Dr Peppers every day! And now I am down to dessert as a treat for special occasions not as one of my daily food groups.
posted by ilovewinter at 8:32 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did this at the turn of the century. I used Oldschool Atkins "induction," but I tapered instead of quitting all at once, plus the general principals of "volumetrics," but no grains/potatoes.

Either back everything out gradually or go cold turkey, but if you're like me, you need to quit more than just sugar at first to successfully quit sugar. You're not going to truly kill your sweet tooth 'til you stay off everything you've been feeding it long enough to starve it to death. "Everything" to include "healthy alternatives" like honey and maple syrup and so on plus all dried fruit, sweet drinks, and simple carbohydrates. If the idea of quitting fruit horrifies you, at least cut back on the more fiber-free fruits (grapes; bananas), and eat sparingly of the rest. No dried, because you want the water, and no juice because you want the fiber. Eat vegetables first, and eat more vegetables than everything else. More vegetables than fruit and more vegetables than grains (I wouldn't eat any grains if it were me, but like the idea of quitting fruit, the notion that we can live without grains horrifies many people, so quinoa it up, just put much more green beans than you do quinoa in your greenbean and quinoa salad).

If I were doing this, I'd start by adding in, not taking out. So I'd start eating tons of vegetables in addition to all my regular food, and I'd add fat at the same time--so butter and cream and cheese and bacon and schmaltz and whateverall. I'd eat the veggies first, seasoned with all that fat, and then my usual stuff and then I'd gradually stop the usual stuff, beginning with the most sugarful everyday food or drink and going down from there 'til I'd quit all the sugars and white stuff.

If it works, you'll really feel it. After a month or so of being off all the -oses plus bread and pasta and cereal and Fritos and so on, you won't care about sugar at all. A half of a BLT will make your eyes roll back in your head from the bliss, and broccoli and asparagus and yellow squash and such will taste better: more interesting and sweeter. Resisting warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies will of course be agonizing, now and forever, but you probably won't have that challenge often because how often does anybody bake anymore? Ubiquitous sugary crap like powdered donuts and Chips Ahoy will have lost all their charm and skipping, for instance, breakroom Danish, will be very easy.

You can welcome all the different kinds of fruit and sparing amounts of honey and maple syrup and bread and potatoes and rice back into your life once you notice that, for instance, raw baby kale is actually not unbearable and maybe even good. It's a little bit sweet in addition to bitter and green tasting. Of course, everybody's right that this is easier if you don't try to cut back on fat, so your kale is covered in olive oil and vinegar (NOT balsamic!) and Parmesan cheese. Finding a vegetable-centered diet satisfying is your sign that you've vanquished your sweet tooth.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:47 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh man, I had completely forgotten about Whole30. It sounds like the right fit.

To answer and ask some questions:

Stevia and other sweeteners wreak havoc on my stomach so I can't use them. Stevia is actually a little too sweet for me (which is saying something because my sweetness levels are really high.)

My vices: 2 grande lattes with 1% milk and an almond croissant every day; excessive consumption of sugary snacks like cereal, wheat thins, and kettle corn. I don't drink soda, eat ice cream often, but I did recently polish off an entire box of fresh snickerdoodles from Whole Foods in about 6 hours which was the caloric equivalent of 2 days of food and sugar in one go. It was the trigger that made me go, oh gosh.

I am really grateful to see that Whole30 excludes soy for the most part as I am allergic to it. I do see a heavy emphasis on coconut products though and I can't have coconut at all anymore either. What is a good alternative to delicious coconut milk?
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:51 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

2 grande lattes with 1% milk and an almond croissant every day
There's more sugar in milk the more fat you back out of it; therefore:
2 breves made with cream and gradually falling levels of sugar 'til you've eliminated the sugar and a bacon-and-egg sandwich instead of an almond croissant every day, then eliminate half the bread in the sandwich, then have just the eggs and bacon instead of the sandwich. (Or if you can't handle a giant wad of meat and eggs in the a.m., a big bowl of nuts. Or nuts dipped in Temptee. Temptee is whipped cream cheese. Temptee is the best.)

What is a good alternative to delicious coconut milk?
posted by Don Pepino at 9:08 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Forgot to mention -- am a lacto-ovo vegetarian who will eat chicken sometimes.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:09 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oops, sorry, I should'nt've assumed. But actually, ifyou started out life eating meat and then cut it, it's a strength. I had been a vegetarian for five years before dumping sugar, so during the difficult first few weeks I had that transition out of meat-eating to look back on, when I'd dream about ham sandwiches and Popeye's chicken. Sugar was definitely harder to kick than Popeye's, but Popeye's was plenty hard, so I knew I probably had it in me.

(PS: what about fish...? Could you have lox for an indulgence?)
posted by Don Pepino at 10:06 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I personally have a hard time doing this permanently but can set small goals for time-limited periods. I recently committed to no refined sugar for the month of January. Once January was over, I ate sugar for a couple days, and then recommitted for another 6 weeks. I've found that I crave sugar a lot less so far.
posted by quiet coyote at 10:29 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I did this for February (but will be keeping it going for a couple of months longer) and feel you on the crazy binging that finally made it an “okay NOW” feeling instead of “I should really cut back on sugar, someday” thing.

I have a fruit smoothie in the morning (but generally do anyway) and I “tapered down” for the first few days with dates. I allowed myself 2 per day. It only took a couple of days and now maybe once a week or so have been like AAAHHHHH MUST HAVE SUGAR.

I’ll admit that I haven’t been super strict and had beef jerky a couple of times and once or twice dried fruit in a salad I ordered (yes, those sugary cranberries) just because it was easier than avoiding it. But it hasn’t been a terrible problem. Mostly just getting into the habit of not having desserts or a handful of chocolate chips or whatever, whenever I wanted it, has been a big change and helpful. A friend suggested sweet potatoes as a thing she used to get off sugar and I’ve incorporated some into my diet for the time being as well, but sparingly. But if you’re having intense cravings you just can’t get over, a roasted sweet potato or a couple of dates will get you past that and it’s definitely not a box of cookies!

If it’s good motivation, I feel a lot better and have finally found it easier to stick to a healthier diet and have been making progress on losing a little bit of weight that I’ve been struggling with for a long time! And it’s only been about 4 weeks or so.

You can do it! It’s probably not forever! I’ve cut back like this before and was able to be moderate for a long time afterwards, so it also made it easier to feel like it’s a thing I need to do “for now” and not, like, I can NEVER HAVE ICE CREAM AGAIN. Natural foods/fruits start to taste sweeter pretty soon.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 11:15 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh sorry but you will need to go cold turkey on the croissants. I had to do it with Pain au chocolat (my greatest love, where art thou?). There is no other way. If I was made of croissants I would eat myself. Sorry, I don't know why I said that. Point is, I love them but I have accepted that I cannot have them in my life. I have not touched one for years. If I see one I have to look the other way. Your body keeps asking for it because it knows you will go get it like a servant. Fuck that. You have to tell it "no". Soon it will stop asking. Believe. I no longer have cravings. I know I could go back to that dark place in pastry hell at the drop of a hat but every day I make a choice not to.

I am sorry to bring you the bad news.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 1:57 PM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok. I decided to buy the following books for myself to get the Whole30 process started: I also got this cute food journal just because.

What other cookbooks and resources might work well for me in addition to the ones I just purchased?
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:05 PM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used the Go Sugar Free online course several years ago. Personal attention, science-based, group support, lots of recipes and tips on handling situations like sugar pushing from friends and family. Once you are a member, you're a member for life. Jacqueline is great and has an MPH.
posted by RaeVaughn1958 at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2019

What is a good alternative to delicious coconut milk?

Oat milk. Soy and almond don't taste amazing and they are environmentally problematic.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:09 AM on February 23, 2019

Whole30 will probably force you to forgo any coconut milk substitutes, unfortunately. But when you bounce back from black coffee just a dash of cream when the program is up will taste so luxurious!
posted by stoneandstar at 4:41 PM on February 23, 2019

I’m on day 4 of a Whole30 and if you follow that closely you’ll probably have to lean hard into that chicken-eating part of yourself - there’s a LOT of meat eating required. To replace the calories lost from carbs, you have to eat a lot of protein, and since you’re also cutting out lentils, beans, and dairy, that means meat and eggs are staples. Feel free to MeMail me if you want a Whole30 buddy!
posted by penguin pie at 9:21 AM on February 25, 2019

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