Being Surprised by the Obvious
Yes, sugar is terrible. Yet another article about sugar reduction. Blabla.
But wait a moment to let me explain before you click away!
The problem is this: We are so bombarded with diet tips and things to consider that it's hard to digest them in detail. With sugar, however, I have now come across a real surprise.
Of course, I know that too much sugar is bad. Too many calories. It does something to the insulin level, which leads to the afternoon crash and diabetes, and so on. I couldn't care less because I thought it would not affect me at all:
- I do a lot of sports (up to 1500-2250kcal activity burn daily)
- I don't eat that many sweets.
I was wrong in my assumptions! I overlooked an effect of sugar on me that is so obvious that I should have known about it. Now I know better:
I was trapped in a yo-yo effect.
Christmas vacation is a time for indulging, but for many of us, it can also be a time of reflection and resolution. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight and be more mindful of our food choices.
As part of my goal-setting for 2023, I have decided to reduce my body fat after gaining weight during a stressful autumn in 2022.
Typically, I would approach this challenge by increasing my already ambitious exercise regimen and attempting to avoid overeating, e.g., prohibiting my use of food delivery services (where I tend to overorder because I lack the willpower to control my evening impulses).
Also, I would vaguely intend to eat healthily. Still, the problem is that "healthy eating" is inadequately defined for me and would likely manifest as an intention to cook essential foods for myself. However, this requires considerable time, causing me to abandon this strategy during stressful periods. My wife is also extremely busy and has no leisure time to compensate for my deficits.
Even though my plan to do more exercise works well because it subtracts the calories I burn from the calories I eat, the result is often a "yo-yo" effect.
I lose weight in the summer but gain it back in the winter. The reason is that I have a huge appetite and sometimes eat so much that even my many workouts can't handle it. I've learned to accept that and try to control it, but I'm not always good at it (thus the yo-yo effect).
My hunger always caught up with the sport at some point.
I was so used to my extreme appetite that I assumed it was normal. I imagined myself as someone who has to move a lot to compensate for this genetic trait.
The Surprising Effects of Cutting Sugar on Hunger
This time, however, out of impulse, I adjusted my diet by cutting foods with more than 5g of sugar per 100g of food. It wasn't much of a plan or resolution at all. I had this idea and just started considering it in my food decisions without expecting much from it.
To my surprise, the effects have been nothing short of astounding. In this article, I will share my journey, the challenges I faced, and the incredible results I have achieved.
The Challenge of Cutting Sugar
Eliminating sugar from your diet can be challenging, especially if you're used to consuming many sugary foods. As I said, I assumed I wasn't eating that much sugar at all because I never really measured it. But now I know how much sugar is in various foods.
I didn't realise this until I started getting headaches shortly after I began my approach of not eating foods over 5gr sugar / 100gr. I rarely have headaches otherwise, and this was also a type I didn't even know before.
Ironically, I didn't connect my decreased sugar intake and my subsequent headaches. After considering the source of my peculiar headache, I concluded that I must be experiencing sugar withdrawal. This moment of realisation shook me awake.
Something exciting happened as soon as I got past this initial withdrawal period.
The Surprising Benefits of Cutting Sugar
I noticed a significant decrease in both my appetite and my hunger levels. My stomach could feel satisfied with a lot less food than it used to.
Before, I consumed an enormous amount of energy—an average of 3500–4000 kcal per day—that barely fit my activities of 1500-2200 kcal burn per day, in addition to my basal metabolic rate. Despite doing a lot of workouts and moving around, I couldn't lose weight the way I thought I was supposed to.
But now that I'm sugar-free, despite continuing to engage in these 2000 kcal activity-based calorie burn, I already feel satisfied ("full") after 2500 to 3250 kcal.
Sugar-reduction is like a magic bullet for quick weight loss.
Reflecting on my journey, I am struck by the realisation that I can now sense and respond to my genuine hunger feeling for the first time in years.
Tips for Cutting Sugar
I'll write another follow-up article about sugar reduction when I've had more than a few weeks of experience and know if it's sustainable. But in the meantime, here are some first tips if you want to try it too.
- Start by educating yourself about the amount of sugar in the foods you consume. Many processed foods contain hidden sugars, so read the labels. For instance, I was surprised to discover that peanut butter, my favourite bread spread, includes a significant amount of sugar in addition to peanuts.
- Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Going cold turkey can be challenging and might not be sustainable. Since I did not take my sugar renunciation so seriously at first, my first phase with approx. 50-60gr sugar per day (on 110kg body weight) was n still relatively high. However, this has already led to the effects described above. In the meantime, I have optimised this to 15-25gr sugar per day.
- Replace sugary foods with healthier options. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are great alternatives. For example, one rule you could give yourself would be to eat only unprocessed essential foods. This way, you can roughly ensure that there is not too much sugar, even if there are fruits and berries in your basket.
- Consider adding Intermittent Fasting to your diet to boost the effects.
I think cutting down on sugar might have other effects, but I need to watch it for a bit longer before I can write about it confidently. I think I can smell better now, my mood is a tiny bit more stable, and I may have a tad more mental energy in the evening.
Cutting sugar out of my diet has been a game-changer for me. My hunger levels have dropped, and I feel more in control of my food choices. If you're looking for a simple, effective way to lose weight, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Funnily enough, the implementation is not that difficult. Personally, the hard part was understanding and recognising sugar's effect on me and not dismissing it as another dietary trend.
And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, try adding Intermittent fasting to your diet as well, as it might give you more energy and better focus. Remember that educating yourself and setting realistic goals is the best way to start.