I Quit Carbs and Sugar and Here is What I Learned

I Quit Carbs and Sugar and Here is What I Learned post image

A quick word on diet and exercise from a slightly overweight unhealthy guy…

I don’t know jack shit about health. I’m not qualified to tell you about it. I like to party my ass off, and eat the best of everything. Depending on who you ask, I’m 10 to 20 pounds overweight.

I do have some unique health related experiences though. In particular, I have quit 99.5% of white carbs and and sugar in total for about 3 months of my life, on 4 separate occasions. Although there are countless vegans, juicers, fasters, vegetarians, paleos, etc, among us, I’ve met very few people who have 100% dropped the carbs for a month or more.

Just real quick, here’s what I mean by “carbs” for the purpose of this article. It’s not technically the case that I’ve ever stopped consuming carbohydrates. When I’m quitting carbs, I mean I’m quitting: bread, rice, pasta, brown rice and brown bread, cakes, tortillas, crackers, pizza, cookies, cakes, chips, pure sugar, soda, sugar drinks, french fries, potatoes and anything that fits that basic profile. You could say “the middle of the grocery story.” Yeah… I know, all the good stuff.

When I quit those things, here are some of the things I’ve experienced:

  • I’ve found it is extraordinary difficult to stick to. Quitting carbs isn’t some hack. It’s a freakin’ slog. Pizza is one of humanity’s greatest creations, and staying away from it, and a world of other delicious stuff is almost impossible (almost nobody does it…)
  • Addiction to carbohydrates feels like addiction to cigarettes. I’ve been addicted to a lot of stuff in my life. I found the addiction to sugar and carbs to feel very similar to my addiction to nicotine cigarettes. Subtle and insistent. It doesn’t feel like an addiction. ‘You can stop anytime.’
  • My taste buds got sharper. I noticed this when eating veggies a week or so after quitting carbs, the flavors become much more robust.
  • I became profoundly more productive. I can’t think of a single action that has had a greater impact on the amount of stuff I’m able to accomplish. For me, cutting carbs eliminates the succession of highs and crashes throughout a day. Instead, you feel ‘clean’ energy all day long.
  • I lost a lot of weight. Like a ton. The first time I quit carbs I lost 30 pounds in a month. Quick aside: in my experience, exercise doesn’t help me lose weight. 85% / 15% diet / exercise is what I’d estimate.
  • My mind got sharper. I was able to concentrate longer, and my mind didn’t wander as much.
  • I crash on day 2 or 3 and feel super drained. If you do ever decide to experiment with quitting sugar and simple carbs, be prepared to both eat more than you are used to (you’ll be eating less calorically dense food) and to feel a lack of energy during the first few days. I’m on day 3 right now and I’m exhausted to the point of sickness. I can barely concentrate. I’m not sure if it’s related this time, but it’s happened before. If you want to have some fun, search the web for “quitting sugar” and read about people’s experiences doing so. Lots of crying, weeks in bed, etc. Good stuff.
  • I feel empowered and so much betterIt’s an amazingly big thing to do in your life that doesn’t require a ton of resources or logistics. This wears off pretty damn quick, however, when your friends are biting in to some pizza/hamburgers/etc. There is no question that my body as a whole feels so much better when I’m not eating carbs or sugars.
  • It gets expensive. I suppose it doesn’t have to, but I always end up spending a lot more cash/time to buy/prepare meals that fit the guidelines.
  • When I quit carbs, I don’t ever really feel “full” in the same way I did when I’m eating them. Whenever I stop eating carbs, I need to re-examine what I mean by “fullness,” why I crave it, and what I need to do to replace it. Eating, and my aims at the dinner table, change a lot for me when I’m not eating carbs.
  • When I quit carbs and sugars, I relapse. Every single time, so far.

*  *  *

Going with the flow is for people with no vision.

I’ve done a lot of short to medium term diet experiments (I’ve also gone on a raw diet, very interesting experiences there, but for another time). It’s fun to push yourself, find the limits, and learn from them. People act like stopping eating carbohydrates for 30 days, or not eating 3 meals a day is unthinkable!! Hey man, pizza isn’t going anywhere.

Despite all of what I’ve learned from my experiments, right now I’m doing what most people are doing– going with the flow.

“Oh yeah, you guys are going out for pizza? Oh sure I’ll join you.”

As I get older, and as the momentum of our business continues to grow, the consequences of not being dedicated to the work get more profound. If 4 years ago I would have decided to check out for a few weeks, kick around and play nintendo, no biggie. Now? I’m missing out on all kinds of amazing opportunities to build things that would make my life, and the lives of those around me, much, much better.

Fundamentally, entrepreneurs are willing to think about their lives and businesses in the long term.

Do you want a another coffee right now? YES!

Do you want to be be the guy who selected the coffee every time, everyday, for the next 15 years. Not really.

Do you want a pizza right now? Of course!

Do you want to be the guy who makes that decision? No.

Thinking past your immediate desires isn’t just wise, it’s vision. 

*  *  *

Sebastian Marshall pointed out something to me the other day that I’ve come across a few times: making decisions costs us energy. Will power, they say, is a finiate resource.

You’ll see this with expert level people everywhere, especially creative types: they set up an strict disciplines in their lives so they can focus more energy towards their art/work. (You’ll also see how amateurs do the precise opposite because they think it’s more “free.”)

If you don’t decide how you are going to be spending your time, somebody else will. That person, with few exceptions, will be making very little considerations of your medium to long term outcomes.

In short: successful people (and companies) set rules. Restraints. Structures.

They don’t go with the flow and they don’t rely on will power.

*  *  * 

In response to this grim state of affairs, I’m going to be setting the following disciplines for the next 30 days. I won’t write a huge series of posts, but I will let you know how it goes.

Health guidelines from my better self, to my lesser self:

  • RULE #1: Report results to readers of the TropicalMBA blog, especially when you fuck up.
  • RULE #2: Sorry lesser Dan, you are not allowed to eat any refined sugar or simple carbs. You’ve experimented with this before and found it to be an addictive substance that provides little real value and worse, most people think it causes cancer, diabetes, fat gain, and a host of other yucky stuff. Yikes! If you have a sweet tooth, eat a pineapple or something. Seriously, here’s the deal: No rice, bread, no sugar in your coffee. I’ll allow you to eat root veggies for this first 30 day challenge, because I’m a nice challenger.
  • RULE #3: 1 cup of coffee a day. Ouch. Yeah man, I know you love this stuff, but here is the thing: you know that teas (especially green tea) help you focus better and are way better for you (at least thats your current understanding from what you’ve read).
  • RULE #4: No soda or sugar drinks. Oh shit man I love Diet Coke!!! You know its the right thing to do. Here’s the thing: Diet Coke might make you more productive for 30 minutes, but you know in deeper and more long term ways it screws up your day, and probably in some ways, your life.
  • RULE #5: Everyday for 15 minutes you’ll shock your healthy hormones into action by doing anaerobic resistence exerciese. You could run for 10 minutes then do high intensity pushups and lunges around the pool, or swim for 10 minutes then do the same. This isn’t tough dude, you know you should do it, and you’ve run experiments before and the results on your health and mindset have been profound.
  • RULE #6: No beer. Tragic!!! It’s just a feeling I have. I’ve quit drinking a few times before (once for 4 months… never again sir!) You haven’t experimented with this yet, our sense is that beer is harder on you than wine or cocktails. Also, you don’t like cocktails that much, that should keep you in line!
  • RULE #7: Cheat day is Saturday. Since your diet will roughly skew 4HB, and since you’ve never experimented with the cheat day concept, AND you’ve never sustained this shit, you might as well give yourself an opportunity to nom on some delicious pizza once in a while. We’ll see how this goes.

That’s it! Starting, now (okay, actually 3 days ago at the time of publishing). I’ll let you know how it goes. Most importantly, I’ll try to remember what I learn and identify where I fuck it up.

Cheers and happy holidays!


PS, here’s some recomended further reading:

Published on 11.24.11
  • Jeanette Trier Larkin

    This seems like great stuff and makes lots of sense. One thing I wonder, however, if it works for everyone. I love sugar (and coffee) and three years ago a friend swore to me that if I gave up sugar for a month (carbs, anything processed, etc.) I would get rid of my sugar craving a feel like a million bucks. I ate only protein, fruit, and veggies religiously for a month and it was the worse I ever felt. I was exhausted all month and felt like crap. On day 31 I couldn’t wait to eat my “normal” food (chicken, bread/potato, veggies, cereal, a glass of wine, etc.) and I felt a zillion times better. I am still motivated to give things a try again, but I am petrified of feeling like crap again. No bueno.

  • Lisa Gunter

    I just realized this was written 6 years ago but it all still makes sense and works! I started 3 months ago with no sugar (after watching the documentary “Sugar Coated”) and no bread, trying to get off of my prescription armor for hypothyroidism. I hate the way I feel and I decided I had to do something different and the specialist never offered any help except medicine. I started reading books on hypothyroidism and discovered if I changed my diet to gluten free it may help. I could not lose weight also with this thyroid problem. Well, last visit to the specialist was the first visit they didn’t have to increase my armor (natural synthroid) ! I have lost 10 lbs in 3 months and I feel better than I have in many years! I am 50 and feel like I did when I was 30. Sugar and carbs are very addicting, as I have been a sugar addict all my life. It was my drug and what made me happy. Not anymore! I don’t even crave it. I love fresh vegetable and I am still trying to like meat as I know I need it for protein, but I am not a meat person. Thank you for this blog, I have enjoyed reading what everyone does, it is giving me ideas and ah ha moments! We deserve to feel better!

  • Kelly Lord

    Ok but fortified aren’t fortified by design meaning that weren’t designed to be eaten by people. If you can’t get all the nutrition you need from purely foods its not food. Fortified foods are factory non foods.

  • tickyul

    No cheat-day, maybe a cheat-MEAL……………a whole cheat-DAY, LOL.

  • tickyul

    Try more fat and less protein next time. Fruit, I do poorly with it, makes my energy yo-yo, just like candy does.

  • Prisilla Portugal

    Wow! This was great to read and very motivating!! I’m glad I came across it. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  • Helen Green

    Im going to give this a go as well Dan so please add me to the mailing list


  • Janik

    You do know that they fortify animals right? That is also not natural and even meat eater have imbalances. Vegans are usually much healthier and live longer. That hasn’t been shown time and time again.

  • Janik

    You do know that they fortify animals right? That is also not natural and even meat eater have imbalances. Vegans are usually much healthier and live longer. That has* been shown time and time again.

  • Janik

    Our teeth and molars are TINY, our teeth are made for grinding like grains and vegetables. Also, our intestines are not as acidic as other actual omnivores.

  • No Sun Beach

    Life happens and catches you with your guard down. Unfortunately the consequences of really bad food choices are not immediate and when you get away with it a few times you accept your new normal. I ate an entire box of coconut chocolate cookies while driving the other night. I ate an entire family size bag of Doritos while preparing a healthy dinner for my family. I keep flirting with high blood pressure and morning headaches that don’t go away for days. I’ve had incredible success with low carb and now I’m on day 4 of another run… my mind is clear as hell, but these are just stupid, meaningless words. I just need a blow out at work, a family issue or even a success… I’ll be pacing around alone and then start the rummaging starts… chips, cookies, bread… whatever. I usually hit close to 300lbs when i start feeling like I may die at any moment when I can’t take the headaches any more and then i cut all the evil white stuff out… a few years back dropped a full 100lbs and then life happened. I would give anything to make a real association with those things that hurt me so that I no longer see them as food.

  • Charlene Pine

    Honest & Truthful! Love it! Just got past day 3 and I did feel like shit for sure!!

  • Lilman Yellow

    I am the exact same way, but every article i read says tht humans have to eat some carbs. I habe tried sweet potatoes, rice, wheat, buckwheat, quinoa and all of them make me much hungrier. I’m scared to do such a low carb diet bc i have read tht it can cause health problems…idk, it is tough tho. I also don’t like fruits bc thy make me feel like i am starving!

  • Lilman Yellow

    But tht is the thing, it doesnt go away! The hunger last for hrs and it is severe hunger to the point u want to vomit if u dont eat a big mac or something

  • Laura O’Brien

    I have quit sugar and processed foods and bad carbs for a month and it is amazing. Beginning April 2nd I am going to do it again. Why April 2nd, because it is the day after Easter.

  • Tom Beckerle

    My mind DOES feel sharper! I was hoping to find a non-medical point of view. Thanks!

  • anjela

    Yes I have given up both and ended up in the ER- was told to not suddenly stop anything- so this time I am going to do it again (I relapsed in January and suddenly wanted to eat everything. I want to stop but it is so difficult- Give yourself a big hand as you did it- Wish me luck as I do it….

  • Peter Atkin

    I looking at doinf this, still trying to get some facts together, papers etc.. if i do then my team will most likly join in.

  • Emma Tony Desiderio

    I gave up sugar about three years ago and I lost loads of weight ..I’m starting again

  • zendoc

    most profound statement of reality I ever heard.

  • Gina

    The thing about vegans being healthier and living longer is a total myth. XD Plus, not only do they need supplements to survive their unnatural diet but many vegans also consume a lot of food analogues that are stuffed with unhealthy fats. Yikes.

  • Gina

    Lilman, if you feel like you are straving all the time then you are probably starving and your body is screaming at you to provide it with energy.

  • Gina

    At this point all those extreme “diets” are more like a cult movement than about health. Extreme is never healthy, everything in moderation is fine.

  • Gina

    Japanese and Italian people reach the highest average life span and they eat plenty of noodles/pasta, rice, bead (in case of Italy) etc. Plus sea food, lots of veggies, fruit and desserts are a must too. So I think there is something off with this low/no-carb nonsense.

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