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!


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Published on 11.24.11
  • James Buchanan

    Great article. I’ve recently done the same in order to reduce inflammation in my hips. This was suggested by my Naturopath Dr. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for meals?

  • Amy

    This is well done…most people are overweight and donthe know where to start. This is a simple way to start, thanks.

  • ram

    Hello dan
    Are you still on keto or did you give up?

  • ram

    Hey it may be just water weight. Don’t be so excited.

  • Emily McCalister

    When you say you lost 30 pounds in a month…was this with a cheat day once a week??

    I am trying paleo, and on my third day and feeling like I have the flu. Runny nose, sore throat, headaches. I am trying to stay strong and feel like it might be easier if I could look forward to something good on Saturday…thanks!

  • tha sinistro

    funny thing is for me I didn’t even know i was taking in an average of less than 20g of carbs a day. I don’t eat sugar, I keep what carbs I do eat to whole wheat and sometimes corn flour and measure my food. I’ve been exercising with plenty of energy for a few weeks now at an average of 800 calories throughout the week and I feel great and am starting to look like my old college self at 31. I have enough energy to weight lift and do 35-45 min of cardio a day and once in a blue moon I have a treat like an ice cream but just make sure I eat fewer calories total that day. It’s worked great and as long as I’m hydrated I just want to keep doing things. I was so tired all the time before I changed back my diet to something closer to my college “I don’t have any money so all I can eat is natto, vegetables, fish and chicken diet”. I don’t crave carbs at all. I don’t crave sweet, I don’t crave bread etc… even though I could be making the dough and baking 4 pizzas right now in very little time, I’m not tempted. I can bake and cook these things for other people and easily not eat any of it. I baked over 30 chocolate covered muffin assosrtments and ate 2 of them to mak sure they tasted ok. The rest were given away. I never felt addiction, not to alcohol (I hate it actually, just doesn’t taste good), not to pain killers or cigarettes or pot. While I’ve enjoyed them I don’t crave them. Also after a good excercise I lose any apetite I may have had for a good hour.
    To think I used to live riding my bike up hills all day for a whole year in Japan without being able to afford food and still managed to have the energy to do it all makes me realize that a 500 calorie defecit isn’t that bad when making sure you have enough energy to exercise– because when your body has no choice, it will keep moving.

  • Syrem Reguna

    Hi, I’m doing the same but it has a different effect on me. I now hate eating anything that has something to do with carbs. Not sure if its mental conditioning but I feel like I’m eating garbage if ever I eat one. I don’t have sugar cravings unless carbs is in front of me. Im doing this for month now and I lost 4 kgs without the aid of exercise. This is a change of lifestyle for me and I plan to keep it.

  • kat

    Not losing weight on a low/zero carb diet ? Please help

  • Lavonne Davis

    I’m on day 2 and I’m so glad I just “happened” upon your blog!I really don’t believe that anything in our lives are purely coincidental! I WAS FEELING A LITTLE CONCERNED because I’m feeling sho lethargic! But you answered that one, thank you.:-) I swear my grotesquely swollen waist is already showing a difference! I’m feeling very encouraged.hope to follow your success!

  • Lavonne Davis

    I need all the information I can absorb from you guys! Please pay special attention to me me me! :-) jk is Dan, the guy that originally started this still around?

  • Kelly Lord

    Animal protein isn’t required for survival but is optimal for health. The saturated fat and cholesterol is as well. Cholesterol is the great great grandparent of the sex hormone testosterone (and estrogen in women). Low dietary cholesterol leads to lowered testosterone. Also a vegan diet provides no B12 an essential vitamin. You could get every nutrient you need by eating recently killed animals including vitamin C which oxidizes from slaughter to market but the vegan diet misses many essentials.

  • Kelly Lord

    What’s cool is when you stick to low carb and the weight loss slows down and you start feeling hungrier all the time things like pizza, cake, etc can jumpstart your weight loss by using to manipulate leptin levels. So you can literally have your low carb and eat your cake if you do it right and at the right time.

  • Chris L

    Hey…I’m so happy I came across this. You’re not some get-rich-quick schemer, and everything you’ve said makes perfect sense. I actually did quit carbs for about 2 weeks while trying to go Paleo, but then, my birthday came…and yeah. I’m set to go back on track tomorrow, but oddly, rather than dreading the “No Shitty Carbs” rule, I’m actually looking forward to it.

    Eating bad carbs these past few days, after following a very healthy diet (for just 2 weeks) has made me feel super bloated, moody, lethargic, and just overall shitty.

    I’m a believer!

    Like I said…going back tomorrow. Feeling more confident this time.

    Thanks for sharing your genuinely good advice. I really appreciate it!!!

  • Chris L

    Hey Emily…I was just reading your post. I don’t know how much research you’ve done on Paleo, but I’m not certain that the whole “0 Carbs” thing is as healthy as they promote. You may want to read up on this. Our bodies aren’t genetically identical to our ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago. Forfeiting all carbs has proven to have serious long-term, irreversible, health consequences. What I’ve chosen to do is to incorporate healthy carbs 3-4 times. / week. Things like plain Greek yogurt, fruit, and a bowl or two of organic whole grain cereal has really balanced me out.

    I’m just offering a suggestion based on my own research and experience.

    Look for articles citing the pro’s and con’s of Paleo. It may help you.

  • Joey Emanuel

    yeah but what’s your age i’m doing all that you say up here. not losing anything I gained and i’m 53 I quite smoking 10 months ago almost 11 past the food cravings finally

  • Ronnie

    Hi I’m at the age we’re everything seems to be going south I thought my body as a temple at one time as time passes the one time healthy guy hitting the gym more times than tigger woods hitting a golf ball then one day over a period of years I didn’t feel to good my weight started to up found it a bitter harder to keep to the looking good five times a week guy middle age hit me like a rock to the back of my head I don’t drink or smoke by the way but unfortunately my family have a history of type-2 even thrombosis and YES I inherited them from my beautiful monther and father take about an up hill battle trying to betyeguy I ones was gangrene hit me in my foot after a long battle a help from my medical advisor I’m back on the road to recovery I think keeping an eye on what im eating hitting the gym five times a week taking the right medication and teeming others how you feel can be a god send I’ll never be the guy I was twenty years ago but I do love to push myself looking a young people trading in the gym I go to they seem to just hit the weights more of a look at me culture I asked the manager of the gym I go to he told me people over 50 are fitting that the younger generation the days of party time long gone the want to push my self feels great even when I played rugby union I don’t think I’ve felt so good today as I was all them years ago

  • Anon1234

    I’ve lived without soda, coffee, pizza and generally most of everything that is considered unhealthy for almost my entire life. About 1000-1500 Kcalories per day

    However I don’t really look at the ratio of carbohydrate to fat and protein. It’s mainly calorie-restriction that is gonna give you a happy healthy life. You see, there is a biological clock inside of you that indirectly counts the amount of food you’ve consumed. And after x amount of calories, your life is over and you die. I notice it in myself that going over 1500kc per day makes me tired, warm and gives no additional energy. My body is basically struggling to burn the excess food into unnecessary heat to prevent me getting obese.

    Therefore I’m not convinced it’s the distribution of these three groups (fat/protein/carbs) that determines your overall health. You mentioned it briefly in your article that you eat less calory-dense food have a “cheat” day. Now that is the clue; what you are doing is what science calls “intermittent fasting”. Or “feast and famine”. That is by far the largest contributor to health-by-nutrition that you can come by, aside from calorie restriction itself. Although your explanation pointing towards carbs is plausible, I think that my explanation is much more robust.

    Just for the record, I’m 6 foot, about 120 pounds body weight, 5% body fat; can work long days and have energy left for sports :) , no history of illness, no smoking/drinking/drugs, rarely catch seasonal flu/cold. Healthy life happy life, I think.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan Andrews

    interesting makes sense!

  • Kumaari Meena

    If you crash in no carb die or in keto. You need maintain your electrolytes through out the day. When you not eating carbs you will also lose water weight.

  • ginabaccaro

    Yes. Yes. Yes. After reaching the ripe old age of post menopause, I developed the notorious “menopot”, Dan. For young men like you who don’t know what that is, it’s akin to your beer belly; the accumulation of both exterior and visceral fat at and below the waistline. At 56, my once sexy pear shape went from 33 25 36 to 33 28 37. My weight went up 10lbs. Not much difference I know, but the waist measurement is the one I was most concerned with. Though most people would have considered me a normal weight and healthy size, I knew I was headed for a heart attack. Another thing I found out was that cutting out that Starbucks latte and a adding some extra exercise wasn’t cutting it for me. After years of carbs and sweets, my body had gone into insulin resistance. It would no longer let me lose weight the easy way. So I too, cut out everything yummy and satisfying. No sugar of any kind except 1/2 tsp of honey every 3-4 days. No bread, potatoes, rice, cereals, pastas, pastries, flour products PERIOD. I was irritable the first 3-4 days but then noticed no more afternoon naps and I was able to get things done. I’m writing this at 4 am because that’s when I get up now. The weight and belly didn’t just peel off right away though. It took 2 good weeks almost. 1/2 of fat loss and then 2-3 lbs on the scale whereas before, the scale never budged! What’s more, my skin has cleared up and no more puffy bags under my eyes. I look 40 instead of 56. Do I miss eating yumminess like my husband and everyone else? Oh hell yes!!! My body is nourished but my mind is starving. Thus the carb sugar phenomenon. Oh sure. I’ve allowed myself a cheat day or 2. I napped like a sloth but didn’t oink out nearly as before. My body can’t take it like it used to. Moral of story: ladies and gents over 50: cutting simple carbs and sugars is the way to thinness and energy. Also. Have your DHEA levels checked too. I also take 5mg DHEA plus a vitamin D every morning and my energy levels are through the roof. I can out-run and out – dance a woman in her 30s!

  • ginabaccaro

    Youre absolutely right, Dan. Make mine sashimi. Skip the rice.

  • ginabaccaro

    You speak sense, Kelly. A vegan diet leads to imbalances. We have 22 ft. Of intestine for a reason: to digest vegetables AND meat!

  • ginabaccaro

    Potatoes and oranges are high glycemic, Amos, meaning that they require a lot of insulin to cover the sugar. Try berries instead.

  • Ffocsi

    Upon reading that you consider pizza carbs I had to stop reading.

    You can’t get fat eating carbs unless you seriously overeat. Pizza however isn’t “carbs” it’s got a lot of fat.

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