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!

Dan

PS, here’s some recomended further reading:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.bonetti Chuck Bonetti

    That’s great for someone with little to no exercise routine and a poor physical life style. However for 30 percent or so of the population it doesn’t work. As you have seen with your reoccurring relapse’s. Carbs are your body’s/muscular energy source. Without them you won’t function in a healthy manner and your body will literally consume itself to stay going.

  • Rachel

    I read your post and found it very true
    to the situation I’m in! I decided to do a 30 day sugar cleanse. I have decided
    not to eliminate gluten and grains because I already rarely eat grains, and my
    family is very health conscious. We try to stay away from bread more often than
    most, since my mom is allergic to gluten. I am sugar free for 6 days now. I
    feel fantastic!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thank you Rachel wish you the best.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    True this doesn’t seem to work as well for those who are really pushing physical boundries.

  • Meg

    Hey,I have cut out everything you called carbs and sugar :) I’m actually surprised I haven’t went crazy yet. I’ve found new meals I love and I’ve been eating so many fruits and veggies. I was wondering if you were eating fruit and dairy when you were on this diet? Thanks :)

  • simone

    Hi
    Just got through my first day without carbs and sugar and it’s hard because I OWN A BAKERY! I am not only surrounded by the stuff 7 days a week, I actually make it (it’s really good too, I’ve been reviewed by the New York Times). And to make matters worse, my husband and 12 year old son can eat anything they want and not gain an ounce. Plus they have tons more energy than I have. Yes friends, I have a hard road to hoe but I am sticking to it this time. Jalapeno cheddar bread and chocolate croissants can go to hell. I will log onto this site every night if I have to.
    Thanks so much for putting it out there.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Some fruit no dairy! Congrats on your progress.

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cheers Simone! Congrats on the successful biznass!!!! Chocolate croissants going to hell makes me sad :)

  • Diana

    Hi Dan, Came across your blog after reading a news article today about sugar and carbs actually damaging people’s hearts: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130614165135.htm

    Great advice in your blog!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    hey Diana… thanks for the shout and the link!

  • http://camcollins.com/ Cam Collins

    (Here I go again commenting on an old post but…) I was telling Jesse the Dominator in Berlin about my experience doing basically what you did for 7-days. Every one of the feelings your experienced, both physically and mentally, are in line with what happened to me. However I did notice that my physical energy was sapped. I do P90X2, et al, and I found that I couldn’t get through the workouts any more.

    This was our regimen (my wife did it for 10-days)

    - No solid food except tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados

    - No sugar or carbs
    - No coffee (yikes!). This is because we did the pH Miracle diet to balance our pH. Coffee is normally fine but it is acidic (unless you get special blends). So for my 7-day stint I quit this too.
    - Lots of juicing. Juiced my ass off but no fruits. What? Yeah because of the sugars. Fruits (strawberries, bananas) were the first thing I wanted when I got off the cleanse. Love them!!
    - Chia seeds and almond milk for breakfast is a great cereal substitute. Use a little coconut oil to add a different flavor.
    - We took lots of supplements + we ‘alkalinized’ our water. I talk about this in a DC thread.

    We are going to cleanse again in July because we need to purge toxins. The problem is sticking with moderation. I believe that everything in moderation is probably Ok. But as you say its so ease to fall back into pizza and beer bliss…

  • Kerry

    Hi Dan,

    I have been thinking about doing this for a while now with a lot of people telling me not to do it. This is probably more to do with all the crazy diets I have done in the past than actual health worries they had. I always lose weight but I always put it all back on. Carbs just seem to get the better of me everytime. I appreciate this may seem a bit defeatist but its just how it is. After reading your article I feel quite empowered now to do it. I do remember how good I felt when I cut out carbs previously. Its euphoric, like you can do anything. Thanks for a giving me inspiration and any tips will be greatly appreciated.

    Kerry

  • Rae

    I love that you put this in a way 99.9% of people who want to try this out can understand. Totally relatable and I’m hoping to give it a shot. thanks for publishing, Dan!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Thanks for that Rae wish you the best !

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Hey Kerry that’s awesome! Wish you the best, maybe you can come back and teach me something about what you learned!?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Cam– flattering that you do this! Nice breakfast idea there, was not familiar with that.

    NO COFFEE OH MY GOD

  • Rae

    It’s day 7 for me on this journey. I feel like a drug-addict when it comes to chocolate. I sit and stare at it sometimes and have to talk myself out of tasting it. I finally made a batch of Paleo Brownies – The brownie part consists of dates and cashews and walnuts. Then I made frosting out of avocados, cocoa powder and coconut milk. Finally, I have got my chocolate fix. There are carbs in them, but I don’t feel so guilty having them. Thanks again for the well wishes!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    :D i feel your pain.

  • cachalo

    How did your diet go? I have been off sugar for a month and its been okay! I do feel better. First two weeks were SO difficult!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Was tough stick to it ! :D

  • solid

    Having a cheat day is a really good plan. Not only will it help you stick to it longer, but it will help your body cope better if you do go off of your plan. I have a friend who periodically goes on the “no sugar” plan when he feels he needs to get himself in gear, and he allows himself one cheat day a week and says that it really helps. Glad you’re trying it! I’m actually about to try the same plan, which is how I stumbled onto this blog, so I’ll be following your journey as I embark upon mine own!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    Best of luck!!!!

  • ScarlettDuchess

    If you cut the carbs you have to increase the fat. Fat fills you up for longer. Diet Doctor has a website about the Low Carb High Fat diet.

  • Danger

    I went off for two months, lost 30 pounds (gain a lot of muscle) went back to brown bread for the last 50 days, lost only 4 pounds, now I’m a week of brown bread, it feels horrible, there is simply no joy, I’m unable to laugh or smile, seems brown bread is not as friendly as it seems

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com Dan

    :( one of the things Robb Wolf talks about a lot is how much variation there is among individuals that isn’t accounted for in the literature. they all emphasize running your own personal experiments, so perhaps white bread is your thing :)

  • Li

    Very well said!

    Will definitely bookmark this page and come back to it when I need motivation to keep on keeping on with my diet/lifestyle change!

    Awesome Dan :-D

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    thanks ! best of luck

  • Reecey

    Feel the same about all the thi gs you said

  • Colby52266

    I started this last week and for the most part have been incredibly proud of myself. I haven’t “cheated” or even wanted to say screw it I’ll try after the holidays. I did however realize this morning that I was drinking a regular cup of coffee that someone brought me and kicked myself in the ass as soon as I realized it had sugar in it. I figured well, no reason to quit keep just count this as a slip and keep on going. The frustrating part is so far every time I get on that freakin’ scale I get off wanting to throw it out my bathroom window because I’m expecting to see a bigger loss than I am given how I’m doing.
    When can I expect to see results? I’m a “immediate gratification” kind of girl and this is where I’m liable to give up.
    Thanks!!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    Congrats! I’m no expert here, but everything good I know takes time :)

  • steph

    I love this- made me bust a gut laughing cuz I’ve been on a low carb diet for a year and every time I try to be a purist I end up falling off the wagon. Those rules are awesome…except the beer one would be a toughy for me on a hot afternoon next summer. Thanks for sharing! Best of luck!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    makes sense, i am pretty lazy ! :)

  • bdm

    i almost wrote last night boasting how wonderful i feel after 3 days of no sugar/carbs (aside from fruit) and marveling that i was having none of the adverse effects. so glad i didn’t. today i feel as though i might hurt someone or at least, piss off anyone who happens to cross my path today. i knew something was wrong this morning when i woke up mad at my cat, for no apparent reason and was furious at the folks who were driving the speed limit on my way to the office. as a rule, i never exceed the speed limit so it made no sense. as a generally mellow and gentle soul, the “bitch” in me today is a rare phenomenon so i warned my coworkers, offered up a blanket apology for things i might do or say today and closed my office door. have decided to have an extra handful of blue berries, an apple and then take a long walk – as soon as the damn rain stops… i used to love the rain, but not today. come on day 5!

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    Cheers Steph :)

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    Keep crackin’!!! :)

  • Will

    And vegan pizza is just shit, I’m sorry, but it ain’t even a situation of comparing apples to apples. If you want to do something amazing and awesome for you body then go 30 days on water. Whatever benefits you think you had doing raw for a month will languish in the distant shadows of a water fast. Just sayin.

  • G

    Today Is day 1 for my husband and I, we both have to do the same thing so the groceries are the same. We felt hungry all day and I have a sweet tooth so bad today. Gotta stay strong and it will get better. Sugar and carbs are really an addiction and I am sooo glad that you pointed that out. Thanks

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    congrats and good luck!

  • Travis

    I decided I would try this whole no carb thing for a month and see how it goes but I wondering about if I could eat stuff like beans and nut which have carbohydrates. Are those accepted in your no-carb diet?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    hey travis cool! I did eat legumes and beans during my diets, but i really have not much advice about it. Perhaps check out Robb Wolf’s podcast?

  • SuperSlim

    I have started this diet on the 14th febuary 2014 and so far so good.

  • SuperSlim

    i have only been eating soup and fruits

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    rock on that’s great to hear!

  • Andrea

    When you relapse do you see any of that weight come back? And how much?

  • http://www.tropicalmba.com/ Dan

    tough call, part of doing this diet will make you more sensitive to weight fluctuations and you’ll be able to control it as well. i now eat some sugar and carbs but can use my knowledge of not eating them to keep my weight in line.

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