I Quit Carbs and Sugar and Here is What I Learned

200 comments
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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Published on 11.24.11
  • why bother

    Thanks! Today is the 26th day. Yesterday was my birthday. I only had natural sugar in fresh fruit. I noticed I lost 3 lbs in these 26 days. Also am now using myfitnesspal to keep track of my nutritional balance. By the dinner meal I can get very close to 100% on Calcium and potassium, not quite enough protein to be close, and I now watch my sodium to average around 1600 mg per day (I’m 55). Energy levels are still constant (what a change!) and I was able to do more consecutive strict military push ups on my birthday than my age (my yearly goal).

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

    wow hell yeah!!! great progress.

  • makdove

    I have been on the 100 sugar carb thing since May and have lost 20 pounds even though I am at that age that says your hormones wont let you lose weight. Okay, my blood pressure has gone way down without any medication. I am clearer in my mind. No sugar crashes after lunch. Sometimes its hard to avoid chips and salsa which I like better than any sugary dessert. Anyway, I feel like I am regaining my health.

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

    wow well freaking done!!!!

  • mia

    I have quit carbs in the same.way you did but, sadly, I must stick to it rigidly for three months or until I have reversed a slight insulin problem I have. Once I’ve done that then I will still eat low carb on a daily basis but with cheat days twice a month to make me less difficult at dinners out with friends and stuff.

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

    best of luck with the new life path!!!

  • BigDre

    Well done dan, I dont eat carbs at all, I gave them up about a year ago. Feel great and full of energy all the time. Still have the odd bag of crisps, once a week or so, or maybe have a pizza once a week, but the rest of the week just protein and veg. SO you shouldn’t keep your self away from what you love as you never will continue and always fall off the wagon. Moderation is the key. have something you love once a week. as you also need saturated fats also.

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

    nice work Dre!!!!

  • Oliver

    I quit carbs for a year, was pretty strict with it – as far as my limited nutritional info allowed anyway. Pretty much the same rules as you.

    Oh, and I was MILITANT with it.

    The first month or so was tough, it was withdrawal from something my body felt it depended on. It craved for that stuff. Headaches, shakes, mood swings. The lot.

    Looking back after a year, it was the best thing I ever did. I never weight myself as I don’t believe my target was ever xxx lbs, but I did want to be content when I looked in the mirror. That was my goal.

    Once you’ve get your meals sussed it’s pretty easy, meats, fish, veg and fruit. Chuck it all in and maybe buy a foreman grill.

    I estimate a 4 stone (56lbs) loss over the year. It changed my life.

    The most difficult part of it all? Walking up to the bar and ordering a vodka, soda and lime cordial and retaining any self respect.

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

    haha well done! if drinking Vodka was the hardest part sounds like you got off easy! :P congrats on the big change.

  • http://batman-news.com Erica B.

    This was a great read. I have been contimplating on whethere or not to cut out sugars and carbs. Thank Dan.

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

    cheers Erica thanks for reading!

  • Annie

    This was just the article I needed to help me get started on this! Thanks so much for being so honest and real! What recommendations do you have for breakfast? When I think of breakfast I think of oatmeal, cereal, toast… all carbs! And no sugar would mean no fruit salad right? Do you just have eggs everyday? Help please!! :o)

  • Christo

    Inspirational stuff!

  • Steph

    Wondering if I’ll be able to study with no carbs o.O

  • Steph

    Could be POTS…might want to increase your sodium intake (Pink Himalayan!).

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

    Ack I have no idea sorry Cheri not a big help on stuff like this!

  • Mina

    Just started 4 days ago. no sugar, no carbs. I notice I eat a lot of fruits and I eat more often. did you have the same?

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

    yeah that’s normal

  • Bringing Sexy Back

    Love it. I am on day two. You are so right. I have been eating carrot sticks to replace my love of all carbs. I am looking for foods to substitute for snacking. Realizing how carb dependent I have become. Cookies, crackers, bread, potatoes and of course rice. Damn!!!! I also added no pork to mine. Lots of salmon

  • carol

    I was a sugarholic my whole life and I love to bake and I did not have a weight problem. Things changed after 50 and I just felt sick from the sugar I was eating, but had no intentions of trying to get off of it. About two years ago the nectarines and peaches were exceptionally good and I started eating them first thing in the morning with Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt, plain with fat, do not get fat free or 2%, and a month later I noticed I wasn’t eating sugar and I was not eating or craving bread or carbs. I was shocked by this fluke it’s been two years and I have not had a cookie, a piece of chocolate, cake, pie etc. I do eat bread if it is home made and I live with a sugarholic, I am surrounded by carbs and sugar on a daily basis. Honestly I can’t stand the smell of sugar and I only get my sugar from natural fruit.

    What I believe happened is that we have all been over treated with antibiotics and all of the sugar we have consumed causes yeast infections of various degrees and yeast wants us to keep eating sugar. Because yogurt kills the yeast I did not have any withdrawal symptoms. So to the persons on this blog that are white knuckling it, eat yogurt and fruit, I also put cinnamon and turmeric on it, first thing in the morning and consider taking a a pro biotic as well to get rid of the yeast and yes men, you have yeast infections/candida.

    I also eat alot of vegetables and nuts and I do eat any meat. I don’t feel cheated and if I have a carb craving I have a baked potato with olive oil and seasonings.

    I am 52 and with moderate exercise I have lost 20 lbs. and am back to a size 4.

  • Jodi Calvert Hyvonen

    I gave up carbs about a week ago. Being a carbaholic I’m hoping that such a drastic change in my diet will help me to drop some lbs. So far not so much. I do feel better just knowing that I’m removing something that’s not so great for me from my diet, but I really want to drop the weight. I don’t want to go too crazy right off the bat and set myself up for failure so I’m going to give it a couple weeks and then start to incorporate a more rigid exercise routine. Wish me luck!!

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

    Congrats and big luck to you!

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

    Wow wonderful progress thanks for sharing!

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

    good luck sounds good!

  • Coralie

    You make 100% sense Helen. Thanks for the input.

  • Pam

    Could u tell me a weekly program of what you started off eating please

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

    totally forget now! sorry probably a lot of big salads!

  • JD

    This is the best blog in general I’ve seen in ages. Love your writing style Dan, it’s FUNNY! I can relate to the refined sugar/carbs thing. If I could live on warm bread, pizza and chocolate chip cookies I would. I’ve screwed my metabolism up from doing every diet from Medifast and Nutrisystem to Lean Gains (Intermittent fasting) and Atkins to name a few. I did Paleo by the book for a week and actually gained 4 pounds! Great tips here, Thanks for sharing your story.

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

    thanks JD :)

  • JD

    You bet and you’re welcome. What I am going to try to take from this is, well, the whole thing. -, especially the once a week cheat day. Maybe I deprive myself too much and that’s my problem but the Ketosis/Paleo Nazis will tell you “but you must always be in Ketosis!”. And I always think really? Is that sustainable forever? I think not. Looking forward to next Saturday already. :)

  • Mike H.

    Do you allow barley and oatmeal in your low carb plan?

  • Matthew

    I started yesterday, 18 March. Starting weight 245lbs. All carbs are off. I take 1 sugar in tea, one cup a day … will try to reduce. I coffee a day, 1 sugar sometimes (I’ll let that be my cheat). One month … here we go.

  • Matthew

    I do not intend to

  • jae

    see Dr Sebi he will help anyone about what are humans really design to eat. The human cells nutrition!

  • vincent

    I’ve lost 11 pounds in a week and rising . Carbs are garbage simple as. They are NOT the bodies preferred fuel source simple as. I will lose 50 pounds total over the next few weeks through diet mainly and the addition of some exercise 3 days a week. Your body will run perfectly fine on fat and ketones for fuel, cavemen did NOT eat bread, sugar, rice, potatoes, refined or processed anything its GARBAGE!! You need a high fat diet and high protein with literally almost NO carbs. Fries foods are the most awesome manly thing out there and I’ll eat them 3 times a day and get my fat needs from the olive oil. I’ll fry chicken, beef, bacon, eggs etc. I eat cheese sometimes. No veggies at the minute but you can take a multi vitamin if your worried about that. Fat is your FRIEND, carbs are your ENEMY, unless you are incredibly active or have the genetics of Zeus himself im sorry but you don’t need them. Fry meat and eggs, eat fatty foods, drink milk hell if that doesn’t fill you after your body no longer wants carbs drink a protein shake… Sugar and carbs are thrash and you will lose weight dramatically without exercise once you cut them out. The addition of exercise is a great tool to bring out once you hit a plateau. And don’t worry about needing energy for exercise , after a week of no carbs your body will run perfectly fine on fat and ketones from entering ketosis. The initial week is the toughest as your bodies enzymes re-adapt to burning fat for fuel in opposed to carbs/glucose…

  • Matthew

    15 Days ago I posted. I was 111.1kg. This morning I am 105.5 – that’s 12pounds in 2 weeks and 2 days. No carbs, no sugar, no cheats. A friend I have not see for a while said I looked really good – healthy skin etc. So that’s good. Decided to extend to 6 weeks, but having a cheat-day blow-out this Easter Sunday … champagne brunch – it’s good to be a catholic sometimes!

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

    well done!! :)

  • Howmeara

    hi Dan your article is one of the best ive read so far. definetly so inspiring :) i will like to hear from you directly as need a bit more motivation.

  • Matthew

    So the blow-out has kinda stopped the weight progress for a few days – water probably, but I am 104.4 today, so still losing this week.

  • WTFOMGLOL

    I’ve been on and off the no-carb, no-sugar, no gluten diet, since August 2014, and it was easy for the first three weeks. I never felt better in my life. Then I began to miss bread and baked goods, and have been on a roller coaster of relapses and quitting again ever since. I always regret giving into the urge for cake, because I can’t stop at one piece — but my blood work at my doctors tells me, that my cholesterol and blood sugar, which have always been bad, improved dramatically after August 2014, so I know it’s the right thing to do. But it’s a battle I’m going to fight for the rest of my life. I’m half Italian, so cutting off regular pasta, and cakes and pastries, is like cutting off my right arm. :(

  • Kristin

    Do you find you gain the weight back after relapsing ?

  • mark

    Like the read. Lost 275lbs without carbs n weight lifting I was dating man. Now I’m nearly dead weight at 541fn lbs n getting high nice combo! So lost can’t get my mojo back

  • vegasones

    I started no carbs/sugar April 1st and have lost 22 pounds. My dilemma now is about the fat I am consuming? It seems protein (cheese included), Dukes Mayo (no sugar in this brand), and bacon etc. is this okay? I’m not eating any yogurt, fruit (besides avocado) etc. My diet literally is eggs, salads ( mustard, garlic, olive oil, lemon vinaigrette) , chicken, salmon, steak (sourcream/horseradish), veggies, bullet coffee (coconut oil, black coffee and ghee blended), ghee, olive oil, mustard, lemons and vinegar. That is about all I eat…Boring from a mom who loves to cook country food! And, damn its more expensive eating healthy which makes no sense to me. Also, I get on my treadmill at least 6 days a week, walking 1 hour…I don’t have to hold on anymore and have ramped up the speed.
    I am older, 55 and have another 4o pounds to lose.
    Today I have had….. Bullet Coffee for breakfast, raw spinach salad w/ grilled chicken breast, blue cheese and avocado and above vinaigrette.
    Snack…slice turkey roll w/ cheddar cheese and mustard.
    anything I could do different? The last 3 days I have been stalled on weight loss….
    Any suggestions would be very welcoming!

  • Matthew

    So now it’s Star Wars day. May the 4th. I have lost just over 20 pounds. Actual weight is 101.6kg , down from starting of 111.1kg. Had one cheat day at Easter, but otherwise sticking to it. I have just returned from holiday where I treated myself to a nightly Vodka Soda or two. In return I was up and out for a strenuous walk/run every morning. My target is 88kg, so I still have about 30 pounds to go. I could kill a beer right now!

  • WTFOMGLOL

    I’ve been doing well since I started replacing wheat/breads and sugar in my diet, with coconut oil (melted into buckwheat hot cereal every day, and adding turmeric); olive oil, good quality peanut butter, roasting a chicken once a week, for keeping in the fridge to fill in the snack gaps, full fat yogurt is wonderful when you get used to it (no low fat or flavored yogurts – I add fruits to the full-fat yogurt if I want variety). I don’t see anything wrong with what you’ve listed above. it seems to follow what everyone else says about a paleo-type diet. It’s not fun food, but I’ve found that I don’t function as well daily, on the fun foods, and it’s worth it to “eat to live” rather than “live to eat”. Meats, eggs, and good quality oils, seem to be the way to go. And I notice, I am not hungry all day, which is a huge switch from the roller coaster ride that used to be my appetite on a daily basis. Sugar is the devil! LOL .. but seriously, it is. I think all of us that are doing this diet, are really on to somethin good. But damn, it is not for sissies!!! :)

  • Sandy Viti Alarcon

    I’m on my 5th day and the weird spaced out tired feeling just kicked in yesterday! I’m glad I found this to help me.

  • Korynne

    Where can I read your blog / the outcome/ your posts about this topic?!?!?! I must know more ! I’m also trying to get off carbs/ sugar and this is very helpful

  • Malahat Q.

    Dan, did you also cut out milk and dairy? Thanks!

  • Michelle Hesse-Ganser

    Dan, How are you doing with the no/low carb and no sugar life-style? I just started this process a few days ago and lost 4 lbs already. It’s enough to want me to continue. Feeling tired and not able to do the 15 minutes of exercise yet. 30 lbs in a month sounds like a dream to me…tell me you were able to keep it off?

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