I Quit Carbs and Sugar and Here is What I Learned

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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!

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