For the past seven years I have eaten no sugar. When I say sugar I mean table sugar, sucrose, not sugars as in carbs. This includes all sweets obviously, including honey, agave syrup, but also all non-sweets foodstuff or dishes with sugar. No sugar-laden bread, sauce, topping, ribs, etc.
When people hear this, they have one of two reactions.
Reaction one: look at me weird. Like they don’t understand what is wrong with me.
Reaction two: look at me with admiration. They are impressed. They even comment that I must have an iron will or something along those lines. Then hastily add that they could never do this. Or they comment something like ‘life is worth living and we should all treat ourselves.’.
Both reactions are mistaken. Nothing is wrong with me, but I am not abnormally gifted in willpower either.
What did I learn from these seven years without sugar? Five secrets.
1. It’s easy to not want sugar
Despite what everyone believes and feels, in fact not eating sugar is really easy. You might say it is a piece of cake (forgive the pun).
There are two very hard weeks in the beginning. These are full of intense cravings. I found my mind constantly craving sugar: in the middle of a work task, while eating lunch, when at the supermarket, in the middle of the night whilst sleeping, during conversations. But after those two weeks, it’s no effort at all. The rest of seven years without sugar was easy.
Right now my unconscious, my Paleo Robot, is disgusted by sugar. The idea of eating a sugar-laden donut feels like eating a fistful of tar. Who in their right mind would want to eat tar?
How can quitting sugar be so easy?
The approach taken by most people to quit sugar is wrong. They try to reduce how much sugar they eat overall. Most often this translates into a vague general decision to eat less sugar every day.
What does this imply? Every time there is a trigger for eating sugar, they have to decide whether to eat sugar or not.
Life like this is hard. The unconscious Paleo Robot always wants to eat the sugar.
Gorging on sugar is a deep adaptation towards survival. Our ancestors’ ancestors survived winter because they gorged on sugar-rich fruit and honey in Autumn. This is how they created fat reserves with which they survived during the cold months of winter when little food was to be found.
Going against the Paleo Robot algorithms is a losing proposition. You might inhibit its impulses a few times. But if you are in any way stressed, tired, distracted, sick, you will not resist. You will eat sugar.
This popular approach of reducing sugar is unsustainable. You have to fight yourself every day. It’s lose-lose.
I did not do this. If I had, I would not have lasted seven years without sugar.
I made a decision to never eat anything containing sugar. No exception, no debate, no special circumstances.
Complete elimination appears hard, but it’s easy. There is one decision to make. Then it’s a matter of not giving in to temptation in the beginning when you still crave sugar. After enough repetition the unconscious Paleo Robot learns not to eat sugar. Refusing sugary treats becomes a habit. As does avoiding to buy foodstuffs with sugar. Normal becomes sugar-free.
The Paleo Robot works with fairly simple rules. ‘Never sugar’ is orders of magnitude stronger than ‘Sometimes sugar, sometimes not.’
This simple rule changed my Paleo Robot which has made seven years without sugar easy.
2. Sugar is not an essential nutrient
During these past seven years without sugar I have completed ultramarathons (100+ km of running on mountains), Crossfit (including winning a local amateur competition) and various other sports.
I have had success working in a high-pressure, high cognitive effort job doing marketing strategies. On top I have been writing a book on the root causes of all human problems.
I cook every day and do domestic chores. I maintain healthy relationships. I read, I learn, and I go on hikes and various other activities.
Not eating sugar has not impeded me in any way. On the contrary, it has made it easier to do more things in life.
3. More energy, easier life
When I ate sugar, I had ups and downs. I had spurts of energy, followed by periods of low energy. Sometimes I had energy at night and went to sleep super late. Other times I fell depleted in the middle of the day. It’s hard to recall to be honest after so much time. Normal is so different now.
Now I have constant energy throughout the day.
It’s easy to do everything that I need and want in life.
At night I feel sleepy at the same time. I go to bed, I sleep and I recharge. It’s simple. Easy. Not like the rollercoaster of sugar bombs.
4. It is hard to avoid sugar
From a logistic perspective, it’s hard.
I read every label every time.
Sugar is hidden under many names and forms. A study shows sugar is in over 70% of supermarket items. I feel the percentage is much higher. Looking at packaged goods labels, it’s virtually everywhere. Finding packaged foodstuffs without sugar feels like finding a pot of gold under the bed.
In restaurants it can be even harder. Sugar makes all foods tastier so it’s used widely. Some dishes are more likely to have sugar, like ribs, so I know to avoid them. But for others it is unclear. Often the waiters don’t even know if a dish has sugar when asked.
From a social perspective, it’s hard. We use sugar to show social validation, to celebrate and to cement bonds.
When people offer me sugar, it’s unpleasant to refuse. Saying no to a piece of cake on a colleague’s birthday ranges from mildly unpleasant to significantly stressful. I have had people get angry at me because I would not eat sweets offered by them. I am grateful I have family and friends who understand and don’t feel rejected because I don’t eat sugar. After seven years without sugar, they have become used to it.
5. I will live longer and better
In a nutshell sugar reduces your lifespan.
More importantly it reduces health-span: the amount of time you spend alive and healthy. Life with severe illness is not great to say the least. I believe we should maximize health-span first, lifespan second. Cutting out sugar goes a long way in lengthening health-span
More than longevity, sugar reduces the quality of your life. So if you are an addict you have a more miserable life than someone who is not addict. Obviously.
Daily sugar consumption is an addiction.
I hope this has inspired you to think about eliminating sugar. It’s much easier than you think.
Seven years without sugar are not the pain you think they are. If you make a clear decision from the beginning it can become a habit for your Paleo Robot. Otherwise, it’s miserable.
If you enjoyed this and are not subscribed, subscribe.
*An in-depth explanation of the Paleo Robot is in the works. Coming soon.