Quitting Sugar – Extreme Edition!
Though I haven’t been doing regular weekly updates here, I’m still all about the benefits of quitting sugar. In fact, in just about every way, I’ve gone further than ever before on my own journey. In fact, I’ve gone extreme! But I’ll explain that in a minute.
When I first gave up sugar, I stopped eating any food that had “sugar” listed as an ingredient, even though it may have contained no carbohydrate. My goal has always been to find what’s going to work best for me, for my body and health, while also enjoying the pleasures of life. But that’s a tough thing to sort out because many “authorities” in various dietary camps tell a different story about the “perfect diet”. Well, it may turn out that the so-called perfect diet is a fairy tale.
Since October of 2011, my own understanding has changed many times. I’ve gotten mixed messages from far too many different sources. Each source seems like an authority and makes so much sense. Just when I think I’ve found a perfect source, something overturns the apple cart and I’m back to my normal diet confusion. Have you been there? What’s “good for you” one day, is “bad for you” another day. What you thought was a healthy diet turns out to be the very diet that’s making people unhealthy. It’s hard to stick to any kind of healthy lifestyle when you’re constantly confused by the different experts telling opposite stories. Then add in everybody else dumping their two-cents on you.
Real People, Real Problems
The majority of diet and health writers are trying their honest best to guide you. But sometimes they get lost in their own message and forget that we are all human beings who have emotions, needs, desires and wants. It’s for these very reasons that it’s such a struggle to eat healthy and maintain an appropriate weight. It’s not because we don’t really want to. It’s just hard…really hard! And the process of becoming educated about health and dietary issues is sometimes a frustrating and agonizing one.
I understand how hard it is and I never lose sight of that. So my goal is always to give it to you straight and with the understanding that we are all common people with common struggles. Therefore, my take on eating healthy may not always steer you toward the best possible way of eating. That’s because my goal for you is to eat the best way that you can and the best way you know how. Sure, there might be healthier ways to eat, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready for that kind of commitment or that you even understand it enough to be ready to try it. And if you’re coming from the Standard American Diet (SAD), any improvement is better than no improvement at all. And that’s the message I want to put out there. Changing your health is an evolutionary process, a personal journey, not an overnight success story.
A Carb Vacation?
This brings me to what I’ve been up to over the past few months. As I mentioned before, my wife and I went low-carb and no-added-sugars in October 2011. We maintained that through December 2013. However, we still have to manage a little carb creep every now and then. In case you don’t know what carb creep is, it’s when you start to make allowances for eating a few more carbs now and then, and over time, the allowances become a little too frequent until you start gaining weight, or even completely freak out and start to eat junk food again. Thankfully, my wife and I never got to the point where we unintentionally freaked out and started eating junk food again. We just had to reel ourselves in from time to time and put our carb counts in check. For the most part, we’ve stuck with this plan pretty strictly and it’s worked well for us.
Last December, however, my wife wanted to take a couple weeks off from our regular low-carb lifestyle and allow ourselves to have some sweet treats for the holidays. She wanted to do some baking and I agreed, since it was important to my wife. And what’s important to her is important to me. Overall, that break was pretty uneventful, other than it stretched into a month — not hard to do, but it was a conscious choice since the holiday season gets a little crazy and we felt like indulging a little. We figured we would hit the low-carb diet hard after the holidays were over.
Weight A Minute!
It was during this carb-fest break that we took that I began putting on some weight — no big surprise here. I expected and anticipated this happening. However, it turned out to be a good thing. I suddenly started to remember how lethargic my old way of eating made me. I remembered how I would wake up in the morning and feel bloated and swelled. My pants were getting uncomfortably tight and I was feeling pretty miserable.
I started thinking ahead of going back to our tried-and-true method of low-carb eating. The more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that this might be a good time to try a variation of low-carb eating that I’ve been curious about for a long time — the ketogenic, zero-carb (ZC), all-meat diet. So I started doing research.
There wasn’t much solid science available in the form of formal studies, at least that I was able to find, that supported a ketogenic diet. But there was plenty of correlative evidence that showed amazing benefits from following a ketogenic diet that made me at least feel like it would be safe, at least for a short time, and perhaps for much longer. Plus, I was in contact with people who had been eating a ketogenic, ZC diet for years and they reported that they were healthy and felt great, and that they had experienced no negative results from following a long-term ZC diet.
Going Zero Carb…A Love Story
So I decided to give it a try as an experiment. I would try it for 30 days and see what my results were. So I announced my intention on my Quitting Sugar Facebook Page and set my start date for February 1st. That would give me a couple weeks to figure out what I was going to eat. After I announced this experiment on the Facebook page, a couple members also said they were going to try it, one of these people was a friend of mine named Harmony. She suggested that I make a Facebook group for the few of us who were going to try eating ZC for a month. That way we could support each other and talk about our experience along the way. Thus, the 30-Day Keto Challenge group was born.
While I expected about several people to join the Keto Challenge group, I was surprised at how quickly our numbers exceeded my expectations. And the number of members keeps growing every day. It didn’t take long for us to reach 100 members. And I have to say that this is one of the best groups I’ve been a part of on Facebook. We’re like a little keto family. My friend, Harmony, who is an admin, and I do what we can to facilitate a good vibe in the group. And with such wonderful people joining up every day, that’s an easy task to do. But I was really surprised at how many people showed up to try out the keto challenge. Apparently, there are a lot of people out there who are curious or interested in trying the ketogenic diet. So the question is, why are so many people interested in trying it? What’s so great about it? Well, I’ll tell ya….
Day one of my first 30-Day Keto Challenge was February 1st, 2014. My goal was simply to try eating only meat, drinking only water, and sometimes adding some whole butter to increase my fat intake if needed. I would try it for 30 days, then switch back to the typical low-carb diet my wife and I had been eating. I also decided to only weigh in at the start and end of the 30-day stretch. I wanted to lose the pounds I had put on over the holidays, but I didn’t want to obsess about my weight-loss.
Over the next several days, I had to deal with headaches. Since I typically don’t eat a lot of sugar or carbs, the headaches were likely due to also giving up caffeine. And when you’re used to drinking a few to several cups of coffee a day, it’s quite an adjustment to stop drinking it over night.
After getting past the yuck of the first week, I coasted through the second week and third week. But I was a little disappointed in how I was feeling by the end of the third week. I had always heard that it takes about three weeks to become keto-adapted, which means your body has made the switch from using carbs for fuel, to using fat as energy for your body. People talk about feeling amazing and having so much energy once the adaptation happens. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I didn’t think it would be very dramatic since I was already used to eating low-carb, but I though I’d feel something different, at least a little. But no…nothing.
Better Than Ever!
Finally, near the end of the 4th week, there was a glimmer of hope. I woke up one morning feeling very good right from the start. I felt particularly alert and solid. I went to work and noticed that I was easily able to maintain sharp focus without getting easily distracted or getting drowsy, even when doing something boring. I noticed a clear and distinct boost in my mood. I just feel more cheery. It seemed like everything took on a clearer quality. And I had solid, steady energy throughout the day. I wasn’t sure if this was from my diet alone, or because I got a little more sleep the night before.
Over the next few days, the sensations I was beginning to feel continued and got a little stronger and more noticeable every day. This was the first time I had ever experienced this much of a difference from eating removing carbs from my diet. After a few days of this, the growing sensations plateaued and a nice level and just stayed there. As you can guess, I was quite pleased about this. Quite pleased, indeed!
As for the sleep part of the equation, I definitely feel that getting more sleep had a big impact on me. And while I think getting enough sleep is essential to feeling a difference when keto-adaptation occurs, my guess was that getting enough sleep is what allowed me to feel the changes from following a ketogenic diet. This would explain why I didn’t feel it as dramatically when I first started eating low-carb, even though I was in a ketogenic state then. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely felt a difference when I first started eating low-carb. But the energy part never went where I expected it to go. I experienced an improvement back then, but compared to now, it was a dumbed-down version. Lack of sleep will pretty much dull your experience of everything.
All Meat & Easy Weight-Loss
In that first month of eating an all-meat and water diet, I lost about 3 pounds per week, ending at a loss of 13.4 pounds. YES!!! So, after concluding my first month of zero-carb eating, I decided to have a carb weekend — a weekend where I would eat whatever I wanted. Why? Because I wanted to see what would happen. I wasn’t craving sweets or anything. But I’ve heard of people taking one day or weekend off per month and expanding their food pallets to include some of their favorite foods that they don’t have very often anymore.
So if I had a weekend carb party, would I gain my weight back? Would it cause me to start craving sweets again? Would I spiral out of control? I didn’t think any of these things would happen, but you never know unless you try. Plus, I’m in search of a diet lifestyle that is balanced and enjoyable while also allowing me to maintain a healthy body. Is it possible to eat carbs now and then without totally destroying your body, gaining all your weight back or causing all your carb cravings to come back with a vengeance? I was willing to experiment with this and find out.
It turned out that for me, there seemed to be no adverse effect. Sure, I felt some guilt and maybe a little stomach upset, but the carb cravings didn’t come back. I didn’t start gaining weight. The biggest difference was my weight loss stalled for about 3 or 4 days after eating all those carbs. It knocked me out of ketosis and took a few days to get back in. I don’t know if there would be any long-term effects of having a weekend of carbs once a month, and I don’t know for sure if I’ll stick with this routine, but this is my plan for the present time.
What’s Cookin’ Now?
Since my first month of zero-carb eating went so well, after my carb weekend, I decided to continue eating zero-carb. But this time, I was going to change my own personal rules. I decided I would still eat zero-carb, but I would include all zero-carb foods, not just meat only. So I was now able to eat mayonnaise, cheese, eggs, pickle relish, zero-carb condiments. If it contained zero carbs, I allowed it. My second month, March, went extremely well. So well, in fact, that I decided to continue eating zero carb for another month. Which brings me to where I am today. I’m currently in my third month of zero-carb eating. So my third Keto Challenge. Between March and April, I had another carb-weekend, then got right back to zero-carb eating.
At this point, I’ve lost over 18 pounds, without hardly trying. On a zero-carb diet, I’m never hungry, unless I get lazy and choose to not eat for a while. I’m not constantly looking for snacks. And I tend to eat less at every meal. Not because I’m restricting my calories or just trying to eat less, but mainly because a little food satisfies my hunger for hours. I eat as much as I want and until I’m full, it just happens to not be a lot of food. I couldn’t be happier with this experiment and look forward to continuing it for a bit longer.
If you’re interested in trying a ketogeneic diet, there are different approaches, not just eating only meat. The best way to explore it is to join my Facebook group, the 30-Day Keto Challenge. There are plenty of resource materials to guide you and to help you get started with confidence. It’s a real family atmosphere over there. And the most important part about it, is that the help and support you receive there is geared toward what’s best for you, rather than some generic interpretation of what’s “best”. So come on by and check it out. We won’t bite. 😉