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A Month Without Sugar (nytimes.com)
285 points by tokenadult on Jan 1, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments



> There were certainly times when I didn’t enjoy the experience. I missed ice cream, chocolate squares, Chinese restaurants and cocktails. But I also knew that I’d get to enjoy them all again.

> The unpleasant parts of a month without sugar are temporary, and they’re tolerable. Some of the benefits continue long after the month is over. If you try it and your experience is anything like mine, I predict that your new normal will feel healthier and no less enjoyable than the old.

This is the extent of the results. NONE of the benefits, expected or experienced are discussed!

The rest is just telling you what to avoid and what to eat. The sugar naturally occurring in fruit, vegetables and dairy are allowed. Author also claims that you can't eat things that have 0g sugar listed because that just means less than 0.5g. You have to read every ingredient for -ose, honey, sugar, agave, etc. That seems a bit ridiculous if you are allowing fructose from an apple (~19g).

Reduce sugar in favor of grain and calorie balance among fat, carb, protein with reduced total intake is generally good. Diets like these are replacing one extreme with another.


The author identifies "resetting sugar-addled taste buds" and becoming mindful of how many foods have added sugar as benefits. Having gone without sugar for a month, I can affirm that both of these things were true. And, of course, willing abstinence from certain foods is a part of many spiritual traditions.

Given that the author is suggesting that interested people undertake this as a month long exercise, and only claims to have undertaken this exercise twice, it is not clear why you are characterizing this as an extreme diet.


The resetting the taste buds effect is amazing. Several months ago, I started trimming back my sugar intake, with a goal of putting almost none of it in food I make myself, and generally avoiding dessert-type items.

What I've found is that restaurant food all tastes incredibly sweet. All of it. There has to be so much sugar they're putting in food, and I just used to be used to eating that much.

Getting a chai-type beverage, if they add sweetener at all, it's wayyyyyy too much. I've started requesting no sweetener in my chais, and that now tastes normal to me.

I still eat fruit, but no more than one piece a day. Even a whole apple often feels like a little too much sweet for me.

The biggest take-away I have from all this is just how easy it is to get accustomed to foods, one way or another.

The biggest benefit has been weight loss and having my energy throughout the day feel almost totally steady and even now. Even when I get hungry, it's a sensation I can mostly delay gratification of, where I used to get crazy and distracted from hunger.


I've had the same experience. I am Type 2 diabetic, officially diagnosed a few years ago (I'll be 40 in a few months), and six months ago I cut out any added sugar. Now the slightest bit of added sugar gives me a stomach ache and a feeling of nausea.

I don't crave it at all any more, and my doc said I probably added ten years to my life just doing that. I also lost over 20 pounds the first month and with exercise I could probably convert another 10-20 to muscle and bone weight.

I also don't get "sick" as often, as in I've had only one chest cold since I started this diet, whereas in the past I'd have had two or three at least by now. Anecdotal, I know, but it's been a huge boost to my quality of life.


Type 2 here, as well. Care to share your experience with this, offline? This is a huge struggle for me.


There's not much more to say, other than the worst part for me was giving up coffee. I'm a coffee fiend, and right about the time I started grinding my own beans and getting into some really good brands, I made the decision to cut out sugar. I have tried using artificial sweeteners but it's just not the same; it kills the natural flavor of the coffee and most artificial sweeteners don't agree with me (not to be gross but severe gastrointestinal issues with every sweetener I've tried).

I do occasionally still have black coffee or with just half and half, but that is too much temptation to put "just one spoonful of sugar" in there, and I have to make myself stop.

It has also been difficult giving up cooking desserts; I love to bake and I also enjoy cooking Asian cuisine, which (depending on the dish) can be very sugar-dependent. There are a few fruit-based desserts that don't require much or any added sugar, but when you're diabetic even the natural sugars from fruit can be harmful.


I've never liked sugar in my coffee. H&H is enough to make it smooth. I think, like everything, it take a few tries until you get used to the new taste, and forget the sugar-coffee taste.


Type I diabetic.

I am convinced that a real change is a lot more realistic when it is part of a larger lifestyle change. Habits are hard to break one by one because they reinforce eachother.

I suggest that you collect all your bad habits together and break them all at once. Or, with the next change in your life (new city, new job, marriage, first child) also change your diet.

It sounds harder but I think it's easier. Baby waking you up three times in one night, and you won't care how food tastes anyway.

I think a big enough change triggers something in your mind that says "this is how life is now".

Another tip is that embarassment and disgust are powerful emotions, so use them. When I got married I was literally too embarrassed to keep my old diet. And if you think about it the right way, sugar everywhere is disgusting. It makes your mouth sticky causes rapid bacterial growth and bad breath.


Salt is another big one - if you go on a low-sodium diet for a while, many "normal" (American, at least) foods start to taste super salty.

My wife and I cook quite a lot at home, and tend to under-sweeten and under-salt things compared to the status quo, and my perception is that we're both much more sensitive to salt and sugar levels in foods we don't prepare as a result.


Unless your home cooking involves processed foods or you get your sodium elsewhere, you would need to add salt to what you cook, otherwise you're going to harm yourself.

Sodium is essential to being healthy; the reason it's made out to be a big deal is due to how much processed food the average person eats. It's almost as though it's assumed that people are going to eat processed food regularly.


We add salt, we just don't add as much as "normal". We generally cut salt from a recipe about in half, or skip it if we're adding another salted component (ie, salted butter, bullion, etc). Salt is generally added as a finisher to the recipe to enhance the flavor profile, rather than just throwing a bunch of it in to start out with. We're definitely aware of the value of electrolytes.

We're not anti-salt or anything, we just tend to use less of it than recipes call for, and the effects has been that we notice oversalting more in other foods.


This sounds like a bad way to salt, depending on what you're cooking. I think it's better to salt parts of the dish independently during cooking. That brings out flavors individually like the dish intends. Salting at the end tends to make something taste salty rather than just enhance flavor.


Apparent saltiness increases when you use it to finish because it's usually consumed before it's dissolved into or been absorbed by the media. If you salt very much at the end of cooking, especially for liquids, use less than you think is needed, and give it good time to mingle and meld.


We still use salt in the cooking process, just less than usually indicated. It's easy to make something saltier, but it's pretty hard to take it out once it's in there. :)


Exactly, its very important to get enough sodium. Cook your own meals and add salt.

For anyone who works out or is starting to its good to remember you lose salts while you sweat as well.


I throw a pinch of salt into my post-workout protein shakes exactly for that reason - replenishing lost electrolytes is really important for recovery.


Sodium is normally in protein shake, and certainly in sports drinks.


Y'know, I wish one of these personalised biometrics startups would come up with a good way of telling me whether I'm getting enough X or too much Y personally, rather than just as a statistical artefact. Because I have a "salt tooth" and occasionally wonder if this represents some mineral deficiency.


The body needs around 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt every day. Most people get that without adding any salt to their food.


A lot of Europeans have this reaction on coming to the US, that all the food is way too sweet.


Coming back to the US for a conference a few years ago we got some "fresh lemonade" type drinks at the San Francisco airport. They were so sweet they made my teeth hurt, I couldn't have more than a sip. I had a hard time believing people drink this stuff on a regular basis, but there were lots of people in the store drinking larger cups of what looked like the same drink!


Drinks like lemonade in the US are bad :( I just drink unsweetened ice tea most of the time, almost everything else you get from restaurants/fast food outlets would be way over-sweetened. Fortunately more and more place started having unsweetened ice tea. There are other drinks that can be made with minimal or no sugar but it's hit-or-miss.


I've had this experience with candy. Like Snickers and Butterfingers... They're so sweet there's a burning sensation in my mouth whenever I've tried eating them. I swear they're _much_ sweeter than they were when I was a kid. The only candy I can eat these days without the burning sensation are the relatively low sugar types of chocolate. But all the mainstream stuff is totally unappealing because it's too sweet.


I legitimately puckered and my chest felt tight when I had some drinks in SFO. Even the iced tea tasted like pure sugar. I stuck to tap water after that.


Indeed, I've had a similar experience. Almost a year ago, I decided to eliminate butter from my diet. I'm now capable of enjoying a nice piece of plain toast (on homemade bread), which I never thought I would. My family has always cooked with relatively little fat, salt, and sugar.

As a result of that, and some other dietary changes, I'm also 25 pounds lighter.

Today, almost all restaurant food tastes way too salty and sweet, with the worst offender being pizza. I've noticed that one by one, even the independent or local pizza places have added more and more sugar to the crust and sauce.


> Even a whole apple often feels like a little too much sweet for me.

I had to switch to Granny Smith and similar. If you don't mind the acidity, they are a real treat :)


I've reduced carbs/sugar in the early part of the day (I'm not quite so rigorous at dinner), because I was getting really sleepy in the middle of the afternoon. Fixed that problem, but also had the unexpected benefit you mentioned-- no more "hangry", just my body gently telling me to eat at some point.


Years ago when I was 320lbs the first step toward living healthier was cutting out sugar drinks. I lost 20lbs within 3-6 months without making any other changes. On the rare occasion I drink a sugary drink now I never finish it because I find the sugar to be overwhelming and too sweet.

Abstaining from sugar really does help reset your preferences; give it a try.

(I made other subsequent changes and got down to 250; moving to SF meant walking more and I got down to 220, though I switched jobs to a South Bay tech company and have started creeping back up since it is far less walkable down there.)


Agree, I've eliminated most sugar-added food and it's easier than you think once you get over initial short period. I still eat sugar-added foods sometimes - mainly sweets, I really love sweets :) but do it rarely and consciously. Just as one would consume any other substance that is not good for you but can be enjoyed in moderation if you are careful - alcohol, etc...

It is fascinating how much sugar some foods have - if you imagine making them yourself and putting like two tablespoons of sugar into a cup... now that just sounds weird and somewhat disgusting. Some over-sugared foods I just can't eat. But it's not a big loss. For many foods there are substitutes that taste even better (at least once your brain is over the "good = sugar" mindset), others you can just do without. Nothing extreme here.


Some of the secret names of sugar I came across when I was sleuthing in the supermarkets—agave nectar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, or corn syrup solids, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey (probably heated and not raw, thereby losing all its nutrients), invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, rice syrup, saccharose, sorghum or sorghum syrop, sucrose, syrup, treacle, turbinado sugar, xylose, etc.


Naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables have a completely different impact on your body than the processed sugars found in packaged foods (and directly through sugar, of course):

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/08/is-sugar-really-bad...


The article doesn't say that - it says that glucose and fructose are handled differently (which is true; both occur from natural and processed sources) and that naturally-occurring sugars often come in high-fiber foods, and fiber impacts sugar uptake (which is also true). Sucrose is sucrose, whether naturally occurring or from processed sources.

The issue with "processed sugars" is that they appear in forms which cause you to not necessarily get enough fiber with them, and in form factors that are very easy to overconsume, but biochemically, 19g of table sugar and a couple of Benefiber caps are going to do approximately the same thing as an apple. Being processed doesn't make it magically toxic.


I may be nit-picking here but I said that the impact of the 2 sources is different...because of fiber, etc. I didn't mean to imply that the sugars themselves were different.


Sorry, the way I read it was "the sugars have different impacts". Even if you didn't mean it that way, it is a common pseudosciency belief that "natural" and "unnatural" sugars are chemically different. So many people ignore that at the end of the day, the body is just making glucose out of the cabrohydrates you feed it.


Actually both are true, glucose and fructose have way different biochemical impact on the both. For starters, only 20% of glucose is metabolized by the liver, rest goes to muscles, brain etc. While fructose completely goes to the liver, since muscles and brain cannot make use of fructose directly. Another effect fructose has is that it sort of suppresses ghrelin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghrelin), the hunger hormone. So it is highly likely that you will not feel full when you have food with fructose. The advantage of having sugars (especially) fructose in fruits is that due to fibers you tend to feel full faster. Fiber also helps in ensuring that fructose is releases at a slower rate vs. a can of soda.


Different sugars are digested differently, but natural fructose in a fig is the same C6H12O6 that's in a processed fructose source like HFCS.

People like to talk about "processed" sugars like it's the sugar itself that has transformed, when really the problem with processed sugars is that it's just the sugar, and it's too easy to consume too much of it.


I think "completely different" is overstating it, the money quote from the article you linked is “the liver doesn’t know whether it came from fruit or not”.

Naturally occurring sugar is just as bad, but has some other ingredients deemed to have positive impact. The analogy here would be opposing the claim that smoking is bad for you with the statement that some cigarettes can contain menthol or eucalyptus, which are known to have soothing effects and pleasant odors, and therefore are "completely different".

But back to sugar. The usual pro-sugar argument with naturally occurring sugars involves vitamins and nutrients. Unless you have a severe case of vitamin deficiency, your body does not need extra supply of those vitamins, at least doesn't need them urgently enough to justify sugar as a delivery mechanism.

Nutrients can be obtained from zero-sugar green leafy vegetables - watercress and kale tend to be the bomb as far as nutrient load.

Also "naturally occurring" is a misnomer by itself - modern commercially available fruit has been bred to have longer shelf lives and higher contents of sugar to appeal to general public.


Recently I tasted a wild orange. The seller at a health shop warned that it would be rather bitter. That was a severe understatement. Eating it was initially OK, but the bitter aftertaste was extremely strong and stayed dispute mouse washing. And I have not perceived any trace of sweetness.

So indeed nothing stays natural after a touch of civilization.


There's a wild tangerine grove on a path I occasionally hike. The taste is so intensely sour and bitter, I've had lemons that were sweeter.


Are you sure it's not a sour orange? They are a distinct breed and not really the same as sweet ones.

https://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/sour_orange.html


mouse washing, LOL!


The article you cite says essentially the opposite of what you claim it does: that in effect there is no difference between sugar added to food and sugar naturally occurring in food.

In practice, I think the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar is satiety: sugars that occur naturally are bundled with fibers, and fiber makes it more difficult to overeat. That's what's so dangerous about sugar soda (which really needs to be legally regulated).


[flagged]


Education over regulation.

Eating piles of sugar is stupid, but that doesn't mean I should be legally prevented from doing it.


I agree, when we're talking about adults, or the decisions adults make for their own children.


Otherwise you have the new drug war, and instead of cocaine you have sugar.


That's not what I'm advocating, but come on. We ban all sorts of foods without creating "drug wars" over them. Sweetened soda is popular because there is a gigantic corporation aggressively marketing it to us.


I don't agree. Since I was forced to give up sucrose (due to dermatitis that I found out (accidentally) was caused/triggered by sucrose) I've noticed so many health benefits it's insane.

I no longer miss sugary 'treats', and happily much on apples instead of chocolate bars as I used to.

I sleep better, feel better, concentrate better, control weight better, I'm more productive... the list goes on.


I, also, feel much better when I capitalize on the placebo effect. I take Vitamin D every day, but days I forgot, I become grumpy and depressed.

That isn't to say that your sugar-free experience isn't meaningful, significant, or impacts your life.

My point is that your sugar-free lifestyle results are indistinguishable from placebo. Or little green moon men, really.


Maybe. But the lack of scabs on my face is a definite plus, and one I've demonstrated to relatives with multiple experiments.


Yes, but is unlikely that you overdose your daily sugar intake with fruits whereas with a can of coke or a bag of ships you're already overdosing. Besides that, fruits have nutrients and other elements that help fight the possible downsides of the fructuose.


You'd be really surprised - fruits contain a lot of sugar. Dried fruit and fruit juices (which many people think of as "healthy") can zip you past sugar quotas in a hurry.

Honestly, I think it's probably just easiest to limit carb intake overall. Don't bother with the nonsense about subtracting fiber and all that, just set your carbohydrate goals for the day and stay under that. Sugar-heavy foods tend to get naturally eliminated in such a routine because the calorie-to-satiation ratio sucks.


>fruit juices

Yes, these are deceptive. You're typically getting all of the sugar, but none of the fiber along with it that slows digestion (along with other benefits). Eating an apple and drinking apple juice are very different in terms of sugar content and the resultant insulin spike.

That said, I doubt anyone has ever experienced negative health effects from eating too many apples.


I experienced "negative health effects" after eating in my childhood about 8 kilos of apples within 24 hours. My parents even considered to call an emergency.


Well, I mean... Yeah, you can drink too much water too, but within reason...

Edit: wait, so you ate ~53 apples (googled average weight, came back at ~.15kg)? I call BS.


I was alone at home and there was a full bucket of tasty apples that our relatives brought from their garden. As a lazy teenager I decided to feed on those rather than prepare food.

And consider that if one just eats 3 apples per hour, than in 16 hours that gives 48.


...That's a lot of apples


What are the effects of eating that many apples in a day?


> What are the effects of eating that many apples in a day?

You turn into an apple.

At least, according to all nannies & parents.


I got high fever and diarrhea.


You ate >50 apples in 24 hours? Wow.


That's an apple every half hour, or every twenty minutes if he slept eight hours. I've kept that pace too for hours while coding. Much better to stuff on apples than Cheetos.


Why wouldn't fruit juices contain fiber? Say I put an apple in my mixer grinder, add some water, grind and mix to create apple juice, what part of this mixing and grinding process would get rid of the fiber?

As far as I understand, the fiber should still stay in the juice because I did nothing to take the fiber out of this mixture.


poster above is assuming the consumption of store-bought juice, which is highly filtered and usually from concentrate. not many people have the time or equipment to juice apples themselves.


It's a really good question. I've tried researching it before and it seems to be an open question whether blending destroys fiber.

But even if the fiber stays intact you're going to drink and potentially overdose on a smoothie more easily than a while fruit.


If you do that you're all good. That's not how store bought juice is prepared though.


Just adding on as to one of the reasons: we've bred fruits over thousands of years to be packed with sugar.

http://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-what-fruits-and-vegetable...


You don't digest fiber for calories. Counting that the same as carbohydrates for most dietary purposes doesn't make any sense at all.


I know, but given that people trying to lose weight generally have a problem overeating carbs, "giving yourself credit" for fiber carbs overcomplicates tracking and most people tend to underestimate digestable carbs taken in, so counting fiber against your quota can help correct for that error. Trying to "game" your carb intake by padding with fiber will work for the ultra-disciplined, but will probably just result in a false sense of intake levels for most people.


Not necessarily. I've heard of are studies which show that high-carb diets without fructose are equally healthy to high-fat diets.


Studies have been done on this, for some reason, whole fruit sugar is immune to the negative effects of sugar. The mechanism isn't entirely known though and doesn't apply to dry fruits.


Can you link to the studies?



link to studies?


The article is pretty light on useful facts, but theres nothing "extreme" about not eating things your body doesnt need.


whole 30 says dairy is not allowed, except ghee


Ghee has the milk proteins removed though. I guess some might remain in the fat?


Better than "without sugar", I recommend avoiding foods with fiber removed, which includes sugar, also white flour, corn syrup, fruit juices, and most aisles of the supermarket. At least I found it better.

It forces you to a lot more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Plus it doesn't feel like an arbitrary division. Looking back, it seems weird to take fiber out of food. It makes things taste sweeter and extends their shelf lives, but at the cost of complexity of flavor, texture, and nutritional value.

Since avoiding foods with fiber removed, my diet has become more varied, fresh, cheaper, more delicious, and I eat more food. The biggest surprise was that stopping using olive oil, which I had allowed at first, felt natural and I don't miss it. As a result, I eat to stuffed almost every meal.

At 45, my ab definition started coming in after the change for the first time, despite my eating more food.


Olive oil is good for you! 1 tbsp/day minimum is recommended.

Your body needs lipids -- cell walls are made of them! An extremely low-fat diet increases cancer risk substantially. And some lipids are better than others. Polyunsaturated oils are easily oxidized, creating free radicals. Saturated animal fats -- well, this is debated, and there is some indication they may have been unfairly blamed for problems that are actually caused by sugar, but I still avoid them. Olive oil, being mostly monounsaturated, is the best.


Your body can synthesize all the lipids it needs save the essentially fatty acids. If you're limiting your fat intake, omega-3 eggs are your best choice, they're rich in phospholipids and essential fatty acids. Omega-6 fats are actually not bad for you, just get them in their natural nut form.

I would be interested in the data behind your statement that low fat diets increase cancer risk. I have seen papers demonstrating the contrary.


I don't miss olive oil, but if I wanted it, I'd just eat whole olives.

I eat nuts in my oatmeal every day.


why stop olive oil? what is so bad about it?


Just out of curiosity, what kind of delicious food do you eat that does not contain sugar or olive oil?


The ingredients of the stew cooking right now are: lentils, pumpkin, kale, habanero, jalapeno, onion, parsley, nutritional yeast, water, cabbage, salt.

I make these stews a lot with what's in season through my farm share and from the local farmers market. Usually about 20 minutes preparation time for 6 or 7 meals. Guests are uniformly surprised at how delicious they are and how easy they are to cook.

I cooked with almost none of those ingredients before starting avoiding fiber-removed foods. Now I'm amazed at how sweet and juicy vegetables and fruit are.

Breakfast was oats, apple, chia seeds, nuts, apple, water.

Lunch was leftover stew made of: split pea, onion, cabbage, jalapeno, kohlrabi, a beet, water, nutritional yeast, carnival squash, salt.

Snack was a vegetable salad of kohlrabi, onion, apple, vinegar, nuts, salt, pepper.

Another snack was a persimmon and an apple.


Against the dimensions of Potency, Frequency, and Volume, where would you place your farts?

I will accept absolute values, or a vector relative to your pre-no-fiber-removed-diet days.


There was a month or two of being bloated, then things went back to before.

My hunch is my gut had to adjust, or maybe the bacteria in it. I think problems people have is with the transition between eating habits, not the final situation.


I noticed you did not include any meat in your description. Do you find health reasons to avoid it for you or are you vegan?


I haven't eaten meat since 1990. I don't completely rule out non-meat animal products. I have something like 100 grams of cheese per year.

Health is a side effect for my eating habits. Deliciousness is by far the biggest reason, followed by convenience, lower cost, getting to eat more, less pollution, and health.

I just love eating delicious foods. I've come to find taking out the fiber leaves things too sweet. Fruit became incredibly sweet after I got used to it and I love eating it. Now vegetables are tasting sweet. I didn't intend or expect to experience this change in tastes, but I'm glad it did.


I've never been able to only eat one persimmon, alas.


Olive oil though, has quite a lot of health benefits. Its only downside is the calories from it.


When you add it to a salad, not only are you making the salad more satiating, but it will help you absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the salad.

It's a bit strange that food having energy is now seen as a bad thing.


The calories are easily adjusted for by reducing carbohydrate intake.


>Its only downside is the calories from it.

How is that a downside? Deriving calories (and nutrients) from food is the entire purpose of eating.


Or put another way: it is calorie dense. Very easy to overconsume calorie dense foods. If most of your calories came from them, you would miss the chewing you are used to.


Consuming fat makes you feel full. Like many people, I find that eating a higher-fat diet makes me feel full & able to tolerate eating fewer calories overall.


Sure. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of the calorie density of all of your food. 100 calories of olive oil looks very different from 10o calories of carrots.


I've done 4 months without sugar in any form (added or even fruit). I've lost almost 40 lbs, I feel great, I'm about the weight I was in HS (I'm middle aged).

And even though I'm vegetarian and accustomed to being the weird one as far as food as concerned, not eating any sugar in any form really is exceptionally isolating. Any diet will have you feeling left out, but man. Sugar is a bitch.


I find it helpful to hear success stories like yours. I'm obese, and I need to correct that. I believe sugar is one of the primary culprits. I'm going to attempt again to remove sugar from my diet for a month. I removed sugar from my diet for a couple weeks, and the weight loss results were very satisfying.

It is a hard diet to do though. I found that eating out was very tricky, and that shopping at the grocery store was also challenging. It required meal planning, and just thinking of most food in the grocery store as non-edible.

There are good documentaries, books, etc. on why sugar is so bad for us. I really enjoyed the documentary ["Fed Up"](http://fedupmovie.com).


Sugar is definitely a culprit, but really, it's all about calories in v calories out. Eliminating large amounts of processed sugar will help as the calories can quickly add up and you'll experience a big insulin spike afterward, but if you just moderate, keep most of your food healthy, and stay at a caloric deficit, you'll lose weight.

Extreme diets (i.e., 'eliminate X completely') tend to fail because they're hard to sustain.


> …really, it's all about calories in v calories out.

In the absolute sense, you're absolutely right. But in my experience sugar tends to stoke a desire for more, in which case the form calories take is a crucial factor for success.

(Caveats: I know what works for me but couldn't tell you how much of the effects of eating sugar are physiological vs. emotional, etc.)

[EDIT: Typo]


Yeah, same for me. If I currently out late night sweets completely I lose the desire for them pretty quickly. Whatever works for you is always best.


Watching calories is important, but not all calories are equal. I think "calories in Vs. calories out", is over simplifying the problem. I think modern science is proving that calories from sugar are especially bad because they trigger insulin production that signals the body to store fat.


/r/keto is a great community (and diet!) Go look at some of the success-story posts. I personally lost 11lb recently (in ~2 months) just by excluding carbs and setting a calorie limit. I found quitting sugar quite easy, as I felt so satiated from the fats and protein.

However, I fell off due to emotional reasons. Personally, I have to be in a 100% sound frame of mind to stick to it - there's just so many carbs everywhere, it's easy to fall off.


Two immediately easy things to do are to never drink calories and never drink artificial sweeteners: black coffee, plain tea, water. The rest is mainly just keeping track of what I put in my mouth.


Alcohol is the tough one for me. I love micro brews and wine. Beer and wine are a frequent enough part of my diet to know that alcohol is a significant amount of my calories. When I'm not drinking alcohol, I'm drinking water. I enjoy beer and wine too much to completely cut them out; but this month, I am going to try to abstain from alcohol.


I suffer from this too. The one month where I cut out alcohol completely I lost significant weight. Admittedly I exercised more too, but then months where I've exercised but not cut out alcohol I've not seen nearly as many benefits.

But alcohol, it's hard. I like a beer or few to relax after work, but I think for me it became a habit. Cutting out alcohol at home was a neat compromise (allowing myself to indulge the couple of times a month I go out for programming group meetups) felt a bit like what I imagine giving up smoking would be like. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to not having a drink in my hand in the evening, and I didn't like it at all. Compounded by the fact that I don't drink soda, and rarely fruit juice (mostly water, coffee or tea).

However taking it a day at a time I did cut it out, and I became noticeably healthier. I started going to bed at a regular time, I felt more alert in the mornings. I think my work improved, I felt healthier in general, I lost weight and I felt like I had more energy.

I've 100% relapsed over Christmas, but I'm going to pick it up again in the new year.


Totally agreed. It's disturbingly easy to drink several thousand calories in a very short amount of time.


One thing that might help is to look at it differently: Specific goals that make your eating healthier. Less sugar is vague and hard to do. When I looked at my diet, I realized I drank lots of sugar. First I quit sodas, and they wound up tasting bad when I tried them again. Next, I cut sugar out of my coffee gradually. This bonus meant that coffee was easier to order as well.

The difference, for me, is that instead of prohibiting food - and thus, obsessing over what I can't have - I simply did specific goals and kept them up.

You can do the same thing with vegetables: To eat enough, you generally have to cut out other things, so the end result is a bonus. Sometimes it is hard at first, since you don't "like" certain things. This can be overcome with exposure and familiarity for many things, and expanded upon later on, even on things that failed previously.


Instead of focusing on sugar being bad, and avoiding it - focus on protein being better, and seeing sugar (and other carbs) as merely filler. Most carbs and fats exist to extend the savory flavor of protein (umami), such as gravy, or fries. Or the carbs act as a scaffold to hold the protein and other elements, as in the case of a sandwich or sausage bun.

Once you start looking at foods in this way - in terms of proteins, other nutrients (vegetables), and filler (carbs and fats) - it's easy to target foods high in protein and nutrients, and low in filler. This doesn't mean avoiding junk foods, but it gives you an excuse to not eat pizza crust, and means you'd target thin crust, or even opt for chicken strips.


I did a month with significantly-reduced sugar last year, and for the first few days I caught of glimpse of how heroine addicts feel. I remember spending a full afternoon just thinking about the single cookie I was going to allow myself in the evening.


Simultaneously replace the sugar with fat and protein (steaks, eggs, etc) and you'll hardly think about the cookie at all.


If you get motivate when reading success stories (I know I do), you should check out http://reddit.com/r/loseit


Did you figure out any rules of thumb or tricks for finding compatible menu items?

My go-to for when I find myself eating out while on these diets (whole 30 and keto) is burgers with no bun, extra lettuce and other vegetables, and every sauce on the side.

The only thing that makes these diets work for me personally is that I have one of those tech jobs with free lunch every day and there are decent options. If I had to pre-plan and pack a lunch every day, it would be a lot harder. To my knowledge, nearly nobody (outside of tech) gets free, good-quality lunch supplied at work.


I'm in the same boat, but I work in TV. Free food and sodas everywhere. Saved my butt a ton. On days when catering is going to be bad for me being keto/vegetarian, I do a protein shake. Or two for two meals and just have a light day.


Hadn't thought of that. I should keep some protein powder in the office for a change of pace. Thanks!


For keto isopure makes a zero carb shake. I use it with Almond Milk.


Did you feel you had less energy, even in the beginning of this diet?


Maybe a little, but my general energy level was higher than before, if I took into account all the peaks and valleys I was having from my blood sugar being all over the place. But I did really try to pay attention to what I was eating, knowing that less energy was a common issue starting out. I made sure to nail my macros (fat/protein/carb), took vitamins religiously and drank tons of water.


I find the whole idea hard to understand. Coming from a family with diabetics I grew up knowing the effects of sugar on health and been avoiding it. I do eat fruit just not a lot, unsweetened dark chocolate (a couple of squares a week maybe) and occasionally try cakes but I restrict myself to a couple of teaspoons. I try to buy bread that contains no sugar but if I am eating out I don't get picky about it. I don't feel like I'm missing something and I find it weird when I see people downing cakes, energy drinks, jams, juices etc. To me avoiding sugar doesn't feel like something I need to think about, it feels normal. I can't be alone I'm sure there's others doing the same. Where I'm getting at is that your sugar intake is affected by the environment you were brought up and its something one can change. It's not a compromise.


>To me avoiding sugar doesn't feel like something I need to think about, it feels normal.

Only because, as you say, you "come from a family with diabetics". Not exactly the most common experience growing up (even if there are many diabetics, there are less that know it, and even fewer than do something about it -- statistics I've seen say there are about 9% diabetics, of which about 25% is undiagnosed).

So, I don't understand what you find "hard to understand". That most people don't share the same experience?


I find hard to understand why it feels so hard to avoid eating sugary food.


Since a few years ago I reduced my sugar intake by quitting certain types of drinks and meals. The biggest impact was when I cut out soda, which ended up giving me a huge energy boost.

American foods are just way too sugary. I traveled to Japan a few years back and was amazed by how little sugar some of their candies have. After spending two weeks there, when I came back home I was a bit shocked at how overwhelming most foods felt.

I can't speak for any alleged health benefits, but my personal strategy is to regularly cut down on certain foods every few months. That gives you a chance to sorta reset your taste buds, so when you come back to a type of food it's almost as if you're tasting it for the first time. I don't know if it's just a placebo effect or if there's a scientific explanation behind it, but I find it enjoyable, so I'd suggest others give this sort of harmless experimenting a try.


On the subject of sugar, there is a review of Gary Taubes' new book "The Case Against Sugar" in the Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/the-sug...


Many years ago I remember reading a syndicated health column in the newspaper by Dr. Peter Gott, and at the end of many of his columns he advertised his "No Sugar, No Flour" diet book. Turns out it's still for sale to this day - https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/peter-h-gott-md/dr-...

It's a simple way to avoid sugar and flour in your diet, therefore removing a lot of carbohydrates and therefore calories. A few years ago I tried it (with the addition of no dairy, as that was how I remembered it), and I lost 30lbs in 3 months.

Of course, like any diet if, you don't permanently change your lifestyle you will gain the weight back, and as I one-by-one started back with the bread and sweet foods and snacks, it all came back.


I went three months without sugar while dieting. That ended at a birthday party, where I had a tiny piece of chocolate cake. The cake immediately made me ill. I started sweating and became dizzy. After that I was convinced that sugar is awful for our bodies.


Honestly, I've heard similar effects from just about everyone whose avoided any category of food for an extended time and then reintroduced a food that was in the avoided category (whether it's meat, sugar, or any of a number of other things.)

The effect you describe may be more a sign that eating things the body isn't prepared for are disruptive, rather than the harmfulness of the particular avoided food. (Even where the avoided food actually is harmful.)


After five-ish years of mostly sticking to Paleo I have a similar reaction (heart palpitations + general awful feeling) when I eat something like pizza or drink a beer. Not an issue when I eat fries or other simple carb cheats, but it's enough to remind me why I gave up this stuff in the first place.


If you consider this, make sure to consider whether or not you think you may be self-medicating with sweets. I quit sugar for about 2 months and went into an inexplicable depression where I was having suicidal thoughts. Sugar is a bastard. As others said the benefits of resetting the taste buds were pretty incredible. Black coffee instead of sugarcoated Starbucks is actually enjoyable to me now.


>I quit sugar for about 2 months and went into an inexplicable depression where I was having suicidal thoughts.

Hmm, I had the opposite. Cut sugar for ~2 months, lost 20 pounds, never felt better. Was doing a variation of the low-carb Atkins-style diet.

Had to stop it because I got gout from eating too much meat though, but looking to restart it with adjustments for that.


"I quit sugar for about 2 months and went into an inexplicable depression"

I wonder if tapering down sugar consumption gradually instead of abruptly quitting would lessen this effect by giving the brain time to adjust? It might be similar to how people need to taper down their dosage of Prozac rather than just stopping it.


Exactly. Mind you that's probably only because I didn't realize I used it to psychologically self-medicate. Most people would probably be well served if they cut it off cold-turkey, others may need a step down approach like me.


Cutting out 95% of sugar is easy. Cutting out 100% is really fkin hard and not worth it in my opinion.


Don't focus on cutting out sugar. Focus on eating more protein and nutrients (target specific vegetables), and leave carbs and fats as filler - as a waste of time.


The links and wording of this article makes me feel like I'm reading an ad.

> When I needed a midday treat, a Honeycrisp apple, a few Trader Joe’s apricots or a snack bar that fit the no-sugar saved me.

Why not just "apricots"? Why does it have to be Trader Joe's apricots?


>Why does it have to be Trader Joe's apricots?

Probably because the author doesn't have a Whole Foods nearby, and the kind of people that get to write for NYT always want to tell us where they shop their organic stuff.


Indeed, "dried apricots" or "fresh apricots" would be a far more useful description.


> I now know which brands of chicken stock, bacon, smoked salmon, mustard and hot sauce contain added sugar and which do not.

Sriracha: why do so many people like it?

It's 20% sugar. No wonder.

Here's the label: http://joshuaspodek.com/why-sriracha-hot-sauce-tast


If you're avoiding sugar but want a similar sauce, what you want is "chili garlic sauce" that comes from the same manufacturer (Huy Fong) in a jar with a green lid.

http://www.eatitatlanta.com/2008/10/30/chili-sauces-explaine...


A sauce is probably the best place to put sugar. A tiny amount goes a long way.


The green-topped bottle in the linked piece is 20g sugar per 100g, but I've seen some in the UK that are 25g or even 30g. I don't eat the stuff myself, but know a lot of people who do and they often put on quite a lot -- definitely more than 1/96th of a bottle serving.


If you like the taste of Sriracha, buy the same brand's "Chili Garlic Sauce". Same flavor without the sugar. See:

https://www.amazon.com/Huy-Fong-Chili-Garlic-Sauce/dp/B0016L...


I have been following the low/no sugar approach for a coupe of years. Some results (some may/may not be directly attributable just to low sugar)

1) Most restaurant foods, even the savory section, have an undercurrent of sweetness that is almost overpowering

2) I cannot eat any commercial cakes/cookies even on very special occasions, the sweetness makes you gag

3) No more post lunch slump - this one was surprising to me

4) Birthdays/Anniversaries are awkward during the "food time"

5) No colas/juice/shakes/smoothies; yes to Coffee,tea,lime water with honey or just Water - I started to have spare change much more often so now i invest in the occasional top shelf vodka :)

6) Dropped about 6 Pounds in the first six months

7) Less jittery-ness thru the day

All-in-all positive effects with some social awkwardness


Ways I successfully avoid the social awkwardness you mentioned:

1) If present with an SO, say you are sharing theirs.

2) Take the proffered sugar, make eating-cadence motions with the spoon/fork but instead of eating, mash it a bit. After a few times, hard to tell at a glance whether or not someone has eaten it. Discreetly set down, walk away.

3) Or do the more advanced version, when you realize rarely does someone really observe and care that you eat a food, and being seen in the give-and-take transaction with you is far more socially significant: take, dab with utensil, discard.

4) Decline with a wry "doctor's orders". YMMV, might be accompanied by increased risk of one-sided conversation over health issues, especially if giver is elderly relation with lots of such.


> lime water with honey

Unrelated, but about a week ago I was shown a jar of honey where the beehive was next to a small patch of flowering garlic. It was bizarre - the jar smelled strongly of garlic, almost overpowering, but there was no taste of garlic in the honey itself. Curious.


I did it too, but since I didn't step away from artifical sweeteners, I didn't get the "too much sugar" experience.

Also, since I replaced sugar with caffein, I still get the jittery-ness thru the day.


I think the US would benefit from better labeling of food.

Here is a comparison of EU vs. US labels: https://www.foodlabels.com/nutritionfacts-examples-5.htm

Some differences:

- sodium vs. salt

- 'per serving' vs. per 100g (in the US candy is often specified as multiple servings per container, deflating the numbers)

- fiber included under carbohydrates

(granted, there are issues with EU labeling too, but I think it has some advantages)


The "of which" lines on the EU version are particularly weird - simple indentation like on the US version is more readable.

On a tangent, here in Australia, goods in supermarkets now have to have their prices also listed in 'per 100g' (or per volume). It makes price comparison much easier, and no longer are you trying to figure out what the breakdown is for a 527ml bottle of Foo Cleaner against it's 483ml competitor.


In the EU version, it's quite easy to find the "sugars" line, which directly gives you the percentage of sugars in the product. This makes it really easy to compare products by sugar content. If that's what you're looking to do, it doesn't matter much that sugars are (or are not) grouped under carbs.


Just don't put that much confidence in what those labels say:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE2lna5Wxuo


Cutting out sugar to the level described in the article and expecting a long list of health benefits is just as extreme as diets from the low fat craze were 20-30 years ago. It amazes me that this kind of misinformation continues to thrive.


You need minimum a amount of fat and protein to survive, but glucose can be metabolised from either of those. Sugar has no other nutrients, and the processing of fructose by the liver produces hormones which suppress satiety. Given these, there is no reason why you shouldn't cut it out, meaning that this is the first 'diet fad' I can actually support because, to be honest, I don't see any negatives.


They're all just attempts to simplify. Actual balanced diet and nutrition is really conplicated and has no formal fast rules. Picking an ingredient (sugar) or macronutrient (carbs, protein) and demonizing it makes the story simple, and something that someone with no interest in nutrition can follow.

"Eat all things in moderation" I think is good advice, but it's too vague for anyone to take it.

So we can expect at least a few more generations of bogus diet books before people will accept nutritionally balanced human chow, which is the true simple way to do it right. :)


Eat in moderation is good advice. The problem is that refined sugar is a recent invention that the human body is not designed to handle well. And one consequence is that it tends to fuel hunger and so steers people away from eating in moderation.


Whatever happened to just eat less, exercise often?

Oh that's right, it's so simple that no one believes it works.


Exercise makes your hungry, so it is particularly hard to eat less when exercising more. So it doesn't work for most people, because they aren't able to to both.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/why-do-i-gain-weigh...

The problem, most scientists agree, is that exercise makes us want to eat. Many studies have shown that if people start a new exercise program, their bodies begin to pump out much higher levels of various hormones that increase appetite. This reaction seems to be most pronounced if someone starts a new, moderate, aerobic exercise routine. (There are hints in some studies that intense exercise, such as interval training, may dampen appetite. But the relevant studies have been few and small.)


'eat less' is not the same as 'eating a balanced diet'. There's plenty of people out there who eat a small but terrible diet. I knew a guy in IT once who lived on a diet of basically chips and Coke. He was rail-thin, but his doctor diagnosed him with scurvy (!)


Well, I am assuming people eat normal food. Like, you know, bread, cheese, eggs, meat, tomatoes and potatoes... Who the hell lives on chips and Coke...


"Who the hell lives on chips and Coke.."

Half the developed world it seems.


There is nothing you need in sugar. Theres nothing extreme about not eating things you dont need -- its just moderation.


Giving up sugar, junk food, and refined carbohydrates is not particularly difficult. It requires some effort and minimal self control.

You will definitely feel a lot better if you avoid sugar and carbs, and probably lose weight too.


I don't know about "not particularly difficult". Eating out is really tricky, so it is best to assume you can't eat out. Finding groceries that don't have added sugar is also tricky. I guess you can get into a routine of what foods you know are safe to eat. I don't think it is a very easy diet. I do think it is a very healthy and effective diet though.


Eating out is fine, stick to restaurants and choose healthier meals and always avoid pizza joints, buffets, and fast food.

> Finding groceries that don't have added sugar is also tricky

Also easy to avoid: if it isn't fresh from a plant or animal, you probably shouldn't eat it. Or at least eat much less of it and be discerning about what's in it and where you buy it from.

You can generally assume that if something is refined, processed, or often even packaged, it likely has added junk you really should not be eating.


The problem with eating out is often you don't know what ingredients they are using. Does the bread they use have added sugar. Is the dressing on that salad full of sugar? There are so many unknowns with eating out, that it is not easy to avoid sugar when eating out. Generally speaking, food that you did not make, is going to likely have unwanted sugars.

Buying fresh is not exactly easy because that means going to the grocery store every day or thereabouts. I'm not going to argue that buying and eating fresh food isn't better for you, but it is certainly not easier.

It takes some practice to find the foods that work for you that don't have added sugar. It does get easier, but I would not say it is an easy diet considering how much food you need to avoid.


No, you don't have to go to the grocery store every day. Most fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and meat will keep a week or more in a refrigerator.


I did something similar last year and quitting sugar cold turkey was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I documented my experiences over each of the four weeks: http://avadhutp.github.io/no-sugar-challenge-week-1-update/


If you do this --- and it's a good idea, as anyone who has done the "keto" thing can probably attest (it really does persistently alter your habits), you should probably cut out beer too.


I did this when training for my first marathon - in the last 2 months I quit sugars completely, and it's totally anecdotal but my endurance improved significantly. Case in point: my training partner was a friend who had run cross country for 10 years beginning in high school. He was also faster than me for the entire year of training, up to the very last month when I finished the marathon 20 minutes(!) ahead of him.


I'm not sure what to make of this article , the author states:

>"I have done so in each of the last two years, and it has led to permanent changes in my eating habits. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it."

But then also states:

>"There were certainly times when I didn’t enjoy the experience. I missed ice cream, chocolate squares, Chinese restaurants and cocktails. But I also knew that I’d get to enjoy them all again."

What happened to the permanent changes in easting habits mentioned in the first passage? Is this a "yo-yo diet" then?

I also found this puzzling:

>"I now know which brands of chicken stock, bacon, smoked salmon, mustard and hot sauce contain added sugar and which do not."

Why can't the same awareness be achieved by simply reading the nutritional summary posted on the back of all food items before putting them in your cart or basket while grocery shopping?


> Why can't the same awareness be achieved by simply reading the nutritional summary posted on the back of all food items before putting them in your cart or basket while grocery shopping?

It can be, and I've done so, but I can see that some people may benefit from focussing on the issue intensely for a month.


I've tried cutting sugar, and various other diets before, but they all got to be too time consuming and irritating for me. What did work for me was simply tracking my calories using Under Armour's My Fitness Pal website. The site is easy to use, and I quickly discovered that drinking a soda and eating a bag of chips left me starving at the end of the day, whereas eating grains and vegetables didn't. Just by counting calories, I naturally gravitated to healthier foods. I lost about 45 pounds too.

I'm not trying to diminish anything the author said. I think eating healthier foods is a worthy goal. I only share my experience in case others, like me, find adhering to prescribed diets and digging through ingredient lists too difficult, and want something a bit easier.


I used the MyFitnessPal app before Under Armour bought them. It was a great way to learn how many calories each food is really composed from. But the downside was seeing that "I have a few hundred calories left" at the end of a day, almost like it was encouraging me to snack, making me hungry when I wasn't.


I used to do various ketogenic like diets as well as avoiding eating sugar (except after working out) and nothing so far has worked better than Intermittent Fasting (i.e. Only eating with in a small window time wise of a day).

I would have tried it sooner but it seemed so contrarian to traditional dieting.


I did this for a whole year - Oct 2015 to Oct 2016. Cold turkey like the author.

It's nothing extraordinary. Or at least nothing as challenging as launching a startup. It's all about willpower and willing to do the extra work. I found only eating what you cook, and sticking to whole natural foods (un-processed) makes this extremely easy.

I didn't manage a total of three or four times. Those were social events: a wedding, a birthday, and during a trip to another another country.

In terms of benefits, you lose quickly a lot of weight, and perhaps a bit more energy during the day. Overall a very interesting experience. I would say thought that if you're looking for a healther lifestyle, committing to regular moderate or intense exercise has a better ROI than cutting sugar.


I'm really confused on including Honey in the list unless we are talking about processed honey or something like that. Is it so common in the US that the honey you buy is processed and not raw?


> I missed ice cream, chocolate squares, Chinese restaurants and cocktails.

I'm a bit mystified how "Chinese restaurants" fits in to this list -- could someone explain? Did the author at some other point in time give up Chinese food for a month, or is he suggesting that Chinese food all has added sugar? (Personally, I can think of only a few Chinese dishes that typically have sugar added, and it's maybe a tablespoon at most for a dish that would serve 2-4 people.)


A lot of American Chinese restaurant food has sugary sauces.


News to me. I guess he means Panda Express or something like that. Thank you


Sugar is really not needed in the human diet and is in fact harmful. Its also highly addictive and is the reason for metabolic syndrome, which is a range of illnesses like diabetes, certain cancers, dementia, stroke, heart disease, hypertension some have even made a link to Alzheimer's. If you were to do one good thing for yourself or your family cut way back on sugars and High Glycemic Carbohydrates. This is not my opinion this is well known scientific fact


Type 2 diabetes, type 1 has different origins.


Diet is as important for type 1 as it is for type 2 diabetes


After suffering from digestive and autoimmune issues since adolescence, and having a very difficult 2015 (in and out of hospitals), I took the bold step of drastically altering my diet. I've been sugar free, grain free, soy free, alcohol free and dairy free (save for soft goat cheese and Greek yogurt) for 1.5 yrs now. It wasn't an easy adjustment to make, but I was at rock bottom. The improvement has been dramatic and life altering.


Around the age of 13, the lazy side of me figured out that in life you can actually gain something by not doing something else. This was the day when I decided I wouldn't touch the alcohol or cigarettes (not to mention soft and hard drugs). Ever. I've tried alcohol since then maybe two times actually and I've never been drunk, never tried to smoke, I don't even drink coffee (just don't like the taste of it).

Anyway, it took me 27 years to realise I've been addicted to sugar the whole time. I dropped refined sugar from my diet last February, I'd say I'm quite strict here as I've ate sugar only two times in these 11 months (one traditional Christmas Eve dish and one for Easter). Maybe a few times more when I wasn't sure what I was eating (eating out).

My sugar problems became really obvious when I was super strict about my oral hygiene yet I was spending thousands of dollars yearly on dentists. I was getting a few cavities filled yearly for the last 10 years or so. It seemed normal to me but the red flag was a cavity between my incisors, it was tiny, I couldn't even see it but every time I ate something with refined sugar I felt this particular type of pain you got when you have a cavity in your teeth. I could barely feel it with any other food, but sugars - hell yea, it was just simply painful. And then I got scared and thinking "damn, I'm 27 and I've already had root canal treatment once - and now this?". I've been reading a lot about people who have super healthy teeth because they don't eat that much sugar (or no refined sugars at all) and somehow without sugar tooth decay is processing very slowly if at all.

During the last 11 months I've seen my dentist twice and looks like if I will keep sugar out of my diet I'd just have to replace my fillings every few years or so. No new cavities, no signs of teeth decay, I feel like a new man.

What's even better I'm reading ALL the product labels before I eat anything now and I'm generally MUCH better because I've dropped refined/palm oils too. I'm living in Poland and our food is dirt cheap and of superb quality, anyway it really opened my eyes in many cases, when I was for example looking for sausages and about 50% had sugar in them, when and why the heck we decided to put sugar in our meat?! :( Same goes for bread and so much processed food you'd be surprised.

(if you're planning of dropping sugar it won't be easy - the first 3 weeks were nightmare for me, but I got by eating sweets sweetened with sorbitol, aspartam etc. - after that it was just like a walk in the park - I don't even miss Nutella sandwiches I used to eat every morning - try oatmeal with nuts and honey or in the worst case - mascarpone sandwiches with some honey on top of it - delicious :D)


Coffee is so weird, because people just become dependent on it, and start talking about how they "need their coffee" in the morning before they can function. It just seems to reset back to the original state, except now you need to spend money on coffee and your teeth are stained. Just sleep more and exercise.


Exactly.

What's worth adding here is I generally have huge logical problem with the whole "acquired taste" thing, I mean if something tastes like crap (I'm referring to coffee, alcohol, marmite etc.) why would ANYONE want to acquire the taste? What's the point of it? When I don't like something I just simply try it once, maybe twice and then I'm like "no, thank you, it's gross".

I used to think I'm beginning to like coffee because I really liked coffee cakes or Kopikos (not sure if you have them in the US), but once you realise these things are 60-80% SUGAR (!) then it's not the coffee you like in it at all, you most likely just carve sugar.


I don't drink coffee, so this is not a defense of coffee, just a reply to your comments about "acquired taste".

Your taste buds and your palate gets used to certain food, so the food you think is delicious is largely impacted by your acquired taste.

You're really missing out a lot with food given your attitude to acquired taste. You don't get to not have acquired taste, everyone has it, it's just a function of the food you keep eating, usually to do with where you're from.

There's a definite plus in acquiring certain tastes, because it'll open up whole new worlds of food & drink for you that you can't believe you previously did without. Examples include: Spicy food, fermented food, dried beef/fish/whatever, heavily fried foods, sweet, savory, stinky cheeses etc. etc.

Some things you really can't just try once. One good example is spicy food (containing capsaicin). Where I grew up there was none of that at all, but as an adult I made a concerted effort to try to wean myself on it because there had to be something to it if so many people were eating it. Today spiciness is one of my favorite food attributes.


Some of us do drink black coffee with no side treats.

I would also say that it is easy to mistake strong flavors for 'tastes like crap'. A good cup of coffee is a 100% pleasant experience, there's no putting up with it tasting like crap or anything like that.


On the "acquired taste" thing. I think there are a couple of aspects to it.

First I think there is a great deal of social pressure to like the local cuisine in addition to whatever family makes. I can't remember where, but I read something linking social pressure and children eating spicy foods (given the pain it can cause folks).

The other bit of this is that taste buds change as folks get older. It is completely possible that the nuances that turned you off some times ago refuse to show up.


With psychoactive stuff (coffee, alcohol) there’s a pretty obvious reason to acquire the taste, if you want the effects.

Beyond that, I find it interesting to put in some effort to understand why people enjoy things that I don’t. Sometimes you end up liking them after all, sometimes not, but I’m not going to categorically dismiss something just because I had a couple of bad experiences with it.


Wrt acquired taste: I used to hate the taste of cilantro, but kind of came across it alot because of Vietnamese friends. After some time I slowly began getting used to it and now I actually love the taste. It's so refreshing and really spices up many dishes making them much more interesting. Point being I think just because you don't like something initially it isn't inherently bad and you could be missing out. :-D


27 also, I don't eat a lot of stuff due to negative effects on my body, but sugar is the most recent that I gave up. It's so eye opening how addicting it is. I really can't believe we feed it to children. Little drug addicts running around.


Do you know of an online database that talks about the hidden sugars in these labeled products? I know we can always look at the nutri info, but was looking for something that can empower my knowledge base.


The USDA DB has a lot of good info on total sugar content in foods. Not "hidden sugars" per-se, but still, having total sugar content of many foods in a single location is pretty useful. The full DB is available in CSV files as well if you click around on their website. There is data for 77,000 foods!

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list


There is a good movie about it: Fed Up

Made me watch my processed foods, and especially sugar intake.

Still think balanced diet and exercise are a very good idea


I learned about that documentary thanks to a previous HN thread. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. The amount of sugar added to many processed foods is insane.


I find my taste buds adjust after a period of time, I also look for products that are my favourite foods only sweetened with stevia. I found one healthy candy called SmartSweets, gummy bears only using stevia that are natural and they've really helped me.


If you think there's a chance your blood sugar might be high, you can get an A1C test kit at the pharmacy or grocery store or Amazon (or visit your doctor, of course). That tests your average blood sugar level over the past 3 months or so.


Another year, another demon food. It seems every few years we switch it up, now it's sugar, before it was glutten, then it was fats, then it was carbs. It seems like nobody really has a clue what is "good" for us. The only thing that makes sense to me anymore is eating a balanced diet from a variety of food sources while also maintaining a decent exercise regimen. Not over doing it, frequently, is also an important aspect. I've found it's OK to eat junk food once in awhile, as long it's not a habit.


This seems like false equivalence. Has refined sugar ever not been considered harmful in the last few decades? I'm not aware of any controversy here.


You'd be surprised. In general, I think sugar has been known as something that you had to consume "in moderation." But, this is akin to the false belief that moderation can fix most any problems.

My favorite example is a survey that asked people which one saved more money, turning the lights out an hour earlier every day, or switching to higher efficiency lights. The vast majority thought turning lights out earlier would have higher impact, which is incredibly wrong.

So, the same with sugar for many right now. Many think that they can get by with more "moderation" and skipping a desert.


> The vast majority thought turning lights out earlier would have higher impact, which is incredibly wrong.

Is it? Based on what timeframe and power cost? When I was last light bulb shopping it seemed to me not upgrading was more cost effective < 5 years at least.


If you add cost of bulbs, it gets a little closer. However, energy costs are laughable in the difference. From a sixty to hundred watt bulb to a nine to fourteen is a huge difference.


You're right:

60 watts x 24 hrs/day = 1440 watt hrs = 1.44 kwh/day, @ $.10/kwh = $.15 / day $5/LED bulb / $.15/day = 33 days to pay off


And to be fair on these calculations, I was really just comparing to "turning off an hour early every day." I don't think many people leave lights on 24 hours a day. But, assuming a 60w from 8 to 7 hours a day of use, saves 60w (480 down to 420) a day. Leaving a CFL on for the full 8 hours uses only 112. So, with a savings of 368, is is almost 6 times the savings of an hour's light.

Now, I also confess I have not looked into these much lately. I just find it interesting how so many of us assume that "moderation" is more effective than other factors. Even when seeing the difference in clear numbers (60 to 14) indicates a huge gulf that moderation would have to overcome.

We have a similar problem at our house, where I've now calibrated the other direction. Rather than be concerned about keeping a window closed, I'm more interested in a better heating/cooling system.

Edit: Forgot my point at the top. Converting from energy costs to actual dollars, it can be seen that the cost of early CFL/LED lightbulbs was the dominate factor.


It's also interesting that manufacturers have neglected this angle of looking at it. I'm one of those personalities that over-optimizes trivial things, so when I'm shopping for light bulbs I'm wanting to maximize my financial return even though it's a rounding error.

Every LED light bulb manufacturer seems to use the "lasts for 25 years" (or whatever) marketing approach - that completely fails on me, my immediate reaction is: "sure, but what am I paying for that?", and my reaction was strong enough that it even prevented me from doing the math it would seem.

At the end of the day I ended up buying some LED's to try them, and I liked the quality enough that I went and bought a whole bunch more, and will 100% do all future replacements.

It's interesting, if LED's truly last as long as advertised, what's the long term business model?


I love that question! I honestly have no idea. I do think that LED bulbs are a lot more fragile than they advertise. Sure, they won't break as often as old style, but neither will they last 25 years in many cases. (Specifically, they are a lot more intolerant of power fluctuations, if I recall.)

My hunch is they are mainly banking on upgrades to technology driving new purchases. Consider, your computer will probably last longer than you will keep using it. Difference is computer manufacturers don't bother with advertising how long they could last.

Also, I should confess I don't know where I was on the original survey. I probably had the wrong intuition, but seeing the question asked would tip me to it being wrong. I can't remember my answer at the time. :(

Finally, my guess on why they advertise the long life in stores may be because they are keying off emotions attached to home ownership. Home owners like to think of their house lasting a long time. So, home stores like anything that strengthens that.


I don't think the OP was implying that refined sugar might not be problematic but rather this trend of demonizing a single food substance disproportionately. By giving outsize attention to a single substance it obscures the fact that portion control, a balanced diet and regular exercise are the real fixes to recent downward health trends. These are of course much harder to implement because they require a larger commitment then just avoiding a single entity whether it be salt, sugar, carbs, red meat etc or whatever is the current single object of demonization. Making permanent lifestyle changes is hard much harder than simply avoiding a single dietary element.


Here is an actual, biochemical take on the subject of refined sugar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Here is probably what happened to advertise fat as bad in the first place:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-ind...

The first link I can't argue with, the second one maybe.

We do need balanced diets, but, natural balanced diets. Throwing pure sugar into it, isn't making it balanced of any sort.


Your first link is to a video from Robert Lustig. You should probably have mentioned that his viewpoints are quite controversial, and there's hardly yet a scientific consensus on them.

You shouldn't post his videos as the gospel truth.


I apologize but I do not track controversies that much as I don't have the time for all that. Also, I'm a programmer, not a biochemist, so:

If I go to wikipedia, I get

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lustig And I see nothing about controversies there.

If I google about the term for a bit, I see no scientific rebuttals of his points in that video.

I mean, it's biochemistry, if he's that much wrong (he seems quite educated) then some of his science is also wrong; would you be so kind to provide few links of rebuttals to his research papers or whatever you are reading.

I would greatly appreciate if you stick to actual scientific papers, as I really don't have time to get dragged into the whole USA 'omg hes from <political party> and that's why he states his pro [trump/hilary] views.

TLDR: I honestly don't know about any controversies streaming from that video, but would like to read the scientific rebutals, if any, with respect to that guy's work.


Bottom line: fructose (50% of ordinary sugar) is not metabolized in the same way as glucose (the other 50%). The latter is used by just about every cell in the body whereas the liver is mainly responsible for handling fructose. This organ also metabolizes other things like alcohol and paracetamol. Overloading the liver is not a good idea. Anyone can read up on what 'overloading' means for any of those or other nutrients and go figure. None of this is controversial though the definition and effects of 'excess' fructose obviously are, for any individual.


The dose makes the poison with sugar as with anything else. That being said, I think most people encounter sugar at doses that are clearly poisonous to their bodies:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/06/08/is-sugar-really-bad... (see the section: Why is it a problem to have too much sugar?)

However, I get your point. I think the conflicting (and often industry driven) public health messages we've gotten at least over my lifetime and probably for decades before have made people dubious of new health/health harm claims around whole classes of foods. For me, I like to follow Michael Pollans advice of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

http://michaelpollan.com/reviews/how-to-eat/


Could not agree w/ this comment more. Writing a New York Times article suggesting people count calories, weigh their food, and exercise 3-5 times per week is boring and doesn't sell. The public is dying for a guru w/ a new methodology or academia to emerge w/ a new "scientific breakthrough" to save them from the obesity epidemic. The answer is simple but yet so many people refuse to believe eating less calories than their body needs is the cornerstone to weight loss.


Honestly, I think the reason most authors tend to have so much success with the new fad diet of the week is that for the month or whatever that they run the diet, they're actually monitoring their food intake and making an effort to eat more balanced meals.

The diet itself seems almost irrelevant. Just the simple act of paying attention to what you eat (counting calories is an excellent starting point) will help more than anything, as you'll more easily recognize poor trends in your food choices, and the awareness will encourage you to diversify your diet.


A couple of years ago, in a show of solidarity with my wife, I did a Whole 30. It's a 30 day elimination diet that cuts out all sugar (except for naturally occurring in whole fruit). I'm in my thirties and very slim.

The Whole 30 lets you have as much fat, meat and calories as you want. I plowed through eggs, homemade mayo, meat, and other calorie dense food. I'm skinny enough that I don't have much weight to lose. Even so, I dropped ten pounds effortlessly.

I don't know if this generalizes to other people and their physiques, but it was enough to convince me that sugar/simple carbs really do correlate more directly to my waistline than just counting calories does. I'm sure what the right metric to pay attention to is. My hunch is that it's glycemic load.

Either way, I cut down on my sugar and carbs since then, and I've lost of a lot of the middle-aged Dad belly I was starting to develop. I don't count calories at all. It seems to work for me.


Honestly, I think it's just calories in vs calories out. There's all kinds of things to consider like glycemic load and digestion speeds and all that, but at the end of the day, you lose fat when you eat less than you burn (see: the Twinkie diet). I think way too many people focus on things like glycemic load and the "kinds" of calories they're eating as some kind of magical weight loss/gain formula, and lose track of the overall quantity. I've lost more weight just counting calories and ignoring micronutrients, glycemic load, etc than I ever did trying to micromanage glycemic load and micronutrients.

Fats are a lot more satiating than carbohydrates (ie, sugars) - I could easily put away 4000 calories of goldfish crackers in an evening, but I would be insanely full, uncomfortable, and possibly even sick if I tried to eat 4000 calories of proteins or fats. My go-to craving-killer snack is peanuts - they're high calorie on the label, but a handful of them takes the edge off my craving in a way that chips and crackers and candy don't.


I'm in my thirties and I don't want to lose weight. I also ate several hundred grams of sugar every day in December. Didn't gain a single pound. This is because my calories were still about the same, only the composition changed.


If you didn't count your calories, there's no way to tell where you were eating relative to your TDEE. People think they're eating more than they are all the time, it's an incredibly common thread on any fitness forum.


That's OK. I'm not claiming that I was eating equivalent or fewer calories by controlling sugar.

I'm claiming that the set of dietary rules I chose which are based around limiting sugar and simple carbs have an end result of some weight loss. Whether that's a direct property of lowering sugar, or an emergent property caused by that is a good question, but one I don't need to have an answer for if the rules happen to work.

For what it's worth, my rules are roughly:

* No sweets unless I am socializing or it is a dessert I prepared from scratch. "Sweet" means roughly candy or dessert.

* No beer unless socializing.

* Minimize carb-heavy snacks like crackers and chips.

The last rule is fuzzier than I'd like, but I'm still dialing it in.

These rules may seem a little arbitrary, but they work for me and I find they do a good job of improving my overall diet without subjecting me to the real annoyances of rigid diets that make you do things like ask a waiter to bring you a burger without a bun, or not eat a curry that has a teaspoon of sugar in it.


Isn't that still a point in favor of the diet, though? That it's much harder to overeat on it?


Of course, but it's pretty well accepted that fibrous and fatty foods are typically more filling that sugary foods, with fewer calories (especially for fibrous foods). It doesn't invalidate intake with respect to TDEE being the primary cause of weight gain and loss.


That's good to cut out unneeded sugars but I'd say it's risky jumping into a strictly fat, meat diet. I tried it and it definitely changed my blood cholesterol levels. Given that nobody can agree on what is actually "good" for you, I think the balanced diet is still the way to go. Of course, do whatever makes you happy, though. I'm cooking a steak now ;)


> into a strictly fat, meat diet.

Oh, I'm definitely not trying to do that. I try to have a good amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts and dairy. Basically your classic "balanced" diet, just lower on sugar and highly-processed grains.


Agreed. You cannot outwork a shitty diet BUT refined sugar is the cornerstone of most shitty diets.


Not sure why you're being downvoted but I agree with you.


It's definitely confusing but let me put on my conspiracy hat here for the moment and point out that it's in the interest of a lot of multinational corporations to keep people confused. The science on things like artificial sweeteners is a jumbled mess. If you happen to believe a calorie is a calorie, triscuits seem as good as brocolli, in certain amounts. But triscuits are a lot tastier and a lot more profitable because they dont spoil. I guess my point here is every article you read on this subject, you have to be careful of what their motives are.


I think the article describes a good approach because it sets you on track to improve your diet overall, by making you used to the relative lack of sugar in unprocessed (healthier) foods.


> eating a balanced diet from a variety of food sources while also maintaining a decent exercise regimen

Now you're talking crazy shit, son, how could that ever work?! /s


Celiac here, gluten, sugar, sodium nitrites, monosodium glutamate, caffeine, all these wreak havoc on my body. A lot of people are addicted to these, and a lot of people can see great health benefits by giving them up. Passing them off as demon food fads does little good and little to educate people. I used to joke on gluten free. I barely knew anything about it. Here I am now saying it changed my life. Being less dismissive might help others to find out about their health conditions sooner.


I do not know what is so difficult about not eating sugar. If "without sugar" means no added artificial sweetener or added sugar (as according to this article) then I have not consumed sugar for many many years; the same goes for our ancestors, farmers, etc. I do not know if this is a case of crack-like addiction, or a case of "what is the point? you only live once, you should indulge in pleasures" either way it need not be difficult if you simply, as an example, substitute your candy for fruits (fruit cultivation is a far-cry from what it used to be, but I do not want to get into an argument about this)

Despite all of this, take it from me: The benefits are overrated

Ironically and amusingly enough, I was my happiest (and seemingly healthier) when I was a little boy running around all day outside eating candy or chocolate to my hearts content.


> Ironically and amusingly enough, I was my happiest (and seemingly healthier) when I was a little boy running around all day outside eating candy or chocolate to my hearts content.

That's a dangerous thought that everyone has. You were indeed happier and healthier, because you had a new body that could heal more faster, and your metabolism was through the roof.

After 25, wear and tear starts to become noticeable, metabolism slows down, physical damage heals slower, pain lingers for way longer, you get less endorphins.

But these days everything is over-sweetened, fucking bread is sweet as hell for some reason. So cutting down on sugar is more than just not putting it in your tea/coffee and not eating cookies.


Lets get something straight. He did not avoid sugar. And no one should.

Food falls into 3 main categories: Carbs, proteins, fats.

Carbs fall into 2 categories, Sugars and Starches (which are just a chain of sugar molecules).

Yes, it is possible to survive for awhile on just protein and fat, but NO ONE should be doing that. Sugar is necessary and good for you.




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