TheĀ Inside Out StrengthĀ Blog

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Is Sugar Really That Bad For You? Lessons Learned 3 Months Into Quitting Sugar

Apr 04, 2024

At the end of 2023, I felt a strong conviction to give up all added sugar for the entire year of 2024. Writing this at the start of April 2024 - I’m currently 3 months into my year long ‘no sugar experiment’.

Not being one to do too anything halfway, this includes:

  • No sugar (white sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, etc)
  • No natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc)
  • No sweeteners (basically anything with -ose- at the end of an ingredient: dextrose, sucralose, etc)
  • No ‘calorie free’ artificial sweeteners (stevia, monk fruit, etc)
  • Important Note: this is NOT a low sugar, keto, or a low carb diet I’m following. I am eating fruit, starchy vegetables, potatoes, some grains, etc. Because many of you will probably ask, my average carb intake typically ranges from 120-200 g of carbs per day on average.

For those that haven’t been following along on here for very long, here are some of my current overall health and fitness goals this year for your reference:

  • Reduce body fat percentage to 10%
  • Maintain (and build upon) a 5RM lifting total >1,000 lbs with deadlift, squat, and bench press. (Ex: being able to perform 5 reps or more at a 400 lb deadlift, 350 lb squat, 250 lb bench press).
    • Current update: I haven’t tested 5 rep maxes recently, but at the time of writing this I’ve recently hit 425 lbs on deadlift for 6 reps, 355 lbs on squat for 8 reps, and 210 on bench press for 8 reps: putting my total weight at 990 lbs that I’m repping out for 6-8 reps
    • I’m fairly easily already at this goal, but my biggest challenge will be to build my relative strength and improve on these (or at the very least maintain) as I cut down my weight. I’m currently 190 lbs as of writing this, and probably have ~10 more pounds of fat to lose to reach my body fat goal.
  • Maintain a standard of a vested Murph workout (strict pullups, no kipping) in under 1 hour (last year I did it with a 20# weighted vest in 55 minutes with strict pullups and hand release pushups)
  • Important Note: I’ve also put a constraint that I won’t workout more than 3x/weekly. In the past my physical fitness has taken priority over more important things, such as my relationship with God, relationship with Lindsey, family/friends/other relationships - so I’ve decided to set certain boundaries on how much I can exercise

What does cutting out sugar have to do with my above health and fitness goals?

Sure, cutting out sugar might help some with leaning up and reducing body fat percentage. But to be honest, and this is really important to understand, this goal has very little to do with my physical performance or goals. I didn’t choose to cut out sugar to lose weight, lean up, or eat less food.

I also no longer see sugar as some evil villain in my diet like I used to. For a lot of years, as someone who followed a keto/low carb approach for many years, I viewed sugar as unhealthy and to be avoided at all costs. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve opened my mind to new ways of thinking, and I’ve experimented for myself - I no longer view sugar in the same light. I still think far too many people consume way too much sugar, and it’s by no means a healthy staple of nutrition for most people’s physical goals, I also don’t think it’s the root of all evil…

Physically speaking at least.

Without a doubt I believe it has it’s place to be enjoyed physically in your diet.

But the reason I chose to give sugar up was not the physical effect it was having on me (although if you’ve ever had too much sugar, you know the physical effects of overeating sugar are not fun either)

I chose to give it up because of the spiritual, mental, and emotional grip it was beginning to have on me.

It wasn’t like I was consuming it regularly without constraint. Most of my diet consists of fairly regular meals of leaner protein, veggies, starches, and fruits.

However, with increasing frequency, I was reaching for sugars and sweets at the end of long days and long weeks. I found myself with poor control and self-discipline over the quantities I was able to eat, frequently binging out and overeating - even to the point of feeling sick at times.

This led to feeling physically unhealthy, gaining body fat, feeling bloated, energy/hunger swings, and many other undesirable effects.

I found myself thinking about food way too much, craving the next time I could enjoy something sweet.

But it was all a root of a deeper problem in my spiritual, mental, and emotional health.

The Bible says: A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet (Proverbs 27:7 NKJV)

When you’re healthy - and I’m not just talking about looking healthy, being fit, or having a low body fat percentage - when you’re holistically healthy: you don’t have to look for something physical to fill your soul.

For me, that was sugar.

For someone else that might be drugs, porn, social media, Netflix, or anything else that you might use to numb, distract, or escape your current reality.

Real men are in tune with their feelings and their emotions - they just don’t let these feelings and emotions guide or lead them.

It happened slowly, but something as simple as sugars and sweet treats were taking the place of my relationship with God, having a negative impact on my family, and hurting my health in the way I was consuming them.

Don’t get too focused on the what and miss the how.

Sugar wasn’t the problem for me - but how I was consuming it was.

I’m believing I have a lot more to learn over these next 9 months and beyond, but here are my current lessons learned one quarter of the way through the year:

Lesson #1: I don’t miss sugar as much as I thought I would

I thought it would take much longer to kick my sugar cravings. I was surprised how easy the transition was once I made up my mind and decided it was what I was going to do.

Lesson #2: My cravings, my hunger, and my palate have definitely changed

I was also surprised how quick my cravings changed. Where several cookies and a huge bowl of ice cream only left me craving more, I’m now extremely content with simple ‘treats’ in much smaller quantities.

Lesson #3: It has freed up a lot of headspace and anxiety around food

This was probably my main reason I originally set out on this challenge, and I’m thankful this has happened as quickly as it did. I find myself thinking about food way less than I previously had, leading to more mental clarity, peace, and focus on other things that matter.

Lesson #4: I’m handling stress better and holistically more healthy than I’ve been in a long time

I have a much better grasp now on when I’m looking for an escape, and I’m turning to healthier outlets for my stress than food. When you get rid of one ‘vice’ it doesn’t solve the root, and can often get replaced with another. Now that sugar is off the board, I need to guard against time spent on my phone or social media, and even time spent working.

Lesson #5: My immune system, energy, body composition, and my gut have improved

While I didn’t set out to see a lot of physical change from cutting sugar, it certainly hasn’t hurt. My energy is more stable, I haven’t gotten sick this year and things like allergies are much better handled, I’m getting leaner, and I’m far less bloated than I was before.

With all the positive changes I’ve seen, I haven’t regretted my decision one bit.

Uncomfortable action always brings growth and new opportunities to learn more about yourself.

The more I put myself in situations like these, the more I seem to grow in all the areas I desire to grow in.

Maybe this is too extreme for you and you’re not ready for a change like that.

Or maybe that's the fear talking...

Maybe cutting sugar out might be keeping you from the health and freedom you desire.

Maybe it’s something else.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be for a full year, but maybe it does.

Is there anything you’ve identified that is taking up too much head space that you need to regain discipline over?

If you’re committed to something and ready to see change, the best thing you can do is take immediate action on it.

Do you have something you’re ready to give up in order to reach your next level?

 

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