Can’t Stop Eating Sugar? Here Are Our Top Tips On How to Quit Sugar | The Hart of Health Podcast
Joané & Jonathan: (00:03)
Hi, I’m Joané Hart and I am Jonathan Hart. This is The Hart of Health. A show where we focus mainly on health and self-optimization. Here, we like to talk about our experiences and knowledge when it comes to health and biohacking. We hope you enjoy the show.
Hi, everyone on today’s podcast we’re going to talk about how to quit sugar.
Yes, it is an addiction. Do not fool yourself.
A lot of people get upset when you say that sugar is a drug, but I fully believe that it is a drug. Sugar is a drug!
It’s a performance-enhancing drug.
It’s a performance-enhancing drug indeed. Although if you have a lot of it, that might be the opposite case.
It depends if you’re about to do something very physical.
Yes. Although in my head, but my head just went to the wrong place, I was thinking about that study where if men had like 75 grams of sugar in a sitting, their testosterone levels dove by like 25%. Then it just made me think of performance.
Yeah. But that took quite a bit of time because I think it’s correlated to your insulin
And activity levels, all sorts of things.
If you were about to do something, like a sprint or a soccer match or something very glycolytic active, you can have the 75 grams of sugar and you’ll probably just absorb it all, and store it all because your body’s going to be lower on glycogen. So then it’s going to be just saying, yes, thank you very much. Versus if you’re just sitting and watching TV and then you probably going to get a much lower dip in testosterone if you’re just sitting and watching TV.
Indeed, indeed. So Mr. Hart, I quit sugar. ‘Now, I don’t want to say that I quit sugar because fruit, I will have seasonally, occasionally. It’s not something I have often. I don’t think I’ve had a piece of fruit in the last two months, but I am on a low sugar diet.
Yes. So it’s actually, to be more accurate, It’s not to say this is how you go sugar-free because I think sugar-free is almost impossible in today’s society unless you go carnivore. Even on carnivore, you can have honey, so that’s not sugar-free.
Depends on who you speak to but yeah, some carnivores do have honey.
Yes. Anyway, you can’t really quit it completely. It’s more just like getting over sugar addiction and reducing your sugar intake to a moderate level, moderate to low.
So how did we do it? Okay. It all started back in the day. Hey, we’ve been together for long now. Like five and a half years or so? So it all started like five years ago, four and a half years ago. No, before I met you, I went on a low sugar diet for three months. Then I met you. Then I went to Cape Town on holiday for two weeks, gained five kilos because I was just eating a lot of sugar, then came back and then we started dating
And then only at the end of that year did I quit sugar.
Yes. And then at the end of that year, you quit sugar. Around the middle of that year, I started switching to a low GI diet because well, I wanted to lose fat, but I was also diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, you do not want to be having a lot of sugar and high glycemic carbs. So I went low GI and eventually I quit sugar completely. There was a long time where I wouldn’t even touch fruit. And then shortly after me, you quit sugar completely.
It was a new year’s resolution. Yeah. I said I wanted to stay below 36 grams of sugar a day. On the second or third day, I realised exactly where my problem was. Breakfast was a disaster. And I just thought I was going to have some old bran flakes.
Which a lot of people think is a healthy breakfast food.
And I think, So just one cup of milk and I suppose about a cup of bran flakes. A cup and a half of old bran is already like 28 grams of sugar. Just in that. I was just like, okay, so I can have zero sugar for the rest of the day because of my breakfast.
I remember that day well. I actually forgot about it until you mentioned it now. But before you quit sugar, it was spectacular. We were at a new year’s party and you were eating everything that contains sugar. Because it was your last night of sugar intake. But I think your transition off of sugar was probably one of the easiest. A lot of people have it way harder. You maybe struggled a little bit.
Yeah. Not too much, but yeah. I don’t have emotional attachments to food at all.
Yeah, that helps. I’m different. It’s been four and a half years, almost five years. And I still walk past Krispy Kreme and a little part of me inside is a bit sad that I can’t have it.
I know. That emotional attachment. The worst emotional attachment for me, is a McDonald’s McFlurry. Like that from me, I know that memories can trigger cravings. When I was a kid, my Mom, there was a stage where she didn’t have that much money after my biological dad left. And our treat was we would get McDonald’s McFlurry and go and sit in the park and sit and talk. My Mom, my sister, and I and that was just like my favourite thing. And now every time I see McDonald’s, I crave a McFlurry and it’s been years. It’s been 16 years since we did that in the park, like 15 years and McFlurries still gets me, but it’s okay. I’m strong. I’m making enough healthy desserts, not to need the McFlurry. And I know how to make my own low sugar and sugar-free ice cream. So I am not deprived of any dessert, but just choose to have the low sugar desserts now.
Yes. And you’re probably definitely getting a higher quality ice cream, then they put in the McFlurry’s too. If you can call that ice cream. I’m not sure if it is cream in there.
I remember in university, I went on a few dates with this guy who was lactose intolerant, but he could have the ice cream at like McDonald’s and KFC. Because he told me it was not real ice cream.
That could be true.
I can’t remember that well, but I feel like my transition off of sugar was a little bit more gradual because I did the low GI thing and then went off fully and I’ve been low carb for quite a few years. Even though every three months or so there will be about two weeks where I’ll have fruit or some more carbs or anything. But then I always go back to a low carb diet because I just feel better.
Yeah. I definitely noticed. And that’s the thing, it was basically the first dietary change I’ve made in my entire life. It was going low sugar. So as always, and this is kind of also my theory for why a vegan diet or going plant-based can work as often as the first thing you try. And the first thing you try has spectacular results because it’s the first thing you did. Your body is almost dying for some sort of a reprieve from the shit you’ve been feeling. So yeah, I went low sugar and the first few days, I was still figuring things out. But then after about two weeks, I didn’t have to calculate anymore. Like unless it was a new circumstance like I knew what had how much sugar in it, how much I could have of what, and it was quite interesting and I play field hockey and generally, you know, the season is a winter sport.
So in summer hockey ends. So you generally come back the next beginning of winter, quite unfit and not really ready to go, but I had just quit sugar basically for a month and a half. And I just had this very consistent energy level on the hockey field at the beginning of the season. And I was just like, what? And I noticed that I could almost just run and run and run. I never got this hyper glycaemic sort of state where you get low blood sugar and then you feel a bit crappy and you run out of energy. I just seem to have this never-ending energy supply. And people were asking Oh, did you keep foot during the holidays? And this and that? I was like, no, I treat it the way I normally do. All I did was lower my sugar intake.
You didn’t exercise a lot when you quit sugar. That was a busy time of the year for you with work. So I remember that you didn’t train a lot. You didn’t exercise a lot, but it looked like you’d gained muscle somehow and you got more fit just by quitting sugar. And my theory has always been because of an increase in testosterone levels.
I do agree with you. I also started growing more chest hair and stuff.
You did start growing more chest hair. That was an interesting observation.
So for the first few weeks, I definitely noticed like a physical withdrawal. So where you sort of go through this, I think it was more actually just the first week was the roughest. Like where your body’s just craving sugar. Just give me sugar. After that, the physical withdrawals were gone and then you start getting into this nice rhythm, but then the psychological cravings took 10 months to get rid of because you still walk into the store and then you’ll see a candy wrapper or a pastry or something that used to be that thing for you that was like really exciting or whatever. Good tasting dessert or whatever. You’d see it. And that same spark of excitement would be there. And you’d be like, Oh, I can’t have that. That took 10 months to go away.
But now, I literally walk into the store and I can look at the pastries, you can put the pastry in front of me and I’m not going to be affected by it. It still affects you because you’ve got an emotional attachment to it. I’m just saying like, the actual association my body had with those foods, like I don’t have the emotional, I just had the, Oh, that lifts up my brain. You know? That food, when I ate it, it lit up my brain. Like when you’re on cocaine.
That is one thing I noticed when I switched to a low sugar diet. When I had fruit again, just a piece of fruit. I swear I could feel my brain light up. It literally, I’ve never done cocaine, but it felt like a hit of cocaine. My brain just said yes and please more. Like, we want more of this. I definitely felt that addictive, part of me turned on when it came to sugar and I really have a problem controlling myself around fruit, for example, which is why I don’t have it often because I can’t. If I start having it regularly, I lose control. I know that I need to stay away from fruit. I have a friend who knows that as soon as she starts eating fruit, she just loses control. And it just makes sense. You know, back in the day, hunter and gatherer times, fruit wasn’t necessarily always available. And when you came across fruit, you capitalized.
It’s going out of season boys, get as much as you can.
Get as much as you can! I was listening, I think it’s Eric Edmeades or whatever. I don’t know how you say his surname, but he was talking about being with some sort of group of tribesmen and they were hunting and he was talking about how, if they found honey, they stopped everything. And they were so determined to get that honey. And then they would just eat themselves sick, but they didn’t know when they were going to see honey again. It was such a rare thing. But as soon as they saw that honey, they became obsessed with it.
Like it was a drug. A lot of people associate drug with something that is bad. I don’t say that drugs are bad, but I’m just saying that anything that has a dose-dependent response on your body, not only physiologically, but psychologically, is by definition, a drug. Caffeine is a drug that even has a lethal dose. Like not all drugs or I think all drugs have a lethal dose, but some of them are almost unobtainable. I know for certain things you have to eat so much of it in order for it to be lethal, that it’s actually almost impossible for you to consume that much. With sugar, you take it, you become more active. So you actually get this hyperactivity. Like everyone says, Oh, I was on a sugar rush.
I was on a sugar rush, you know? And another thing it also does, is it reduces your response to pain. So you can be working out and technically it hurts a bit to push that hard sometimes. But having that sugar that just dulls your pain sensors a bit, also helps you to push through. So when I say it’s a performance-enhancing drug, if I told you take this pull and you’ll have more energy and you’ll feel less pain, what are you going to call it? A drug. You know? And that’s what sugar is. It’s basically a white powder that makes you have more energy and lights up your brain just the same way cocaine does. Neurologists can’t tell the difference between brain scans of people on cocaine and brain scans of people having sugar.
Soothes emotional pain too for some people. There is a lot of emotional eaters out there, even just carbs. You don’t even have to think of it as sugar. If it’s like bread or pasta, it’s the same thing. Your body is going to turn that, it’s just gonna be a glucose spike and your brain and body treats it the same as sugar. So if you’re addicted to carbs, you’re addicted to sugar.
Pretty much. Sugar is definitely a lot more pure. Yeah, it’s like anything. If I told you, Oh yeah, you can have as much sugar as you want, but you have get it from the sugar cane. You’d probably not be able to get a heavy enough dose. You’d have to chew through a lot of fibre to sort of get any of the sugar. Meanwhile, what happens is you, ground down the sugar cane and you take out the liquid and then you obviously evaporate the water and you’re left with sugar. Well, what did they do to make cocaine? Oh, they take the cocoa leaves. They do the exact same process and you get two white powders from plants. And one is very quickly classified as a dangerous drug. And the other one is just something you put on your breakfast or in your coffee, which is kind of ridiculous in my opinion.
But that’s just this situation. So yes, you might be wanting to argue that no sugar is not a drug. Try quitting it for a month. Try to have as little sugar as possible for one month and see what happens. I feel like I went through all the same things, you know? You go through the physical withdrawal stage, the psychological withdrawal, like there’s all this withdrawal when you don’t have it. Same with caffeine. Ask anyone who tries to quit coffee. They go through withdrawal. And that’s another thing to show you that you’re addicted to something.
So yeah, we want to actually give people advice on how to reduce their sugar intake. I’d say start with reducing obvious sugars of course. Like table sugar, the cakes, the doughnuts, and the candies. A lot of people when they think of cutting out sugar, they only think of cutting out the obvious. They don’t consider fruits. They don’t consider fruit bars. They don’t consider milk. They don’t consider sweetened yoghurt or plain yoghurt. They don’t consider their pasta sauce. They don’t consider tomato sauce. Any barbecue sauce is the worst. Chutneys and sweet chili sauce. So don’t stress about that at first, cut out the obvious things and then look at your sources and everything else that you’re eating, read the labels of everything. One guideline that Jonathan followed, in the beginning, was he wouldn’t eat something where it had more than 10% sugar. So if it had more than 10 grams of sugar, per hundred grams, you wouldn’t eat it.
Yeah. Just because it made the rest of the day, very difficult to stay below 36. 36 was the RDA recommended allowance for sugar. So I’m not even sure if that’s actually a valid number, but it was just actually some way to draw a line and say, okay, I’m going to stay on the side of the line.
Brilliant guideline. I still think it’s a brilliant guideline just to make start making people aware of how much sugar they’re having. One thing I thought that was great is sharing helps. I had a friend on varsity where if we wanted some cake, we shared a slice of cake because then at least you got half of the amount of sugar. So if you do want to switch to a low sugar diet, cutting the portions in half at first, that’s also a great tip. I know a lot of people and my mom and I always recommend this to people who want to reduce the amount of sugar they have in their coffee, is if you’re having four teaspoons right now, go to three teaspoons. When you’re used to three teaspoons, go down to two teaspoons, then go to one and a half and then one. Just reduce it gradually. You can do that. But the sharing, that cuts a lot of it.
Yes. And also I’d recommend having patients. If you are a person who is probably consuming a fair amount of sugar in a day, and you are having your sweet treats and all that, your palette is adjusted for that. So you can have a carrot now and it’ll just be a carrot. But for me, if I have a carrot, a carrot is sweet. Because I’ve had almost no sugar for this whole month. Minus a tiny bit of honey here and there. And if I had to eat a carrot, I’d taste the sweetness in it because my palette has adjusted to the fact that I’m getting in less sugar. So the less you eat, the more your pallet actually responds in the way it used to, to lower sweetness?
Plain yoghurt for me now is like a dessert.
Yeah. Like it used to be almost sour, but now it would be sweet in comparison.
Somebody who has a really big sweet tooth is listening to us now thinking, what are they talking about? Carrots are sweet?
Carrots contain sugar, just small amounts, but they do.
So. Yeah, taking it slowly is our tip. One of the first things I learned was looking at the back of a label and if one of the first three or five ingredients is some type of sugar then, they list ingredients according to the amount that they use, you know it has a lot of sugar in it. That’s a good tip too.
Yeah. Another good tip is when it comes to ingredients lists, there’s a lot of synonyms.
That’s what I wanted to say.
They will say like dextrose, sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup. If it even sounds like it could be anything like that, it means that there is sugar in it.
There’s a lot of things that they’re trying to disguise the fact that there’s sugar in it. If the second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, it’s probably not a good idea.
No, probably not.
But it’s not to say that you can’t have these things, but just be aware. Be aware that if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, like we said, do it slowly do it gradually be patient. Because if you’re doing it gradually and you’re expecting things to be better now, you need to do it a lot more drastically. If you want results quickly. If you do it the way I did it, where I just said, okay, cold turkey, you get results pretty quickly, but it requires a lot more willpower and it is a lot more challenging.
Yeah. You have to be emotionally strong like Jonathan was. I still had to say goodbye to a few things. Another thing that people often don’t think about when it comes to how much sugar they’re consuming in a day, is how much fruit they’re consuming. Like one apple has around 12 grams of sugar in it. So if you’re trying to stay at around 37 grams of sugar max in a day, if you have an apple that’s almost half or like a third. I always tell people, try not to have more than two servings of fruit in a day because it can quickly add up. I’ve seen people where someone had three whole fruits, it was like an apple and a peach and a banana and then they had date bars as well. It was just a lot of sugar in one lunch box. They thought that such a healthy lunchbox. And I just thought your poor liver is really gonna suffer.
Yeah. It’s quite a load. And people think fruits are natural, but even though it’s not in the lab, GMO it’s farmer, GMO you know? Farmers have been selectively breeding fruits to have more sugar, more sweetness, larger size, all of these things, they’ve been selected over thousands of years. So for you to think that they’re natural, it’s kind of a bit of a misconception. Obviously, It’s better than apple juice to just have an apple. But it still has an effect. It does contain sugar and you can’t have as much as you want of it because it will have consequences that are probably lead towards fatty liver disease.
Yeah. Like if I have an apple or some sort of fruit or if I make apple pie or something like that, then I just keep my carb and sugar intake for the rest of the day really low. Like I’ll still have it but the rest of the day I’ll basically be carnivore, zero carb. And my total sugar intake for the day will still be quite low.
Yeah. So those are very good tips to try and reduce your sugar intake. And if you don’t want to reduce your sugar intake that much, I definitely recommend trying to pair physical activity with when you have the most sugary things. Because your muscles are a very good way to sort of soak up that excess blood glucose. And you can turn something that’s going to start the whole cycle of insulin resistance into something that actually fueled your activity, which is actually part of some of the strategies we had when we want to eat something off the reservation.
And also I’ve found a lot of low sugar recipes for a lot of the desserts that I love. Like I make low sugar brownies and low sugar ice cream. There’s a recipe for anything that you love, that’s a healthier alternative. And even if in the end, you don’t want to have these desserts at all, but it’s just to help you transition. It’s a very good tip. Like yeah, if you’re used to having dessert every day and you start making 80% of the desserts you have low sugar ones, that could be a very good option for you as well.
Yes, and you don’t have to go like no sugar. Like we said, in the beginning, it’s just low sugar. Any kind of reduction is going to be better for your health. And like you said, making the desserts probably requires more effort. But in my opinion, your own health is worth it.
Oh yeah. And you can find keto bars and things like that online. A lot of people don’t want to eat them because they are quite processed. But if you don’t care about that and you just want something to make you feel like you’re having a chocolate bar or something. I can make my own chocolate because I just can do that. But it’s not that hard, but a lot of people don’t like the effort, but you can buy dark chocolate.
Yeah. There’s definitely a big movement of people going low sugar now because people are starting to realize that sugar is sort of not really good for you in large amounts. And I mean, you look at the first people who had the most access to sugar, were really rich people quite a few hundred years ago. They got really fat from the excess consumption of sugar. So diabetes was first seen as a rich person’s disease because they’re the only ones that were really able to afford those amounts of sugar, because sugar was actually quite hard to make. But nowadays it’s so cheap and easy for everyone to get that now, we are now seeing all these problems.
And we have addicts walking around all over.
Judging drug addicts.
That’s why we joke about sugar being a drug because it is a drug, but you get so many people who are addicted to sugar, judging people who are addicted to recognized drugs. And somebody could be with their coffee (drug) in hand with sugar (drug) in it and cigarette in the other hand (drug) judging somebody.
Someone who likes weed or something like that. Something that’s actually more natural.
And then this person would be taking sleeping pills and I don’t know what other kind of pharmaceutical drugs as well. No judgment but just take away the judgment.
Yeah. We’re actually just pointing out the hypocrisy.
You can have the coffee, you can have the sugar, you can have it.
You can have the cigarette. You can have whatever you want. Just don’t be a hypocrite
Yeah, don’t judge. Those are a few tips on how to move to a lower sugar lifestyle and impact your health in a good way.
Joané & Jonathan: (30:57)
Your body will thank you for it. Until next time, Bye.
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