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The Secret To Losing Weight With A Sugar-Free Diet

Updated on February 28, 2014

Newsflash: diets don't work

Here’s a fact: diets don’t work.

Diets fail because you are depriving your body of what it wants, and you are depriving your mind of what it craves. The mind and body can be pretty unforgiving when they start to notice what you are doing, so you end up in a battle of trying to resist the very strong urge to eat and binge. Thus, you start eating again, you overeat, and the weight piles back on.

Sound familiar?

I’m 35, and I’ve been on diets since the age of 11. I’ve never won that diet battle until now, because this time I turned the whole approach to dieting on its head. And that change of tactic worked. So I’m going to explain to you exactly how I did that.

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Dieting is 90% mental, 10% physical

When you look at how many diets are structured, what you will normally find is an intense period to begin with where you face new restrictive meal plans, complex recipes with ingredients you’ve never heard of, a crash course in advanced nutrition, eventually followed by an easing up of restrictions as you lose the weight. The problem I have with this is that dieting is not something that comes naturally to people, especially if you are an overeater, and forcing yourself to be pushed to the limit so early on is a recipe for failure. Think about it this way, if you were going to train for a marathon, how would you do it? Would you spend day 1 running 20 miles at top speed, and then gradually change your training to an easier run of 10 miles, eventually swapping it for a walk? Of course you wouldn’t. That would be insane, and you know you would just be setting yourself up for failure. Well, that’s exactly what we do with dieting. We set ourselves up for failure but giving ourselves unrealistically challenging targets right from the offset.

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Deal with the cravings first

My approach to dieting, and the only thing that was successful for me, was to deal firstly with the mental challenges that were causing me to fail at diets, before I started to implement any sort of strict nutrition regimes or calorie counting.

Firstly, I began to analyze what my normal, day-to-day behavior was with eating so that I could start to address problems. What became quite clear to me was just how much of a binge pattern I had in my day-to-day diet. It would normally start around mid-morning, with perhaps something as innocent as a slice of toast. I’d then move on to a small slice of cake. An hour later, I’d have a bigger slice of cake. Lunch would be a super-sized portion of something comforting and carb-heavy. By the afternoon, I had the ringing alarm bells of ‘diet fail’ going around my head, so by that point I would feel low, feel like a failure, and properly hit the food, eating through several family size bars of chocolate and cookies. In the evening, I would finish off a large dinner with a generous portion of cheesecake.

Before I began this ‘diet, I wrote a food diary similar to what I’ve just written above so that I could reflect on my eating habits. Read my previous paragraph again and ask yourself this: does this sound like you? How out-of-control does this person sound?

To me, this wasn’t the behavior of someone who became overweight through simply eating the wrong thing or just eating too much food; this was the behavior of an addict. So it became clear to me that simply going on a diet and restricting my food without addressing the underlying issues was just never going to work. My history proves this; I’ve been on hundreds of diets over the past 24 years and my weight has gradually crept up year after year.

Addressing the addiction

When it came to my success this time in losing weight, you could say that the stars were aligned. Because my growing realization that I was exhibiting the behavior of an addict coincided with a growing number of news reports in the press about the dangers of sugar.

Sugar, of course, has always been my weakness. I am a self-confessed sweet tooth. I’m the person who feels cheated if they leave a restaurant without dessert. I am the person who seeks solace in chocolate when I’ve had a tough day. I’m the person who can’t open a packet of cookies without finishing them all in one sitting.

I was addicted to sugar, and suddenly I was reading a lot of news reports in the national press about how scientists are now discovering just how dangerous (and addictive) sugar really is. The more I read, the more scared I became. Sure, I knew my diet wasn’t great. But to me, I’d never put myself in the unhealthy category. It’s not like I eat giant plates of deep fried food, huge quantities of heart-disease causing red meat all washed down with plenty of alcohol and finished off with a cigarette. I wouldn’t dream of putting my body at risk like that. I’m a mother with a young toddler, and so I look after my health. I drink very little, I’ve never smoked, and I eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Sure, I might have a weakness for sweet food (especially chocolate), but where was the harm?

But there was. Of course there was harm in what I was doing. I’ve written a separate article on the dangerous effects of sugar and the latest research about it, so I won’t repeat it here and you can read that article if you want to learn more, but what I didn’t need a scientist to tell me was this: I was addicted to sugar. That fact was in clear plain sight.

Finding a solution that would work

I knew that if I had an addiction to sugar, going on another diet wasn’t going to solve anything. I had been on enough diets in my life to know that I would fail, probably within 10-20 days of starting it.

So I decided I would look at quitting sugar instead of dieting, and to help me I got some guidance from an author called Sarah Wilson, who has written a book called I Quit Sugar, which gives you an 8 week step-by-step program. You can read about my review of I Quit Sugar in this article.

Achieving my goal

By following the steps in the book, I quit sugar over a period of 8 weeks. I didn’t diet, I didn’t restrict my calorie intake, I didn’t restrict my fat intake. I just stopped eating sugar. It was a gentle and easy approach to dealing with a sugar addiction and within as little as 2 weeks the results were profound. I had escaped that constant need to satisfy a craving, and escaped those high-and-low mood swings that many dieters are familiar with.

What really helped was the knowledge that I wasn’t dieting and I wasn’t restricting my food, so it didn’t feel like a punishment. And because it didn’t feel like a punishment, I didn’t have the overwhelming desire to quit it every time I had a feeling of weakness.

Overcoming an addiction

Avoiding sugar for me was really about addressing a bigger problem. It was about figuring out why I was turning to sugar in the first place. It was about finding other ways to deal with emotional problems that drew me to sugar in the first place. It was about talking to family and friends when I was feeling down. It was about figuring out what things were going on in my life that was making me so sad that I wanted to turn to food. It was about taking a walk, getting some fresh air and getting my heart rate going when I was feeling tired and lethargic. It was about taking care of myself with candlelit baths, shopping trips and days away from the home rather than diving into the cookie jar. It was about giving myself a break occasionally from trying to be a perfect mother, hold down a busy job, and look after my house. It was about forgiving myself, letting things go, and believing in myself that, actually, I’m doing ok.

The 9lb weight loss

I started the 8 week program at 155lb and finished it at 146lb, which is fantastic for doing something which never once felt like a diet and not once in those 8 weeks did I feel deprived or hungry. In fact, I never counted my calories at any point during those 8 weeks. I just ate what I wanted. As long as it didn’t contain sugar.

A 9lb weight loss over an 8 week period is never going to make headlines. And if you want a fast solution to losing weight then I would suggest this isn’t the right article for you, because there are plenty of potions and gimmicks on the market that will get you that weight loss much faster than this approach can. But it won’t make you happy. And it won’t allow you to address your problems. And it won’t allow you to face up to your addictions. So until you do that, any short term weight loss will just slowly creep back on.

So have I kept the weight off?

I have kept the weight off and in fact I’m still losing weight, and now I am close to my goal weight of 136lb. But weight loss has become secondary to me. What has become more important through this whole experience is how I am feeling. My addiction is no longer such a big part of my life. I think I will always be addicted to sugar, and I will always need to be on my guard when I’m having afternoon tea with friends or dining out at a new restaurant in town. However, I don’t have the highs and lows that marked my daily life. I don’t wake up thinking about my next sugar fix. I feel free. I feel happy. I have the energy and the positive attitude to get on with my life, to be a good mum, to work hard in my job, and to live my life to the full. It is a wonderful feeling and it stops me wanting to go back to that dark place where happiness came to me in a packet of cookies.

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