Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One year living almost 100% sugar-free*!

This time last year, I weighed an incredible and embarrassingly 304 pounds.

As of today, I weigh 259.5. My highest ever weight was recorded by my doctor on August 16, 2011. I was 318 pounds.

Forty-four and half pounds later (and a grand total of 58.5 pounds lost) I'm here to tell you how I did it, why I keep losing and why I will keep losing.

After that awful weigh-in in August 2011, I told my husband that once the lease was up on my SUV at the end of the year, I would go car-free and take the bus and/or walk to wherever I needed to go.

I made good on that commitment despite friends and family who doubted I could live without my own vehicle for more than six months, let alone forever. It's been 20 months. I'm still car-less, suckers!

That's not to say it was an easy decision. Having access to a vehicle leads to an incredible amount of impulsive freedom ... and impulsive eating. Food on the go is more accessible when you can swing through a drive-thru, and this was my biggest downfall. I was notoriously bad for eating and driving on the go which resulted in very poor food choices.

In the Spring of 2012, I bought myself a bike and a bike trailer and I pedaled my daughter to daycare for five months straight. Despite all that exercise where the ride back was uphill 80% of the way, I only lost nine pounds. I was baffled. I wasn't eating more than usual and in fact, I was eating less but the weight wasn't coming off as fast as I had imagined.

My husband is a Type 2, non-insulin diabetic. In an effort to help him cope with his disease, I borrowed several books about diabetes and sugar addiction from the library around this time last year and I made an interesting discovery. This isn't new, it's just that I was slow to make the connection - sugar makes you fat.

In all of the studies mentioned in the books, each of the subjects, once diagnosed and having changed their diets, lost anywhere from 40 pounds or more in the first year of what becomes a life-long commitment to eating sugar-free.

I told my husband that I was quitting sugar. No more Frosted Flakes, no more croissants, no more Too Tall Cakes from M&M Meat Shops. No more chocolate. No more Passion Flakies (god damn, I loved those). No more jams, jellies, syrups, ice cream, fudge, pudding or Dairy Queen. I was done.

The first three months, which saw me go through three major food holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, I felt like a junkie who had quit meth. I chewed so much sugar-free gum, that some days it hurt just to smile. By the end of February, I was down 15 pounds. This was with no exercise. Just a change in diet.

In March, I switched my daughter from her daycare centre back to her former babysitter. She was too big for the bike trailer and the daycare was too far to walk to, and back, if I wanted to catch a bus that got me to the GO station and on a train before 8 am. It was a 25 minute bike ride. To walk the same route would take an hour, plus, it would mean walking on a rural road with no sidewalk and very little shoulder - way too dangerous at 6:00 am when most drivers are barely awake, and if they are, they're too busy texting to notice two pedestrians at the side of the road. I had three close calls when on the bike, I wasn't taking any more risks by walking.

It's a 25 minute walk to the babysitter from my house and another 10 minutes after I drop my daughter off to the bus stop. I walk 35 minutes for a total distance of 2.65 km each morning, and walk another 1.9 km to work and back once I get to Toronto. Guaranteed, I walk a total of 4.55 km five days a week and walk anywhere from another 2 km to 5 km on weekends, or throughout the work day, if I want to hit the PATH during my lunch hour. This exercise, coupled with further changes in my diet, has resulted in a loss of 30 pounds in 4.5 months. I also quit bread, aspartame, potato chips, reduced my dairy intake to consuming only 2% milk and ditched red meat from my diet. If I eat steak, it's once every two months.

I now eat more chicken, fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Instead of ice cream, I blend some fruit with watered down 2% milk and add chia seeds for a satisfying smoothie. For additional flavour, I'll add a teaspoon of vanilla.

Some days, I mourn the way I used to eat. I know there are former sugar/salt/cheese/starch addicts out there who lie and say they never could imagine going back to the way they used to be. I can imagine just fine, thank you very much. There are nights where I lie in bed and fight the cravings where I fantasize about Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzards, Passion Flakies, Too Tall Lemon Cakes, Nestle Drumsticks, Chicken McNuggets, Calzones, Pepperoni Pizza with Anchovies, President Choice Double Chunk Cookies and Doritos. Fuck, I love Doritos. Cool Ranch, that was my vice, man.

Saturday, I had a bad day. I don't know if it was hormones, my mood, high tide, some food holiday in a part of the world I've never been to but I could not, as hard as I tried, fight the desire to eat a bowl of Chapman's Blueberry Cheesecake ice cream.

I paced. I played 500 rounds of Candy Crush Saga. I ironed 10 shirts and organized my daughter's sock and underwear drawer, but the craving would not subside. I had the ice cream and I felt awful for hours afterward and all day Sunday. By Sunday night, I let it go. I have to understand the cravings for what they are. I don't know what the hell that is, but there has to be a reason why they happen and I need to learn how to handle them. I realize it's okay to eat a little bit but it's the remorse I struggle with. A cup of ice cream isn't going to pile fifty pounds back on, but it's the thought of how easy it can be to do exactly that. I didn't get to 318 pounds free-basing rice cakes.

I wrote this post because people keep asking me how I've managed to lose what I've lost. When I mention the sugar, people refuse to believe it could be that simple and also refuse to believe they can do it "because sugar is in everything"! No, it's not in everything. Bad sugar is in things you really shouldn't be eating more than once a month. Good sugar is in things you should eat everyday, like fruit. So you're not necessarily quitting sugar, you're quitting bad sugar, the high fructose corn syrup sugar, the added sugar and the junk food sugar.

I've watched people go vegan, gluten-free, low-fat and vegetarian and lose next to nothing after two years of eating this way. There's still sugar in those diets. A quick look at Vegan Snacks is very revealing. You know why all those snacks taste so good? Sugar.

I eat what my husband eats. I'm not a diabetic but I was well on way to being one. If you're obese and you've given up on all the diets, try eliminating sugar. Talk to your doctor. He won't say no.

*Of bad sugar. Very bad sugar


Sylv said...

You go girl! Keep it up (or off in this case)!

Anonymous said...

there's a delicious sugar free chocolate i used to get....pricy but good...forgot what it's called...let me find out when i get home...

Dib said...

Good for you, CJ!!! I think you have amazing willpower; to have a little something, very rarely, should be ok, but I know, sometimes you just want to keep eating it!

We all are very proud of you and what you have accomplished.

Keep up the good work!

C.J. Smith said...

Thanks Dib!

C.J. Smith said...

Russel Stover makes a bunch of sugar free chocolates. I've tried them but because of the malitol, my stomach gets upsets. I have noticed that my body doesn't like sugar alcohols very much and I get terrible stomach gas.

What's been saving my ass is Splenda. I've learned to bake with it and make a lovely banana bread and French apple pie.

Anonymous said...

Sugar alcohols are natural laxatives hence the gas! I react the same way.

Cravings are difficult... They're easier if you have people to talk to them about. it's what has worked for me. It's not for everyone but thought I'd put it out there.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and keep going. Hey, no problem with a steak now and then. It's the simple carbs (like sugar) that get you. You're doing great!

C.J. Smith said...

I'll take any advice into consideration. Having some support is helpful.

No, nothing wrong with steak now and then. Now and then being the operative words!

Anonymous said...

Its great that you're making progress. Now if only Mayor Ford would do the same. Oh yeah, Mr Ford doesn't believe in science nor evidence/facts.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, and thanks for sharing. I myself need to lose weight so I appreciate the advice.

Anonymous said...

Way to go CJ!

Instead of Splenda though, try Stevia. It's a natural alternative to sugar.

MATT said...

I could never, in a bazillion years, cut out all of the things from my diet that you did. No diet pop? No bread? No....STEAK? I'm twitching just thinking about it.

And for the record, I'm no spring chicken myself. Last trip to the doc, I tipped the scale at 212 lbs (which evidently surprised the doctor, because I guess I don't look that heavy...he said "you're that big?"). I'm just being honest that I couldn't do what you've done. Period.

Good for you.

C.J. Smith said...

I was a naysayer, just like you.
Then I got scared thinking about being 50 at that weight.
Fear is a big motivator.

Re: Stevia
I do have it and use it but it doesn't bake well. It's not a binding agent and so anything dense, like banana bread, falls apart.

Quitting sugar and saturated fat is fucking hard. But if I can do it, YOU CAN TOO!!!

Anonymous said...

CJ I'm with Matt. The thought of it makes me want to go out and buy a butter tart!

I didn't know that about Stevia not being a good binding agent.

Squiggles said...

So the internets ate my previous comment. If it is a double post, my apologies.

Congrats CJ! It is a huge accomplishment.

I do need to agree with Matt. It would drive me (and the people around me) to cut out my Diet Coke.

On to tips: Eggs are a great binding agent. And they contain no carbs and sugars and are great for diabetics. If you only need to sweeten, try Agave or Stevia.

Splenda is ok for some baking, but not as a substitute for the sugar in lemon bars for example (that was a rubbery disappointment).

I am trying Pumpkin Mousse this year at Thanksgiving (a relative is diabetic) as this cuts out the sugar and carbs from the crust and most from the filling as it is lighter from whipped cream (from cream that is whipped, not Dream Whip). Not certain how it is going to turn out and need to remember that it won't be one of my pies (which I normally create from scratch starting with a raw, baking pumpkin).

sasgirl said...

Congrats on the weight loss CJ and sharing your helpful tips on how to lose it!

I have started eliminating sugar from my diet as I really need to lose some weight as well.

Here's a tip that I found to help stop sugar cravings -

The contractive nature of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar helps to counteract the expansive nature of sugar. So by drinking a glass of water with 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar in it, you’ll help to reduce sugar cravings almost immediately.

C.J. Smith said...

^Why couldn't that be wine?


NB in OTT said...

You are an inspiration.
I will try to do the same as you have done. I'll let you know what happens.

C.J. Smith said...

Aw, thanks!
Just start taking it away. The first 30 days is hellish but just think... 40 pounds in a year is possible.

George said...

Nice going with your challenge CJ. My wife and I have been the same way for years now except not 100% sugar free because I like sugar in my coffee. Artificial sweeteners aren't the same to my palate.

Hy and Zels used to have a terrific section of very good sugar-free chocolates and ice cream and stuff for diabetics. Unfortunately, they closed here in Oakville. :(

I'm certainly a bit overweight now but far short of obese and because of my arthritic knees, very little exercising is possible without next-day agony. So we are very careful what we buy and just generally walk trails until I can't go any more.

Keep it up. I lost over 100 pounds over 5 years with about 20 left to go (but then again those pounds are like a close friend now).

C.J. Smith said...

Thanks George!

DF said...

stay away from ALL processed foods. I dont eat anything out of a box (except Quinoa and rice) and they come in bags ;)
Canned/processed food is full of salt and other bad things. If you make everything from scratch then you know what's in your food.
I cringe every time I see people eating low fat frozen dinners or pacakged foods. they may as well eat the box it came in because what's inside is certainly doing your body no good.
Doing weight bearing exercises will make a huge different in how fast you lose the weight as well.

DF said...

oh and I hate to say it, but cutting back on carbs makes a difference too. I was a bread fanatic, multi grain, I never ate white bread, and the thought of not eating bread scared me, I didnt think I could do it. I ate sandwhiches all the time, toast or bagels for breakfast, now I never eat it and believe it or not I dont miss it at all. You will probably feel better without it as well. I eat my carbs early in the day and dinner mostly consists of protein and veggies. Trust me you will see the difference on the scale and your body will feel better too.

C.J. Smith said...

I only eat bread on the weekends and if I do it's light rye bread as toast to my scrambled egg whites.
I don't eat a fraction of the bad carbs that I used to.

Kelly@CrueltyFreeCanada said...

That's awesome, CJ. So hard to give up things we are used to eating - I am lucky to have never been able to gain weight if I tried but recently at 35 for the first time ever I gained maybe 12 lbs - I'm a size 2, boo hoo, I know, but it bothered me. I am short so it shows up quickly. I gave up Coke and chips at night and started running (I don't hate it quite as much anymore!)and lost 10 lbs in 2 months by using a fitbit. I LOVE it. It is so motivating and I love competing against my fitbit 'friends' (you can see how many steps your friends put in over a week period. I highly recommend it! I wear the fitbit flex, wristband type but they also sell a cheaper clip on version (best buy, future shop).

Anonymous said...

You are inspirational CJ, you should be so proud. I think I read this at the right time as I have struggled with my weight now for years, recently I lost almost 40 lbs to get to a size 5 (1 year ago) to put most of it back due to stress. I have horrible family health history that makes it a neccessity to lose this weight. I applaud you for all your hard work, and thanks for the inspiration! I need to make the same changes you did.

C.J. Smith said...

^ It's a baby step process. Start with eliminating sugar, ie. bad foods with sugar you don't need to be eating. Then add exercise such as walking. Then start eating less white flour products and add more protein to your diet. And of course, talk to your doctor for additional guidance.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work CJ. I've been trying to motivate myself to cut out sugar for a while now but end up failing miserably, but feeling more motivated after reading this, thank you :)

C.J. Smith said...

I hope anyone can find a little motivation in themselves through my own journey.