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What Are My Sweet Parameters?

When you Stop Being Sweet, you need to figure out your parameters.

Recently, I was asked about mine. Here they are:

  • I eat whatever I want 4 days out of every year, from Halloween until November 3rd.
  • The rest of the year, I don’t eat most foods with added sugars.
  • I have slipped up quite a few times.
  • I sometimes eat pancakes with real maple syrup for breakfast—usually on vacation.
  • I don’t sweeten my tea.
  • I don’t drink alcohol nor do I drink coffee.
  • I don’t use artificial sweeteners.
  • I used to bake with grape juice concentrate, but now only use real fruit, usually bananas.
  • Sometimes I eat ketchup and french fries.
  • I still eat pasta, although much less than I used to.
  • I still eat bread, but limit my bread to one brand (Vitabee) and sometimes bread from our local bakery. I will eat bread if I’m eating out, however, I’ve been cutting back on the bread a lot lately.
  • I absolutely avoid my trigger foods (chocolate, ice cream, cookies, etc.)
  • I used to eat borderline replacement foods like Cheez-Its and Goldfish but I’m off that stuff (and have been for years).
  • I still eat fruit and usually have an apple or two a day.
  • Sometimes I drink Izze sparkling fruit juice, but don’t keep it at home.
  • My joker snack has been Nana’s cookies (no refined sugar - 18 grams per serving).
  • My food choices are always changing and evolving. Yours will too!

FAQ: Which is Worse, Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners?


I do not like, nor do I trust the safety of artificial sweeteners. My assumption was (is) that sugar is a natural and is OK vs. chemical sweeteners. Which is worse??


Dear gh,

If you must eat sweet, natural sweeteners are the way to go. If you want natural sugar, eat a banana. (They bake well.)

There’s going to be someone out there who will argue that artificial sweeteners are just as safe as sugar, or just the same as sugar (they tend to be people who work for an artificial sweetener company), and they’ll cite scientific experiments.


I’ve tried artificial sweeteners and the results aren’t pretty.

FAQ: Will I Feel Better After Kicking the Sugar Habit?


I think I need to be convinced of one thing: Will I feel enough better after kicking the sugar habit to make it worth the (for me) EXTREME difficulty of quitting? When I try to quit, I MOURN the loss of sweet things. I almost feel like life isn’t worth living without them. Will I feel like life is MORE worth living if I quit?

Any motivation is welcome,


Dear M,

You’re not ready to quit. Quitting means you’re going to stop doing something and not do it anymore. You still want sweets. That’s why it’s so difficult for you to quit.

It sounds like you’ve never gone for a long period of time without eating junk food. If you do that, you’ll experience how much better you feel when you’re not constantly hopped up on sugar. You’ll also notice how terrible you feel when you binge on sweets after having abstained for a long period of time.

My suggestion for you would be to abstain from sweets for a set duration. Start small and see what happens. Consider it an experiment or research (to make it fun and interesting) rather than seeing at it as something to mourn.

So, go for a week without sweets. Then eat something sweet. Then go two weeks. Then eat something sweet. Then go three weeks and then four weeks with a sweet snack in between. That’s ten weeks total abstinence with some sweet snacks inside. If you do that, you’ll find all the convincing you need!

FAQ: How Long Did It Take to Give Up Sugar?

Recently, I got a nice email with some great questions and decided to share my answers with everyone here. I added the numbers and edited the message for easy FAQ reading.

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Dear David,

1. You said that you eat sweets four days out of each year. How long did it take you to get to this level of commitment and willpower?

Over all it’s been about ten years that I’ve been dealing with my sugar habit. I first went off sweets for a week and two weeks at a time. I did that for a few years. Then I went nine months. Then a full year. Then right back to sugar. Then, in 2005, I began this blog.

I eat sweets four days out of every year, meaning that anything goes during those four days—ice cream, candy, etc. (In fact, this year I’m going to try a Reeses Big Cup.) The rest of the time I abstain from my trigger foods and most foods with added sugars. There are still things that contain sugar or turn into sugar that I eat such as fruit, pasta, and some breads. I’ve cut way back on my pasta intake (used to eat it daily) and only buy Vita Bee brand of bread because it’s sweetened with honey and has few ingredients. I still eat french fries with some ketchup from time to time because it doesn’t make me binge and I don’t do it daily. I don’t eat candy, for instance, except during my four days of sweetness.

2. Do you expect to have a “relapse” every once in a while even though you’ve set your mind on having sweets only four days out of each year?

While I don’t plan for it to happen, I also don’t beat myself up if it does. For example, I had sugar outside of my four days in 2007, ate dessert in 2008, and totally went off the deep end in France earlier this year. Sweet happens! When it does, the best thing to do is learn from it and keep riding your bicycle.

3. If I’m not mistaken, I read that you ate Ritz crackers to help you stop eating sweets. Do you still eat crackers to help you stay away from sweets? If not, what other appetizing ( or mood enhancing smile ) foods do you eat to help you?

Yes, that’s correct. When I first weaned myself off sweets I’d eat Ritz, Gold Fish, and Cheez-Its. Not exactly health food, but they helped keep me off cookies and other sweets. Ritz has added sugar while basic Gold Fish and Cheez-Its don’t. While I might have a few at a party, I no longer purchase any of these crackers or keep them at home. We sometimes purchase Nut Thins crackers as they have no added sugars.

As for other stuff, here’s a list of sugar-free snack ideas for when you first start, and another list for after you’ve been off sweets a while. Use the list as a way to experiment and see what works for you. I eat an apple every day but someone else might find that makes them want to binge on sweets.

The main thing to do when you stop being sweet is to figure out your parameters and work within them. The only way to know your boundaries is to cross them. Then you say, “I’m not going to do that again!” Expect to mess up here and there. When you fall, get back up and start again. Eventually you’ll find your balance, then it all becomes fun and games. smile

Is It Possible for a Pastry Chef to Stop Being Sweet?


Hi, I have quite a complex problem. I’m a pastry chef. Of late, I have gradually given up all my unhealthy vices. Drinking, smoking, caffeine, not exercising… and just one, the worst one, remains. Sugar.

I tried to give up yesterday and I was a mess. Imagine giving up smoking when your occupation involves rolling cigarettes, lighting them, and handing them to people. I make desserts, ice creams, cakes, gels and cut up a lot of fruit. I use about 20kg of sugar a week. Every time I make something, I HAVE to taste it. But its gotten a little out of control, and every time I put a quenelle of ice cream on a plate I lick the spoon. I have no control over what I eat for dinner as we are given something made from leftovers, although savoury, almost always contains some sugar.

I know I am making up some excuses, but damn this is hard. Can you offer any advice? (I know you’re going to tell me to quit my job)

Thanks, Lani


Hi Lani, tricky situation you’re in! From what I can tell, you’re not completely sold on giving up sugar altogether, which is a good thing since consuming at least a little bit of sugar is required by your job. What you need are parameters.

Stop Being Sweet doesn’t mean quitting all sugars forever, starting right now. It’s about figuring out what’s workable for you. Eating well is a skill that takes time and practice.

There might be some sweet things at work you can sample that won’t make you want more and more. You must identify which foods trigger your sweet desires so you can avoid those foods. Having the awareness is key. The only way to know which foods you can and can’t sample is by experience. You probably already have a good idea as to what you are better off avoiding.

Maybe for every sweet thing you eat on the job, balance it with something healthy outside of work such as a bike ride, a long walk, or a trip to the gym.

You could bring your own food to work. Crazy, right? You work for a place that provides food. Sampling some of that food is part of the work day. How’s it going to look if you show up with food from home? Hmmm… you might not have to quit because they will fire you for embarrassing them!

Maybe you can propose an initiative to lower the amounts of sugar in the foods you’re making. This is a value added selling point because anyone who has access to the news should have heard about the dangers of chronic sugar consumption. Reducing the amounts of sugar you use could open up new avenues for the business and for your career. If that doesn’t work…

I’d never tell you to quit your job, but perhaps consider starting your own business making low or no sugar pastries. You’d be doing something personal, professional, and positive. Good luck!

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About David

After a weekend-long sugar binge in 2003, I realized my problem was very real. It took some time but I finally figured out a way to stay off sweet junk food for good! Read more.

Quit Sugar?

Don’t quit sugar. Stop Being Sweet instead! Questions? Please ask.