Cutting Sugar Out of My Life (For 2 Months)

Sugar has been an addiction of mine for a long time, and I don’t use the term lightly – I truly think that my obsession with sugar was unhealthy, but it took me a long time to notice that it was a problem before I could go about fixing it. As a child, my favorite candies: Pixy Stix, Fun Dips and Sugar Daddys. If you’ve ever had any of them you know – they are some of the most sickly-sweet choices you can make when buying American candies.

Multi-colored Pixy Stix

Pixy Stix – pure sugar in powder format. One of my favorites growing up.

I’ve always thought that I had a sweet tooth and gravitated towards extra sweet snacks, cereals and sauces, seeing it as a part of who I was. I had wanted to make changes in my diet and eat better, but was finding that the diet part was difficult. Even though I didn’t overeat, I always had that nagging thought that too much of my diet was based on sugar.

One of the first times that I actually thought about how much sugar I ate was when an ex-boyfriend of mine told me how he had dropped 40 pounds by cutting out any foods with corn syrup from his diet. 40 pounds! How much could I impact my health and weight if I were to cut out corn syrup and refined sugar from my diet?

This is what inspired me to go on a no-refined-sugar diet. My first foray into this was January 2012, and it was brutal (I also had decided to cut out alcohol and caffeine, making for a very healthy but unexciting time of my life).

On a side note – do you know how hard it is to go out to a sports bar and drink water? Or any bar, for that matter. But I digress.

How did I make this change? I dove right into it, quitting cold turkey, abruptly starting a 2 month challenge (after which time, I planned to have food with refined sugar and corn syrup again). In addition to the normal, obvious things that have sugar in them, I had to cut out:

  • Chips (except for a few natural brands made without sugar)
  • Cranberries (they all have sugar added to them!)
  • Granola bars of most types (I allowed Kind bars)
  • Ketchup
  • Soda (both diet and regular sodas were excluded under my self-imposed rules)
  • Peanut butter (though I did find alternative brands, regular p/b has sugar)
  • Peanut sauce (mostly applies when going out for Thai)

It was definitely a hard thing to do – I did break my diet once or twice, with 4 cheat days over the course of the 2 month span.

I noticed a few things over the course of the 2 months. I:

  • Slimmed down
  • Had less sugar cravings
  • Have more interest in eating a complete, filling meal (since there would be no dessert)
  • Paid more attention to what was in my food

Though I knew I wouldn’t deprive myself of sugar forever, I’ve become much more away of which foods have refined sugar. It’s hard work but was valuable in becoming more aware of what I was putting in my body.

Have you ever tried cutting something out of your diet? Do you have similar cravings towards sugar, or another food or habit of eating that you’re trying to break?

Jen Burstedt

Batching Technique & My Lunch

Batching technique in action - vegetable soup.

Homemade soup that I can eat the entire week.

Tim Ferriss of The Four Hour Workweek talks about “batching,” a technique he uses to be more efficient with his time.

Batch printing can be used to explain how it works. When a t-shirt is produced and the design is printed onto it, the cost of 1 t-shirt might be $151, while the cost of 5 t-shirts might be $155 (given that the the cost of a plain shirt is $1). $150 is spent towards the set up and plate creation fees.

So, the bulk of the time and expense in producing t-shirts is due to the burden of setting up the printing plates.

Similarly, when you get ready to do a given task – whether it is answering emails, doing bills or stuffing envelopes – it takes you a certain amount of time to get prepared and set up to do the task. Then, once you finally get “in the zone” and are busy executing the task, you can be extremely efficient and get a lot done.

Batching from a time management perspective means that you save time when you do a good number of tasks within a certain category at one time, at intervals that are not too frequent but still effective. With emails, for example, Ferriss batches his by answering them twice a day to avoid spending time in getting in and out of the zone of processing emails.

I’ve experimented in doing this with my lunches and, as someone who can get excited about leftovers, it’s a technique that I love.

On Sunday afternoon, I’ll decide on a menu and plan out my meals for the week. I’ll then head over to the grocery store, pick up groceries for the week and cook a few huge pots of food that I can eat during the week. This has also helped to be more efficient at the grocery store, given that I actually plan meals and the ingredients which go into making them ahead of time.

Lately, I’ve made things such as French Lentils and Quinoa Salad, enjoying them all week.

Try it! It saves me time and hassle during the week, plus it gives me a fresh and healthy lunch option during the work day.

Do you batch in order to save time during the week?


Jen Burstedt

Ready To Donate: Pret A Manger’s Food Donation Program

While in New York, I noticed a sign within the UK sandwich and coffee chain Pret A Manger donates its leftover food at the end of the day to those less fortunate at the end of the day. What a great idea!



A pie chart showing food waste by type of food from the article, “Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States.”


According to a recent study, up to 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted each year; a 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report cites the USDA’s statistic that 19% of the total US retail-level food supply was lost in 2008. Imagine what could be done with this 86 billion pounds of prepared food – quite a lot, when you think about it.


  • What kind of incentives could be offered to create a habit of social consciousness where other restaurants follow suit instead of having Pret A Manger as one outstanding example?
  • What – since there would be some – risks involved?
  • Who would sponsor or support such an effort to offer incentives to restaurants – or would this defeat in creating a infrastructure to sponsor these types of efforts?


Pret A Manger seems to have a different philosophy about how they treat their customers and how they motivate employees – as this 2011 New York Times article describes.  More than selling sandwiches, Pret A Manger seems to be disseminating a different message than most fast food or coffee chains: they have heart and, since they can put in the extra effort to give back to lessen waste while helping others, why not?


But is it in their corporate culture, or do they do it because of the positive reverberations back to their company? It seems that the positive press, highly motivating atmosphere and generous values has a way of paying back much more than the initial effort Pret A Manger invested. Whatever the motivation, their food donation benefits the company and the common good. Pret A Manger should be applauded in their efforts which show that charity and generosity do pay off.


Now, how could social marketing use this example to influence other for-profit restaurants to follow suit?

Lean In While Eating Healthy, Too

Coming home to a quiet apartment after a full day of work, the last thing I want to do is tap into my culinary creativity, search online and spend an hour over a hot stove. Too much mental and physical energy.


What is a busy, career-oriented woman to do in order to live a life where she thrive in her career while also being able to cook healthy, balanced meals without relying on mixes, commercial frozen food or takeout?



While experimenting with new veggies, I bought cactus to cook. The meal: cooked cactus & veggies plus a salad. Quick and easy!

Some ideas:


* Crockpot cooking: find a recipe online, dice up some veggies, and perhaps a few slices of bacon, give it 8 hours and you’ve cooked yourself a great stew. Crockpots are amazing, and you can make so much more than stews. Check out some of these recipes for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, cheese fondue, amazing apple butter


* Freezing food: when you do have time on a weekend, take a few hours to cook food in batches… and then freeze it. Things that I typically freeze: soups, quiches and root vegetables we aren’t able to eat in time.


* Planning & shopping the weekend prior: planning your meals for the week on a Saturday morning, then shopping on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, is one of the great ways to increase the chance you’ll cook complete meals, remember everything you need for these meals at the grocery store and avoid coming upon Monday night with no real ingredients or real idea of what you want to make.


* Find a partner who will cook for/with you: although some guys are hesitant in the kitchen, my boyfriend is a scientist at heart: he loves to experiment and so he’s a good cook. If your guy isn’t as enthusiastic, encourage him to cook anything he might know (steak? chicken? rockin’ green smoothies?) and have that be part of your next meal.


Though I still have those weeknights where it just is easier to call for a pizza, I remind myself that making an effort to eat home cooked meals most of the time means I have a pretty good track record. It’s important not to be too hard on yourself when first getting to the swing of meal planning and cooking.


What tricks do you use to save time and create healthy meals when juggling a busy schedule?

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