So, here we are… at the end of June and I am about to complete the 30-day Sugar detox course, including an actual 5-day sugar detox. No sugar (or very, very little natural sugar) for five days. It seems like a short period of time. 5 days. One can easily go without fruit and bread and any sweet treats for 5 days. No problem.
The thing is though: fruit and bread¹ are a huge part of my diet, so what the heck was I going to eat? Honestly, before you freak out, there is plenty of other foods to eat and I didn’t really have a big problem coming up with meals for the 5 days. In fact, I really enjoyed the challenge to really meal plan around this. It definitely made me think about my food choices much more.
A few observations in regards to the detox phase itself:
I am not a snacker. You know how some people plan out 6 mini-meals throughout their day (and call the even-numbered meals ” snacks”)? Yeah, I don’t do that. I am usually perfectly fine with three square meals a day. It doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes eat something between my main meals, but I don’t have a schedule for that or a regular habit. Most days, I am perfectly fine with just breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The strongest feeling of this sugar withdrawal was a feeling of “emptiness” in my stomach. I would eat delicious, plentiful meals with vegetables and salad and meat – things that I’ve been eating on a regular basis before, mind you – but it just wouldn’t satisfy me for very long. As I said, I am usually not much of a snacker throughout the day, but during the detox phase, I needed the snacks. Like, I was literally waiting for snack time to come around.
My Dad (an athlete and P.E. teacher) explained that my body was working harder to get the energy (without the simple carbohyrates) from the food that I was supplying and therefore was asking “more” from my body. I think that makes sense.
I am very much a creature of habit. Having a smoothie in the morning instead of something solid for breakfast? Yummy, but difficult. I felt like I had a drink for breakfast (or two, if you count the coffee) and now where’s my croissant or roll? The same was true for dinner… I had delicious salads, vegetables and small pieces of meat, but something seemed to be missing if there was no ‘starchy’ side dish on my plate as well. Meals seemed to be so much more limited (or should I say that even though I think of my diet as pretty versatile, I realized how very much confined it still really is and that there are many more vegetables and grains that I could incorporate into my meal planning).
I need bread. Excuse me, whole grain bread (which was actually detox approved, but I cut it out during the 5 days anyway, just to see how it would make me feel to go without it. As I mentioned, this was not a diet, but more of an experiment around food.). In order to NOT eat snacks throughout the day, I need something that fills me. Boy, did I crave a fresh slice of whole grain bread the whole freakin’ time. Physically, I didn’t really feel a huge impact during the 5 days of detox. I didn’t really have any of the potential physical symptoms… shakes, headache, nausea, exhaustion. However, I do think I had an emotional reaction to less sugar. Maybe even edginess, because I just didn’t feel full for very long. Whole grain bread, however, does that for me.
I think about food. A lot. This sounds more dramatic that it is. I just realized how much time I spend thinking about food, grocery shopping, meal planning, new recipes that I want to give a go, restaurants I like to try out. As I mentioned in my initial blog post about this detox: everything that is related to our emotions somewhat revolves around food in one way or another and I don’t want to call myself a ‘foodie’, but maybe I am. I enjoy food. I enjoy learning about food, shopping for food, preparing food, and eating food. Yes, when it comes down to it, it’s only fuel for our body, but heck, if we need it, why not also enjoy it, right?
A few general take-aways:
Natural sugar is good. Added sugar is bad. If there is sugar in the ingredient list that means this sugar is not naturally in the food you’re consuming and you should limit that amount of sugar in your diet. The same applies to refined sugar that you add to your coffee, that you use for baking or sprinkle on your oatmeal.
Learn to read food labels. No, really. It’s not very hard and it tells you so much about what you consume. Yes, it requires a little bit of research and planning, but the smart choices that you make at the supermarket will not come to haunt you later. I actually got a friend (or two) jump on the bandwagon of more “conscious” food choices and they didn’t even want to hear about my sugar detox ;)
I am a moderator (vs. an abstainer). I actually already knew that going into the detox, but it got confirmed again. I can enjoy certain foods (sweet treats, alcohol) in moderation and feel satisfied by the occasional indulgence. I’ve always lived by the motto “everything in moderation”. I rather have one piece of chocolate than no chocolate at all. I acknowledge that this doesn’t work for everybody.
Meal planning works! I used to think not very highly of meal planning until a few months ago when I finally gave it a go, because I thought “but what if I don’t feel like eating whatever I had planned for a certain day?” The truth is: meal planning doesn’t have to mean that you plan a specific meal for every day of the week. It can be as flexible as you want it to be. You stock up on some staple foods that you really like and then plan meals around these staples to throw together whatever you feel like on a particular day. I am a huge advocate for small grocery shopping trips throughout the week, instead of buying a shitload of stuff in advance (unless you can freeze it easily). Bonus: if you meal plan, you will always have healthy food at home and don’t have excuses to run out and get take out so often. Think about it!
Support is important! Whatever changes you make to your diet, people react in the weirdest ways sometimes. Obviously, you’re only making changes for yourself (whatever your reasons might be) and it is good to know that there are people who support you. Find those people who make you feel smug as fuck for sticking with something that is important to you! Those are the people you want to keep around.
I’m not sure what the conclusion is other than: I learned a shit-ton about food and what I want to put in my body and Nicole did a hell of a job with this course!
The detox phase itself was definitely an experiment that I’d like to repeat in the future. My physical and emotional symptoms to the detox were minimal and I think that either a) (added) sugar didn’t play a huge role in my diet to begin with, b) my body/stomach is just not overly sensitive to sugar and handles it well (when my sister was pregnant with her first child and developed gestational diabetes, I poked myself with one of her needles once and checked my blood sugar. Even after a meal, I had a normal value.), or c) I didn’t journal long enough to really observe any subtle changes in the way I felt after certain foods (which could totally be the case, therefore, I am planning to continue to monitor my food intake and experiment some more in July).
I have many more things to say about this experience, but this is already pretty long, so I’ll end this here. I am planning to share more thoughts and some recipes in future blog posts.
¹ The bread in the picture is imported from Germany (where else?) and available at our local co-op. Ingredients list is short (organic whole rye, water, organic flaxseeds, yeast, salt). That’s it. And it’s filling and so satisfying. You should try it. (Trader Joe’s has a similar whole grain bread available, although the ingredient list is a bit more complex.)