So I finally made it, 21 days ago I started the 21 Day Sugar Detox. I never really thought that I was “addicted” to sugar but, knowing the dangers and harmful effects sugar can have, I wanted to give it a try, no sugar and very limited sweet things for 21 days. I have finally completed it, to the excitement of my whole family and my loving boyfriend.
I decided to take on level 3. Diane insists that you don’t “be a hero” but after taking the quiz I ended up in level 2, which included full fat dairy products. I don’t eat dairy anyways so I decided to go with level three, full on paleo eating style. I would not say this was challenging in the typical way, my struggle was to come up with meal ideas, because the food was tasty and while I did have cravings for sweets at times, I was able to be strong the whole 21 days.
What was the toughest thing?
The hardest thing for me was figuring out my carbohydrate balance. It wasn’t until the last week and a half that I actually got my carbohydrates balanced; I was going way too low in the beginning. After day one and two I felt like total garbage. Then I had to teach a fitness class, and struggled to inspire my class because I was feeling fatigued. After talking to my good friend, I realized that I should be following the energy modifications to accommodate my high intensity cardio class. I was starting adding in sweet potatoes after my classes and was starting to feel better, but I still had ups and down. I was doing a lot of meat + salad, which is fine, but not only does it get boring, it made me exhausted. I finally rechecked my yes foods and added in parsnips and pumpkin more frequently to help me stay energized, the difference was astounding.
What about sugar carvings?
I would say I had a couple sugar cravings, but nothing that my piece of fruit or a not-sweet treat couldn’t handle. I made some almond butter cups and they got me though, I've always been a chocolate person! To my surprise (kind of) I experienced general carbohydrate and gluten with drawl. I have heard time and time again in school that gluten is addictive too and it has the ability to cause with drawl symptoms, I had no idea that I would experience them. I miss, and did the whole time, fresh bread, garlic bread and the like. I also really want a cookie, just one, a real cookie would be great, but I promise I am not craving it; I just feel bored and want a cookie.
What does the future hold now?
I plan on introducing gluten, and assessing how my body reacts. We learn in school that introducing foods, which you are sensitive to but have healed, can be tolerated once every 4 days. I really am not ready to fully go gluten free, but I plan on drastically reducing my gluten and doing almost all gluten free baking when I bake, I actually really enjoy gluten free baked goods and will incorporate more into my life. I also plan on adding in grains to my diet, gluten free ones as usual, but I want grains, I feel better with them. I will also reduce the sugar in all recipes and replace sugar content with banana, pumpkin and apple sauce.
What have I learned?
I learned that I am a strong person, that I can do something for myself, even though people around me are eating differently. It was a lot of effort to make my own meals and watch my family eat spaghetti with fresh garlic bread and pass it right in front of me while I ate a meal I wasn’t totally enjoying. I also learned that I don’t need sugar. I already don’t use refined sugars, but I learned that thai-style foods don’t always need honey, salad dressings don’t really need something sweet, and treats don’t need sugar, and that fruit is so satisfying.
I also learned that full on paleo 100% of the time is not something that I can do, not because I don’t want to, but because my body doesn’t feel best on it, not right now. I need to listen to my body, so much protein is not my ideal way of eating and my body knows it. I also learned to use fat more, cause it is awesome and totally satisfying!
Would I recommend it/do it again?
Absolutely! I loved this program and I loved not having anything refined at all! I also enjoyed educating people on sugar during the process, and although everyone respected my choices they are not all ready to give it a try.
I will do this program again, no question about that! I am going to get my boyfriend to do it with me! I have never felt myself have such balanced moods before, so I can truly appreciate the whole blood sugar balance thing. I never used to feel a drop in my energy levels, but after the holidays I struggled to wake up and get going, but I am back on track and ready to keep going with my healthy life!
Tell me, have you ever tried a sugar free diet? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?
There are many different kind of sweeteners out there and it can be tough to navigate the sweetener isle in the grocery store when all you wanted to do was bake for yourself. Choosing and using the right sweetener can make a big impact on your health and sugar should be the starting point for almost everyone who is starting on a health journey.
There are a few main reasons that sugar can be very dangerous to our body:
1. Sugar intake causes blood sugar imbalances
2. Sugar causes inflammation
3. Sugar comes in many forms
I will help to navigate you through these reasons that sugar is dangerous to the body.
1. Sugar intake causes blood sugar imbalances
This makes sense of course, the word sugar is found in the imbalance itself, but why is blood sugar balance so important to maintain? Let’s get back to basics. Sugar comes in a few forms but they all get converted to glucose in the body, so when we talk about blood sugar levels, we are talking about blood glucose levels. When we eat something that get’s broken down into sugar (which is found in more than just candies and cookies) the glucose enters the blood stream. The body does not want high levels of glucose just floating around in the body so it starts a very important process to remove glucose from the blood and pull it into the cells. This is where insulin comes in.
Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. This hormone is what “opens” glucose “gates” at the cells surface to allow for glucose to go inside. If this process is working well, the odd person who consumes something with sugar will remove harmful levels form the blood and put the glucose into the cell. Glucose is used as fuel for cellular activities, so it is indeed important from good sources. In people who continually consume high levels of sugary foods the body is constantly trying to remove and lower blood glucose levels. This cannot go on for long because glucose levels that are high are actually toxic to cells. What happens is that it takes more and more insulin to convince the cells to take in that glucose. After some time the cells decided that it is better for them to not get any glucose then to make themselves toxic, so in an effort to save themselves, they can actually stop responding to insulin completely.
This is an epidemic here in the Western world; this process is what we call type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is skyrocketing in our society and it is primarily due to the incredibly high levels of sugar containing foods people are eating. Blood sugar imbalances are detrimental to our health, it leads to heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of other conditions like hypoglycemia, blindness and sometimes limbs of the body have to be removed because cells can only survive so long without glucose, and when they stop responding to insulin, the cells die off.
2. Sugar causes inflammation
Inflammation is a natural process in all bodies and it has many benefits, but if left uncontrolled or if inflammation is triggered too often or unnecessarily, it can lead to problems. So many of the modern day diseases are linked to inflammation. Heart disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis, colitis, Crohn's Disease, hepatitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are all inflammatory disorders and there are countless others out there too. Inflammation happens when the body is disrupted, when you cut yourself and the part around the cut is red or swelling, that is all inflammation doing its job, so imagine when you are hurting inside, inflammation happens and this is good sometimes but too much of a good thing is also bad, or when it happens at the wrong time.
3. Sugar Comes in Many Forms
The problem is that sugar is everywhere, you find sugar in sauces, condiments, breakfast cereal and granola bars, even things that are thought to be healthy, still has sugar. Lots of Chinese and Thai dishes have added sugars too, and don’t forget about salad dressings, so even if you are not adding sugar to your coffee and baking every week, you can get an overdose of this sneaky sweetness in all kinds of foods.
Not only is sugar found almost everywhere in the processed world, but it comes in different forms and names, most of these designed to confuse consumers. No longer can you look for the word “sugar” to see if there is added sugar to something, and looking at the nutrition facts table wont do you any good. You need to be reading the ingredient list on everything you buy if it has one.
Simple forms are carbohydrates like white breads and bakery items are instantly converted to sugar in the body, causing all the same problems, so that actual added sugar is not the only problem.
Where do you find sugar that is surprising? Do you think you're consuming too much?
Amanda is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist out of Southwest Middlesex, and London ON. She works with clients to help them achieve their health and wellness goals!
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