Geeks, this week I had a major revelation, let me fill you in! If you have been following my journey, I am entering my 6th
month of a Paleo diet focused on dealing with my autoimmune issues. This means when you get down to it I eat meat, fruit and vegetables…no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no gluten. This also means no eggs and I stay away from anything processed. It has been helping immensely and the reality of what I am doing is setting in. While starting a new health regimen can be energizing, it can also be a bit daunting after the honeymoon phase is over. I LOVE the way I feel when I stick to this eating plan, but I am far from perfect. I have not had eggs in 6 months but I did try a bit of cheese last week (oops…hives. ouch.) However, my revelation came in the area of sugar.
I try to stay away from ALL processed sugar and if I want to add a little sweetness to a dish I go for pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, or a dash of Stevia. I also eat some sort of fruit each day. I put a bit of fruit in my am shake (usually a banana or a few chunks of frozen mango,but not BOTH at the same time) and I also have an apple almost every day as my afternoon snack. I love apples sliced into thin “chip” like pieces and drizzled with lemon juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon. They have a satisfying crunch and keep me full and energized while at work. For the past few weeks I have been hearing so much about “Sugar Detoxing” and “Quitting Sugar”. This sounded great. Sugar is bad for us: we know this. I also know people with autoimmune issues should really not eat sugar and should limit their dietary sugar intake to natural forms only. Ok, I am doing fine in that department. But as I kept reading I was hearing about eliminating all fruit, or keeping fruit to just a green apple or a few berries per day. No bananas. Only 1 piece per day. In addition to fruit most of these plans encourage cutting out sweet potatoes and squash because of their starch content. So, I thought to myself…Iet’s try this for 2 weeks. A fellow health blogger was starting a 14 day Sugar Detox with a group of girls, so I thought i would try with the group.
It Was Over Before It Began
Enter a week (okay more like 3-4 days) of consternation and worrying about not eating sugar when all I wanted was a little banana in my morning smoothie. I realized after a couple of days that the angst and confusion around detoxing was doing MUCH more damage than just having a few mango chunks in my shake. I also LOVE sweet potatoes and all forms of squash, so I eat those dandies a few times per week. Remember, I have no grains at all and usually have a shake in the am & a salad at lunch so these warm comfy veggies really bring my dinners the warmth I crave. I realized my goals for the Sugar Detox were a completely unrealistic one-way road to crazy town. I already WAS on the sugar detox! I basically eat a modified Whole 30 diet 90% of the time. I don’t even make the (somewhat shady…) “Paleo” desserts. (Other than these truffles!!) To think that I needed to scale back on…well, ANYTHING was definitely not good. Now, before you start to think I have gone and lost it for even trying this, hear me out.
Why am I telling you about this inner-crazy lady?
1. Learning to listen to your body and trust in its’ knowing is one of the BEST things you can do for yourself. I learned this lesson once again this week. Only YOU know what feels good for you. I am a high energy person, I workout daily, and the days I work I end up walking about 3.5- 4 miles per shift, running around the ER. My body instinctively knows I need those carbohydrates and healthy sugars to fuel my lifestyle. Days when I don’t work or when I am just having a relaxing day at home, I rarely crave my afternoon apple. Unsure of what it feels like to really listen to your body and eat intuitively? Email me…we can work it out!
2. It IS important to stop eating refined sugars. I used to be a candy-holic. Seriously anything gummy and chewy was my FAVORITE. Oh, and sugar-laden Fro-Yo. I would also stash hard candies in my white coat pockets when I was on rotation during PA school. As I began to eat healthier over the past few years it just didn’t appeal to me as much but I would occasionally indulge and feel ok about it. When I really went “off sugar” by not having anything processed about 6 months ago, I tried a piece of candy a few months in and frankly it just didn’t taste that good. I could feel the ‘fake’ sugar in my mouth and didn’t enjoy the taste at all. Raw chocolate or high quality dark chocolate is where my sweet tooth lives now. VITA Organic chocolate based right here in New Jersey is one of my faves.
3. I want you to know that it ain’t always all sunshine and rainbows ’round here. Living this way can be tough. I get it. Even someone who is trained in health and is educated in integrative nutrition can go down the dark hole of what “they” say you should be doing. It happens to all of us.
4. The long and short of my little experiment that ended as soon as it began is this: If you want a banana, eat the freaking banana. Just don’t eat five, ok? Because sooner or later after saying ‘no’ to the bananas for long enough you will find yourself going bananas eating Banana Flavored Laffy Taffy from the hospital gift shop in mini-melt down. Um, I mean…something like that…not that that actually happened.
Going Off The Sauce?
So maybe this detox thing is a little strong for you, but you might be thinking of starting by lowering your sugar intake. Here are a few super-simple, practical tips to help you reduce the white stuff:
1. If you drink pop (that’s soda for you east coast-ers) every day, think about stopping. If you drink 2,3,4…cut back. This is seriously one of the BEST things you can do for yourself. Yes,even if it’s diet. Fake sugar is JUST AS BAD for you as HFCS in the high calorie version. Both wreak havoc on your immune system, brain, and taste buds. Check out this great article from Huffington Post on Artificial Sweetener if you need a little nudge.
2. Try reserving your ‘sweet treats’ for one specific time of day. I like to enjoy a nice piece of dark chocolate at night with tea. I savor my piece and love that time of day. Sometimes I do this at work too when I work late at night. It’s my 10 pm chocolate break. I know I can turn down sweet treats during the day because I will totally enjoy my chocolate that evening if still feel like I want it. I love Vita Raw Chocolate which happens to be made right by me!
3. Slow down on how much juice you drink. I’m not talking green juice from kale and celery. I mean the orange juice in the fridge we grew up with. It can be a major sugar load that starts your day with a sugar rush and insulin spike, setting you up for a day of sugar cravings. If you like your am routine, try cutting the juice with water to wean down.
4. Check for ‘hidden sugar’. Low fat dairy is notoriously high in added sugar to compensate for the missing fat. Also sauces can be loaded with hidden HFCS or other sugars. Maybe pick up your salad dressing or pasta sauce before dinner and check the label. Opt for straight up oil and vinegar made at home or less processed jars of sauce. My favorite tomato sauce is Two Guys Jersey Tomato Sauce…it’s local, it tastes awesome, low in sodium, and it has no added sugar. Hurray!
I know this post was a little bit of crazy-talk but I hope it resonates with you. Learning to truly listen to the messages our body is telling us is a critical key to health (and food sanity!). I would LOVE To hear your thoughts below, or reach out via Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter!
Bonus Article: A great piece by the Dr Frank Lipman Team on 20 Ways To Ditch Sugar!