A couple of months ago I was struggling with energy and getting up in the morning. I couldn’t figure it out. My weight was pretty much the same besides a couple extra pounds around the waist but I just starting feeling crappy. Kind of down for no reason, no energy, and I just felt BLAH. I started looking at my diet and paying attention to what I was actually eating everyday. I realized how much SUGAR was in my diet and I also realized I wasn’t getting enough protein. When I really studied it more deeply, I discovered my problem… Refined sugar!! Refined sugar is found in most sweets, sodas, white breads, and pastas, virtually all “fat free” and “low fat” snacks, fruit juices, yogurts, energy drinks, most Starbucks drinks (including many coffees), sauces (ketchup, BBQ sauces, mayo, pasta sauces), and countless other packaged foods. It has now been shown to make us cranky, causes us to make rash decisions, and sometimes a little out of it. From the research, I realized I had one of these things at least once a day if not twice a day. Problem #1!! There are so many other issues that sugar is linked to and I knew this could actually be the main factor for all of mine. Lack of sleep, acne problems and lack of energy. After several weeks of researching diets, organic foods and every detox out there, I realized I needed to do a detox. I decided on a 30 day detox because I did not want to make myself crazy and/or kill anyone! I was officially cutting out refined sugar for 30 days! Not only would I have to cut out my once-a-day Diet Coke but I would have to cut down on white breads and pastas and those deceptively “healthy” yogurts with fake fruity sauces added for taste. I do love my daily coffee with a few packets of Splenda. Aspartame has ZERO benefits and that is something I really wanted to cut completely. I knew I was up for a challenge.
Now please note that for the 30 days I did not give up sugar entirely, only refined sugar. I ate plenty of natural sugar—those found primarily in fruits, and the ones that the body turns into glucose from the meats, fats, and carbs we eat. Without the consumption of natural sugars, the body would not have enough fuel to survive for long. One last critical point: I didn’t change my daily calorie intake during my journey. I stuck to eating between 1,900 and 2,100 calories a day, just as I do when I eat a diet with refined-sugar foods. I also kept to my normal exercise regimen but maybe a little less running every morning.
Down 5 pounds
7-8 hours un-interrupted sleep
No afternoon crash
There are probably more benefits from doing this detox that I don’t even know about but these are the obvious. I can not stress enough how sugar really does affect the skin. Now, I know if I were to completely do away with caffeine it would probably improve my skin even more but no sugar really does make a difference. I only lost 5 pounds from the detox but I honestly was not expecting to lose weight. I know I took in more carbs that normal during this process but I have read that is normal. I replaced some of my sweets with carb loaded foods. I am eating more Paleo based meals and recipes which are amazing! I am not totally Paleo (yet) but I do agree with the program and meal choices. I am also a HUGE fan of LaCroix water (carbonated, naturally flavored) which pretty much helped me survive this detox. For more of an in-depth look at my top five benefits from this detox, keep reading:
But mood and mental clarity weren’t the only benefits I noticed by the final days of my refined-sugar-free diet. Sleep is a critical part of mental health. Not only does it give the conscious mind respite from the day’s activities, it helps flush out toxins from the brain. A good night’s sleep also helps make us smarter. Your insulin levels are regulated when your blood sugars are balanced. This promotes good sleep patterns and gives you consistent energy, which also reduces fatigue and means you can focus more. I had no expectation that giving up refined sugar would help me sleep better, but it did. On average, by Day 6 or 7, I fell to sleep within 10 minutes of lying down. Before I cut refined sugars from my diet, it usually took me about 30 minutes to an hour to fall to sleep. I also discovered I began waking up earlier and more naturally and that it wasn’t as hard to get out of bed in the morning.
No more energy slumps:
Everyday at 3pm when I was lacking energy, I would grab a Diet Coke or make coffee. This became so routine that I would start getting minor headaches if I did not have one. Sure, they gave me a quick energy boost but the more I thought about it I realized they actually would drain more energy which left me more exhausted, irritable, and craving another pick-me-up. Because these foods are broken down very quickly, blood sugar levels rise and the brain stops producing orexin, the neuropeptide responsible for feeling alert. It’s not surprising I couldnt focus on anything once lunch time has passed. Unfortunately, most people are adapted to using sugar as their source of energy, which burns much quicker, leaving them struggling to stay awake. I am one of them and I didnt realize what I was doing to my body. Now, I reach for a banana with almond butter or a Quest Bar to get me through the afternoon. Dont get me wrong, I still have my Diet Coke every now and then but more for a reward than a daily ritual. There are so many healthier snacks that I was missing out on that have NO refined sugar. Here is a list of my favorite snacks with natural sugars:
1 banana with spoonful of almond butter
Raw veggies with organic hummus
Banana/Peanut Butter Smoothie
There are several factors that cause bloating and inflammation and most of them have to do with the foods we eat. In addition, sugar and white flour are acidic foods and experts believe this is a major cause of chronic inflammation. Given that the average American consumes more than 130 pounds of sugar and 133 pounds of flour per year, it’s not surprising that so many people are suffering from diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other inflammation related issues. Once I cut out the sugar and replaced them with natural, healthier options like fruits, vegetables and complex carbs, there was a decrease in the bloating and inflammation.
I’m forever on the hunt for perfect skin. I’ve bought way too many products and tried far too many treatments that all promised to transform my acne-prone skin into a porcelain complexion. While some things work as a temporary fix, nothing has actually forever changed my skin. While there’s no evidence that directly links a bad diet to acne, sugar has been shown to age the skin. During the first week I was on the diet, I did see major differences. Not only did I lose two pounds, but my skin looked noticeably clearer. At the time, I thought maybe it was because I just switched facial cleansers. But as soon as I went back to my unhealthy eating habits, the blemishes started popping up again. Whether or not science has declared it, I saw for myself the direct link between diet and acne.
The final thing I want to mention about my refined-sugar-free diet was its effect on my weight. I did not undertake this experiment to shed pounds, and since this wasn’t a weight-loss diet, I kept eating the same number of calories as before. I also ate plenty of fats (red meat, avocados) and plenty of carbs and natural sugars (from fruit, veg, and whole grains). The only thing that I changed about my diet is I eliminated any calories from refined sugars.
The reason is though my calorie intake remained the same, my body was no longer fighting a constant battle of trying to process refined-sugar. Sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as disrupting your neurotransmitters in the brain, which increases fat storage. Eating more protein, fiber, fruit, and vegetables increases your metabolism, and your body burns it off more efficiently. It really isn’t just about the calories but about the quality of foods you eat and the way your body processes them.
Is Sugar Free right for you??
After 30 days of eating a refined-sugar-free diet, I can honestly say my assumptions about the effects of my previous diet on my body were wrong. I feel as if a veil has been lifted and I finally get the reason why your body needs the healthy foods.
Throughout the first week my body was eliminating fat, I was gaining muscle, and my energy levels spiked. The longer I live this way the better I feel and the more energy I have. It also makes me feel confident that I can take care of myself and teach my family healthy eating habits without being super strict with eating guidelines. I think the biggest misconception about a Paleo program is that it’s a carb free diet. I actually eat lots of carbs. I eat more fruit, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and plantains than I ever have in my entire life. I also track my protein intake. Making sure you eat enough protein everyday is HUGE! We need protein!
Mentally, I feel better than I have in years. I’m happier, more aware, and more focused. I sleep better without any disruptions and wake more refreshed than ever—I haven’t felt this energetic since I was a teenager. My relationship with hunger has also changed. Sure, I still get hungry—just nowhere near as often. Eating a diet free from refined sugars fills me up and keeps me full for seven or eight hours. This has changed my concept of what my previous “hunger pains” actually were. I now realize that prior to this diet, most of the times I had felt “hungry”—every three hours or so—it was my body reaching out for another sugar hit. It wasn’t true hunger.
As for those previous daily sweet cravings I assumed were perfectly natural: sugar in my coffee? Don’t even miss it. Those shelves full of candy bars at the check out? When I take my son for donuts I don’t HAVE to buy 2-3 chocolate donuts, I can just have a couple of his donut holes. Weaning myself off refined sugars has also allowed my body to reset what it perceives as sweet. For the first time in my life, the richness of the flavors of fruits and vegetables pop when I eat them. Going sugar free was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, and it was life-changing in that it taught me to become far more aware of what is in my food and the effects those ingredients have over my physical, mental, and emotional well being. I now feel more satisfied with less sugar, have a deeper appreciation for the foods I do eat, and I have been better able to define what “in moderation” really means.
If you have thought about doing a detox or trying to be sugar free, please feel free to ask any questions or if you just want more food ideas, I have lots of snack ideas and recipes I love. There is so much I learned from this that I feel like I could just go on and on but it is Friday!!
Have you ever done a detox and what are some things you learned from it? What is something you are wanting to change but are just not sure how to?