Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sugar Detox

It's been over a year since my last blog post. Coincidentally, my youngest is just over a year old. Hmm…

But this is a story worth telling. I could make it really long and philosophical, but I'm going to attempt to cut to the chase.

Why I chose to do a sugar detox

I have been unhappy with my weight and health for many years, but especially since finishing grad school. I have done Weight Watchers to great success, but do best on it when I have the group support system which (for reasons I won't go into here) aren't really open to me right now.

I think in the last 10-15 years I've developed a lot of bad habits that many of us share. A cup of coffee in the morning, another at work, Diet Coke at lunch, maybe another, then another… Caffeine ruled my life.

I'm sad. I need a snack.

I'm happy. What's to eat?

Let's celebrate! Where should we eat?

Anyone want to get together? I'll bring food.

I'm stressed. Where's the junk food?

Emotional eating doesn't even begin to describe it. Every event or daily up and down was met with food. I think everyone does that to a certain degree, but I am the worst!

One unfortunate bad habit I picked up while counting points was just looking at the nutritional information. As I've discovered, the ingredient list is MUCH more important than the numbers. This was sabotaging my health as well.

I had heard of this sugar detox on the Rachael Ray Show several months ago and was intrigued, but not nearly motivated enough to take it on. It sounded awful actually.

Then about a month ago I saw Katie Couric promoting her new documentary Fed Up and there it was again. This time I was ready to attempt it.

I bought the book The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body's Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast for Kindle for just $10 (hardback or paperback is about $16 on Amazon). By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. 

The basic premise of the book is that research shows that sugar is more addicting than heroin. The food industry picked up on that and has added sugar in its many forms (sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners etc.) for many years. They know it's addictive and continue to do it. It discusses in length the research, regulation attempts, and lobbying that is involved. Really fascinating back story.

Then he discusses what sugar does to your body. Not just your weight, but metabolism, blood sugar, kidney and liver function, etc. I can summarize it by saying it's not pretty.

That's what convinced me to do it. After all, what was I hurting and I was only out $10 for the book, right?

I will say there is another upfront cost for recommended supplements. He conveniently sells them on his website as a package, but I found them a whole lot cheaper at Target or Walgreens. My brother, who was skeptical of the whole thing, balked at the supplements, but when I told him what they were he not only backed off but also said he was taking several. They're either for general healthy (multivitamin, fish oil) or have metabolism and blood sugar balancing properties. Remembering to take the supplements has been a pain, but I actually think I will probably continue using most if not all of them.

To prepare, you have to wean yourself off caffeine and alcohol. That convinced me that I should wait until the school year was over to try this. I stopped caffeine on Tuesday, May 27 and haven't had any since. That in itself I wouldn't have thought possible. I went without caffeine cold turkey during my pregnancies but I was pretty motivated for that. I've also gone without alcohol since then, but I'm mostly a social drinker so that hasn't been a big deal. I also haven't been at a social gathering that involved alcohol though, so we'll see how that pans out.

Del Monte stewed tomatoes
The next step was cleaning out my pantry and going grocery shopping. I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping processed foods to a minimum. After cleaning out my pantry, I'd give myself a C+. Pretty much all my pasta was highly processed, the tomatoes and tomato sauces all had added sugar, and most of it had to go. 

Then I went shopping for the approved foods. Here's my disclaimer. The book recommends following everything to a T, including doing the exact recipes. Um, I'm not a very good rule follower. I basically used his ingredients but made my own things. I'd say I still achieved the end goal, so I'm okay with that. Here's what you can eat:

  • lean protein (chicken and fish)
  • raw nuts
  • non-starchy veggies
  • limited berries (1/2-1 cup in the a.m.)
  • avacado (my lifesaver)
  • flax seed (I ground it in my coffee grinder)
  • healthy oils (olive, coconut)
  • herbs and other seasonings
Yeah, that's pretty much it. Here's what you must cut out:
  • all processed foods
  • starches, including beans
  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • dairy
  • sweeteners, including natural (like honey or agave nectar)
I can tell you're upset at me. But it's only ten days, remember?

Grocery shopping. I'm a once-a-week shopper, sometimes even every other week if I can just run in and get milk. I found myself going to the store every three days. Why? Because I was buying fresh food. Of course you have to get it more often!

The basic meal plan is breakfast: smoothie, lunch: salad or soup (too hot for soup), dinner: protein and veggies.

I had this great plan to buy the Tyson grilled chicken strips for my salads because that would be easier. Luckily, I flipped over the package and low and behold… added sugar. I wish I was taken a picture of it because I'm sure you don't believe me. I'm talking the green package. The one that's advertised on TV as "all natural ingredients." Sugar may be natural, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't come naturally in chickens. I may have been skeptical about the "added sugar conspiracy" but now I was thinking maybe there really is something to this.

I haven't really gotten the grocery shopping figured out yet because I've just been trying to get through the ten days, but I know I have to find cost-cutting ways to do this. Luckily we have an Aldi's nearby which can sometimes have good produce. We also have a Dollar General grocery which I've never been in but heard the same. Being summer, I'm also excited about our farmer's market but unfortunately, they're not cheap. Last Saturday I got a dozen eggs for $4.50 and a honey bear for $5.00. Good stuff, but not cheap.

That's all the pragmatic stuff. Here's a quick rundown of how the days went.

Day 1-4:
Exercise. Whew, that was rough. 
Breakfast. Blech, that's pretty bland.
Lunch. Okay, not too different than I normally eat. Olive oil and vinegar makes a tasty dressing.
Dinner. Okay fam, please eat what I made.

Feeling like these days will never end, but I made it. Then day 5 came.

I WANT CARBS!!!!! 

Days 5-7 were bad. I was cranky. I wanted to give up. I was tired of everything. I didn't think I would make it. 

So I cheated. I had a half pint of blueberries for a snack one day instead of the prescribed "crudit├ęs" (that's celery sticks for those of you who don't speak yuppie). I put two tablespoons of cheddar cheese on my salad. 

And it wasn't so bad. I didn't want to give up because I didn't want to start over. And I kept telling myself, this is not a long-term thing. It's not a DIET, it's a DETOX. I can do anything for ten days. That became my mantra.

Then day 8.

I made my typical morning smoothie: frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup almond milk, tablespoon flax seed, coconut oil, almond butter, cinnamon, ice, water. 

It was sweet. I thought that was weird. Must've done something differently.

Day 9. 

Same smoothie. Still sweet. Weird.

Day 10. 

Same smoothie. Sweet again. OOOOH, I get it now (I'm a little slow). I had become so desensitized to sugar that fruit didn't taste sweet to me. At dinner I ate half a peach and it tasted tart, like a lemon. 

I went out at lunch today to Zoe's Kitchen, my favorite greek place. Got my usual, their greek salad with grilled chicken, which is served with warm potato salad. I asked them to hold the potato salad. The only thing on the salad that was technically off limits was the feta, but I was NOT going to give that up.  Nope. Their salad dressing comes in a bottle on the table which thankfully had the ingredients on it- olive oil, red wine vinegar, seasoning. Good. 

And this is the biggest difference I've noticed (and my husband as well). In the past I would've eaten that whole salad, including the potatoes. Even without the potatoes, I only ate 3/4. And I was plenty full. The book promised doing this would reset your brain so that those signals that are supposed to tell you that you're full would work again. And it really was like a switch flipped. I'm that person that has to clean my plate. It's how I was raised. I will eat until I'm miserable because my plate must be clean. And then I'm allowed dessert. Now, even when I'm filling my plate I put less on it because my brain is more accurately predicting how hungry I am. I can't even describe it. I'm sure normal people do this anyway, but I told you, I had major food issues. I feel fixed. I don't need to nap in the afternoon. I'm still getting up school-year early, but staying up later. And I don't feel tired.

While out to eat, I went to the soda machine and even the thought of a Diet Coke was unappetizing. That made me so happy. I have wanted to kick my habit for years and it felt unachievable. Maybe it's not. 

So I've only been doing this ten days. This is the last evening of the detox. Everyone is really curious what I'm going to do tomorrow. I don't know. I can tell you I don't want to blow everything I've done. I certainly don't want to start over! I do miss dairy and fruit more than anything. I'm sure those will be the first back in my diet, with limits. My goal is to do the Weight Watchers Simply Filling foods, but watching labels more carefully. I would say one fault Weight Watchers has with the foods they market themselves is the chemical junk that eliminates calories or fat. At what cost?

Here are the habits I think will stick:
  • exercise (okay, maybe not, but at least for the summer?)
  • read food labels
  • eat in moderation
  • more fresh food
  • less snacking
  • drink water
I know I won't abandon coffee for long. I'm about to go to a country that grows the best coffee I've ever had. How can I say no to that?!?

I promise you I am/was more addicted to carbs and caffeine and junk food that absolutely anyone! I did it. You can if you want to. What do you have to lose?