Friday, February 14, 2014

When I gave up sugar...and how it changed my taste buds.

Last month I completed a "sugar detox", wherein I did not consume any sugar in the form of sweeteners, sweet tasting fruits or vegetables and the like.  In a detox like this, you usually do not consume any type of refined starches or very starchy vegetables either.  This means no bread, white potatoes, chips, cookies, dried fruit, sweet potatoes, most winter squash, most fruit, juice, soda, alcohol in all forms, candy, most grains, legumes, and pasta.

Now, this wasn't as brutal as it sounds for me, because I already don't eat most of those things.  At our house, we follow a Paleo diet, with some modifications.  We do not eat any legumes, gluten, all grains (except occasional corn products), juice, soda, pasta of any kind, store bought cookies, or any kind of bread.  We also do not eat dairy, but that is for allergy reasons.  So all I had to eliminate was sweeteners, most fruits and all dried fruit and sweetened treats, alcohol, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squash (except spaghetti squash).  Sounds do-able, right?  Riiight??

I completed the 21-Day Sugar Detox, by Diane Sanfillipo.  Now, I had my own reasons for trying a detox, and weight loss was not one of them.  I had felt for many many months (maybe years?) that I had an unhealthy relationship with sugar, even with having a very whole-foods based diet.  When you have a restricted diet, due to health reasons, allergies, or personal choice, you still want to have those treats and special foods that you enjoyed with abandon before.  Recipes for allergen friendly treats are EVERYWHERE.  Having two little kids who liked treats as much as me was as good an excuse as any to make Paleo friendly cookies and muffins, rolls and biscuits, fruit smoothies and other treats on a pretty regular basis.  Snacks of raisins and nuts, dates with nuts, strawberry banana smoothies, trail mix, almond flour chocolate chip cookies, popcorn, or a juicy Fuji apple with almond butter were in constant rotation.  So you might be thinking that those sound like great healthy snacks.  But if you are trying to watch your sugar intake, those snacks are not acceptable.

Sugar is not just sweet things, it is starchy foods like potatoes and grains.  Even thought most of our treats and snacks had no grains, they for sure had sugar(carbohydrates) in them.  The point of a sugar detox is to make you more aware of how much sugar you are actually consuming in lieu of more nutritious foods, and to change your taste buds as well.

I certainly discovered that I was eating more sugar than I thought, and using those sweet foods as fuel instead of say, carrot sticks with guacamole and a side of leftover chicken.  Vegetables, healthy fats, and some protein would fuel my body much better than a couple of cookies.  And it was true!  I had better energy after a healthy meal or snack then one based on potatoes or almond flour.  I wasn't getting "hangry" like before switching to a Paleo diet, but my energy wasn't as good as it could have been, and I didn't go that long between meals.  So fueling my body with healthy fats, protein, and low-carb vegetables was working well.

My tastes also changed dramatically.  About 2 weeks in, I made a salad that was supposed to have a honey mustard dressing.  I just didn't add the honey.  The salad was composed of green apple, Belgian endive and pistachios.  I felt the salad was sweet enough with the apple.  I remember saying to The Hubby that if I had used a red apple and honey in it as the recipe said, it would have been too sweet.  He looked at me like he didn't know who I was!

"You never would have said that before this detox!", he said.
"I know, I know!  But it's true!  My taste buds have totally changed." 

I was pleasantly surprised.  I thought that maybe this could be a lasting change for me, that if my taste buds had changed, and that less sweet things could satisfy my sugar cravings, I was going down a totally awesome path.  To not be a slave to the evening sugar cravings, to not sneak into the pantry for a secret handful of chocolate chips several times a day, no more eating most of a batch of cookies.  The freedom!

After my detox I was looking forward to a chocolate bar that I had saved from Christmas.  I eagerly asked The Hubby to get it for me, since he had hid all the chocolate at my request.  Opening it, it had somehow melted then hardened, thereby ruining it.  I was so bummed!  That evening I was determined to have some kind of previously forbidden treat, so I drove to the store to get a chocolate bar.  Now, in times past, I would have eaten half of that free trade dark chocolate salted almond bar on the way home.  This time, however, I felt absolutely no inclination to eat any of it until I was home.  Weird!  But also good.  At home I thoroughly enjoyed two squares of it, then felt satisfied and that was that.  Amazing! 

But let me share how I am doing now, almost 3 weeks later.  I am more aware of how much sugar I  am eating in the form of sweeteners and treats, and eating less than before my detox.  I have also discovered that corn gives me a splitting headache, the same as eggs do to me(curse you, food allergy gods!).  I also suspect another food is bothering me, so I have eliminated potatoes again, and will test myself to see if they are another headache-maker.  I went through about 4 days of constant headaches, and stopped eating potatoes and no headache since then.  Sigh.  I guess that just leaves more room for different more nutritious carbs.  Like plantains!

I did not lose a single pound during the detox either, which convinced me more than ever to get serious about exercise.  So I convinced The Hubby to do it with me, which is a real stretch for me since I prefer to not exert myself in front of other human beings.  So far having him as an exercise partner has been enough to motivate me to keep at it.  It has been only a couple weeks, but it feels good.  The best part is being able to "treat" myself after working out with some kind of starchy carb, like roasted winter squash with ghee, or sweet potato fries, or a salad of grapefruit and avocado.  I try to "earn" my carbs, as I once read on another blog (Paleo Parents).  After exercise you should eat some carbs to refuel and refresh your body, and if I want to eat some carbs I need to exercise first.  It is my incentive!

Such a long post!  If you made it to the end, thanks for reading, and I hope you gained a little insight, or were inspired to do a little research of your own.