Wednesday, January 23, 2013

21DSD: five things that sugar has taught me

Well, here we are-- done with three weeks sugar-free, & plenty to say. I feel like I've already covered the beans-spilling in a previous post, so I won't delve much further in depth here. But I do have a few reflections on my experience, and where better to share them?


1. My body doesn't feel good filled with sugar. And I don't just mean the refined white sugar we've all become accustomed to associate with the word. Even too much of the natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup still trigger an unhealthy response in my brain, and it messes with my 'hunger meter', triggering some unwanted habits, and I fall down the rabbit hole from there.

2. Cravings for sugar are usually cravings for something else. It's been said before, many times, by many more eloquently spoken than myself. But sugar is never something my body needs-- it's something it wants, usually to fill the gap of something else. I keep this article pinned to my home page for a quick read whenever I need a reminder of this, that sugar is a distraction, a band-aid, a symptom-treater, usually for something greater. "Jonesing for love is like jonesing for sugar. They feel the same way in the body. They show up in the same addictive behaviors. Eventually, I figured out that looking to a boyfriend of a snickerdoodle to fill a hole is handing my power away to something outside myself." Read it. It's a good one.

3. I can take my tea without sweetener (and coffee, as well-- who am I?) Tea has always been my hot beverage of choice, and typically, I drink most cups with about a teaspoon of honey. I mostly drink herbal teas (with the exception of my beloved 'black tea with milk & sugar' habit acquired studying abroad), and wasn't about to give them up for this detox, so I simply eliminated the honey. And the sweetness I always thought I needed was unnecessary (a teaspoon of coconut oil in hot tea, though, is surprisingly delicious-- try it!). This is definitely a practice I will continue with post-detox-- and maybe, instead of refined white sugar in my english breakfast, I'll demote to honey. It's a process.

As far as coffee goes, I'm still not a 'plain black cup of coffee' girl. But I will order plain lattes from the coffee shop or make myself a cup of bulletproof coffee at home when I am craving the taste and not need any sweetener. That said, coffee still turns me into a spazzy space cadet, so this is a very rare occasional thing.

4. Avocados fix everything. I'm not going to hop on my soapbox and say that you can fight a craving with pure willpower. There may be some that can manage it, but I am not one of them. I am still in the process of learning to use food for its intended purposes, and if I need a crutch, I'm going to do some damage control and pick the best possible option. Avocados with lime, salt and hot sauce (and occasionally a sprinkle of parmesan, broiled-- you can thank me later) are the perfect mix of the good, filling fats, salt & flavor that I am craving, while doing little to no damage, mentally or physically. Find what that food is for you-- the one that can quiet the craving and still feel like something decadent and delicious but nourishing, keep it as a backup at any and all times.

5. There are ways to still live your life and use this sugar-free thing as a tool. As someone who still preaches the 'most things in moderation' mantra, living this way without sugar forever and ever amen is simply not sustainable. Even when I chose this paleo-ish lifestyle, I never wanted to be the girl who couldn't go out and have a beer with friends, a cupcake at a birthday party, etc. This is obviously not how everyone does it, but it works for me. I do know, though, that when the scales start to tip too much in the other direction, I now have a good resetting tool to bring me back to equilibrium. At the moment, the plan is to participate in a few sugar detoxes a year, every time I feel like I need a little help on the 'balance' front. This feels good and healthy and normal to me-- so I will keep this as the plan, and see how it goes.

And that's that! I had a great experience, learned quite a bit about myself, dropped a pant size (! sorry. It's still exciting, even if it wasn't my intended purpose) & felt a real difference in the way my brain responds to food. I'm so grateful I gave it a chance, and am looking forward to trying it again in the future. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

zero to crunchy: all-natural chocolate dry shampoo

Alright, so let's merge some worlds here: I've been abstaining from sugar for 21 days now, and it's been mostly lovely. But some things are hard and fast facts, like how I don't care how long you've kept it from me, I will always want all the chocolate (and all the cheese. But that's another post for another day). In order to keep myself sane while my sweet tooth took a vacay, I've been indulging in other avenues of chocolate-y goodness. Enter: chocolate dry shampoo.

I grew up with just a mess of crazy, easily-manipulated-by-the-elements curly hair-- which, if you'll notice, I still have. But switching from conventional products to my own, homemade hippie woo-woo concoctions have helped tremendously in the manageability of my hair, and for the most part, I use zero cream/gel/external products on it anymore-- except for this one. Besides working as an awesome all-natural dry shampoo, this is a great mid-day texturizer, volumizer, de-greaser, etc. Also, bonus! I nearly always get complimented on how good my hair smells. Find me one drugstore product that makes you smell like cookies-- sorry, Clairol. We win this one.

Chocolate Dry Shampoo
(obviously, works best for brunettes/redheads + darker--light-haired adaptation below!) 
1/2 c. cocoa powder (any kind)
2 T. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
-Mix. Store in glass jar. Sprinkle a teeny bit in your hand, put it on your hairs. Le end.

For light hair: The cornstarch/arrowroot powder is your main ingredient here-- you will lose a little bit of the benefit from the cocoa powder, but not a whole lot. You can mix your cornstarch/arrowroot with baking soda in a 4:1 ratio if you'd like, but my favorite adaptation is to simply add essential oils to your cornstarch. See below for a list of my favorites!

Notes & Adaptations: 
-You want an 8:1 ratio here, so if you choose to make more, just follow those specifications. Just know that a half cup lasts an incredibly long time-- I've been using this for a year & I'm only halfway through the bottle!
-If you want to scent your dry shampoo even more, try adding a few drops (start with 3 drops, go up from there) of essential oils. If you're adding to your cocoa powder-based shampoo, my favorites are peppermint oil or sweet orange oil, but feel free to experiment with others if you're not a fan of these (but I promise: you will smell like a thin mint and/or one of those crazy crackable chocolate oranges. It's pretttty sweet.) Light-haired girls, this is where you're not bound by scent mixing! Add your favorite essential oil (lavender? basil? lemon? the possibilities are endless!) & go to town.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recipe: grain-free 'pad thai' (or close enough)

Whoa. Yesterday was... awesome. First of all, hello new readers! And thank you-- really, so much-- to everyone who commented, tweeted, emailed, sent good juju, etc. to me after my post yesterday. All of your comments and heartfelt responses meant so much to me, and only made it that much easier to publicly share something that I have been holding back on talking about for a very long time. It is my goal to respond to you all individually, so if you haven't heard back from me yet-- just wait! It's coming :)

Now! With that being said, let's move onto something a little lighter today, shall we? Pad Thai. I mean, yum. In my pre-grain-free days, pasta and I were BFFs. The giant swimming pool o' mac & cheese at Noodles & Co used to be maybe my favorite fast comfort food EVER. Unfortunately, when I do dabble in the art of refined carbs now, they just tastes blah and bland to me. But that doesn't mean I still don't love a warm, quick, 'pasta-ish' meal from time to time. And thus was born this veggie-based pad thai* that I am humbly deeming the best thing ever. Even better-- for those of you following a no-sugar protocol like myself, it's the perfect quick and easy meal that still fits every specification.

Grain-free Pad Thai
adapted to be paleo-friendly 
from this recipe
- 2 c. shredded green cabbage
- 1-2 c. sliced mushrooms (optional veg: sprouts, carrots, peas, seriously--go nuts.)
- crushed or minced garlic
- Coconut Aminos or Wheat-free Tamari
- 1 Egg
- Garnish: hot sauce, a squeeze of lime, cilantro, etc.

In a hot pan, melt some a cooking oil (my favorites are coconut oil, ghee, or grassfed butter), toss in your mushrooms and cook down until desired softness. Remove from pan, add in garlic to taste and shredded cabbage. Cook until cabbage has begun to soften, but still has a little bit of a crunch. Add a few shakes of coconut aminos or tamari to taste, and then move cabbage off to the sides of the pan, leaving a small hole in the middle for your egg. Crack egg into middle of the pan, and begin to scramble, slowly incorporating cabbage from the sides of the pan until fully mixed. Add mushrooms back in. (Extra protein in this dish would be delish-- I just didn't have any on hand. Chicken, shrimp, whatever floats your boat!) Garnish with a squeeze of lime, cilantro, and a few generous shakes of hot sauce (you can use sriracha if you'd like, but let's be real: all I had on hand was Frank's and it was still delish. I heart choo, hot sauce). Enjoy!

*let me just say right now: I get it.  I know this isn't really pad thai-- I know it's not authentic and there aren't even peanuts, for crying out loud, but it is an excellent substitution, and a great way to get lots of veggies & good stuff in, deliciously!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

21 Day Sugar Detox: sugar & a disordered brain.

You know how I said there were some parts of my history with food that were a bit dark & scary-- parts that I wasn't necessarily ready to share, some places I wasn't necessarily ready to go on the internet? Well, we're about to go there.

I want to say right here and now: if you have a disordered history, this may be triggering for you. Please, for your wellbeing, if you know that's you-- skip this one, come back tomorrow. If you're looking for a light-hearted chat & aren't prepared for a little soul-bearing-- I ask you gently, skip this one, please come back tomorrow. 


There were a lot of things I was expecting with this real food "detox" (while I am beginning to love this concept of no sugar, I simply cannot stand that word)-- no blood sugar spikes, better energy, clearer skin, perhaps even a little weight loss. But of all of the things I was expecting, the effect on my mental state was certainly not one of them. As you can likely glean from what I've said thus far, I have a history with disordered eating. I have spent many, many years fighting against my body and using food as anything other than fuel/enjoyment/etc. Though I would say I've been safely out of the woods for a solid three, nearly four years now, I still struggle with the ramifications of all of those years waging a war on myself. It wasn't until I went paleo/primal over a year ago that I began to understand hunger and fullness again, that I began to feel stronger than my past. 

But given my experience & career (in the mental health field) I knew that food could only take me so far in fully healing the wounds of the past-- the emotional stuff always needs to be tackled in order for anything to work properly. And I was-- tackling it, that is. But still I came up blocked. I was using food as a coping mechanism, a distraction, a punishment, a reward--anything other than what it was meant to be used for. I tried so hard to fix my diet, start feeding myself healthy fats, whole, real, nourishing foods instead of the chemical-filled, diet crap that I had been eating for over a decade. For most people, eating this paleo way works nearly instantly, it fixes a lot of wrongs and makes them all right. They lose incredible amounts of weight and report the best mental and physical state they've ever been in. I did lose weight-- nearly 30 pounds-- but the mental stuff stayed. And I knew my body and my health had further to go. And around the one-year mark of my change in diet, I began to lose steam. I wasn't effortlessly losing the weight my body wasn't supposed to be carrying anymore, the holidays were coming up & I was still waging a daily battle against a brain that didn't believe I was worth fighting for. 

I remember breaking down. Sitting cross-legged in the middle of my bed in the middle of the night, worn out and broken and tired of it all. I was ready to give up all of the work I had done for so long, to throw my hands up and accept that I may never be one of the recovery success stories I've always wanted to be. I was ready to accept the fact that the lies of a disorder would always rule my thoughts, like I'd willingly just carry this pack weighted with shame and sadness forever.  

And then, something amazing happened. I gave up sugar-- and the lies went away. 

My brain was clear, like a fog had lifted. Sure, it was a little hard-- I could've gone for some dark chocolate after dinner, I kind of would have liked a little piece of cheesecake at my friend's graduation party, whatever. But compared to the endless noise of a disordered brain-- it was nothing at all. Chocolate has nothing close to the hold on me that a disorder did. I didn't recognize it right away, at first I was just excited to see how relatively simple it was for me to eat without the addition of sugar. I was excited to see that I was sleeping better, that I was feeling better, that I was just happy, strong, balanced-- constantly. I realized that when I took away the sugar, I had taken away the fuel to the endless fire that I'd been fighting for over half of my life. 

I'm not a scientist. I don't know what effect sugar has on my brain in a physiological way. I can't know if this is how it is for everyone-- in fact, I'm certain it's not. We all take our own paths to recovery. I'm certainly still on mine, and maybe I will be forever. But I know now that the compulsion I used to feel to try & quiet the noise with food is gone. I am beginning to truly know what it feels like to nourish my body, to feel full, to feel hungry, to see myself in the mirror and not immediately turn away. It's not even that I'm "strong enough" or have the "willpower" or "motivation" (for what it's worth, I can't stand those words either)-- the desire to use food as an emotional crutch has simply gone away. 

I certainly wasn't expecting to get this deep about my experience with the 21Day Sugar Detox. I was planning on posting a few recipes, a few thoughts here and there and maybe at the end dig a bit into the bigger picture stuff. But I feel like I've just discovered gold in a mine I've been digging for 15 years, and I can't not share it. It's still early on-- but I am cautiously optimistic. I feel more present in my life than perhaps I ever have in my entire 23 years on this earth, and I don't want to stop talking about it. I want to feel this way forever, I want to cry for all the years I wasted hating on a brain that was being controlled by something so clearly toxic to it. 

I am grateful-- I am renewed. I am so excited to see what happens next. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

21 Day Sugar Detox: a preamble.

So, resolutions. We know I love them. What is the new year if not an excellent time to jump out of your comfort zone? I don't reserve resolutions for the new year & try to make my life chock full of new things as often as I can, but when I stumbled upon the 21 Day Sugar Detox happening in the first month of 2013, I knew it would be an awesome experiment for the new year. I wasn't planning on blogging about this, but here we are. I think it will be a good thing to talk about it, to share my experience & some delicious recipes-- and, being that I don't often talk much about how I eat or why I choose to do so, I thought this might be a nice introduction. There will be no talk of accountability, good/bad eating, etc-- those that know me know that talk like that does not sit well with me. I'm not hoping to convert anyone, just sharing my experiences, so in return I hope you can respect if we have different feelings about the foods we all choose to eat :) 

A brief primer, if you're interested: I eat a whole, unprocessed, real-foods diet (most of the time :)) that shies away from grains & legumes for their anti-nutrient properties. If you're interested in learning more, please email me! I will send you loads of resources. The 21 Day Sugar Detox is based on this way of eating (but has adaptations for vegetarians, newbies, pregnant/nursing mamas, etc.), and is a real-foods, real-life way to clean up your diet by eliminating all sources of sugar for three weeks. Kind of intense, but many people smarter than I have explained so much about the detrimental effects of sugar on your body, and I know that a lifestyle addicted to sugar is not one that I want to lead. While I think it may naturally happen, this is not about weight loss for me-- it's about resetting some buttons, making headway towards healing my body naturally from the inside out & breaking some unhealthy patterns. 

Here is where I'm dipping my toes into some uncharted territories: I, by design, absolutely do NOT talk about my history with food, dieting, weight, and other such touchy subjects here, mainly because it is a rocky, scary history that I'm not necessarily ready to share. The internet can be an intimidating place, and these are vulnerable parts of me-- but I'd like to start here and see what happens. 

Because this has gotten a bit deeper than I was expecting, I will say this: while I love me some dried fruit & dark chocolate, I don't think that I'm incredibly dependent on sugar-- but we shall see. If this were a 21 Day Cheese Detox, though... I may not be as successful ;) 

If this is not your jam, I totally understand-- regularly scheduled, pretty outfit/crunchy granola posting will still be taking place on a regular basis. But if you're at all interested or curious about my experiment, I would love to have you along on this journey with me! Wish me luck :)

(Note: None of these links are affiliate links or anything like that, I'm not being compensated in any way to talk about my experiences, just providing as much info as I can & sharing my experiences!)