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. 


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