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. 


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