Last month Mike, Trish and I went on a strict no sugar diet. (I hate that the word diet implies a desire to lose weight. I use it to mean "eating plan.") The rules we followed were fairly strict- no sugar, no added sweeteners, no artificial sweeteners, no honey, no fruit, no starches (bread, flour, potatoes, corn, sweet peas, rice, etc), no peanut butter. It was 21 days of strict eating. We went into it because we all had some poor eating habits, and some dependence of eating something sweet as a pick me up. I honestly thought," this will make me not want candy, but that that's all I (might) get out of it."
I was so wrong. I learned so much about food in general and processed food in specific. It completely changed the way I think about everything I eat. I learned that there is sugar in everything. Every. Thing. All those bottles of condiments, dressings, sauces, soy sauce, salsa, mayo. All of it. There is sugar in roasted almonds. There is sugar in most lunch meat, bacon, sausage, ham, jerky. Most yogurt, even plain yogurt. It was a long 3 weeks of reading labels. We ate a lot of salads and grilled chicken. Some days two meals a day.
I learned that even though I thought sugar didn't really affect me, that I was so so wrong. That mid-morning "low sugar" shaky crash that I was just attributing to not eating "enough" breakfast? Completely gone. Even if I was hungry, it was just a localized feeling, not a full body faintness. In general, so long as I ate meals, I stayed on a more level keel. Also, I never thought of myself as someone who was regularly bloated or had um, digestive issues, but when I returned to eating sugar, specifically bread and pasta, I was suddenly aware of just how they make me feel and make my body react. While I was following the diet I didn't realize how well my body was working, but it was abundantly clear after eating pizza and cake at the boys' party last weekend.
Things that people said would happen, but didn't: My skin isn't magically glowing and clear. I didn't suddenly feel less tired/have more energy. When it was over and I had some Easter candy, it wasn't disgustingly sweet. I did want much less of it, but it wasn't shockingly sweet to me.
What I really truly didn't expect? That I'd lose 8 pounds. That it would linger, that I'd hold onto a lot of the new habits. That I'd consider doing it full time (with a few modifications, I'll get to that.) That snacking would be SO hard- every snack I ever relied on was out, leaving only nuts, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, carrots, and cottage cheese. These get really old, really fast. Especially if these are also what you eat for breakfast. That I would absolutely cringe when I tried to drink a soda afterwards.
As for doing it again- we are still working out how we want to approach it, but I think all three of us are going back to it, with some modifications. For example, I'm going to allow sweetened coconut milk in my coffee. Small amounts of fruit. Sugar Free peanut butter. Granola with a low sugar content. I'm going to "choose well" at restaurants, but not worry too much about being perfect. I'm going to allow beer. I'm going to look for sugar free options for sauces, but I'm not going to disallow soy sauce for having sugar. I'm not going to eat candy, pastries, fries, pizza, or bread with every meal. I'm going to allow myself a "fancy coffee" if I ever happen to be in a town with a Starbucks. When the local ice cream place has "coconut" for the flavor the day, I'm going to have some. I realize that some people just live like this, which is my goal. I'm realistic. I know I can't maintain it forever, but if I could make it my normal that would be terrific.
Now if I could only get my running routine back...