Friday, January 25, 2013

My Experience with the 21-Day Sugar Detox

Happy Friday everyone! 

Even though this has been a short week for me with the holiday Monday, I'm still oh so happy the weekend is here! I've got two of my best friends coming to Tahoe for the weekend later this afternoon, and I can't wait for them to get here!

I'm also super excited to announce that I completed the 21-Day Sugar Detox!

But before we get to that, I thought I'd share a few pictures first...this is a really long, wordy post and I thought a couple photos would be appreciated! After I took my Christmas decorations off our "mantel" (aka the brick area behind our wood stove) it looked so bare. However, we're really working on trying to declutter and so I didn't want to buy a bunch of new stuff to decorate it. I ended up grabbing a few odds and ends from around the house, putting them together, and I'm actually pretty pleased with how it turned out: 


  I think that the neutral colors are really fitting for winter, and for just using stuff we had on hand, I think it looks pretty cute! The old window is actually one from my husband's fraternity house. They were replacing the windows in the house when he lived there, and he ended up saving this one because it was so old and he thought it was neat...so I'm glad we finally have a place to display it!


 I also got a two new pillows at TJ Maxx the other day that I think make a nice addition to our family room: 


 Not huge changes, but it's little things like this that bring a smile to my face, especially in the winter when we're more cooped up inside!

And when your house is completely covered in wood panelling and your dog tears a hole in your couch with her nails that your husband tries to repair with brown duct tape, it's really the little things :)
 Ok, so now that I've shared a few photos, back to the sugar detox!

I talked about starting the detox earlier this month, and I honestly can't believe it's already over! The last day was Wednesday, and now that a day has gone by since I've finished, I wanted to talk more about my experience a) so I'd remember all the details and b) in case anyone else is interested in giving it a try.

I thought that the easiest way to do this is just break it up it up Q&A style...here we go!

What is the 21-Day Sugar Detox?
The 21-Day Sugar Detox is a program that was put together by Diane Sanfilippo, who is a nutritionist and also wrote the cookbook Practical Paleo. You can read more about the program here and download the PDF online (it does cost $21, just FYI). Without giving away too much of the information that's in the PDF, basically excess sugar is just terrible for our bodies yet sugar has a very addictive quality. The program is supposed to help you break sugar addiction by essentially removing all sugar for 3 weeks. So that means no grains, dairy, alcohol, fruit, or sweets of any kind for 21 days. It's basically like eating Paleo, but really strict and minus anything sweet.

How did I hear about it?
 I first read about the Sugar Detox over on one of my favorite recipe blogs, PaleOMG (which you should totally check out if you're not familiar with it--her recipes are great and she's hilarious). She talked about her experience with the detox and I remember thinking "There is NO way I would ever do that"...ha!

Why did I choose to do it?
  Over the course of 2012, Cam and I started adapting our eating habits to eat more Paleo and had really great results. In the beginning, we were pretty strict about it and only indulged occasionally, but as the year went on we definitely relaxed a little bit on it. However, in the last two months of the year, we really fell off the wagon between our trip to Turkey/Israel and then going to Oregon and Michigan for the holidays. We both over-indulged, and it just really showed me how much I really have issues with self-control when it comes to sweets. I will literally just keep eating them and eating them, especially if they're something seasonal like holiday M&Ms or Christmas cookies. So, our plan was to just go back to eating Paleo when we got home...but me, being slightly neurotic, wanted to do something more intense to start the year off on the right foot. I was considering doing a juice cleanse, but then decided against it because I'm just really not a big juice person, plus I wanted to do something a little more long-term. So I decided on the 21-Day Sugar Detox! I thought it would be a good way to begin the year, and then it would make going back to normal Paleo afterwards seem easy. And who am I kidding, I thought it would be a good kickstart to help shed some of the poundage I had put on over the holidays. But more than that, I really just wanted to help rebalance my body after feeding it crap for the past two months and let it recover and go back to normal. I also wanted things like fruit to taste good again; because I ate so much sugar over the holidays, things like fruit didn't even taste that sweet to me because my taste buds were so desensitized.

How was my experience?
I started the detox on January 3rd, and the first two days were definitely the hardest for me. I literally felt like my body was going through withdrawals and I had a massive headache. I went to an evening class at the gym on the first day of the detox--bad idea! I felt really weak (granted I was also coming back from 3 weeks of not working out over Christmas) and it was pretty terrible. One thing that's not allowed during the detox is sweet potatoes, with the exception being if you're an athlete/training, then they are allowed in small quantities after workouts. I did have some sweet potato that first day after the gym because I just couldn't stand it any more. But after that? I can honestly say that I adhered to the program 100% and did not cheat at all. I stuck to the foods outlined in the PDF (for anyone else that's done it, I did Level 3--which is basically the strictest/most Paleo of the 3 options) and I felt amazing!

Was it hard?
I can honestly say that it was not nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be. One big thing that I think really helped me is the fact that I work from home. I was able to control my environment and I didn't have coworkers bringing in sweets or asking me to go to lunch. I could make myself healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and that made a huge difference, plus I was kind of isolated to temptation. I can honestly say that I was never hungry (meat and veggies fill you up big time!), and I really enjoyed experimenting with more recipe options. The only truly difficult part was going out to eat. I went out to eat 5 times while doing the detox, and I will say it's extremely challenging to try to adhere to the guidelines when you go to a restaurant because you don't know how food is prepared, and honestly at most restaurants there are sugar/grains/dairy in pretty much everything! (That was definitely eye-opening!) However, I did my best and it really wasn't that hard overall to stick with the detox for the 21 days. I honestly think it's a million times harder to have sweets around and tell yourself you're just going to have a little bit. ("I'm just going to have one Oreo, promise!" Yeahhhh right) When you go cold turkey and cut it out completely, it's really very freeing. Because certain foods are no longer an option, you really don't think about them as much, and that's what makes the detox not so bad.

And I really didn't cheat at all?
 I can honestly say that at home, I completely adhered 100% to the rules of the detox. As I mentioned, we did go out to eat 5 different times. The first 3 were to restaurants here in Lake Tahoe, and I got salad all 3 times. I had them just toss the salad in olive oil and lemon juice instead of dressing, and all the veggies in my salad were ok on the detox. One night, we did go out to a self-serve stir-fry place and I chose only shrimp and veggies and did not have any rice/pasta. However, I had to put a sauce on for them to stir-fry it so I chose the red curry sauce, which said contained coconut milk, curry, and lemongrass. It very well may have had corn syrup in it for all I know, but it was the best option of what was available and definitely didn't taste sweet. This last weekend in Reno, I got duck confit and I had the chef substitute veggies for the polenta it was supposed to be served on. For all I know the duck/veggies may have been cooked in butter, but from what I could tell, the plate seemed to meet the guidelines of the detox. So to my knowledge, I did not cheat at all, and if I somehow unintentionally ate something I wasn't supposed to, it was purely accidental and I never purposely violated the spirit of the detox/didn't eat anything sweet at all these past 3 weeks. Wednesday night was supposed to be my last night of the detox, but Cam ended up making pan-seared pork chops with sautéed cinnamon apples to go on top, and so that was my first non-sugar detox meal. (Technically, I probably should have waited till Thursday, but I figured I had already made it to the finish line and this point!) He sautéed the apples in a little bit of butter and just added some cinnamon and seriously, eating them on top of the pork tasted so sweet it was like I was eating a piece of apple pie!

Did I lose weight?
 The burning question I'm sure everyone is probably curious about. Yes, I did lose weight doing the detox. How much weight exactly? I have no idea. I chose not to weigh myself when we got back from being out of town for the holidays because I knew it would just make me frustrated. I could look in the mirror and see that I had put on weight, but I knew that going back to eating healthy and being active, my body would go back to where it needed to be...but I just didn't want to know the exact number on the scale, because that's not super important to me. However, I did weigh myself a few times near the end of the detox just to check in and my weight did go down. I'm now back to the weight I was at for the majority of this year eating Paleo and feel like myself again, so I know that my extra holiday weight is gone.

Did I see any other positive benefits?
Absolutely! Beyond feeling leaner, I observed many positive changes. I noticed that after the beginning of the detox, I didn't get migraines at all beyond the first day (where as before I'd struggle with getting them on a weekly basis and sometimes more frequently). I felt more balanced, I felt like I could think more clearly, I felt happier, and I definitely felt like I had more energy, especially at night. Another main thing I was hoping to gain from the detox was clearer skin. While I definitely think that my skin improved over the past 3 weeks, it's still not quite where I'd like it to be. Don't get me wrong, I do think that cutting sugar out helped my skin a lot. However, I also started using my new Clarisonic at the same time I started the detox, and I know that people say that can make you break out more when you first start using it, so that may be part of the issue.

What did I learn? 
 I feel like that I learned so much over the past 3 weeks, and they're lessons that I plan to carry with me moving forward. Here are the most important things that this detox taught me (and I realize some of these things may be obvious, but they aren't always to me): 

-I have more discipline than I give myself credit for: Starting out, I really wasn't sure if I could do this. But I did. I'm stronger than I think and doing this detox definitely helped prove that to myself. 

-I don't need sugar, I want sugar: Often times in the past, I thought I needed sugar, that I had to have dessert. These 3 weeks taught me that's not true. I can survive without it. That's not to say I didn't get cravings on the detox, because I definitely did. However, it showed me that if I don't have sugar, I'm going to be ok. It also helped become much better at distingushing between a mental craving (aka the thought that a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough sounds really delicious) vs. actual hunger (aka it's been 4 hours since I ate, I need a snack or a meal with protein and healthy fat)

-Tea is amazing: I drank a ton of tea during the detox. I typically drank a cup of green tea every morning (I don't typically have coffee in the mornings, only on the weekends if Cam and I make it in the french press/go out, so this wasn't too much of a change) and then a cup of peppermint tea at night and now I'm totally hooked. I discovered it's more the ritual of having a bowl of ice cream or a cup of hot cocoa that I like, and making a hot mug of peppermint tea is a really good replacement. This is definitely something I plan to continue even though the detox is over!

-Weekends don't have to derail you: Normally, Cam and I eat really well during the week and then sometimes I feel we go into the weekend with the attitude that we're already resigned to just eat terrible because "we deserve it." During the detox, I had to eat healthy all through the weekends, and it was really nice to wake up on Monday and not feel all bloated from the past three days. It made me realize, just because it's the weekend, I don't have to indulge. It's my choice, and if I wake up on Monday morning feeling heavy and groggy, I only have myself to blame.

-Veggies are delicious: This detox forced me to eat more veggies, and I really enjoyed incorporating them more heavily into my diet/trying new varieties. Also, when you cut out sweets/fruit, you realize just how sweet certain veggies are like red peppers and snap peas, and they taste amazing!

-I have more empathy for people with food allergies: Going out to restaurants it was super annoying to be "that girl" and to ask a million questions about how the food was prepared. It definitely gave me insight into what people who have food allergies have to deal with on a whenever they go out. It's so hard to know exactly what's in your food when you're dining out, but it's definitely made me realize that places will substitute things, and if you want to make a meal healthier, it is possible...just ask!

-You can go out with friends but don't have to overindulge: All the times we went out to eat during the detox, it was with friends. And much to my surprise, I didn't enjoy myself any less by not having a glass of wine/getting dessert/having part of the appetizer. As much as I was tempted, I still had just as much fun getting together with friends as I would have had I got some terrible-for-me meal and overeaten. Although I definitely missed having a glass of wine, I was fine without it and I honestly had just as much fun with my friends.

Any negatives/weird side effects?
The strangest side effect I had is that during the first week, I had crazy dreams and I'd be eating sugar in every single night. For example, one night I had a dream that I was in a giant room and all the walls were lined with boxes of cereal like Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I grabbed a huge bowl and poured all the cereals in there together and just started chowing down--and I literally had dreams like that every night for the first week or so. 

As far as negatives, my only one is that I really don't think I feel that much better having cut out fruit/wine. I feel like I would have lost the same amount of weight/felt the same had I incorporated those things in occasionally over the past 3 weeks. But I understand the point is to break the habit of always relying on having something sweet, and I wanted to give it my all and do the detox 100%.

{Yesterday afternoon I celebrated by having my first piece of chocolate in 3 weeks!}

What am I going to do now that it's over?
My plan is to go back to eating normal Paleo--so still not eating grains/dairy at home (and really eating most of the same meals I ate on the detox), but now allowing myself to eat fruit, and then also indulging in a glass of wine/piece of dark chocolate/coconut milk ice cream here and there. Granted, I won't be eating Paleo all the time and still plan on indulging in "normal" foods occasionally. I know some people who eat Paleo really have a strong adverse reactions to grains and dairy--I, on the other hand, feel like I tolerate them fine, but they just make me gain weight like crazy and I do feel more sluggish when I eat them which is why I am choosing to cut them out of my diet 90% of the time. However, after doing this detox, I'm less inclined to indulge in non-Paleo foods as much because the moderate enjoyment I might get out of eating junk food just isn't worth it. And it's true that now going back to Paleo does seem easier as I can reincorporate some of my favorite healthy foods like sweet potatoes and fruit that I eliminated during the detox, so that's my plan moving forward. (And it will be really nice to have a glass of wine later tonight!)

Would I do it again?
Maybe. If I feel myself getting too far off track in the future, I do think that doing something like this is a great way to get focused and recommit to your health. However, if I'm going to do something, I really want to do it 100% and with as much as we travel, it would probably be tough for me to do it hardcore again for 3 weeks. However, a lot of my eating habits are going to stay the same even now that it's over, and I know that the lessons I've learned will carry with me moving forward. 

Would I recommend it?
I would definitely recommend anyone who's interested give it a try! If you're not used to eating Paleo, it might be more of an adjustment/shock, but it will open your eyes to just how much sugar is in your diet.

 So there you have it! If you're still reading, I'm impressed...ha! If you have any specific questions about the detox, please feel free to email me! Have a great weekend everyone! Xoxo

8 comments:

  1. I love reading about other people's experiences with detoxes and cleanes. I am currently doing a different one than you did, but the principles basically include a paleo diet.

    As for clearing up skin, have you tried taking a tablespon of apple cider vinegar at night before bed? It is the only thing that has cleared up my skin - I decreased sugar and dairy, took antibiotics, used prescription creams. It took about 2 weeks to notice a significant change, but it might be worth the try!

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    1. Hi Tiff, I have never heard of/tried that but I am all about natural treatments, so I am definitely going to give it a try! You just swallow one tbls plain before bed or do you dilute it with water?

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  2. Thanks for sharing the detailed account of your detox. I can especially relate to 2 points 1) you can still have fun without drinking with friends ( I've realized you are actually not missing out by not having that beer or wine) 2) the weekends are not an excuse to go overboard. I have had this lesson taught to me over and over. It's just not worth when you wake up on Monday feeling blah.

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  3. Congratulations on the challenge! I admire your strength. I also love those pillows! I just got some great ones from TJ Maxx too. Or was it Homegoods? Ha, same thing.

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  4. Seriously so proud of you for this accomplishment!

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  5. Way to go!! Maybe one day I'll get to the point that I want to try that too. Baby steps. :)

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  6. You are a brave soul my dear; I'm still convinced I'd fall flat on my face. But YOU are amazing for getting that done!

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  7. This sounds super interesting and like something I need after travelling for a month straight! I would seriously struggle to stick to it though, I'm not a big meat person so carbs are my best friend :)

    xxx
    Jenna

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Your sweet words make my day! :)

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