I’ve been wanting to write about my experience with the 21-Day Sugar Detox (21DSD), but hesitating about it for so many reasons. One reason is that I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions and do things starting on January 1st. And, this is one thing I did start on January 1st. A second reason is because I whole-heartedly believe that in order for things to change, it’s not just about changing one thing (like food), it’s a whole bunch of things that make up a lifestyle. The third reason is I do not believe it diets. If you want to really change, you have to look closely at the whole picture (food, stress, activity, sleep, etc.). Some people have asked me about my experience, though, and this seems like a great place to share about it. It has been incredibly rewarding in so many ways and I have many positive things to share. After all, I am an educator. I want to share my experiences so others are inspired to learn about real food and make better choices for their health.
What led us to the 21DSD?
I started listening to the podcast entitled Cut the Fat Podcast in November 2013. Several episodes referenced Mark Sisson and The Primal Blueprint, and eating primal/paleo for fat loss. My interest was piqued. I googled The Primal Blueprint and Mark Sisson immediately, which led me to Mark’s website Mark’s Daily Apple. I then downloaded and read the sample of Mark’s book The Primal Blueprint. Then during one of my nightly readings of Zite, I stumbled upon an article that referenced The 21-Day Sugar Detox. The article linked me to a set of questions from the introduction to the book, The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo about sugar, carbs, and the roles they play in your life. I was shocked (and kind of grossed out) when I read through and answered yes to most of them.
I ended up purchasing both The Primal Blueprint and The 21-Day Sugar Detox. I was reading both books during the last two weeks of December every night (every free moment I had to read, really). In all the reading I was doing, I kept thinking, “oh, that’s why I feel this way,” or “oh, that explains why that happens to me.” I was making so many connections to the discussions about health, digestion, and various symptoms I had experienced over the years. Simultaneously, I was thinking about my autoimmune condition of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and everything I was reading was connecting to that as well. Reading through these books was like having hundreds of “a-ha” moments, over and over.
On January 1st, we started our sugar detox/paleo/primal journey. My husband is doing it with me too, which has been awesome for meal prep and support. We completed the 21-Day Sugar Detox in January (we actually did the whole month beyond the 21 days) and have continued eating paleo/primal since. The first things I noticed when removing sugar were my energy and mood, they skyrocketed! Also, any fatigue that I had as a result of the hypothyroidism was gone.
Helpful details to know about me pre-21DSD:
- I was already gluten and dairy-free so making the jump to no grains wasn’t so terrible. I was sneaking gluten in here and there, and looking back, my digestion was suffering because of the “here and there”. Brian was not gluten-free, but has found the change to be manageable (probably because his lovely wife does all the planning and meal prep for the entire week 😉
- The sugar I consumed pre-21DSD was from fruit and 85% cacao dark chocolate and some ice cream here and there. I was not eating added sugars or processed/packaged foods on a regular basis. However, I constantly had cravings for sweet things and would eat fruit and dried fruit (preferably mangoes! the sweetest thing out there!) whenever I had a craving. During the 21DSD, there are different levels for where you are on your journey. I stuck to the plan completely which minimized my sugar cravings to almost none. After the 30 days, I added 1-2 servings of fruit back into my days. When I do have fruit, I choose green-tipped bananas, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries.
Other observations/revelations we’ve made on our journey so far:
- Midway through the 21 days, around day 10, was really hard. I really wanted sugar… really, really bad! I stuck with it though, stayed true to the program, and the cravings really did dissipate. I still crave fruit, but my cravings aren’t really for sweet things, just for nourishment. I added back dark chocolate a few times a week, but for me, once I have it I want it more and more. I make sure if I have it to have a few squares of 85% cacao dark chocolate.
- My energy levels are astounding. I used to feel very fatigued in the later afternoon, and that has vanished. I feel like I have energy to enjoy the evening with my family.
- The mysterious joint pain I was experiencing all over my body, that no doctor could ever shed any light on, is gone. It never occurred to me that joint pain, which was a symptom of hypothyroidism, could be reduced or removed by changing my food intake, which in turn has created balance in other aspects of my life.
- I am sleeping better. If I wake up in the middle of the night it’s because of one of my children is crying or calling for me (or my husband is snoring), not because I’m restless or stressed.
- When you focus on real food, and make the transition to Paleo/Primal, you consume more fat. Pre-21DSD, this would have been concerning to me because we have been told for years that too much fat and too many calories is bad. Well, through more reading and research, I have learned that is the farthest thing from the truth. Fat doesn’t make you fat, processed crap and sugar make you fat. Protein and fat help you stay fuller and nourished longer. I have avocados and coconut oil daily and don’t really worry about calories or fat.
- People are pretty skeptical/judgmental about the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. The number one thing people don’t know is that it is not a diet, it’s a way of living. And… we don’t sit around consuming a boatload of meat. I think the reason for this misunderstanding is because they don’t know much about it, or what they do know about it, is inaccurate. It’s been interesting to have to defend yourself like you’re some kind of weirdo about making choices that make you feel good. (More on that in my next post.)
- I have learned to focus on nourishment, feeling good and healing from the inside. These revelations led me to also read Practical Paleo, as well as my current read, Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe.
The bottom line is I am confident in my choices about health and nutrition for myself and my family, and I know deep down, that’s what matters most. In conclusion, when you focus on real food, sourced from grass-fed animals when possible, organic and/or local vegetables and fruit, you start to change your outlook on the food you eat for nourishment. It’s not about “being good because you ate well or bad because you had a treat” and “having so much willpower to choose certain foods over others”, it’s about feeling good inside when you make choices that work for your body and your health and not anyone else’s expectations or opinions about what is right or what is healthy. As I continue on this journey, I am sure I will have more to write and report. Stay tuned and be well.