In November, I cut out one of my greatest frenemies: Sugar.
I’ll be blunt: sugar is the devil. Truly, as far as I’m aware, it has absolutely no redeeming qualities. It’s been found to be more addicting than cocaine and it wreaks havoc on your emotional and physical health. At the same time, it is soo delicious, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a full on love affair with desserts and sweets of all kinds.
So let me rewind for a sec and give you some background info. The summer after I graduated from university, I knew something was up with my health. My energy levels were at an all-time low, to the point where I would sometimes feel like I was going to fall over just while walking. I felt spacey and foggy and was really bloated. So I went to a naturopath to sort out what was going on, and after looking over my eating habits, she concluded that an overload of sugar was causing these problems.
At the time, I easily and regularly would eat a half a tub of ice cream in one sitting. I knew this wasn’t great for me, but it didn’t register as anything of real concern. My naturopath put me on a Candida Diet, which is what I did again this past month. I won’t go into the details of the diet because there is a ton of info out there on it, but basically it excludes all sugars (I’m talking white sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc., and even fruit!), dairy, gluten, caffeine, wheat, fermented foods, nightshade vegetables, and alcohol (however, I tweaked it slightly this time around to make it do-able for me, meaning some earl grey tea and vodka waters found their way in- I’m a rebel like that :p).
I’ve tried a lot of things to kick my sugar addiction but removing it completely for a long period of time is the only thing that has worked. It sounds hard, and it is. When you remove sugar from your diet, you experience die-off symptoms (the degree to which depends on the person). For me, during the detoxes I’ve been cranky, bloated, exhausted, gotten rashes, and felt restricted.
Sounds fun, eh? Bet you’re just clamoring to get on board the no-sugar train! Honestly though, these detoxes have been such an asset to my health and wellbeing. The awesome thing is, once you remove sugar and get over the detox period, your cravings really do start to fade and you naturally transition into a sugar-free (or sugar-reduced) lifestyle. The detox allows your blood sugar and body ecology to re-balance and stabilize, and your taste buds come alive again because they’re not overwhelmed by high flavor sugar foods. Eating an apple after four weeks of no sugar is a shockingly delicious experience.
You might be wondering why I’ve had to do this detox again, considering I just said that doing it relieved me of my sugar addiction. Basically after my first detox, I was going along great for a few months after; eating healthy and feeling fab. But then my friend and I went on a seven month backpacking trip, and healthy eating kind of fell by the way side. After a few too many ice creams and sangrias, my sugar cravings were back in full swing and I gained 15 pounds! Like any addiction, you can always fall back into old habits. No biggie, just brush yourself off and redo the detox.
So why go through all of this trouble? Is sugar really that bad? Turns out yeah, it really is. On one of Gabrielle Bernstein’s recent radio shows, she spoke with a woman who was dealing with her own sugar addiction. The woman was distressed because she was having fertility issues and her doctors told her she needed to get off sugar if she wanted to conceive. However, she felt powerless to quit and was continuing to binge on sugar. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates how strong of a hold sugar can have on us.
The thing most people don’t know about sugar is that the damage isn’t just caused by what you’re putting in your body; it’s also what the sugar takes out of your body. Sugar is very acidic, and your body is happier in a more alkaline state. Your body is also very smart, and it won’t allow you to pee out anything that is too acidic. To neutralize the acidity of the sugar and allow it to be excreted, your body pulls valuable vitamins and minerals from your bones and teeth, causing them to become brittle and decayed (so stop combatting osteoporosis and tooth decay with calcium pills and mouth wash- cutting out sugar will help to solve both of these!).
Another thing I just want to touch on quickly is the emotional side to eating sugar. While craving sugar is a physical response to imbalances in the body, overeating of any kind is generally a response to emotional issues. It’s very common to use food as a numbing tool, and it’s a way of keeping ourselves from feeling or experiencing things that scare us.
My need for sugar is almost instantaneous when something stressful happens to me. My friend and I laugh now about how I used to slam the Fudge-Os when dealing with guy problems in high school. Instead of dealing with the situation, my mind wants to hide behind sugar. Eating it will make me feel happy for a short time, and then I’ll feel foggy, cranky, have a head ache and focus on the guilt of eating sugar. Perfect diversion from having to think of the stressful issue and deal with the feelings associated with it.
An amazing book that delves deeply into this is Women, Food, and God, by Geneen Roth. Eating isn’t about perfection, and it’s definitely not a one size fits all situation. For me and my body, doing a candida detox and staying off sugar completely is ideal. It may or may not be the right fit for you- only you know that. Some people can handle a bit of sugar or do well with honey and maple syrup. But if this interests you, check it out and feel free to ask me any questions about it.
If you do decide to detox from sugar, be very gentle on yourself. No guilt trips if you slip up!
One last thing: craving sugar is also a longing for sweetness in your life. How can you add this in without the nasty sweeteners? Meeting a friend for tea, going for a massage, or just taking a moment of gratitude for your blessings are all ways that you can make your life a little more sweet