5 Things I Learned from doing a 7 Day Sugar Detox
A couple of weeks ago I decided to challenge myself to a 7 Day Detox from all unnatural, artificial, processed sugar and foods they are found in.
What foods did this include?
It's easier to tell you the things I ate versus all the foods and products I challenged myself to NOT eat which were:
All natural foods containing sugar: all fruit and any vegetable (starchy or non-starchy), kombucha, ezekiel bread (which contains no sugar on the ingredients list), coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, animal proteins (excluding dairy), beans & legumes, and nuts/nut butters (with no sugar added into ingredients).
So I, along with 15 other people who decided to join me, formed a Facebook group to keep us accountable, stay in touch and ask questions through the 7 days. Everyone has a different reason to do this challenge including getting ready for weddings, a vacation, personal challenge, end their sugar addiction, etc.
My personal reason was to stop craving sugar at the end of every meal and at night. After I would eat a really delicious and balanced meal I would crave something sweet at the end. I was slowly turning back into the sugar monster I once was, craving sugar all day every day, and I knew it was a slippery slope! I like to think of myself as emotionally intelligent, someone who is very in tune with why they do the things they do. This increase in SUGAR CRAVINGS was not a surprise to me. Over the last few weeks I was allowing myself to indulge in cookies, chocolate, and my personal favorite...ice cream, one too many times. Even if all the macronutrients were tracked and it fit into my nutrition plan for the day, just having a higher intake of sugar (80+ grams on some days) was making my body and mind crave MORE sugar versus foods that were naturally sweet. My taste buds were hijacked by sugar- even candy sweet fruit didn't quench my craving for sugar.
What I learned during my 7 Day Sugar Detox Challenge
1. I'm not as addicted to sugar as I used to be...but I was getting close!
I remember a time when I could not stop eating sweets- morning, noon, and night. It was during one of my bouts of depression and I would eat myself into a sugar coma and sleep. It was not a healthy way to live, let alone eat. But the symptoms and withdrawals I had during this detox were MUCH less intense than back then. This time, I could go cold turkey and not have extreme headaches, food fantasies, hunger pains, and feel the need to binge. I was in a much healthier state of mind and found could cut everything but natural occurring sugar out of my diet. Back then, I needed to gradually wane myself off of sugar by allowing myself to eat sweets but limiting my carbs by tracking them in My Fitness Pal. If I even tried to go cold turkey off sugar at that time, I was the biggest B* to the *itch.
2. Observe your symptoms vs be overwhelmed by them.
In the past, when "giving up" some food, an automatic switch would go off in my brain so that I would day dream about that food like a high school girl with a major crush. I could not think of anything else. It would make me anxious, irritable, and basically torture me all day. If I got dizzy, nauseous or fatigued I would dwell on it and let it drain me of my willpower. I let myself get swallowed up by the symptoms instead of anticipating and observing them. This time around I was prepared for any negative withdrawal symptom I might feel. When I did experience them, my only thoughts were something like, "Oh! I'm feeling low energy right now, interesting." or "I'm feeling anxious and uptight right now," and "wow I would totally go grab a sweet drink (like Bai) right now. That's definitely a connection." After a few minutes I would have to force myself to do something to change my state and get away from that thought or symptom, but they ALWAYS went away! (and I didn't die, even though for a second I thought I might.)
3. Challenging myself to my own personal goal is ENOUGH for me to commit.
I don't need a vacation, an event, or a competition to challenge myself and commit to it. All I need is my desire to become a better version of myself. I hold my word (with myself) in high regard and that alone dedicates me to a goal. I'm pretty proud of that.
4. Sugar plays a HUGE role in my mood and how I feel day to day.
If I have a high amount of sugar in a day, I can put myself in a "bad mood." Just feeling slightly bloated, less patient, lower in energy, lethargic, slower, and less strong in my lifts can alter my day. It won't necessarily put me in a BAD MOOD, but I won't feel AMAZING on those days. And honestly, I don't really want to NOT feel amazing on any day of my life. Sometimes this is motivating enough for me to choose the orange over the chocolate, especially at night after the entire day is through. Sometimes though, I feel I deserve a treat. If the source of my craving is STRESS, this could turn into a big portion, enough to make my morning harder to wake up to. Mornings that are a struggle for me to drag myself out of bed are horrible enough to deter me from even taking one handful.
5. Identify triggers and replace them with positive action.
A trigger is a conscious or unconscious cue to react in a certain way to a feeling, environment, person, or event. For example, let's say you have a negative or stressful feeling every time you go home to visit your parents. That feeling triggers a response to raid their kitchen cabinets for cookies late at night because that's how you reacted to stress there consistently in the past. Or, every time you go to a Baseball game you have a craving for a hot dog because you grew up having fond memories of enjoying that food while watching a game.
This was a really helpful exercise in mindfulness for what my triggers are for sugary foods. Some of the triggers I identified over the 7 Day Sugar Detox were:
On my way home from work at night, stopping at the market to buy ANYTHING (even if I really need eggs) will trigger me to convince myself to buy something sweet.
Watching TV at my mom's house makes me want to go upstairs and make a trail mix snack of pretzels, nuts, and chocolate chips. EVERY TIME.
Eating to the point that I'm really full, even if it was a healthy meal, makes me want to snack on sweet foods even if I feel stuffed. (I think this is a trigger from when I used to binge eat past fullness. Somehow there was a sense of pleasure in it.)
Drinking sweet drinks (even if artificially sweetened) makes me crave sweet foods more often throughout the day.
On my way to work, I crave carbonated slightly sweetened refreshingly cold beverages.
Exercise makes me skeeve sweet foods for at least an hour or 2 after.
Drinking enough water throughout the day keeps my cravings for sweets down.
I can't fool myself anymore. Nuts and nut butters need to be kept in small quantities around me. If I'm relaxed and tempt myself to snack on them, I will mindlessly eat half the jar or bag.
I Hope this blog helped if you are thinking about doing a sugar detox challenge. Comment below with what triggers you discovered. If you have any questions regarding sugar addiction, food addiction in general, or how to start making long lasting changes to your diet, fitness, and lifestyle please feel free to contact me. I would be happy to point you in the right direction!