mission impossible: 21 day sugar detox pt ii

Friday, October 23, 2015

I did it! The 21 days are over! It was actually over last Thursday, but I was trying to condense all my thoughts into one not-too-long post for you all. To recap - about a month ago, I had the crazy idea to cut sugar out of my diet for 21 days. Read about why I decided to do it here. I put my thoughts on it all in Q&A format below. Here's what went down -

Did you notice any changes with your body?
First off, I'll say that you should not do this detox with the intent of losing a lot of weight. I consumed a lot of good fats and protein throughout the entire period, and when your body is already craving sugar, I would suggest not limiting the amount of food you eat to minimize "hangry-ness" :). That said, I did lost some weight, around 3 pounds so nothing drastic.

Another change I noticed in my body was with flexibility. I am already pretty flexible (somehow I can still do the splits pretty easily) but I noticed how my muscles felt a lot more pliable after giving up sugar. When I consumed some sugar after the detox, my muscles felt noticeably tighter. Not sure if this solely due to the sugar but I felt a very noticeable change.

Another big change I noticed was that reducing sugar made my waistline a lot more defined and I put on weight less easily. Confession time - there were nights when I was eating peanut butter out of the jar because I was craving sugar so badly. Even with all those calories consumed, I lost weight at the end of the three weeks.

Did you slip up?
Honest answer - yes, with the caveat that it was always only a couple bites of a dish containing sugar, never an entire meal or day.

Slip up #1 - I was at a Japanese restaurant while traveling and they brought me a free appetizer - the dish was sashimi slices with a sweetened chili sauce. I was eating alone and felt bad if I didn't touch it at all, so I had a couple slices and tried to scrape of whatever sauce I could.
Slip up #2 - I was having dinner with my colleagues while traveling and ate some fried shrimp (I wasn't supposed to eat fried foods).
Slip up #3 - I had vodka sodas while at a work event. Not a lot of sugar, but I was supposed to cut out alcohol.

As you can see, all my slip-ups happened while I was traveling :(, which I talk about more below.

Would you do it again?
Maybe. I say that because I found that this diet was virtually impossible to keep up while traveling. There are sugar-free options while traveling but they are very limited. For example, a lot of salads have fruit in it, and stir-fry dishes tend to use sauces that contain sugar. I think the key to eating sugar-free and feeling satisfied is having a large variety of good ingredients and being able prep your own food. Unless you live in a big city with health food stores at every street corner, I would advice you to do this only if you are able to cook most of your meals.

Will your diet change moving forward?
Obviously I will not be cutting out sugar completely from my life. I had doughnuts two days after the detox :). However, I realized how much impact cutting out sugar had on my energy levels and body's propensity to store fat. As a result, I plan to cut out snacks like processed energy bars, sweetened drinks, and candy from my diet. I also will be consuming less bread and simple carbs. All this with the caveat that I will give myself 1-2 free days a week to enjoy desserts like a good slice of cake or pie! Everything in moderation right?

That said, learning about how our bodies process different types of sugar differently got me interested in natural sweeteners (dates, honey, maple syrup) and ingredients like almond flour or coconut flour, so look out for some wholesome dessert recipes in the future!

I'm thinking about trying the detox...
I say go for it! As usual, if you have health concerns, I'd say consult your doctor first, but if you don't usually have any major dietary restrictions or health issues, I'd say this is fairly safe to try (but I am not an expert). It is very IMPORTANT that you don't go into this with the mentality of wanting to lose a lot of weight. You should be consuming a healthy amount of good fats and protein to stay full and energized. Also, to see any sort of results you really need to do this for the full 21 days. I felt like giving up in week 2 as I didn't feel much change and I was craving sugar like crazy, but it was really week 3 when I started to feel a significant difference.

Look at it this way, you are only giving up sugar for 21 days out of your entire life, and I think the best part of this detox is that you really get a sense of how the foods you put into your body affect you. From there, you can decide if you want to cut sugar out of your diet on a regular basis, or if there are certain foods that you want to eliminate.

For a comprehensive list of foods to include and exclude, I used this resource, although I ignored the part about avoiding dairy. There are various levels of intensity to a sugar detox, and I couldn't give up sugar AND dairy all at one go!

Your Daily Menu
My original intention was to keep a photo food diary, but  21 days is a long time you guysss, so it didn't quite happen. I did take a few though, the photo at the beginning of the post is a typical lunch (cheese omelette, charred tomatoes, stir-fried spinach) I would have. Below are some examples for what I ate throughout the 21 days:

Breakfast ideas:
- Lemon juice in warm water (cleanses your system and aids digestion)
- Coffee with almond milk
- Chia seed pudding (Recipe here, but exclude the stevia. I used almond milk which has a light natural sweetness)
- Scrambled eggs

Entree ideas:
- Cheese omelette
- Grilled chicken (I usually just coat chicken with some salt and spices, but here's a great recipe)
- Baked salmon
- Three-bean turkey chili (My favorite recipe)

Side Examples:
- Curried butternut squash soup (Recipe here)
- Sweet potato wedges (Love this recipe)
- Charred grape tomatoes (I just pan fry halved grape tomatoes with salt and some olive oil)
- Spinach stir-fry
- Butternut squash hash (Example recipe)
- Any sort of roasted / grilled vegetables

Snack ideas:
- Dry roasted almonds (these from Trader Joe's are my favorite!)
- Carrots and cucumbers with hummus (Trader Joe's spicy hummus dip has no added sugar)
- Plain unflavored Greek yogurt (I love the Noosa brand whole-milk Greek yogurt)
- Hot tea

"Dessert" ideas:
- Greek yogurt with natural unsweetened peanut butter
- Butternut squash ice cream (Say what?? All sweetness comes from the squash. Recipe here)
- Glass of almond milk

Note: If you are really craving something sweet, pumpkin, sweet potato, and butternut squash are your friends!

Other Helpful Resources:
- How does your body process different types of sugar? A great video explaining it all
- The dark side of added sugar; do you know where sugar is hiding in the foods you eat?
Fed Up - a good documentary on Netflix about sugar consumption

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