Now this was not the first time I tried a no sugar regime. In fact, Scott had purchased the I Quit Sugar book by Sarah Wilson back in 2014. I had it on my shelf for months secretly hating the title and not wanting to even open it. But after Christmas of 2014 when I had had enough abdominal pain to last a lifetime, I decided to try anything and everything.
So, for the New Year 2015, I dusted off the book and read the whole thing cover to cover in one sitting. I was hooked. She makes it sound so easy and wonderful! And so we took our healthy living insurance money and went to work giving our pantry the makeover it deserved and filled it with wonderful sugar-free ingredients for all of her recipes. There was just one teeny, tiny problem. I didn’t really want to follow her 8-week sugar detox program and begin with a clean slate. I decided that I didn’t need to. I just skipped ahead of the challenge and started making the recipes in the back. And by recipes I mean the sweet ones. Made without sugar of course, but which still resembled everything I was used to. Yep, this was going to be simple. Just replace all the sweet things I normally eat with sugar-free or alternate sweetener versions and I’m good to go right? Not so much.
You see, that part about getting a clean slate for yourself actually turned out to be kind of important. Because sugar is addictive, the cravings get pretty gnarly and after about a week of just trying to replace your favorite go-to sugar fix item with a less sweet version does not work. They didn’t taste quite as good and so it didn’t fulfill my need. But I didn’t realize what the problem was. I had all of the right ingredients, I made all of my cookies and cakes and chocolate bark and had them on hand at any moment. So why wasn’t I satisfied? I sort of gave up after a few weeks and slowly drifted back into my old regular habits, and after a while had completely forgotten about giving up sugar.
Fast forward 9 months to November of 2015. I dusted off the book again, and went to work making a plan. This time I wanted to try the actual 8-week detox program and see if anything changed. Honestly I was doing it a bit out of spite because sugar and me go way back, and I didn’t really believe cutting it out for some period of time would help at all. I’ve always slipped back into old habits, why would this be any different? I found out the difference is all about creating that clean slate.
To begin with, cutting out sugar was as hard and as sad as you can imagine, especially since I started the week before Thanksgiving, which was followed by the Christmas season. Yet, surprisingly after only a few days...my cravings were significantly reduced and I felt the chains of the sugar addiction beginning to weaken every time I exercised my control over it. What it really narrowed down to however, were a few certain times of the day when I had the habit of always eating something sweet. I looked forward to and counted on those treats like the visit of an old friend. Coming to those times each day without my sugar fix felt lonely. I had to learn new coping skills including phone calls to friends and family and essential oil aroma therapy. During weeks 3-5 of the program you give up everything sweet: fruit, fructose, artificial sweeteners, honey, everything. This was sort of a gloomy time for me, especially trying to make a green smoothie edible without any fruit. I cannot think of a time in my life where I had gone that long without anything sweet.
But I survived. How did I make it through? I gave myself new “treats”. Fine cheese became one of them. I shopped all over the exotic cheese section and started bringing home new varieties. Another treat became shrimp tacos. Yum! I really looked forward to these on hard days. I also bought a few containers of fine nuts – the ones from Costco that we felt were always too expensive to buy. And salads of course. Having other types of treats in-mind and on-hand helped me immensely during those first few weeks of detox.
But, let’s also be clear, this was no picnic. I learned some incredibly valuable lessons. I learned about myself on a much deeper level. About how I use sugar and sweets and why. I had to face some emotions that usually get buried in sugar. I had to come up with a few new coping strategies for when I am stressed out and frustrated. I had to find new ways to celebrate my daily milestones: schoolwork being done, getting the baby down for a nap, and getting all the children in bed. It was very hard, but so fulfilling! Even during those hardest times, there was a feeling of empowerment. I knew that I was breaking a cycle that had been going on for more than 15 years and I was succeeding!
At week 6, I slowly began to add fruit back in. Adding berries back into my smoothie felt like heaven on earth. I was worried that adding fruit back in would send me back down the spiral of sugar again, but you know what? It didn’t! I had truly re-calibrated my body in such a way that it wants fruit and not refined sugar. I find myself craving a delicious Mexican style rice and bean salad quite often. I find that I’m satisfied with my fruit smoothie more than ever. I’m more surprised than anyone that it actually worked. If I had not lived it, I wouldn’t believe it. So I don’t blame you if you’re having a hard time believing me. You won’t know until you experience it for yourself. And who is to say what the future will bring. I am optomistic. And while I am not getting back on the "wagon" of strict diets and lengthy regimes, I have goals. And this year my goal is to do without refined sugar in all of its forms. I'll take life one goal at a time and right now that goal is the right next step for me.
Will I ever taste a chocolate chip cookie again in my life? Will I ever smell the sweet aroma of a pan of brownies baking in the oven? These were some of my biggest fears when starting on this journey. Let me answer that question with the story of the cheesecake.
It was the end of my 8-week sugar fast and also New Year’s Eve. This called for a double celebration. And what better way to celebrate than with Cheesecake, my favorite. And the good news was that the recipe came from my I Quit Sugar book. The crust was a delicious combination of nuts, butter, and a bit of brown rice syrup. The cake was the usual cream cheese, eggs, and cream, also with a bit of brown rice syrup. The cream cheese was home made from full fat yogurt which took a few days to produce. The crust I made a day in advance. Overall the dessert took me about 3 days off and on to make. It was a masterpiece. To top it off I put a homemade berry sauce on top. I was actually scared to take a bite. What if my taste buds had changed? What if I had spoiled my palette and could never again enjoy sweets?
But in the end…it was delicious! It was just sweet enough. I savored each and every bite of my piece. And I was totally satisfied. This is what dessert now means to me. This is how I want to eat sweets. I want it to be an occasion made with ingredients and thoughtfulness. No, not every night and not every week, but not never. I want the desserts I choose to eat to have been made with love, not in a factory somewhere. I want to eat a reasonable amount of sweets, that are as healthy and natural as possible, with the people I love, as we gather together and celebrate some truly special occasions. This vision for myself is finally becoming a reality because I and my family had the courage to truly let the shackles of my addiction go. This is not out of reach for you. And you know what? I have found that life is so much sweeter without sugar!
xo - Heather
#NewYear #Food #Health #IQuitSugar