Sugar detox exercise was a huge eye opener for me. I did it at the beginning of my paleo journey and found it to be an excellent way of getting into the paleo diet. Some may find it too radical but I don’t believe in slow band aide removal. Sugar addiction works the same way as alcohol addiction. The more sugar you eat, the more your body craves, so just limiting sugar won’t do the trick. By the way, when I say sugar, I mean things beyond white stuff – bread, dairy, fruit, juice, honey, etc. Not all of these, of course, are inherently bad for the body. Fruits, for example, are sources of vitamins and other important nutrients. For the purpose of 21 day sugar detox, however, it’s important to cut off all sources of sugar, good or bad, in order to rid your system off all sugary elements and reset it for better functioning. To me, the cold turkey detox was necessary in order to transition into paleo lifestyle and re-train my body and mind into a new way of processing and relating to foods. At the same time, feeling positive effects of sugar withdrawal provided me with the necessary motivation to continue on with paleo diet as a permanent lifestyle choice.
Benefits of Going Sugar Free
Removing sugar from your diet has a multitude of benefits for your health and wellbeing. The most important for me was getting off the energy roller-coaster I was constantly finding myself on. After having a yummy breakfast of peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a cup of coffee with sugar and cream in the morning, I would feel energized and ready to tackle the day. Unfortunately, by the time I would get to work I would start feeling sluggish and hungry. Another coffee would take me to the lunch hour. The feeling of hunger by lunch time would be very intense. Immediately after lunch I would start feeling fatigued and find myself dying for a nap in the afternoon. Some sweet snack around 3 pm sustained me for another hour or so, and the rest of the day continued in a similar manner. Up and down, from one sweet snack or coffee break to another.
Simple carbs like table sugar, candy, soda and such do not contain fiber or protein. As they enter your digestive system they quickly turn into glucose in the bloodstream. The blood levels spike which gives you an instant sensation of energy. Increased levels of insulin move glucose out of the bloodstream to your cells or to store for future use aka fat. This rapid change in blood sugar levels results in sugar crash and new cravings to fill the void. Starchy foods (bagels, chips, fries, white rice, etc.) get broken down in a different manner but they too make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar.
Removal of all sugar and simple carbohydrates from the diet normalizes and balances insulin levels. During the detox and afterwards, once you add good sugars back into your diet and limit or eliminate refined sugars, you will be getting a consistent supply of energy throughout the day, and no intense cravings or hunger pains associated with low blood sugar levels. Not having the extra glucose, would signal the body to stop storing it for future use, and hence a huge benefit of going sugar free – weight and fat loss. Simple carbohydrates are also known for creating inflammation throughout the body that produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin. Sugar withdrawal helps to reduce the inflammation and therefore results in better, clearer skin. More positive mood and fewer headaches have also been reported as a result of refined sugar elimination.
One of my favorite effects is also a renewed sense of taste and appreciation for wholesome foods. The re-adjusted taste buds will let you experience and enjoy your familiar foods in ways you never thought possible.
What to expect from the 21 Day Sugar Detox
According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz’s, theory, it takes us 21 days to form a habit. My sugar detox lasted for 28 days because on day 6 I accidentally ate something that contained sugar and, hence, had to re-set the timer. The first few days are always the hardest. At the initial stage, many people experience various negative symptoms like increased fatigue, headaches, bad breath, digestive issues, skin problems etc. Most of these symptoms are a sign that the body has gone into the cleansing mode and would go away in a matter of a few days. For me the headache lasted for two days starting on day 2 and the first week I was experiencing major cravings for sweets. Other than that, no major issues. For me personally the real difficulty wasn’t in controlling my body but rather in finding safe menu selections while eating out. Having a busy lifestyle, I got accustomed to eating out at least once a day. What I immediately discovered was that almost every option out there included one form of sugar or another. Grocery shopping was a strange experience. I remember how shocked I was to come to the realization that the grocery stores shelves were packed with processed sugar of all kinds. Almost every label contained sugar, and I was finding sugar in most unsuspected places like chicken broth or tomato sauce. Based on my experience, I would suggest to take your time the first week and focus on increasing awareness. Come up with your own menu of sugar-free foods and stick to cooking for the 3 weeks’ duration. Some simple 21 sugar detox recipes can be found here.
So are you ready to get off the roller-coaster? Are you prepared to create new independent you, free of unhealthy cravings and full of energy? If the answer is yes, proceed to the Checklist of Foods to Avoid on 21 Day Sugar Detox: