Hi guys – how are we? I must say, my last post on Paleo and orthorexia caused quite the stir – lots of people reading and discussing, which is great to see! I think the more this issue is discussed – not just in the Paleo community, but among everyone with an interest in human nutrition – the better. Feel free to get in touch with me directly if you have any questions or points to raise, as I’m always happy to hear from you
Anyway, the real point of this post: I thought I’d give you a quick little update on how I’m travelling with my little sugar elimination experiment. It’s actually been a bigger success than I thought!
After my experience with the Whole45 – where it took me quite some time to “find my groove” – I was a bit hesitant, and didn’t really come into this expecting a whole lot. I needn’t have worried, as I’ve felt the benefits almost straight away.
Number one: weight has been falling off me. Not in a “holy-crap-do-you-have-cancer??” kind of way, but in a “Gee-you’re-doing-something-right!” kind of way. I was feeling pudgy and blah after Easter (and, let’s be honest, after the nightmare of being sick and injured, etc. etc.), and this program has gone a long way to helping me overcome that.
Number two: I’ve become a lot more “in tune” with my body, once again. It’s like we’re friends who briefly stopped speaking, but now we’re catching up and it’s like nothing ever happened. I’m more attuned to my hunger signals, satiety signals, temperature… So that’s great, too! I hadn’t realised how much sugar was dampening these signals.
A few days into the program, I decided – just for fun – to plug my food into one of those online calorie calculator type thingies. Not to monitor my caloric intake, but more to have a look at my macronutrient breakdown – how I was travelling with my relative intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. I was quite shocked – in neither a good nor bad way, just kind of bemused – to see how low my carbs were! I’d kind of expected about a 33/33/33 split. After all, I don’t go out of my way to either over-consume nor avoid any particular macronutrient. BUT, on the first day, my carbs were down to 7% of my intake! This didn’t seem “typical”, and it’s often hard to get your carbohydrate intake down that low without conscious effort. I tracked a few more days, and found that I was consistently coming in somewhere between 5 and 20% (depends on whether you’re “counting” carbohydrates from fibre or not). So, that’s quite shocking, really! At these proportions, I’m likely entering into a state of nutritional ketosis, where your body essentially preferentially burns fat for fuel, instead of glucose… if you went a bit cross-eyed just reading that, never fear, I’ve started doing a bit of research and I’m hoping to do a post decoding nutritional ketosis very soon! Stay tuned.
Pin the tail on the macronutrient!
Well, I haven’t seen the massive surges in energy that have been reported by others. This could be because a few external factors have been influencing my sleep, and it does seem to be improving slowly (especially when I allow my body to wake naturally, instead of using an alarm clock – don’t knock it, folks!). Hopefully that will all balance out by the time of the program’s conclusion.
Speaking of sleep, a little-known side effect of sugar elimination: my sleep went haywire for the first few days. I’d imagine those of you who have been reading this blog for a while are familiar with my obsession about my sleep – I am *determined* to get it nailed, and feel it’s central to all aspects of healthy functioning. It improved considerably during the Whole45, and hasn’t been too bad since. But, for the first few days of this program, I was waking up, having nightmares, running to the loo in the middle of the night… not fun! Of course, I was a little panicky at first – what if sugar is the secret to a good night’s sleep? But I calmed down once I’d spoken to a few people who have done sugar-elimination-style experiments, and a bit of reading. It would appear that this aberration was simply my hormones responding to the sudden lack of sugar, getting themselves all sorted out. You also tend to lose quite a bit of water when you cut your sugar intake so drastically (carbohydrates = water retention), so that explains the needing-the-bathroom bit, too. That has all balanced out now, though, and I’m sleeping happily and wonderfully once more – again, especially when I let myself wake up naturally in the mornings. I can’t overstate how good that feels!
Not really many other downsides. Of course, I really miss apples, and sweet potatoes, and cheese… sometimes I feel like I would sell my left arm for a few slices of a Royal Gala and some cheddar. But then I realise that there’s still cheddar in the fridge (for The Dude I Live With) and I haven’t attacked it like a frenzied animal – this is a logical and rational short-term choice I am making to benefit my health, so it can’t be all bad. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd, I logic myself out of food cravings.
What Have I Been Eating?
Well, I haven’t really held up my end of the bargain on more raw veggies – oops! This is mostly due to my running out of carrots a couple of days in (my favourite veggie to eat raw), and not having the chance to pick up any more.
But I have been eating lots of:
- Bone-in meats + marrow
- Coconut products
- Herbs and spices
- Green veggies
I’ve also discovered the wonder of cinnamon in my black coffee, the miracle of coconut cream in my coffee, and the holy-bajeezus-what-is-this-sorcery of both at once. Seriously, there is a reason I shouldn’t try new things like this – they are so good, they quickly become addictive. Next up, I want to try some Bulletproof coffee (blended with butter) – supposed to be seriously delish. If it’s any better than coconut cream and cinnamon coffee, I may as well just give up – I will never drink anything else ever again.
(Bear in mind, too, that I typically only have one coffee a day, after my workout in the early morning. This stuff is so good, I’m seriously considering expanding that regimen. OK, only half-seriously – but still, pretty darn good.)
I’ve also taken to having 1/4 of a lemon (one of two fruits I’m having on this program – the other is lime) in the morning with my breakfast, which I’ve enjoyed far more than I thought I would. It’s funny, the lemon doesn’t even really taste all that bitter, it’s getting quite close to tasting (gasp!) sweet. Lemons actually contain quite a bit of sugar, oddly enough, which is why I’m sticking to only a quarter, and only earlier in the day.
I’ve also tried brussels sprouts for the first ever time – not half bad! I don’t understand all the fuss about how awful they are, even a little. Coated mine in bacon fat, with a sprinkling of S&P, and roasted them for half an hour or so. In retrospect, it would have been good to cut them in half, so that the bacon fatty-goodness soaked into the middles, so I’ll be sure to do that next time. I’ve also reserved the outer leaves to make brussels sprouts chips, a la kale chips – quite looking forward to that! And I have some asparagus spears in the fridge that I’m going to attempt steaming for breakfast – I’ve never had or prepared asparagus before, so cross your fingers for me.
It’s really one of the best things about trying “elimination” programs such as this (and I include the Whole30 in that category as well); it really expands my culinary horizons, and I truly end up including more things than I cut out. If I’d never eliminated grains, I might never have tried parsnips, or cauliflower rice, or bone marrow, or caramelised onion, or sweet potato fritters, or blueberry liver, or bone broth… Pretty great when you think about it, eh?
The Take-Home Message
Quitting sugar is going quite swimmingly, thank you very much. I’m about halfway through the program, weight is dropping off me, my carb intake is ridiculously low, I’ve discovered more new delicious foods, and my sleep was a bit disturbed at first but it has now evened out. Onwards and upwards!
I have several draft posts on the go at the moment, looking at a variety of topics, issues, books, etc. If there’s anything in particular you’d like me to cover, give me a holler and I’ll add it to the roster.
Have you ever “quit sugar”? What were the side effects? Did you have a great time of it, or was it rough going? What new foods have you tried lately?