As a self-proclaimed foodie, I have a difficult time balancing my desire for insanely healthy (and borderline bitter-tasting) food and utter indulgence. I want every meal to be special and enjoyable. Lately I’ve been trying to find a balance between eating to help my body be its most efficient and yet not being a obsessively picky eater. With Easter, birthday celebrations, and visits with friends I don’t get to see that often, it has taken a lot of self-control to allow myself indulgence, but to also recognize empty food. I told a co-worker recently that eating pretzels for a snack is like buying a cheap purse. It’s not going to last even half as long as something of better quality, so you’re kind of wasting that money. My body needs food that lasts, that isn’t cheap.
A few weeks ago, I decided to give up sugar and carbohydrates for twenty-one days. After telling people that I was giving up sugar and carbs, a lot of them responded with ‘I could never do that, I live on bread’. Or, ‘Why? Are you trying to lose weight?’ And most generally, ‘Why?’
Why? Why not? 1. I like science. 2. I like my body. I like it even more when it’s efficient and not running on caffeine and daydreams of twelve hours of sleep at night. I’ve started to put a lot of time into Crossfit which requires a lot of energy. Especially when you go after a full day of work. 3. I’m not trying to lose weight. I’m trying to become stronger, which actually requires gaining weight while you convert fat to dense muscle. 4. You don’t live on bread, you love bread. You’ll get over it. I love bread. It makes me feel awful, but I still love it.
I utilized the 21 Day Sugar Detox program to aid me in my journey, but once I looked into it, this was all just stuff I already knew, yet refused to heed. The recipes included are worth it though. As requested, this is just a brief idea of what I ate over those 21 days.
EGGS. Eggs. Eggs. Hard-boil them. Scramble them. Fry them. Make egg ‘muffins’. Make quiche without a crust. Get creative.
FULL-FAT DAIRY. Plain 4% Greek yogurt with chopped nuts, almond butter, hemp seed, flax meal, chopped green bananas, etc. 4% cottage cheese with cinnamon, sliced almonds, unsweetened coconut flakes and pumpkin puree.
AVOCADO. Mmmm, my favorite, blended with some spinach, plain unsweetened almond milk, a green banana, and some unsweetened cocoa baking powder.
LEFTOVERS. Leftovers are the BEST breakfast. One morning I had leftover salad with chicken breast.
SALAD. Everything but the kitchen sink. Every single veggie I had available, on a spinach and arugula base, with toasted walnuts, chopped olives, sometimes avocado, sometimes an egg. Baked kale provided crunch.
LEFTOVERS. Meat usually. A piece of salmon from the night before. Tuna salad made with hummus instead of mayo. Sliced chicken breast over greens. Piles of whatever veggies I had leftover.
FULL-FAT DAIRY. The same thing I made for breakfast some days, I ate for lunch or dinner others. Yogurt with nuts and cinnamon.
ALMOND BUTTER. 1 tbsp. for dipping with carrots, celery, fennel.
MIXED NUTS. No peanuts, but a serving size of almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, etc.
DEVIL’S EYEBALLS. Like a deviled egg, but you fill the hollow yolk spot with hummus and top it with an olive.
MUFFINS. Made with coconut flour, coconut oil, etc.
CELERY STICKS. Filled with hummus, and again topped with olives.
SALAD. I really like salad. Same as for lunch, always with some form of protein and fat. (Salmon and avocado, usually.)
SWEET POTATO. Three nights a week I’m unable to eat dinner until really late because of crossfit/climbing. Those nights I usually have a big snack before my workout (generally nuts or yogurt) and then when I get home I pop a sweet potato in the microwave, top it with butter and eat it. If that’s not enough, I’ll have steamed veggies, olives, a fried egg, etc with it.
MEAT. A chicken breast with roasted veggies. Etc.
Basically, you eat a lot of veggies, protein, and good fats. Avoid anything with added sugar, whether it’s natural or not. No carbohydrates, so: no bread, no flour, no white potatoes, no fruit (unless it’s a green banana or green apple, and only in moderation). No booze, no grains.
What did I learn from this experience?
1. It is possible to go an entire day, an ENTIRE WEEK without eating bread or sugar. I had already limited my sugar intake to one day a week, so that was a little easier to give up. But I thought for sure I would be craving bread. Not the case.
2. I learned how to be more creative with my meals. It’s important to not get bored with your food!
3. Preparation is key. It would be impossible to stick to it without having good foods ALWAYS on hand and preparing foods in bulk for the week ahead. When all you have to do is open the fridge and find it, you’re much more likely to choose healthy food over empty snacks.
What did I gain from this experience?
1. I feel great. SO MUCH ENERGY. So few naps!
2. My skin is the clearest it’s been ever. Granted, I burnt my chin today at work, but otherwise, it’s great.
3. I know now that when I do eat bread, cheap carbs, grains, sugars, I feel like junk. So I’m more likely to avoid those foods the majority of the time now.
4. I have so much more stamina at crossfit and climbing.
Now, I’ll admit, there were some days I didn’t follow my rules exactly. But I’m never going to be one of those obsessively picky eaters that freak out about sugar. I had a glass of great red wine at an Italian restaurant for my Dad’s birthday. I ate black mission fig and prosciutto pizza in DC. Where, I might add, I also drank margaritas and yuenglings. I had wine this past weekend when visiting friends. But when we all went to a diner for breakfast, I chose an omelette and sweet potatoes instead of homefries, and gave up the toast. I’d rather splurge and drink a glass of wine, or a beer, than eat bread.
Now that it’s over, what do I do? I think I’ll stick to it as much as possible. It’s pretty easy most of the time, it just gets hard when there’s a major event or your attending parties, or going away for the weekend. Sometimes, nothing beats drinking a beer on someone’s back porch while giggling with friends you never get to see. Even if it does make you tired.
This also taught me that ice cream is always the best dessert, and any other dessert item is really just a vehicle for ice creamy goodness. I ate about 2 gallons of ice cream in the last few weeks trying to recreate the perfect chocolate peanut butter combination that I had at Merrymead farm right after this experiment. After finally admitting it wasn’t possible, I’m back to no sugar, very very few carbs. Last night I had rarebit. YOLO.