One of the things we knew we needed to address as we tried to get back to more healthy eating habits and #makepantsfitagain was address our relationship with sugar. (Backstory here.) At first, we tried to do things like limit our sweets to once a week, but we kept relapsing because Tuesday the kids were really hard to put to bed or Wednesday I found a bag of candy on clearance at the grocery store that was too good a deal not to buy. Eventually we came to the realization that it was time for us to take a break from sugar. We aren’t usually the type of people that temporarily live a diet; it’s always seemed so ineffectual to us. The idea of of sugar detox seemed drastic, especially to our baking loving souls, but we wondered if we needed something that drastic. Our full detox ended up being an arbitrary 12 days. (It just so happened to be the number of days until someone invited us to dinner and it felt too rude to turn down their dessert.) I’ve heard of detoxes lasting a minimum of three days, which seems a bit short since my hardest days were 5-8, and I’ve heard of detoxes lasting up to 30 days. It was a process that had its tough moments, but in the end was a really beneficial experience.
I should add that we weren’t extreme about our rules. We wanted this to lead into lifestyle changes that would be more sustainable, not just a period of deprivation that led to a binge when it was over. We didn’t ban categories of fruit because of their glycemic index and we allowed ourselves to use minimal amounts of natural sweeteners (maple syrup and honey) in things like herbal tea and oatmeal to make them palatable. Because we knew we were going to feel a bit deprived, we put extra effort into our meal planning to make sure we were still getting joy from food. I made a long list of recipes we’d deemed healthy and delicious ranging from tofu stir fry to steaks and sweet potato fries to zuppa toscana. (You may notice that fat was NOT something we were avoiding.) We stocked up on fruit, cheese, and nuts so we’d have things to snack on instead of feeling like we were starving. The detox had a few rough moments, but overall it was a really good experience that helped us recalibrate our relationship with sugar.
Here are five reasons we would recommend trying one.
- A Sugar Detox Breaks the Addiction – The detox proved to me that I actually was addicted to sugar. I definitely went through a withdrawal period where I was irritable, weak, and could think of nothing but Reese’s peanut butter cups. During that period I ate a lot of bananas with peanut butter and a few dark chocolate chips. Once I got through that rough patch though, I felt stronger and no longer a prisoner of addiction. Reasserting my willpower was empowering.
- A Sugar Detox is Educational – During the detox I read a lot of food labels. It was really educational about how much sugar is in things. For instance, a friend that was moving gave me a tub of Trader Joe’s Greek Honey Yogurt and I realized one serving almost maxed me out on my sugar recommendation for the day. Which is a lot even if it’s just honey. (100 Days of Real Food has a few interesting posts on products with more sugar than you think for reference.) Reading labels has helped me be smarter about my choices and reigned in sugar intake that I wasn’t even hardly aware of before. It’s also helped me be more intentional about when I do go for products with sugar. I discovered that the fresh ground honey roasted peanut butter we use had 6 grams of sugar per serving whereas the straight up ground peanut butter only had 1 gram per serving. We decided to go with the “more pure” peanut butter during the detox. We never adjusted to the flavor and eventually decided honey roasted just made life better. (Yes, I realize how snooty that makes us sound. If you have a Kroger store with a bulk section you should really try it though.) But at least we’re aware and acknowledge it as an indulgence.
- A Sugar Detox Makes it so You’re Not Hangry All the Time . . . at least after the first few days. Previously we were often prone to sugar lows. We’d start to drag in the afternoon and dig into the secret chocolate stash to help get us through making dinner. After being off sugar for awhile, we realized our hunger wasn’t as debilitating anymore. We would still get hungry, but we no longer felt like we were dying. It’s been nice to get off that rollercoaster.
- A Sugar Detox Can Help with Weight Loss – Compared to stories I’ve read where people just shed pounds, this benefit was more of a footnote for us (I think because we weren’t that bad off to begin with), but it did make a difference. Both Noel and I had felt kind of stuck with our exercise progress and cutting out and then minimizing sugar did seem to make a difference in getting those pants to fit again!
- A Sugar Detox Reestablishes Sugar as the Treat it Is – I’d heard that some people that go off sugar find it too sweet when they try it again or even find they don’t like it at all anymore. That definitely didn’t happen to Noel or I, we still find it to be delicious, but we have found that we are satisfied with less. (Read: one brownie not the entire pan.) Moving forward, we’re trying to limit our sugar, but not banish it. Our goal is to stay under the American Heart Association’s sugar guidelines most days and indulge in higher levels only on special occasions. Now that we’re allowing sugar in moderation it has indeed become a treat. We save it for social, celebratory gatherings that deserve a little extra extravagance. Our desserts are no longer commonplace, so we look forward to them, savor them, and appreciate them more. When we indulge it’s intentional and more meaningful.
Have you done a sugar detox? Would you?