For years, I suffered numerous problems in my body such as constant bloating, leaky gut and SIBO, chronic migraines and lack of energy. Eventually, I figured out that I was eating way too much sugar and that my sugar addiction was causing my health problems. So I decided to cut out the sugar – do a sugar detox. Drastically reducing my sugar intake was the best thing I did for my physical and mental health!
Before cutting out sugar, I thought I lived a pretty healthy lifestyle. I worked out regularly and watched what I put into my body. But I never realized that my endless green smoothies (loaded with dates, coconut water, bananas, and mangos), or the bowl of vegetables I consumed at every meal, plus the raw desserts, were actually doing more harm than good. I thought large amounts of fruit, vegetables, smoothies, and treats made with dates and juices were healthy, right?
It wasn’t until one day I started to really take a look at what I was eating: the amount of fiber, fat content, sugar, and calories in my food to see what could possibly be wrong. The recommended amount of sugar you are supposed to eat is 25 grams or 6 teaspoons per day, not necessarily counting sugars that come from vegetables or fruit, but rather processed sugars. I, on the other hand was eating more than 100 grams of sugar a day… yes 100 grams. This was added sugar too! Think protein bars, nut butters, salad dressings, yogurts, granola, etc. Yes, something as simple as yogurt can have as much as 24 grams of sugar in a serving.
I was eating over triple the amount of the daily-recommended added sugar intake for females. Yikes!
My overabundance of fruit and vegetable sugar intake, in addition to the added sugar in my diet from other foods, was damaging to my body. Why? For starters, I have an intolerance to sugar. And I was suffering from leaky gut and SIBO, all of which made sugar in any form an enemy for me. Chemically speaking, there isn’t a major difference in the way your body treats sugar, whether it is found naturally or if it is added to things such as protein bars or baked goods. Sugar, whether it is natural or added, is broken down into fructose and glucose into your body and metabolized once it reaches your gut. Since fruit and vegetables are filled with water and fiber, they are released at a slower rate into your body. This helps keep you fuller longer and gives you energy, however, foods with added sugars are empty nutrients and cause your sugar blood levels to spike. This causes you to crash and then crave more, creating a vicious cycle.
When I was consuming over 100 grams of sugar daily, I constantly felt bloated and was actually diagnosed with a distended abdomen. I had to call out of work regularly and often ended up in the hospital because unbearable migraine pain. I also was constantly craving sugar. On top of it all, I had terrible mood swings and always felt irritated.
I tried countless antibiotics and different diets trends to help with the bloating, leaky gut and SIBO, but nothing seem to work. I went vegan, I tried the low FODMAP diet, I gave up certain spices, went gluten free, etc. It was simply a temporary fix and within a few months my symptoms would only surface again and come back even worse!
I also tried exercising-a lot. Often two times a day just to reduce the bloating and the stress, yet I was gaining weight week after week. Turns out, the amount of sugar that I was eating every day was causing my metabolism to slow down and weight gain to occur.
How I Cut Out the Sugar
At first, I had no idea where to begin and felt overwhelmed. I began to read the labels of everything that I was buying, learning what was in the product and how much sugar it contained. I also started to cut out packaged food and started making everything at home, such as almond milks, snack bars, or salad dressings. I started making my smoothies without frozen bananas and use steamed or frozen cauliflower instead to thicken my drinks. I made time each week to meal prep, which is a huge lifesaver when you are always on the go and don’t have time to cook after a long day at work. Mostly, I tried to focus on eating a large variety of foods so I wouldn’t become bored of what I was eating.
Fast-forward a year: Reducing sugar and often times completely cutting it out has helped reduce the number of migraines I suffer from. I am hardly ever bloated unless I overeat, but I now know what to do to fix it and what caused it originally. My skin has completely cleared up, I have more energy, do not suffer from that 3 p.m. crash nor feel the need to drink coffee. I also haven’t had to take any antibiotics for over two years which is a huge win in my book!
I am still extra conscious of the amount of sugar I eat daily. I try and keep my sugar intake to a minimum, whether it is natural or processed. If I overdo it one day, I make sure that I balance everything out the next day by eating a wide range of low sugar vegetables and proteins.
And this doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy an occasional treat here and there, but it seems just a few pieces of chocolate satisfies my cravings now.
When cutting sugar out, listen to your body to figure out what works best for you. Determine the root of why you are craving sugar and establish what nutrients you might be lacking in your diet in order to help reduce those cravings. Understand that cutting out sugar from your diet takes time. Figure out what your body needs, listen to it, and nourish it properly. You will begin to feel more balanced and eventually will know how to eat more mindfully without even trying.
Here are some tips that help keep me balanced:
1. Eat protein at every meal.
2. Always eat breakfast within an hour of waking up. Even if I am not hungry, I try and eat a little snack (almonds, toast, turmeric almond milk).
3. Keep a stash of healthy snacks in your office, purse, gym bag, etc.
4. Always make your own protein bars and keep packaged healthier ones for emergencies.
5. Set aside an hour or two each week to meal prep.
6. Drink water throughout the day and before your meals.
7. Probiotics and kombuchas are your friend.
8. Exercise – Pick something you love to do, and you are more likely to engage in exercise.
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