I decided to quit eating sugar for political reasons. You can do your own research, but, essentially, I was tired of playing a passive role with my body while the government gives sugar companies break after break.
Here’s the hold-up, though: I eat like a spoiled kindergartener. Pizza four days a week, chicken nuggets and french fries another two, a muffin with every morning espresso and a cookie with each afternoon’s. I scarcely touch vegetables and only pretend to love fruit when people are talking about food.
This cleanse would be painful. Pizza sauce has sugar in it. So does the crust. As does breading on chicken strips. Sugar is everywhere. It’s in your juice, in pasta sauce, in peanut sauce. My already limited palette was about to get spartan.
I knew I would need help on this cleanse. Luckily, dietician Kayley Gamm agreed to shepard me through the grainy waters of health. She stressed meal preparation and gave me some dried fruits to try out. She shook her head when I disclosed that I’d spent the night before my cleanse eating through a box of nutty bars.
On the first day of my cleanse, I go to Nupa and order a chicken pita with feta only. And fries. Fries would be my cheat through this odyssey into self-control. I ate the chicken, wolfed down the fries, and threw away the pita before it could tempt me. I ate the same meal for the next two days. This pattern leads us through the entire first week.
This was marked by crankiness and a lot of french fries, since Kayley had said that cheating was part of the process. For breakfast, I made toast from a whole grain, nutty bread, slathered it in natural peanut butter, and washed it down with a banana. This breakfast would remain a relative constant throughout the month.
In all honesty, I skipped some meals in fits of lazily agressive stubbornness. Apparently, cutting sugar from your life leads to similar withdrawal symptoms as from hard drugs, and my irrational anger at my own stomach made me feel the truth of that assertion. I just wanted a cookie.
I also started to get a dull headache, which subsided after three days or so. After four days, I felt kind of ‘dumb.’ I expressed as much to my dietician. It was a weird sensation – almost like the word was set on echo mode. Kayley assured me that it’d go away, and also recommended I eat more carbs. After a few days, the headache disappeared.
My girlfriend and I pre-made some meals together – she stuck with them more than I. Quinoa with carrots and goat cheese. I acted like I would eat it, but didn’t. Sweet potato, a root vegetable I can hang with, was a better option. I ate chicken breasts at home and did some wrap sandwiches. I also discovered the chicken breast and fries at Mac’s Cafe. My joints began to feel a bit better, and I felt a more authentic, wholesome energy coursing through my life. Showing up for work was no longer marked by cookie and muffin breaks. I started looking forward to the substance of my day, not the sugary rewards I gave myself for participating.
The decline. My cheating grew worse. Supplies ran out and my reluctance to go to the grocery store led me to fries at McDonald’s. Those eventually led to McNuggets. I ate baked potatoes at Salad Brothers for lunch on several days, but stuck to my no sweets policy.
Then the weekend hit, and I strayed from the path of righteousness. After a month of no sweets, I saw a “sugar free” blueberry pie, and took it down. Then I had more than my allotted two drinks of alcohol per day.
I barely hung on to the no sweets policy for this week. Everything proceeded as before, but with more McDonald’s. I also began to allow pizza back into my diet. I drank far more than two drinks on two occasions.
When the cleanse ended, I celebrated with a few cookies. I’d missed those the most.
The results (better joints, a slimmer look in the mirror each morning, good energy) more than justified the lack of sweets and processed food. I could have done better, had I been more disciplined about meal preparation. I plan on making another go of it, as soon as I put this cookie down. Like Kayley said, this process works better as a life-change than as a temprary diet.
I’ll see you wherever plain chicken breasts are sold.