Twelve weeks ago, I started a sort of cleansing diet. Twelve weeks ago, I wasn't sure I'd survive.
For three months, I didn't eat any sugar (or honey, or agave, or maple syrup, or any other sweeteners except stevia), wheat, dairy, yeast, fruits (except sour apples), fermented foods or processed foods.
Most folks hear that list, and wonder what I did eat. To put it simply: meat, vegetables, and whole grains.
You'd be amazed at how hard it is to give up sugar. When you think of sugar, you think of sweets - cookies, candy, etc. But it's in everything, everywhere you look, hiding behind all kinds of different names. Most crackers have sugar, even the kind at the health food store have "evaporated cane juice" which is, um, sugar. Salad dressings all have sugar, and if not sugar, then honey. Or even worse, high fructose corn syrup. Everywhere you turn, every label you read, there's probably sugar in some form. And the addiction to sugar! Oh man, it's a hard thing to give up. The first two weeks were absolutely terrible. My blood sugar has been completely off kilter for.. eh, about the last twenty eight years. To cut sugar completely and let my body regulate was not an easy thing. It's funny though, without sugar in my diet, I've got more energy than I've ever had before. It feels so good to not be exhausted all day, to have energy to keep up with everything I need to do, to have the energy to run around with my kids. Funny how sugar just sucks the energy out of you, and how much you notice it after you've given it up.
There were some things I really missed - and some things I didn't think I would. The worst was skipping the slice of still-warm bread on baking day. I still had to cook all the things I wasn't eating, since I do have a family. Poor Chloe - "Um, Mom? That diet's not on us too, is it?" Both children were very helpful, actually. If I did cheat (which I did about five times in the 12 weeks of the diet) they would remind me: "Mom, that's not on your diet." If someone offered me something I couldn't have, they'd tell them, "Mom's on a diet, she can't have that." I snapped at them a few times - I didn't need diet police, thanks.
I learned to substitute: almond milk for regular milk, spelt or brown rice flour instead of whole wheat, stevia for sweetening. Have you seen the commercials for Stevia in the Raw? I didn't know it existed until I saw it on the shelf. It claims to work as a "cup for cup alternative" to sugar. It's a lie. Don't buy it, the stuff tastes absolutely awful. Stevia tends to be slightly bitter, but in that form, it's terrible. And the filler is a by-product of the corn industry, which I find irritating. Anyway, I did find a more natural version of stevia and learned to use it for some things, but it's definitely not the same as sugar.
I concocted a few "sweets" recipes - carob-chip cookies, apple crumble. Of course, they weren't actually sweet. The cookies were hilarious to me - they looked like cookies. They had the texture of cookies, chips even. They just didn't actually taste like cookies. It's amazing the things that taste good though, when you're not eating much. Apples (the only fruit I could have) were sweet enough to get me through my worst sugar cravings - buckwheat flapjacks topped with simmered apples and cinnamon turned into one of my favorite meals. Thankfully, I did this diet through apple season here - nothing beats fresh, local, organic apples.
I learned some things philosophically too. I think it's mentally healthy to deny one's self something once in awhile, it builds confidence and strength. Learning to resist temptation is good for the soul: it's especially difficult when that temptation is Mom's lasagna and apple pie. Or buttermilk pancakes. Truly, my mother's cooking was the hardest thing to avoid.
Now that it's over? I'll probably never go back to the way I ate before, except maybe as an occasional treat. My body's much happier with the way I've been eating the past three months - I can't find any reason not to keep it up. I'll add back in a few things - honey, whole wheat. The rest of it, I'm pretty happy without it.
Except that we're coming up on Christmas cookie season. I did great resisting temptation, but I'm not sure even I have it in me to pass on Russian tea cakes and chocolate-dipped brownies!