So if you've been following my blog for awhile, you'll know that back in April I switched over to a primal lifestyle. I eliminated all processed foods, grains, legumes, and unrefined sugars. I conquered my addiction to pop, baked goods and milk chocolate. I learned to bake with nuts, honey, and dark chocolate, all considered acceptable in a primal diet. That, my friends, is where I messed up!
Sure, I experienced mental clarity, increased energy and fantastic cholesterol readings, but I didn't shed any body fat. I was frustrated as to why all my hard work was not paying off.
Last week I purchased the newly released book "It Starts with Food" by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig. Back in 2009, this couple founded the Whole 30 plan which is basically a more restricted primal diet. Through the years they have tweaked their plan to near perfection. Their new book goes through the science of eating primal and why it works. Most important for me was the sugar section.
After reading their section about sugar, I couldn't help but relate sugar to heroin. Yes, sugar and heroin are related. Scary, I know! I have been counseling and educating drug addicts since 1995 so I know a little bit about heroin but nothing about sugar.
In order to see how heroin (and other narcotics such as Tylenol 3) works, bear with me through a brief explanation. Your body is equipped with pain receptors. Without these receptors, you would not know to pull your hand off the stove when your getting burned among other things. Heroin fills up these receptors numbing you from the sensation of pain. This works well if your in chronic pain but not if your a drug addict. You see, once you fill those pain receptors, your body starts to make more receptors. So over time, you require more heroin to get the same effect since you have more pain receptors to fill. Sugar works much the same way.
The more sugar we eat, the more we get acclimated to it and crave more. Artificial sweeteners are even worse as they stimulate your taste buds to a sweetness not found in nature. Do you ever wonder why you can eat a whole bag of cookies but you couldn't eat a whole chicken?
The book "It Starts with Food" does an excellent job explaining satiety and satiation. I'm not going to go into details here but basically the protein in meat signals to your brain that you are full. Sugar does not have any nutrients in it to signal fullness so you can keep eating it until your belly is physically full. That is why you get that "I'm going to puke" feeling after a food binge. The scary part about all this is that over time, the consumption of sugary foods rewires our brain! My experiment proved this to be true.
After being free of refined sugars for so long, I wanted to see what happened if I ate them again for a few days. I started last Wednesday with a single Nature's Path Organic toaster pastry. One pastry has 20 grams of sugar in it! That pastry was heaven in my mouth so I had another. Before I knew it, I had eaten three of them and started to feel guilty. I reminded myself that I was experimenting and ended my day with a trip to Orange Leaf for some frozen yogurt. By the end of the day, I felt quite full and content. No problems.
So Thursday, I started my day with another toaster pastry (yeah, I have a real problem with those). Shortly thereafter, I had a sugar crash. I felt paralyzed. I quickly ate some protein which helped a bit. I ate PB & J for lunch and by then I was downright cranky. My poor kids didn't know what happened to mama. I had no energy to do anything and needed to pack for our camping trip. I went to bed early but couldn't sleep. I was so hungry at night.
We left Friday for our camping trip which was full of smores, ice cream and chips. My stomach was a wreck and I was hungry all the time. I found it really hard to stop eating sweets and wanted them all day long. By Sunday, I was completely depleted and exhausted. My body demanded a healthy dinner so salad and meat it was. That night I still craved sweets really bad but I was ready to go back to no sugars.
So what did this tell me about myself? I think it is obvious that I have an addiction to sugar. Any sugar addict can use will power to temporarily stop eating sugar for awhile but the minute you go back, it becomes even harder to stop. I never binged before as bad as I did those few days. I never felt satisfied after eating.
Although maple syrup and honey are natural sugars, they still have a sweet taste that leads to over consumption. I was using these sugars, along with coconut palm sugar to make baked goods for my kids. They never liked any of them so guess who ate them? Me. This led to craving more sweets and now I know why.
I hope my sugar experiment taught you a thing or two about this addictive substance that has no place in our diet. Perhaps you can have the occasional sweet without any repercussions but I know I can not at this point in time. I am excited to continue my Whole 30 plan and conquer this horrible substance. Anyone interested in trying it with me? It's only 30 days of your life. I promise you will benefit from it!