You are what you eat.
Our body and mind are one continuous single unit. When you are in distress, or are in a period of time when you don’t feel the top, have you ever noticed the same goes for your digestions?
I’ve started to believe this might go both ways, as our physical bodies, our digestive system suffers, our mind in turns follow and becomes dazed and confused.
What is the difference between refined and natural sugar, you asked? Well while we know a little sugar isn’t going to give you cancer or have your body inflamed right away, refined sugar, in the midst of the refining process, tends to have stripped the nutrients of the original ingredients away. So you are left with mainly calories, your body’s fuel, but it provides no nutritional value. That means if your diet contains mainly of refined sugar (read: Also refined carbohydrates), you will have fuel to run the engine, but no nutrients to make sure your engine runs healthily. Moreover, fructose in refined sugars are treated as a toxin in the body and can only be broken down in the liver. This overloads the liver and the excess, untreated fructose get stored and triggers bodily inflammation and liver diseases.
I am on my third complete refined sugar cleanse, and in the past, whenever I mentioned it, people often commented that they wouldn’t be able to do it, that it would be impossible for them. So here I am, to show you, it is in fact very simple, and you don’t need to quit cold turkey and suffer from the sudden change of diet. And here’s my plans of attack (I will include my simple meal plan at the end of this post)
- Mental conditioning: Strict diet, short time
The most challenging I find is the starting of the process, most people frown even at the thought of having a long term no sugar diet, that sounds like no fun!
What I find most helpful and manageable is to start with a strict limitation right from the start but begin with segments of short periods of time.What is short period of time? Say, this time around, I’ve started my diet with a 3-days castor oil cleanse, and that was my goal at the start. And by the end of the 3 days, if I felt fine with not having a lot of cravings, I extend it to one week, by the end of one week my body has started to adjust and felt a lot better with this new diet, I went onto extend it for a month, and by the end of the month, honestly I didn’t even want to eat any sweet things anymore.
Starting with a short time but strict plan makes it possible to reach your goal. It gives you the rewarding feeling that you need to keep going. It’s a little bit like luring a small child into eating greens, first you start with a small portion, give it a reward, and increase the requirement gradually.
- Switching out the baddies with the goodies
Sugar is addicting, and for my fellow sugar junkies out there, quitting anything sweet all at once is not downright impossible, but pretty damn close.
So allow your body to have the treat of your natural sugar of choice, say if you are crazy about milk chocolate, don’t go all dark/no chocolate straight away, opt for a replacement that resembles the taste. For example I don’t personally like eating candies very much but I am crazy about chocolate, ice cream and the occasional cake. Here are what I use to cheat my own brain into being satisfied:
– Milk chocolate – Dried dates covered in cocoa powder/Raw chocolate mulberries
– Ice cream – Frozen berries covered in heavy cream/replacement cream (add honey if you like) OR Nice cream (You have to try it)
– Cakes, cookies – Opt for banana/maple syrup as replacement sweetener
– Gummys – natural fruit bites /candies with stevia instead of refined sugar/Energy balls
- Find your choice of natural sugar
If you don’t like banana, you don’t like dates, the above probably won’t work very well for you. But sit, try, and ask yourself what are some sweet fruit that you like? Perhaps you like grapes, raisins, perhaps you like the taste of honey?Don’t give up as soon as one replacement doesn’t work for you, what we are doing here is not to have a total simulation of the food item that you normally eat, but a acceptable replacement that can trick our brain into accepting.
- Say yes to natural sugars, but limit the hours that you are allowed to
Being able to use replacement sugar doesn’t mean you should go nuts and eat as many as you want, fruit sugar and other natural sugar, though natural, consumed in large amount can still turn into excess energy, and these energy in turn gets stored and create the binding agent for inflammations.
During the day, get your natural sugar hits as you need, but after dinner and night snack time, try not to eat any of it. If you are hungry and need something for your mouth, opt for the snack replacements that I mention in the last paragraph of this article.
- Cutting refined grains
When I have stepped into phase 2 of the meal plan, I start cutting down refined grains as well. Refined grains like pasta, white rice in effect is one and the same as refined sugar. Over processed, low nutritional value, high on calories.
One common thing people worry about cutting refined carbs is that they will get hungry. But in fact, you don’t need to cut all grains, only to choose the better grains.
Instead of using white rice, I try using a blend of wild/brown rice, quinoa, millets, barley, bulgur. The bigger the variety you can find, the better really. The lesser processed grains contain more fiber, more nutrients. And it fills you up for longer.
If you have a hard time adjusting to the new texture in the beginning, try starting with mixing a small portion of wild grains in your regular rice. Try mixing half plain pasta with half whole grain pasta. Instead of regular bread, try introducing Rye bread into your diet (Nordic style).
- Boost up your protein and vegetable intakes
And as we are cutting down our refined calories, we also need to start upping our protein intakes. Proteins is essential for building muscles and other structural components, to help your immune system AND it fills you up for much longer.
Start introducing more protein into your diet, instead of having pure crabs, put in perhaps a piece of chicken, salmon or white fishes. If you prefer veggie options opt in for the varies species of lentils, beans, chickpeas, tofu.
Find the right amount of each of these that will fill you up, and notice the amount of hours that it will keep you full, and slowly adjust to having 20-30% proteins and mostly greens and healthy grains.
- For the snackers
I’m a massive snacker, and not having snacks kills me. In fact back in school I was the designated candy carrier in the class, everybody knows they would be able to get some sweets out of me, should they ask. In my recent years I’d gone more into salty snacks and I particularly can’t live without having chips or something resembles chips at least once every other day.
So cutting snacks was super hard, and it is always so incredibly tempting for me.
My solution was nuts, soaked nuts in specific.
If you are a little like me, a little fuzzed about texture of the food, soaked nut might be an option for you.
I keep a jar of soaked almond in the fridge when I’m in the beginning phase of my diet change, and whenever I get incredible tempted, or get so hungry and I need a snack quick, I try to ease with with soaked nuts instead of processed carbs like chips or candy. Occasionally, I pop my own corn and drizzle it with salt, pepper or a little bit of olive oil.
- Cheat day
Do I ever cheat, you ask? Yes I definitely do. But I tend to try to stay away from any cheat days in at least the first 3 weeks of my new diet. I would take the occasional ice cream and cake after that, but to be honest at that point on my diet, I didn’t even really like the sensation I get from eating sugar anymore, so the work is done on its own.
- Phase I: Castor Oil Cleanse (3 – 7 days)
Snack: Fruits (banana, grape, blue berries)
Snack: Soaked nuts
Dinner: Kichari/Dahl/Steam broccoli
Snack: Frozen raspberry/blueberry with creamon top
Breakfast: 1 tsp Castor oil + Small cup Orange juice, mixed well
Rest of day: Kichari/vegetable as I get hungry
- Phase II: Cutting refined grains (10 – 20 days)
VARIATION 1 (light > heavy)
Lunch: Kichari/Miso zucchini noodles/Ryebread smørbrød/Quinoa salad
Snack: Nuts/Chocolate dates/Banana cookies
Dinner:Fish/Chicken/Mushroom/Tofu + veggies
VARIATION 2 (heavy > light)
Breakfast: Boiled egg/Fried egg/Chia pudding/Banana pancake
Snack: Nuts/fruits/Homemade Kale chips
Lunch: Fish/Chicken/Mushroom/Tofu + veggies
Snack: Nuts/Homemade Kale chips
Dinner: Soups/Soup with rice or zucchini noodles
I hope this gives you some inspiration and/or ideas, let me know how it goes with your diet, and how you feel with your new eating regime.