21-Day Sugar Detox: Days 17-22

From April 6th through April 27th, I’ll be participating in The 21-Day Sugar Detox.

Day 17: Tuesday, April 22

  • Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs.
  • Lunch: Leftover roasted chicken. Spring mix with tomatoes.
  • Dinner: Pan-fried salmon. Roasted asparagus and summer squash.
  • Snacks: Roasted almonds with sea salt.
  • Exercise: Chalean Extreme “Burn It Off” and “Extreme Abs.”

Good news! My cravings for bread-y sweets have diminished significantly. Now, when I gaze upon pictures of dessert (which I do multiple times per day, to be sure), my thoughts sound something like this: My, what a work of art. I bet that tastes really delicious… but it’s not as good as the way I feel right now. I can probably live without it. If I did eat it, it’d probably lose its appeal after the first or second bite. Weird, isn’t it? I suspect this might be how people who “have no sweet tooth” (e.g. Jay) feel. Sugary foods just aren’t as tempting as they were before.

Day 18: Wednesday, April 23

  • Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs.
  • Lunch: Pan-fried salmon. Guacamole. Spring mix.
  • Dinner: Tom yum soup with shrimp. Cabbage slaw with Korean dressing.
  • Snacks: Roasted almonds with sea salt.
  • Exercise: Chalean Extreme “Push Circuit 2.” Turbofire “Stretch 10.”

I’ve been through many a special diet by now, and have found them all surprisingly bearable. After some painful adaptation, I usually end up adopting better health habits and feeling better about myself overall. The one part that never ceases to be painful, though, is the social one: explaining your restrictions to others or eating with company. Fortunately, my friends are all phenomenal cooks and/or possess saint-like patience. My dear C and B, all too familiar with my wacky eating challenges, fixed me a delicious meal. Such gestures of caring are a silver lining to the storm cloud of fussy eating.

Day 19: Thursday, April 24

  • Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs.
  • Lunch: Pan-fried salmon. Guacamole. Cabbage slaw.
  • Dinner: Leftover roasted chicken. Spring mix. Tomatoes.
  • Snacks: Sliced almonds.
  • Exercise: Chalean Extreme “Burn Intervals” and “Ab Burner.”

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge how wonderful it feels to eat homemade food every day. The weeks prior, I’d been eating out a lot at restaurants or throwing together slap-dash meals. Even though I was still technically compliant when dining out, it wasn’t necessarily tastier (and certainly not cheaper). It feels incredibly good to get into the rhythm of meal-planning and having home cooking again.

Day 20: Friday, April 25

  • Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs.
  • Lunch: Pan-fried salmon. Spring mix.
  • Dinner at Little Yangon: Tea leaf salad. Pork curry with sour leaves. Prawn curry.
  • Snacks: None.
  • Exercise: Chalean Extreme “Push Circuit 3.” Turbofire “Stretch 10.”

Eggs. I’ve been eating them nearly every day for breakfast, hardboiled and whole. I’ve been wondering if I should limit my consumption of the yolks — not necessarily due to concerns about cholesterol, but also in consideration of “post workout macros.” Apparently, even though the fats in eggs are good for you, they may slow down digestion after exercise (do I sound like a bro yet?). To that I say: whatever. For the time being, my habit of two eggs each morning has been filling and fueling me up daily. If it ain’t broke, right?

Day 21: Saturday, April 26

  • Breakfast: None.
  • Lunch at Samovar Tea Lounge: Smoked duck. Sauteed kale salad with butternut squash, beets, and miso vinaigrette.
  • Dinner at In-n-Out: protein-style hamburger.
  • Snacks: Brad’s kale chips. Ruby Jewel’s ice cream sandwich.
  • Exercise: Turbofire “Fire 45 EZ” and “Abs 10.”

When I finished the Whole30, I was stricken with anxiety over how to “reintroduce” food groups into my diet. Not so with this sugar detox. The minute the clock struck midnight, I tore into my reward: a chocolate mint cookie ice cream sandwich from Ruby Jewel, purchased at the local Mollie Stone’s. In the spirit of moderation, I split the dessert with Jay. It was excellent. I felt satisfied. That was that.

Day 22: Sunday, April 27

  • Breakfast: None.
  • Lunch at Dumpling Kitchen: Green onion pancake. Xiao long bao. Pork dumplings in spicy chili oil. Twice-cooked pork belly.
  • Dinner: Chicken tinga with guacamole, Greek yogurt, and tortilla chips.
  • Snacks at Devil’s Teeth Bakery: Beignet. Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie.
  • Exercise: None.

Thank goodness my sugar detox ended right before my girlfriends’ monthly brunch club session! In moments, the healthy eating train derailed. My friend picked a dim sum joint for her birthday outing, so we indulged in many a soupy, delicious xiao long bao. Our friends were also in town, so I rushed them over to one of my favorite bakeries for last-minute snacks. I totally destroyed some fried and baked goods before realizing how deeply I’d waded into dangerous waters. I checked in with myself, reminded myself of all my progress, and tried to be a bit more mindful. It’s a work in progress, right?

Final thoughts

My experiences with the 21-Day Sugar Detox were colored by my masochistic tendencies. Despite being very active, I intentionally chose the strictest level of the program and cut out essentially all carbs and sugars. There were a few exceptions: eating starchy root vegetables a handful of times or having a sip or two of fruit juice-sweetened kombucha. Even though I slipped up here and there, I was still fully invested in the spirit of the program (which is what I think truly matters). Detoxing becomes a lot more tolerable if you’re self-compassionate.

Unsurprisingly, my mood and energy levels plummeted during the first few days. I was reduced to a weepy mess, lying limp on the sofa for hours. I believe this is what those in Paleo circles refer to as “the carb flu”: your body weaning itself off of sugar-based fuels.

After adjusting, however, I felt normal and healthy. The detox didn’t turn me into a ray of sunshine — but, conversely, I wasn’t moody or unwell. I simply felt though my body were functioning the way it should, and without caving into the demands of a sugar-addled brain. I achieved power over my cravings, which came, went, and tapered off significantly by the program’s end. That kind of knowledge of myself, I think, was well worth the tears!

Of course, one of my goals with this program was to lose a bit (just a bit!) of extra weight. I lost a pound or two with a lot of strength training, some portion control, and no fastidious calorie counting. I’m pretty happy with the numbers, but am more excited about feeling less bloated and stressed.

The biggest take-away? Homemade cooking is the best. Let’s be clear: I can go on drastic diets, cut out entire food groups, dine out all the time, and technically succeed at “eating healthy.” However, I suspect I’d be missing the “bigger picture” of these types of programs. The Whole30, 21-Day Sugar Detox, and other diets of their ilk are designed to help guide you to a healthier lifestyle. Personally, I’ve found that cooking with real ingredients that you make yourself can truly get you there; many people, like Michael Pollan if you’re health-conscious or Tim Ferriss if you’re hacking-friendly, agree. While I’ll still try to limit my consumption of gluten and sugar, I want to focus on foods I can eat — the foods I can make. Cooking at home is linked to so many behaviors that yield better nourishment: choosing one’s own recipes, cooking food from scratch, preparing portions individually, and eating what feels right. It makes a world of difference.

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