About three months ago, I began visiting a holistically-based practitioner in Hendersonville in hopes of beginning a primary-physician-type relationship with her. Upon my first visit, she drew blood, I peed in a cup and spit about two tablespoons of saliva into a small plastic cup for further testing. One week later, I visited her again for my results. Apparently, my entire system was severely inflamed (the mineral content of my blood was nonexistent, meaning that my digestive system wasn’t absorbing any of the lovely nutrients I was trying to provide it) and she immediately put me on a gluten/wheat free, MSG free, polyunsaturated fat free and fructose free diet. Yowser.
Try as I might, some of those things made their way back into my diet in the form of processed foods or eating out at restaurants, but I did steer mostly clear from wheat and gluten. I went back to her office for a retest. Results = better but not great. A sugar-cleanse was in order and by sugar cleanse I mean, no HFCS, sugar, agave, honey, stevia, NOTHING. Double yowser.
I have been 99% sugar/sweetener-free for the past month. The occasional 1% sneaks in there in ketchup or a bite of cookie at work whenever I feel like I may murder someone. It helps, honestly.
Things I have learned:
Sugar is in EVERYTHING. Literally. Any food that is considered “convenience food” or comes in a package most likely will have some sort of sugar inside. Even things that you would never think contained sugar like condiments, soups, pasta sauces, DORITOS for crying out loud. Is it really necessary? I read somewhere that the average American consumes around 40 pounds of some sugary substance each year. I can bet most of that sugar is hidden in processed foods and most people don’t even realize they are eating that much of it. If something has an ingredient label, it probably contains the sweet stuff in some way shape or form.
Sugar may be the reason you can’t lose that last ten pounds. I consider myself to be pretty health-conscious; I’m a vegetarian which means I eat A LOT of veggies, (gluten-free) grains, nuts, beans, and an occasional plate of pasta and sauce. I’m semi-active. Yet, there was always this little bulge that formed a pretty embarrassing pot belly between my seatbelt straps. Four weeks with no sugar + no other change of my routine = about seven pounds lost. Seriously.
I never realized dietary preferences were such a social stumper. It has been slightly frustrating to explain to people why I eat the things that I do and why I don’t eat what I don’t. A typical conversation:
ME - “I am gluten-free, sugar-free and meat-free.”
OTHER - “What in the world do you eat then?!?”
I eat whole foods (most of the time) and because I’m eating nutrient dense foods, I can eat a whole heck of a lot of them without worrying about the calories. I am definitely not wanting for nourishment.
My explanation: My doctor asked me to give up gluten to give my digestive system a chance to do its job (that has helped so I will probably remain gluten-free forever). I am sugar-free because, again, my doc asked me to be (tough but totally worth it). I’m meat free as a personal preference, from a compassionate perspective (go ahead, call me a hippie, it’s ok).
My biggest lesson thus far: Food is a very socially centered practice and I have noticed that I cause a kink in some food-based situations. I’m the one with a “weird diet”, meaning this, “Well, we can’t eat there because Kristina can’t have anything.” (By the way, I can make it work anywhere, you just have to ask a few more questions and be a little more creative than ordering something as-is off the menu.)
My food choices have made me feel like a little bit of an outsider at times (On a recent trip to Gatlinburg, I had to endure standing in every sweets shop we came too, drooling over fudge, ice cream, chocolates and candy, to leave with no confections, just cravings) Despite the little bit of segregation that my diet has inflicted, I feel so much better.
I think about cheating and putting some sugar in my coffee, or buying a gluten-free cupcake from my favorite local coffee shop, but then I remember that I’ve lost ten pounds since the beginning of the year, my acne has all but disappeared, I have more energy, I sleep better, and my head feels less foggy. It’s been totally worth it.
*I will not remain completely sugar-free after this cleanse but I do plan on exercising some moderation. So if you see me eating a cupcake in the near future, don’t call me a hypocrite. Just remind me that that is the only sugar I get for awhile. :)
Great. Now I’m hungry.