5 Things I Gained When I Gave Up Sugar
Have you ever set a goal for yourself that ended up taking you on a completely different path that had absolutely nothing to do with what you had originally planned to do?
About a month ago, in a desperate effort to shed the “winter fluff”, I decided I needed to lose 10 pounds. I don’t know why opted for that number. I guess it’s just one that we always hear, especially as women. The goal to lose 10 pounds became a fixation of mine that stuck in my head like toilet paper on my shoe. This thought followed me everywhere and became just one more piece of junk piling itself in my brain, clogging up my confidence. It was all or nothing. So on a Monday, after dropping off the kids and mentally preparing myself for ten days of deprivation, I drove to Woodman’s and bought all of the ingredients I would need for the Cabbage Soup Diet.
Yes, you read that correctly. As much as the wellness world and all of the latest nutrition lifestyles fascinate me, I came back to what I know, or knew. I had never tried Keto, or Paleo, or gluten free, but the soup diet and I knew each other well. It had been a LONG time but I was sure that it would be there for me when I needed it. It had worked in the past. It would work now. The diet hasn’t changed. What I forgot to throw into the equation is that I have.
I did the cabbage soup diet, for 10 days, in a superficial effort to lose 10 pounds. But, what I gained in that week and a half has nothing to do with a number or appearances. I found perspective, faced unpleasant truths, and gained a completely different outlook on how I view confidence. What I lost pales in comparison to what I gained from this experience.
I never realized how much I thought about food until I didn’t have to. Every day, I knew what I would be eating. Granted it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was planned out. Do you know how much time this opens up? I can’t remember the last time I was so productive. I now understand the value of meal planning and why so many people rely on it. It’s even been said that many CEOs eat the same thing for lunch every day because it’s one less thing they need to think about. Meal planning was not on my radar before, but it sure is now. Because as much as I love thinking about food, pasta in particular, having extra time to spend with my kids, or heck even sleep, is worth sooo much more.
This diet, pretty much like every other on-trend diet bans sugar…on all levels. While this was initially a slap in the face to someone who relied on Pepsi and graham crackers for breakfast, things changed drastically only a couple of days after swapping fruit for high fructose corn syrup. I was able to concentrate on the task at hand. I’ve read countless articles on “brain fog” but these articles often associated the condition with sleep deprivation and motherhood. While I’m certain that these are significant contributors, I can guarantee that excessive sugar consumption plays a significant role. I was living in full-on “brain fog” mode and I was oblivious to it until I stopped cramming my face with sugar. Even after a few days eating whole foods, I slept better, worked harder and had more energy. This was an eye opener for me (no pun intended).
An Inconvenient Truth
This is a tough one for me to tackle, but here goes. For the past year, I have experienced what I now know is anxiety on an almost daily basis. This is how the day more or less went for me. Wake up exhausted. Eat something with a high sugar content to get me from 5am-drop off. Drink 2 caffeinated beverages. Crash. Eat whatever was around. Crash. Drink more caffeine. Eat something sugary to maintain energy because you really shouldn’t be drinking 4 caffeinated drinks before 2pm. Save the 5th caffeinated drink ‘till 5pm so you can make it until the kids go to sleep. Crash. Repeat.
I’m not overdramatizing this. It was my reality. We all have vices. Some are more crippling than others but after ten days without sugar, it became alarmingly clear that sugar was my drug of choice and I was no doubt, addicted.
The anxiety that I was experiencing came out of nowhere and it hit me like a Mack truck. I thought of every single reason as to why it was happening. Lack of sleep. Stress of raising young children, daily grind of family life. But when this anxiety disappeared almost as quickly as it came, it became clear to me that excessive sugar consumption was the culprit.
Anxiety is a very personal thing. I am in no way insinuating that sugar leads to anxiety for everyone. But for me, mindless and excessive sugar intake was crippling my life in a way that was not sustainable.
A New Perspective
Funny how the results of this “diet” have nothing do to with the original goal, which was to do nothing more than lose 5-7 pounds. Did I lose the weight? I did. But had I not lost an ounce, I would have been elated with my results of a clearer and calmer mind and a new awareness of what my body needs and how it speaks to me. I’m not 19 anymore, but up until now I was eating like a teenage boy. How I felt was equivalent to the things I was putting into my body. Garbage.
Will I eat processed sugar again? You bet. I did not skip out on the opportunity to indulge in my son’s butter cream birthday cake, and I’ll never pass up a well made tiramisu. But, I will make room for balance. I will be mindful that there are, and will be consequences to not eating in a way that provides energy, prevents illness and promotes a healthy lifestyle that works for me and my needs.