Exactly 22 days ago my husband parked outside my office in Manhattan and sent me a text to come downstairs. Nine flights and a few steps later I was in our car and totally giddy because he had brought me a box of my absolute favorite donuts (Erin McKenna’s, in case you’re curious). I had told him I was starting The 21 Day Sugar Detox the next day and this was going to be my last glorious binge. Within minutes of getting back to my desk, I had one donut with some black coffee. It was like communing with some ancient god of pleasure. I had the second one as a dessert to my lunch (lessert?). I felt a little jittery, a little bloated and a little guilty the way sugar rushes make you feel. Mostly I had no idea how I was going to survive this detox. The donuts helped stave off my questions.
Wait, why on earth did you do this to yourself?
In case you can’t tell yet, I’m kind of addicted to sugar. This is a reality for many Americans (watch the documentary Sugar Coated if you’re curious about the social, political and scientific reasons for this). Recent studies in lab rats have even shown that on a neurobiological level, sugary rewards might be just as powerful or even more powerful than highly addictive drugs like cocaine. As someone who just happens to really enjoy sweets, this was a definite problem.
Anyone who knows me personally is also aware that I’m a newlywed. So, there was an engagement party with dessert, a wedding shower cake, a wedding cake, honeymoon/vacation desserts and pastries to celebrate every little milestone we achieved as a couple. There was just a lot of eating. Mostly sweets. My skin and waistline were suffering as a result. I needed something structured to get me out of my sugar spell. After some Googling I came across The 21 Day Sugar Detox [affiliate link]. Here’s what happened:
1. I came to terms with the level of my sugar addiction
By lunchtime on day one of the detox, I was angry. I intentionally chose to start the detox on a day when I was working from home because I anticipated some sluggishness. But this? This was something on another level. I couldn’t eat enough and I couldn’t get food fast enough. I wanted chocolate. I wanted gluten free bread. I wanted tropical fruits–ANYTHING sweet or carby. This was hanger on steroids. By mid-afternoon I decided the only way I was going to get through this detox was unconscious. So I took this bizarre death-nap and woke up feeling mildly depressed. I just remember staring at the ceiling thinking, “Am I seriously this dependent on sugar?” It completely sucked. It took a full four days. But then it got better.
2. My skin cleared up
The 21 Day Sugar Detox guide book does a really good job of explaining what happens to your body when you eat sugar. In short, it burdens your liver, contributes to insulin resistance and causes an inflammatory response in the body. Acne prone skin and chronic inflammation? Not a pretty combination. My skin went through a nasty flareup recently but one week into the detox any active breakouts I had completely dried up. By the end of week two my skin was not only completely clear, but noticeably glowing. This was probably the most dramatic result I saw from the cleanse and what kept me motivated when I felt like cheating.
3. My tastebuds gained new life
It’s not really true that fruit didn’t taste sweet to me before the cleanse. But fruit just wasn’t quite as sweet as donuts or ice cream. The more I consumed sugar and sweeteners (even the so-called “healthy” ones like honey and maple syrup) the less an apple did much of anything for my sweet tooth. After my sugar-withdrawal-hanger-rage subsided, something strange started to happen. Green apples were suddenly not quite as tart as I thought they would be. Even a green tipped banana gave me that little lift that a cookie used to. I’m now noticing flavors and nuances of flavors in things I never even paid attention to before. It’s kind of amazing and is making me wonder how much I missed out on while scarfing down sugary treats.
4. I lost 5 pounds
I definitely gained a few pounds after my wedding, but the amount of weight was by no means unhealthy. My jeans were a bit snugger, I felt a little “not myself,” but I wasn’t freaking out and hitting the gym either. Nothing has really changed in terms of my workout routine. In fact the first week of the cleanse when I was feeling like crap, I didn’t move much at all. Yet five pounds melted off without me even thinking about it. And it’s not even just the number on the scale. My face and eyes are less puffy. I feel lighter. That inflammatory response I talked about earlier seems to have just subsided with the elimination of sugar from my diet.
5. I broke a really bad habit
I’m not going to tell you this detox was easy. It got easier, but I made a lot of sacrifices along the way. I turned down several invitations that revolved around drinking because you can’t have alcohol on the detox. I had to pre-eat before two parties because I knew there would be tons of sugary temptations. Then I had that awkward left-out feeling in the pit of my stomach when people started eating dessert. But I got through it and am really, really proud of myself for completing the detox. I don’t see myself plunging back into cake and cookies simply because this was so hard and so rewarding in the end.
For better or for worse, sugar is a part of the society we live in. It’s part of our celebrations, our weddings, our dinner parties and probably some of our fondest childhood memories. I can’t say I’ll never eat a donut again. I really like Erin McKenna. But if I’m going to follow the 90/10 rule, I see myself being much better able to keep sugar in its place.
You can learn more about The 21 Day Sugar Detox or get started here [affiliate link].