1. You shouldn’t tell other people when you are restricting what you’re eating. They either try repeatedly to feed you what you’re cutting out or they tell you in great detail when you’re ‘cheating’ without even asking for details on your approach. (Note that I did not cut out dairy and allowed refined grains and some condiments in a very limited fashion – one fruit a day was also welcome but no fruit juice).
2. Without processed sugary things I have to be creative and resourceful when choosing snacks and do whatever I can to plan in advance. I am learning new ways of eating. It is not difficult anymore to say ‘no’, even to be around a vast array of supposed temptations.
3. A small piece of dark chocolate when you haven’t had any in 3 weeks tastes like something that has fallen straight from heaven. And if eaten slowly, it has far more wonder attached to it than eating a whole bag full of chocolates in ten seconds flat. It is worth savouring. It has value. It is noticed.
4. Forcing any food ‘category’ out requires that you become mindful about everything you eat. It means you can’t eat everything off your children’s plates without thinking. It means you start to think about the other things you might be eating without consideration. It makes you aware of how often you might have reached for these things ‘you didn’t have often’.
5. Some of my new favourite snacks? • Tuna inside half of an avocado. • Popcorn made with organic coconut oil on the stove (let’s me honest, this beats the air-popped business by a mile). • Olives • Seeds and nuts mixed and pressed into a nut butter, wheat germ and date paste (keeping dates to a minimum and bulking up on nuts/seeds). • Carrots and cucumbers dipped in homemade hummus. • A small scoop of ice cream made with real cream and peanut butter. Yup – that was my treat – a true unadulterated off-the-wagon treat. I figured any sugar I was going to eat should be coupled with real fats and proteins to assist with the speed that the sugar landslides into my system. • Peanut butter on a spoon. The stuff without sugar in it. • Apples and cheese • Bag of baby greens without dressing (the new chips!)
6. Let me be clear. This is not a cleanse. It is not a diet. I have not lost pounds or inches. There is no way to tell if I have more energy or feel healthier because coincidentally the beginning of this journey coincided with the breaking of my little toe cutting my exercise routine down to a fraction of what it had been. But I do not get heartburn anymore. I feel less puffy. My skin does not break out. And I can think more clearly now that I reach for protein or ‘good fat’ snacks instead of sugar.
7. I never crave the good things I eat in place of sugar. I still only think about reaching for sugar when I feel hunger – probably out of habit. But I feel completely satisfied when I have taken a healthier choice instead. I stop looking for something else when I am done the first thing, no matter what time of the day, how bored or upset I am and what other snacks are within my reach.
8. When I go on a trip with my husband to Montreal for the weekend for our wedding anniversary without children, my commitments are sabotaged. Yet the mindfulness does not leave me and my bad choices are far fewer than they once would have been even when I am ‘letting go’. I notice that the ‘I’m not really feeling better’ is actually a load of hogwash. I am reminded how TERRIBLE I feel when I eat things with sugar and am less careful about what I eat.
9. Cheap decaffeinated coffee is completely awful without massive amounts of cream and sugar. Best to choose the good coffee.
10. Building in flexibility according to circumstances made sure that I did not give up entirely when the ‘rules’ weren’t followed. What I have gained is an approach that I can take well into the rest of my life. With this, I’m going to be able to carry on for decades to come and not just a handful of days I can mark off on a calendar.
Now for the most unexpected thing that I have learned: the power of saying ‘no’ to things that are not good for you goes way out and beyond the bad thing you are eliminating from your life. You build a new template where things you usually let in that are not good for you become unacceptable. You learn how to REALLY take care of yourself by nourishing yourself with positive inputs from all angles.
Finally, without question, I feel empowered. I suddenly find myself easily taking actions that better all areas of my life. I do not reach for empty things that do not give back in a positive way. I feel stronger emotionally. Removing sugar (and consequently most processed foods) as a major source of energy requires replacing these items with real food that has real benefits to the body.
The result? Feeling more full, more fulfilled, and more in control.
I don’t recall getting benefits quite that lofty from a mock-o-late bar in the past. Maybe it isn’t about what I’ve been giving up at all.
And simply about what there is to be gained.