The no junk food challenge...
I have been wondering how to do a sugar detox for some time, and I mean refined sugars found in most processed foods, not natural sugars. I am aware of the health benefits and how much better I would feel as I have done this in the past. With Christmas holidays and my husband’s birthday, the bad over processed foods have crept in, and the biscuit tin is now a regular daily ritual, so the 21 day No junk food challenge seemed like a good way to achieve my goals and get back on track.
But how easy is it to cut out the junk food? With daily temptations in the cupboard, the office and eating out, can it really be done, and will the benefits be worth it? Up for a challenge, I decided to give this a go and note the challenges and successes along the way. I thought it was going to be easy as long as I planned, so I prepared salads, carrot sticks and fruit to snack on, and off I went.
Week one - was not as easy as it sounded. Despite the preparation and willpower, temptation was still everywhere, and the cravings meant I would have gladly chopped off my arm for some Rocky Road from the canteen! it’s also amazing how we do things on automatic pilot, without thinking, or out of habit. One morning I treated myself to a fruit tea at the gym before work, which comes with a biscuit. For a few seconds I forgot about the challenge, and went to open it and dunk in it my tea like I usually do. I really had to bring myself into the moment to put it aside. I wondered how often I eat things on automatic pilot, because I am bored or through habit rather than nutritional need. Mindfulness has a big part to play when you need to focus Eating out was also troublesome. A Saturday night out with the family down the local pub, and everything on the menu came with chips! Finally, I found the Pork chops which came with Mash, veg and gravy on the specials board. Excellent! However, when I went to the bar to order, they had sold out. Just my luck. Next best option was lasagne which came with salad and garlic bread. Not sure if Pasta is cheating, and I had to leave the bread on my plate. The hardest part was then watching my two sister-in-laws eating an ice cream sundae with caramel sauce. Gutted. And did I cheat? Yes! Valentine’s day – to cheat or not to cheat? I was seriously tempted to cheat for special occasion. We bought the M&S dine offer for tea, which comes with a pudding. Is it ok to make an exception when there are special reasons like Weddings, Birthdays, or Valentine’s dinner? I mean we all have to enjoy life and live in the moment. I was mindful that this was a special meal with my husband, and I should enjoy the small pleasures that accompany that meal, even if that meant jeopardizing my experiment? In the end, I cheated! Sugar addiction is not just a case of mind over matter, and sometimes, it’s not even in your control. In the first week, maybe your body is too acidic, or maybe you have toxic cells, both of which can cause cravings that are out of our control. Candida microorganisms love sugar, and are demanding you give them more! When sugar is in the blood stream, the body screams for more sugar, causing you to eat more. And then when you stop, there are withdrawal symptoms to deal with – headaches, shakes, stomach aches, spots, and a lack of energy. This can make it really tough to stick to your intentions. Temptation is everywhere! The canteen, the petrol station, the biscuit tin, birthday treats in the office, pudding menus, even hidden sugars in foods and drinks that we consume without thinking about – breads, cereals, sauces and so on. The Simple answer – you need to get rid of the sugar! Its addictive effect is more powerful on the brain than cocaine, and like any other addiction, you can’t have a little, you need to cut it all out. The reason your body is craving sugar is because it’s circulating through your system, and making your body cry out for more. It was reported in 2012 that we ate 20 times more sugar in our modern diet than our ancestors did in 1822, so no wonder we are bigger, and more addicted than ever. The goods news is, a more alkaline body naturally decreases your desire for sugar. Try eating more proteins, green vegetables and fruit (nature’s natural candy). With time and a good diet, you can detox the body of sugar, and you’ll find your palette changes; apple’s become sweeter, and you will start to enjoy healthier foods more. Organisation and mindfulness are also key. Be mindful as to why you are eating, and always have something to hand to stop the cravings; raisins, nuts, seeds, fruit and natural granola bars are great to keep handy in case you get a craving and can’t get anything good to eat. If you do fancy the odd treat, try dark chocolate. Chocolate which is 70% or higher in cocoa has some health benefits that outweigh the lowered sugar content. Drinking plenty of water can also flush the toxins out of the system, reducing the withdrawal symptoms and clearing the mind and body. Most of all be kind to yourself. You will have good days and bad days, and maybe sometimes the cravings might be so bad, we cannot help but give in and sneak a little treat. And that’s ok. Just make sure you acknowledge this with kindness, and then get back on track with your good intentions. So what were the benefits? Weight loss - Firstly, losing weight was not my main aim for the experiment, but I lost a kilo all the same. I felt I was eating more than usual, but stopped counting calories for the duration. I didn’t feel deprived when I was eating good foods, and slowly the hunger feelings and snacking reduced. Increased energy - I beat my running PB each week, and still had the energy to get through long and demanding days. The afternoon slump, and hunt for chocolate in the vending machine disappeared, and I looked forward to cooking healthy meals for tea. Less bloating – my stomach felt flatter, and I feel like I now have more ‘skinny’ days than ‘fat’ days. My jeans are definitely fitting better. Fewer mood swings – I found throughout the day, I became more focused and my brain felt less foggy. I had ideas and solutions ready for the day ahead, and was less snappy at home. Slept better – I have never had trouble falling to sleep, and quite often fall asleep on the settee after a long day, but I was falling asleep more naturally, waking earlier, and feeling more refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Better skin – after the initial spots from the withdrawal had cleared, so did my skin. It felt softer, more moisturised, and looked better, even without make up!
Overall, the health benefits, and how I now feel far outweigh the brief joy or taste of a chocolate biscuit, so this is something I really intend to stick to. I hope you are now inspired to give this a go, and enjoy your own journey to better health.