Confession: Aside from the fact that I’m vegan, and have read / written / edited literally thousands of articles on PD-related to healthy eating, I’m not a very cautious person when it comes to my own diet. Of course I’ve been curious whether these superfoods and squeaky clean diets free of everything (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, certain cruciferous veggies, nightshades like eggplant and tomato, high-glycemic fruits, soy, sometimes all cooked foods, and sometimes nuts) could also make me look and feel radiant.
But I have an addictive personality, so if I commit to something, I always go overboard–which is why I pick my battles carefully. And my diet was outside of my top 7 or so priorities, so I just let myself eat whatever I want. I didn’t want to worry about my diet on top of all the other things that constantly require self-discipline.
But on my birthday, of all days, something happened that made me decide to experiment with my diet. I’d been getting a tall soy green tea latte at Starbucks every weekday morning (I know, I know) for at least a few months (!). Then I got a free drink for my birthday, so I made that a grande (of course). What with extra matcha I ask for, this grande GTL probably had as much caffeine as 2-3 shots of espresso. Also, even though I ask for unsweetened, the resulting drink always tastes nice and sugary–which is why I fell in love with it in the first place.
It looks so innocent and pretty–and we even wrote about its benefits! And yet…
Throughout the rest of the day, I went through a roller coaster ride of jitters, followed by weakness, and finally lethargy and a deep desire to lie down. And my attempt to revive myself with Lara bars probably only made it worse.
This effect on my body also reminded me how dreadful I look every afternoon these days. More specifically, I look fresh (enough) in the mornings but by 4pm or so, my skin looks dehydrated and ashen. So starting on the following morning I began a 3 day sugar detox–with some surprising results. Here’s what I did:
8:00am I’m afraid of my morning without GTL ($4.40) even while getting ready. When I pass the Starbucks right by the subway stop, I try hard not to look inside longingly. I usually start sipping it on the platform and balance the half-full cup in the crook of my arm while typing onto my iPhone. Today I don’t have the same reassuring, energizing drink–and actually fall asleep on my way to work for the first time, ever. I wake up after about 10 minutes and start groggily working on my phone.
10:30am I have a bad headache, which can only be sugar / caffeine withdrawl. Also, this is usually when I would pop open a Lara bar, the one item that I requested at the office and which has promptly become everyone else’s favorite bar also. Instead, I eat an orange. I haven’t checked if oranges are low GI but they seem very harmless to any kind of detox. Helpful even.
2:00pm I’m starving after eating nothing but an orange and a few sticks of gum all morning. We order Japanese for lunch so I get my usual tofu teriyaki bento box–knowing that teriyaki sauce has sugar in it. I really am craving sugar by this point and teriyaki sounds like heaven. It tastes extra delicious today and actually relieves the headache a bit.
4:00pm This is when I would stave off stress and restlessness with some granola and almond milk at the office, but instead I have about a shot glass full of almonds. They’re not even salted and have almost zero fun factor.
6:40pm I’m taking Pure Barre Platform today, which is a cardio version of PB. I was prepared for the toughest workout ever, but while I sweat buckets, it’s definitely not the hardest class I’ve ever taken.
7:45pm Done with barre and instead of going to my fav local organic store Mrs. Green’s, which is where I buy just the tiniest amount of dark chocolate covered raisins after barre (I know!!), I go straight to the subway and get home earlier. Victory!
9:00pm I make some pasta with veggies and marinara sauce. I love Newman’s Own Bombolina sauce which has 7g of sugar per 1 cup serving. That’s 1/2 tsp, which seems acceptable given the rest of the day.
7:00am Despite the sweaty Platform class, and abstaining from sugar, I wake up feeling more bloated than ever before. I think it’s just PMS.
8:00am Passing by Starbucks is psychologically easier today! But I have a raging headache right away, and without my trusty drink, I fall asleep on the train. (But, don’t worry, I again wake up and get work done before my stop. The suspense!)
8:45am I swing by Whole Foods and get a stevia sweetened organic cold pressed green lemonade with spirulina by Daily Greens ($7.50). However, when I actually taste it, I’m disappointed by how not sugary it is. But it does seem to help with the headache.
10:30am We’re out of oranges, and I snack on a handful of Stacy’s chips and Sabra hummus. I feel a little awkward going savory when everyone else is eating oatmeal, granola, or Lara bars (ugh my fav), but get reassured by reading the sugar count on Stacy’s chips which is 0!
2:00pm Lunch today is veggie plate from Habana in SoHo, which makes the best rice and beans with veggies I’ve ever tasted. Today they hook me up with tons of sauteed mixed veggies. So good–and sugar-free!
5:00pm Afternoon snack is a shot glass of almonds, but this time it’s thankfully salted and a lot more fun to eat.
7:50pm Right before changing for barre class, I get a low-blood-sugar attack. Even during the warm-up, my limbs feel weak and heavy, and my body is hot like it’s trying to rev itself up back to normal levels of energy. But I know that once I power through the warm-up, I’ll feel better, so I stick it out.
9:00pm Swing by Mrs. Green’s and pick up a sweet potato and a block of tofu. I get home by 10 and make baked sweet potato and tofu with veggies. I also heat up the delicious risotto my mom had made and sent to me a couple of weeks ago…eating around 10:30. Normally, I just snack on bananas or oranges when I get home, but since that’s not an option, I have to actually cook. It occurs to me I’m hungrier than usual from not eating my sugar snacks at the office.
10:30am I didn’t fall asleep on the train today, nor did I get a raging headache. I also am not that upset about skipping my GTL anymore. Instead of an expensive drink, my first food today is a little salted almonds and some pita chips and hummus like yesterday.
2:00pm Lunch today is from Hummus & Pita and my colleague accidentally messed up my order. So I eat a completely different meal than one I ordered: rice with some kind of salad on top, baba ganoush, pita, hummus. No sugar!
4:00pm Everyone orders an iced coffee on the company card and I decline–and it doesn’t even hurt my feelings anymore. Those died, along with the last Lara bar in the pantry.
7:50pm Again, I feel the low-sugar sensation before barre class, but it’s a lot milder than the day before.
10:00pm I’d picked up another sweet potato at Mrs. Green’s and use it to make the same dinner as the night before, but without my mom’s risotto. This is pretty much my go-to dinner on weekdays because it’s always satisfying. Complicated dishes are for weekends and for company.
10:30pm I can’t help but have a little dessert at this point. Vega One, which is flavored with stevia, has 0g of sugar, plus tons of vegan protein and micronutrients. I mix it up with Whole Foods brand almond milk, which is sweetened, but I allow that much is okay overall.
This green powdery bowl may not look appetizing to some people but it tasted so good and shockingly sweet! (but I loved it.)
Results, Day 4!
This morning, I woke up with zero cravings for GTL–Starbucks no longer has any power over me! Also, as I was putting on my moisturizer for the day, I couldn’t help but notice that my skin does look better. (Apparently there is a link between sugar and some skin concerns.) The skin under my eyes actually seem brighter and less crepe-y, my blemishes have all but disappeared (despite being pre-period), and there’s a subtle–dare I say it–glow! It’s subtle enough that no one else would really notice but significant enough that if this were the result of a skincare product, I’d keep buying this stuff no matter how expensive. And all this because I just skipped sugar for a couple of days? (And even cheated a few times?)
I’m totally buying into the theory that sugar isn’t good for you–mentally and physically, and also beauty-wise. Here’s what I gained from this experiment:
1. I didn’t eat chocolate or chocolate-flavored thing for 3 whole days. That’s probably the longest I’ve gone in….years. It makes me actually a little proud.
2. I successfully weaned myself off my caffeine dependence.
3. I significantly reduced my sugar cravings.
4. My skin looks way better without sugar.
Am I giving up sugar for good? Probably not, because giving up sugar was about 1000x harder than becoming vegan. There’s not really an ethical reason for giving up sugar, which for me makes it much more difficult to do. Having said that, I think I definitely will be continuing my low-sugar regimen for a while, and treat sugar like an occasional treat–like a cocktail or a mimosa (or two) I have once a week, but not every day! In keeping with that, I had a licorice tea at the office this morning 😉
Have you ever tried a sugar detox? What were your results?
More on sugar: 3 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Sugar
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Photos: Peaceful Dumpling