This blog post has been one I've been thinking about doing for awhile. The past couple months have been somewhat of an adventure for me in several ways. I have been feeling pretty awful for a long, long time. Around Christmas time, you might recall I made all this:
Looks pretty yummy, right? I baked a lot at Christmas. I was fairly good myself but I always like to take plates to my neighbors, with Glen to work and for family gatherings, etc. I have always enjoyed baking. Looking at this photo now makes me feel physically ill.
I have always had a sweet tooth. ALWAYS. My sweet of choice is chocolate but I would eat just about anything including sour/sweet candy. I always used to keep some sort of candy in my house. It was never really out in the open but hidden away so I could have a little of it at a time. My weight has yo-yo'ed back and forth over the last several years but I don't want this blog post to focus on weight. I try not to be too concerned about numbers but rather how I feel physically and how my clothes feel on me. I have worked out quite regularly the past few years but have not done the best job watching what I was eating.
In the past year and a half, I started doing a lot more scrapbooking at night and I liked to have something to snack on while I was working. My snack of choice, unfortunately, was definitely sweet. I very blindly could sit and work and pop anything in my mouth - M & M's, Runts, chocolate covered peanuts - seemed to be my favorites. I could blow through a bag of M & M's like they were nothing. I was staying up really late too so it wasn't like I was burning these calories off. And because I was up so late, I was drinking a lot of coffee and would treat myself to lattes now and then. I had a sugar addiction and I was also using (what I thought) was good food as a reward.
In the meantime, I started having physical symptoms - feeling lethargic, insomnia and heart palpitations among other things. I would also get "bored" and walk around my house looking for something to eat. I would get shaky and light headed like I absolutely.had.to.get.something.to.eat.right.that.very.minute.
I decided at the end of December that I was sick of feeling sick all the time and I wanted to do something about it. I decided that I wanted to do a cleanse to hopefully break myself cold turkey from this sugar addiction. I did a lot of research and went with a cleanse that was supposed to be cellular and gentle and one that I knew had worked for several other people. But, I had a horrible, horrible, horrible reaction when I started the cleanse. It made me soooooooo sick. I had cramping so bad that I had to have Glen take me to the ER. I followed the cleanse to a "T" but it did not work for me. I suspect it was because the shakes were milk-based and I think I might have trouble with lactose. I was definitely "cleansed" but not exactly in the manner I was hoping. :)
I went forward from that experience by completely stopping sugar and caffeine. For over two months, I have been almost completely sugar free and I have almost completely stopped eating processed foods. And I feel AMAZING! I do not have crazy blood sugar crashes. I am not lightheaded, lethargic, dizzy or any of that. I do not have headaches like I used to. I do not have aches and pains like I used to. (Knock on wood) but I have not been severely sick like so many other people with flu, colds, etc. I have had a couple of days where I felt like I had a mild cold coming on but nothing major. I have so much more energy. I decided to blog about it because I wanted to share some specifics of what I am doing. I love reading suggestions from other people so maybe you can use some of mine...
1) Monitoring - I have using the My Fitness Pal app on my iPhone. I love that I can look up so many different foods or scan the UPC code to monitor what I am putting into my body. I can also record any exercise. It's a free app too so that's a plus!
2) Exercise - I am continuing the consistency and type of exercise I have always been doing. On Mondays I do a bosu class at the Y, Tuesdays I go to yoga at the Y, Wednesday or Thursday is a day off or I go to the gym again for the treadmill or do circuit training off my Pinterest board or do Ripped in 30 from Jillian Michaels, and Fridays I do cardio conditioning at the Y. Saturday and Sunday I either take off or do something I listed for Wednesday or Thursday. When it gets nicer out, I am going to run outside.
3) Breakfast - I have never been a big breakfast eater but I always try to eat something. Often, I will have a dried fruit and nut granola bar so I get some protein and a banana. But my new favorite find is this... Kashi Go Lean Crisp! Toasted Berry Crumble. It is absolutely delicious and it has as much protein in it as an egg. I eat this and I am not hungry until lunch.
4) Lunch/Dinner - I always have cooked a lot of our meals from scratch but I wasn't that good about including a lot of vegetables unless I made a homemade soup or we had salads. My family has always been a big meat and potatoes kind of family. And I'm working to change that - at least we're trying to do sweet potatoes - instead of white potatoes. I'm doing a lot of meals that are either soups, salads, or a meat with vegetables. I don't always steam but try to cook in a little healthy fat such as olive oil. A favorite find: Turkey Burgers from Trader Joe's. They are only $2.99 for four burgers and taste awesome!
5) Grocery shopping - I have been buying a lot and I mean a lot of our food at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I still shop a lot at Hy-Vee but my bill is mostly produce and meat. I hardly ever go down the chips, cookies, etc. aisle. Is it expensive to be eating healthier? Yes, but I'm trying to live by this phrase "Pay the grocery bill NOW or pay the doctor bill LATER." My family has a history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. If I do what I can now, my chances of having health problems as I age will diminish.
6) Reading labels - I have been really focused on reading labels since the girls were diagnosed with severe food allergies at 7 months old. They are extremely allergic to wheat, eggs, peas, peanuts and tree nuts. So I have been in this habit for awhile but I am now looking at labels a lot more to see what is in our food and to see how much sugar is added.
7) Snacks - this one has always been a struggle for me but here is what I am reaching for these days - an apple with peanut butter (and I'm eating natural peanut butter NOT Jif like I used to when I realized how much sugar was in it), a few crackers with sharp cheddar cheese, a handful of nuts (I like pecans or almonds) and popcorn.
8) Beverages - I am not drinking any pop whatsoever. I used to have a couple of them a week but I have had nothing in the past two months. Originally, I completely cut out caffeine and was drinking a lot of decaf herbal teas. My favorite is this ginger peach decaf from Republic of Tea. In the last couple weeks though, I have started drinking a half a cup of coffee again in the mornings. I just adore the taste of coffee and if I let myself have just a little I don't feel as bad about the caffeine. I have also started drinking half-caf skinny cinnamon dolce lattes at Starbuck's every now and then. (I feel like a total coffee snob when I order them - ha!) But the skinny means no sugar, no whip and skim milk and I love the taste!
9) Smoothies - This one gets a point of its own. I have been making smoothies in our blender for a snack. I use blueberry or mango greek yogurt from Trader Joe's and throw in their frozen fruit - mango, pineapple, blueberries, strawberries and peaches - add several handfuls of spinach - and then some 100% apple juice (I like Simply Apple) and blend. Soooo good and the greek yogurt adds protein and then I get more veggies in with the spinach. And the girls just gobble them up too!
10) Baking - I'm still experimenting here. I bought some Stevia to bake with and I also have agave and honey. I do not feel comfortable using products with aspartame or Splenda in them. I have to be careful in my baking for the girls' sake so I hope to expand on this in the near future.
A confession - Dairy Queen sent me a coupon for my birthday for BOGO blizzards so Glen and I got blizzards one night in late January. (It was my birthday so I deserved it, right?) I took a few bites and I was seriously in HEAVEN eating this blizzard. I had been denying myself "treats" like this for so long. I ate a few more bites and I literally started to feel sick. Sick to my stomach. I could not eat any more. Crazy how sugar can affect our bodies like this, isn't it? Am I perfect when it comes to cutting out sugar? No, but I am trying!
The bottom line - I really feel like not eating sugar and processed foods is working great for me. I feel so much better. I'm not 100% where I want to be yet. I'm thinking about going to gluten-free pasta for myself. I already do it for my kids but I might head that direction for me, too. We have done a lot of experimenting for the girls with pasta and our favorites are corn-based or corn and rice together. Straight rice pasta is NOT good. I found this one at Trader Joe's that we like and it is only $1.39 or so plus they make it in a penne pasta too.
My ideas are definitely not the end-all, be-all. But this is what has worked for me to feel better. I have done a lot of research about sugar and what I have found is scary. Check out this article "141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health" if you want to see the health effects sugar can have on our bodies.
You can find book after book on sugar at Amazon. Here are just a few examples of what I found: Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us;
And I'll probably never, ever put myself out there like this again, but here I am today after my workout. I have really never felt better. If you have any questions or comments about anything I've shared, feel free to drop me a line!