Not many people know my “eat clean” story, but its long and fairly boring, so I’m going to try to keep it somewhat short. Emphasis on try.
I went to see a nutritionist last April, because of my fruit allergy. I was afraid I wasn’t getting the right nutrients, and I knew my sugar intake was out of control. I would eat pancakes mixed with cake batter for breakfast topped with frosting, and ate a huge bowl of ice cream every night. I followed a diet similar to a Whole 30 under the nutritionist’s supervision, but the only major commitment I still stick to is avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrates.
A Whole 30 diet means eating no gluten, no grains, no dairy, no soy, and no refined sugar for 30 days. After this time, you are supposed to reintroduce the foods to see how your body reacts to them. If you eat the same foods all the time, you will never realize the affect it is having on your body. So by cutting it out for a short period and reintroducing it, you will have a better understanding of how it makes you feel.
My nutritionist did not believe in the reintroduction. She believed that all of these foods are gut-damaging and should be avoided by everyone. After 3 months of following this diet, I felt worse than I ever have. I reintroduced the foods on my own and was starting to feel better. I started to do a lot of my own research to understand what was happening, and this is why I became so interested and passionate about nutrition. I was so miserable during these three months, and I now understand that restricting yourself from foods you enjoy is not the way to do it! And if my body had no problem digesting these foods, there’s no reason for me to avoid them so strictly.
The only major change that I still stick to is avoiding refined sugar and carbohydrates. I had been suffering from heart palpitations and anxiety, and I realized that this diet had basically cured both. It also helped my OCD tremendously, and I no longer have panic attacks.
After about 2 weeks of a refined sugar and carbohydrate detox (honestly it might have been the worst 2 weeks of my life), my sugar cravings dropped tremendously. After sticking with it for over a year, I find myself enjoying foods I never did before. My taste buds and cravings have changed drastically.
Sugar is toxic to our body in high amounts. It is as addictive as cocaine, which is absolutely terrifying. We also build a tolerance to it like we would any drug. Our body does horrible things when our sugar drops, and it craves more sugar to get back to where it was. The more stable our blood sugar, the better.
Sugar also causes inflammation, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. And, it is one of the most fattening foods. Carbohydrates tend to have a bad reputation when it comes to weight loss, but it is specifically the refined carbohydrates and refined sugars that contribute to weight gain. The more complex a carbohydrate is, the slower it is digested. The more refined it is, the quicker it is digested, which means it has more impact on your blood sugar. The impact a carbohydrate has on your blood sugar is referred to as its glycemic index. Refined carbohydrates have a very high glycemic index, whereas complex carbohydrates are a bit lower. Refined carbohydrates are the very processed ones, like white bread and things that come in a box. Since they are so processed, our body is able to digest them very quickly and essentially drops a bomb of sugar into your bloodstream. Complex carbohydrates are less processed like whole oats, potatoes, and rice. Since they are more difficult to break down, the sugars are released more steadily and therefore your blood sugar never spikes.
The food we eat greatly affects our mood and mental health. It is super important to fuel your body with nutritious foods, but to also eat foods that you enjoy. Now that I have found a balance of both, I am happier and healthier than I have ever been. I still enjoy sweets, but the majority of them are sweetened with unrefined sweeteners like honey and coconut sugar. They are also made from unrefined flours like sprouted whole wheat flour, and there are great substitutions for other “unclean” ingredients. I still indulge in desserts on occasion, and they are more enjoyable now because they are so infrequent.
Changing the way I eat changed my life, even though it sounds pretty cheesy. It was rough getting to where I am, but I don’t regret a thing.