So I’m in the middle of my first Whole 30, which I didn’t think would be terribly difficult for me. 30 days of no grains (I already don’t eat gluten), no dairy (already there), no legumes (eh, I can take them or leave them), and no added sugar – natural or otherwise (small amounts of fruit are ok). I thought, no problem, I don’t eat THAT much sugar. I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, right?
I was so wrong.
I AM generally a healthy eater, but what I didn’t realize is just how much hidden sugar there is in the everyday foods I was eating. I definitely noticed some withdrawal type symptoms, similar to when trying to get off caffeine. I was feeling sort of angry, headachy, tired, and annoyed. I think it really hit me when I was starving, walking around the grocery store trying to find a quick option for dinner and figured I’d pick up a rotisserie chicken. Every single one had a form of sugar. On chicken? Really?
Everything from pickled peppers, to ketchup, to Emergen-C, to deli meat. Everything my partner picked up and asked frantically “CAN I HAVE THIS” was a solid no, due to some form of sugar.
It’s terrifying. And it’s been a huge eye opener.
Food companies say they add sugar to their products to “enhance taste” but really, they do it to get you hooked. Sugar lights up the same pleasure centers of our brain that a drug would, and once you have one hit you always want more. Our bodies are hardwired to crave sugar in particular, because in the days of hunting and gathering, something sweet was a quick form of energy (Keep in mind, fruit was the sweetest thing you could typically find. Not nearly as much sugar as that gluten-free donut). It makes it extremely difficult to say no when that food comes up again. And yet, we’re often told it’s a “lack of will power” that causes us to cave into food cravings.
No, asshole. It’s you and all your added sugar.
The other thing that’s been really striking to me is the way that I tend to use sugar, or food in general, in response to my emotions. I knew I was sort of doing that, but this is the first time I’ve really had to challenge that, instead of giving in. Generally, my idea of giving into a sweet tooth was a banana with almond butter, or some dark chocolate, but the point is that I’m reaching for those things for comfort, instead of dealing with whatever is going on. It’s been difficult, but I’m grateful for the chance to ask myself “what am I really craving here?” I really noticed it when I had a few big projects due at the same time and was getting stressed out, and my first thought was “I just need a treat.”
No. I just need to sit down and do my work. And maybe drink some extra water, write in my journal and take a nap.
To anyone considering a Whole 30, I can say wholeheartedly to give it a go. Planning and prepping makes it a lot easier (so you don’t end up frantic and starving in the grocery store, like me), and it’s so SO worth it to be forced to take a good hard look at your current diet. My body is super grateful for the break from sugar, and I’ll be sure to report more from the other side.
How about you? Do you struggle with sugar cravings? Let me know in the comments below!