Thursday, January 24, 2013

Learn about Sugar and Setbacks: 21 DSD Reflection

Just 23 days ago, I began the 21 Day Sugar Detox.  It's something I'd wanted to do for a long time now, and the new year seemed like the perfect time.  Well, it wasn't perfect, because I knew that I had a trip on January 19, during which I would not want to restrict myself, but I figured a 19-Day Sugar Detox was better than nothing. It would be a good chance to dabble in it and see how it went!

And now, my first go-round is complete :)

Here, I'll give you a small background on it (but go to the website for all the details!), a glimpse at some of my eats during the 3 weeks, and a set of lessons learned about myself and my food--thanks to the detox program.

A bit of background: 

The 21 Day Sugar Detox is not intended to be a permanent lifestyle.  It is a nutrition-based program for anyone who experiences sugar or carb cravings, energy spikes and dips, brain fog, lethargy, and other undesirable symptoms of an unhealthy, unnatural diet.  It's carefully designed by Diane Sanfilippo to kick your sugar addiction and detox your body from the bad stuff, while fueling it with the good.  (Even she doesn't live it; she does the program once or twice a year to detox her body and feel fabulous.)  Basically, it takes basic paleo principles a step further by eliminating not only refined, but also natural sugars, such as those in fruit and honey.  It also (obviously) meant taking the too-often chocolate treats out of my daily regimen.

However, there are three different levels to choose from, which range from more or less "paleo" based on your current dietary choices.  The program itself comes with a ton of PDFs to help you get through it: Getting Started guides, food replacement suggestions, very clear-cut Yes/No food lists, guides to sugar and sweeteners, and SO MANY OTHER tips for dining out, preparing meals and snacks, recipes, etc.  When I first downloaded it, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information!

My downfall, I think, is that I was overwhelmed and did not prepare properly.

But I'll start at the beginning:

Week 1 was awesome Seriously.  I don't know what I expected, but it was fantastic.  Whether I can credit the sugar-free eating or simply my return to paleo, I felt fan-TASTic. Bloat, gone. Hand eczema, improved.  The first few days I was still foggy and lethargic, but soon my energy returned.

The choices were easy. Maybe it's because it was fresh and new, but I did not struggle to stick to the program.  I prepared all my meals at home during the week.  Here's a glimpse at what I ate:

Mmm eggs

Chicken and Veggies over/in Baby Spinach

Salmon, roasted bell peppers (SO SWEET!)
The one sweet potato I bought before I realized it was off-limits.
BUT stayed on the 21DSD Guidelines by consuming it after a workout. 

Click below to see more and read how it went and what I learned from the 21DSD:


More eggs over greens 

Wild Salmon and vegetables, to go!

Eggs, carrots, mushrooms

This mish-mash plus sliced, roasted yellow squash

Is that chicken or salmon? With carrots, bell peppers, greens....

A Favorite: Spaghetti Squash Bolognese and Broccoli
Originally inspired by Practical Paleo (and Weeknight Paleo)

Eggs-Spinach Scramble


OTHER vegetables!  Ooh, and ACORN SQUASH - mentioned below

Well... you get the idea.

That's just some of my eats.  This is a lot of the same stuff I'd already been eating, actually.  What was MISSING was the sugary snacks, which often consisted of chocolate and fruit.  Oh, nixing cashews was also surprisingly sad.  But! Look at all the deliciousness above!

Plus, if you decide to do the detox, the guides come with plenty of recipes, and you can find more on Pinterest.

I did go out a few times.  I declined wine without hesitation (pat on the back, me), and made adjustments to my orders as needed.  I was able to order a delicious, yellowfin tuna over salad at one meal, and a delectable salmon-vegetable plate at another.   Going out to a Japanese restaurant, I ordered my sushi rolls without rice. This was simple; the waiter didn't even hesitate to say yes. And my fish tasted just as fresh and delicious.

I even did the unthinkable: I accompanied friends to my favorite frozen yogurt place and did. not. have any!  WHO AM I? Anyone who knows me would be shocked to hear this act of self-control. But honestly, I didn't even feel like I was missing out.  Froyo will always be available. Did I NEED it on THAT night? Nope. No problem! 

So by the end of the first week, I was flying high.

21DSD Daily Emails
Week 2, I anticipated being more difficult, based on my first month of paleo and the simple fact that it would no longer be as bright, shiny, and new. Plus, work was about to pile up and my stress relief is sometimes based in chocolate. Yikes!

And it was. I started to feel like, Why can't I have these things?  This is sort of more about my general relationship to paleo lately, and less about the sugar detox specifically.  I've been in somewhat of a slump, where I sort of still want the junk, but I have to keep reminding myself WHY I make the choices I do.

Thus, somewhere between week 2 and week 3, I untangled a little.  Ironically, it wasn't even me caving to temptation by others, but rather just sort of... giving in to myself for no reason.  I spent a decent amount of time reflecting on each setback and making note of the negative effects I felt immediately following and the day after a poor food choice.

Week 3 was spent reflecting and carrying on.  The well-feeling contrast between the first two weeks and the third week were undeniable. Those blah-gross-tummyache consequences serve as reminders for me going forward.  I did return to better choices for my home stretch, but I was still feeling the effects (bloating, eczema return with vengeance, brain fog, fatigue) from my setbacks.

Still, by my trip on the 19th, I felt mostly better again.  I ended the night of the 19th with a 21DSD-approved meal found at the airport!  Committed.

It was a tasty salad with hard-boiled eggs.  The only thing I'm unsure of is what the artichoke hearts were marinated in, but it was still better than any other options. I was pleased, and it kept me satisfied for my flight.

More on my actual trip later, but I'm glad I decided to end there.  It was a short, 3-day affair, spent visiting a new city and catching up with friends.  Although they completely supported my nutritional goals by stocking the kitchen with nuts, eggs, veggies, and other things they knew I eat (so thoughtful!), I was glad to enjoy a glass of wine with them.

In the end, I saw results and I saw consequences.  I enjoyed, I *learned*, and so I consider it a success.  

Knowing the Difference
Did I stick to the program 100% and truly detox?  No, I don't think so.  First, I've already been experimenting with paleo eating for almost a year, so I didn't experience severe detox symptoms from the lack of refined sugars in breads and other processed foods that most people struggle to detox from. I did that last year and haven't had to deal with it again since.  HOWEVER, I also don't think I detoxed from sugar, itself.  For this reason, I do want to do the detox again properly at some point in 2013, but next time I'll be better prepared.  I'll make sure to read and follow every rule, tip, and word of advice in Diane's in-depth guides I can plan and be ready for 21 days of detox success.  I also think I'll do less of my own boring go-to meals and dive headfirst into her 21DSD-approved recipes.  I will also have the power of knowledge gleaned from this first experience.

Lessons Learned During My 21 19 Day Sugar Detox:
  • I had really come to depend on sugar.   I was surprised how strange it was just to adjust my habits.  I repeatedly felt myself getting up to hunt for sweets.  Apparently, it was my go-to.  My energy. My treat, my snack, my mindless eating.  Apparently, Chocolate (and also nuts, it seems) was my standard antidote for boredom and procrastination.  Not anymore!  Which leads in to...
  • I don't need my afternoon chocolate. After work, I'm often exhausted and looking for a quick-fix for more energy, or an edible treat for making it through a rough day.  These past few weeks, I learned that it's all mental; I don't need that pick-me-up.  I can carry on with the rest of my evening just fine without it! 
  • I feel infinitely better without starches and sugars. Holy cow. I know, I've written this before.  I may be a broken record, but it's TRUE! I never cease to be amazed how much better I feel on a gluten-free or paleo diet, and the elimination of sugar just sped up and heightened the effects. 
  • Vegetables can be sweet, too!  I did miss fruit a lot in the beginning: my blueberries, my melon, pre-workout bananas, blueberries in Greek yogurt... but without all the extra sugar, my taste buds really adjusted.  I was blown away by the sweetness of the red peppers I roasted and tossed in my salads. My butternut squash had me going back for more.  Ooh and acorn squash?  Top it with cinnamon, and you've got dessert!

  • Food will always be there.  I am fortunate enough to be in a place where the treats and cheats I may be tempted by, such as the frozen yogurt mentioned above, will always be available to me.  I don't need to have this froyo now, or those chocolate-covered almonds today.  I don't need to dig in to the free bagel breakfast or the rice-rolled sushi at this very moment.  When I want it, when I'm ready for it, it will be there waiting for me.  With that in mind...
  • I'm capable of saying, "No, thanks."   I walked past free snacks.  I turned down free wine.  I entered a froyo store without having a bite.  I did not buy my chocolate-covered treats.  I scoured buffets for something detox-approved. I brought my own healthy addition to a potluck.  This was a big one for me; I am capable of making the better choice!

For all those reasons, this was a successful round 1.  I learned a lot about food and about myself, and I think that going forward, I'll be more aware of the sugar in my diet, where it's coming from, and how often I reach for it.

Dare you to join me... next time!  Check out the 21DSD Blog for FAQs, success stories, recipes, and more.  New group detoxes begin every month, with Facebook support.  Also follow #21DSD on twitter.

What might YOU learn by doing a sugar detox?  Have you done one before?  If not, how much are you relying on sugar for energy spikes? How much is it making you fatigued, instead?  How much can you change your habits--and life--by taking just 21 days to detox from sugar? 

Would you dare?


  1. This would be SO tough for me, I LOVE sugar. I have tried to cut back, but know I will never totally get rid of it b/c I love the taste of sweet tea and want to enjoy it sometimes haha!

  2. I have contemplated doing one of these detoxes but I ALWAYS need my afternoon 4 pieces of dark chocolate. It's such an addiction.

  3. so interesting, I have managed to totally give up froyo and ice cream with the no dairy, but the other sweets...I'm having a lot more trouble letting them go. I think it's because I dive in to the all or nothing mentality which never works for me

  4. I totally get where you are coming from because I did the 21DSD back in may and was about as prepared as you were when you started. I was already eating paleo but heavy on the honey and the fruit. The best thing I think you said was that "the food will always be there". It's so true and I think that is something I can can share with folks who are hesitant to cut out sugars or even go paleo. Thanks for sharing your 19 day journey!

  5. The fact that it's 21 days and not forever helps. I will purchase the program and do it as soon as I return from an all-inclusive trip to Mexico next month! I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks!

  6. Okay SERIOUSLY YUM!!! That food looks AMAZING, but then again, those are the types of food I crave. I am not a sugar person. The sweetest I will go is roasted butternut squash!

    I am glad you learned from this experiment and I really hope you keep it up to a degree! You're doing your body so much good! :)

  7. This is a great recap and I'm totally intrigued. I know that I need a sugar detox but I think that there is a part of me is scared that I can't do it. Or to realize how dependent I really am on sugar!! Sounds like you learned a ton from this.

  8. I'm tempted to try it. I think I have worked myself back into a sugar abuse/addiction and it's not a pretty thing. I want to know I can rely on my body not to dip and crash and burn. Glad you shared your results and the links.

  9. Wow, your food pics made me drool. Seriously.

  10. I need to get rid of my sugar. All of it. Luckily, I don't really do any fruit except for post-workout (and sometimes pre-), but there is definitely hidden sugar that I could afford to get rid of.

    1. Is it no sugar at all, including fruit? I've been doing Whole30 for the last 25 days, and that has already been a huge eye opener for me, but it dose allow natural sugar in the form of fruit..

    2. No sugar at all but if you need they allow one green apple a day or one green tipped banana.

  11. There is absolutely no way in hell I could give up fruit! Love it far too much!

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  14. Quick fixes never last. We want you to commit to this program for 90 days. That said, most people feel greater and more consistent energy and a loss of carb cravings in 4 to 7 days. This means that exercise will become easier and more enjoyable, and THAT is the secret click here body by vi review

  15. I'm in day 5 of 21DSD. It is tough right now at times, especially after meals when I would typically eat something sweet. My saving grace at night has been Diane's almond smoothie (with a little extra cinnamon and tiny splash of vanilla). But I have already noticed better sleep. Day 3 was HARD. Today was a little easier. I miss fruit. My husband and 4yr old are not doing this with me and that can be a challenge with planning meals. It is temporary and hoping to break the sugar/carb dependence. As you mentioned planning is key to this.


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