On returning from my doctor on that sunny day in January and looking at a list of foods I was allowed to eat, and those I wasn’t, I had no idea of the battle I was about to encounter.
The first thing I did was take to my kitchen like a demented loon.
My doctor had explained to me that according to a Paleo diet many foods that I was eating in the past were full of high GI carbohydrates, in other words when I ate them my body quickly broke them down so they entered my bloodstream effectively as sugar – but more on that in another post.
Madly throwing out old boxes of gluten free pasta and rice, tinned foods that packed with bad carbohydrates and all things sugary. From crackers to gluten free muesli to chips and biscuits out it went. I cleared my fridge of yoghurts and jelly snacks and even my beloved chocolate mousse desserts. I will confess to eating all the chocolate though – I have a weakness for Fry’s Turkish Delight… other than that l was a woman on a mission!
The only thing I kept was my wine. I wasn’t ready yet to give it up yet, although each day I would promise myself that next week was definitely the when I would stop. Sometimes it’s difficult for us to realise when we’re addicted to something we’re so used to having.
I was so proud of myself, but little did I know that although the first battle was a victory, the war was far from over. Stopping sugar would not be as simple as that.
I felt great at first.
Then, over the next few days, I was tired and headachey, and craving lollies like never before. Even my muscles hurt! I became very short tempered and snappy, not at all like my usual happy self.
I did not realise at the time that I was suffering from withdrawal symptoms similar to coming off addictive drugs. I’ve since found out that sugar is about six times more addictive than cocaine!
What helped kerb my cravings a little was that I was still eating small amounts of sugar, mainly in the form of bananas, and unfortunately my nightly glass or two of wine. These few things were enough to get me through the worst of the initial withdrawal symptoms and keep focused on my goal.
I really really wanted this to work, and I was surprised how much it felt like giving up the cigarettes all those years ago. Some people can manage just to go cold turkey when giving up addictive substances without too many side effects – and sugar is best to quit the same way, but it certainly isn’t easy.
Sugar came back hard with counteroffensives in the war, but knowing there would be an end to feeling crap, I was able just to put my head down and fight on.
I gritted my teeth and – as per my doctor’s advice – drank copious amounts of ice water. Thankfully it was the height of summer, so I was able to do this a lot easier than if it were the middle of winter. It probably took me close to three weeks before I stopped feeling the intense cravings and began to have more energy and seeing small changes happening.
Over time I came to understand that because of the high fat and protein eaten, I was feeling fuller for longer. I began to eat only when I was genuinely hungry. I discovered I was naturally eating less food because I was no longer starving for energy, rather my body was more efficiently utilising the energy in my food as well as the energy stored in my body fat. My serving size had gone down, and I didn’t seem to get the mid-afternoon crash anymore.
I discovered the following link well after I had given up sugar, but it may help you understand some of what you may go through when you first go down the Primal road.
I began to do some study about the Paleo diet I was on at the time.
And here is where things got interesting…
I found out I was doing most things right by instinct. One of the things I particularly liked about this new lifestyle was that I could listen to my ‘gut’ so to speak – both literally and figuratively.
Giving up sugars and most processed foods took me from being insulin dependent to being fat adapted, allowing my body to get its energy from my stored fat rather than taking it from the sugars I was eating, and this is how I was losing weight.
I also stopped eating when I came home from work at 9 pm, and began making my last meal around 6 pm (I was still having a glass of wine or two when I came home). As I wasn’t eating until about 11 am the next day (almost 17 hours later), I was putting myself into what I now know is a ‘fasted state’, which means I was burning more body fat naturally. The fasted state allowed for using fat for fuel instead of relying on food as a source of energy, which leads to greater weight loss without overly restricting the calories I was eating.
I found that I lost 10kgs in about six weeks, and really started to get more into eating healthy food.
I made a toasted seed and nut mix (Crunchy Granola Suite), to have with coconut milk or greek yoghurt – or even with full cream milk for a bit of decadent sweetness.
I cut out all bread and began taking a meat and vegetable lunch to work, usually whatever I had for dinner the night before, with nuts for a snack. I gladly welcomed any excuse to munch on cashews!
Instead of crackers, I had salami slices with my cheese and dip. I made big pots of meaty soups or chunky stews that I could reheat whenever I was hungry. I cut out the big serves of mashed potatoes and other high carb and high starch vegetables and increased the low carb ones, like cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, beans, and mushrooms. Cold meats and salads, with plenty of full-fat mayonnaise, became another lunchbox favourite of mine. Pinenuts replaced croutons in homemade Caesar salad. I found a renewed passion for food awakening in me.
Oh and about that coconut milk? It can take several weeks for one’s belly to get used to it, before then, things can get quite… mmmm well, very gassy or even runny to say the least! I was very careful walking down the aisles at work and was embarrassingly aware of who was behind me when I – um – let the gas out, shall we say?
My belly never did get fully accustomed to the richness of coconut milk, and I moved onto the more sedate and digestible almond milk, although the Primal Labrador consumes it by the bucketload without any problems… But then Labradors can eat anything right?
I’ve found you can never actually win this battle against sugar and high G.I. carbohydrate foods. They are in almost everything processed, and until we can kick the insurgents out of the supermarket aisles and return to a more Primal way of life, we’ll probably never have a society of fit and healthy people.