Regardless of what diet gurus prescribe as the cure-all for every condition, we all know a magic pill does not exist. Most of us suffer from excess weight, or low energy, or the variety of health issues that occur from not taking the best care of ourselves through proper eating and moving our bodies around.
We sit at desks all day. We eat 2 or 3 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate peanut butter cups every night and tell ourselves we “deserve” a little treat at the end of a hard day. A couple of glasses of wine, an extra helping of those cheesy mashed potatoes because it’s a “special occasion,” even if that occasion is only that it’s Thursday (after all, it’s been a really stressful week.)
Seriously, I am not using the “greater we” here… this is exactly what my wife (Daniella) and I were doing.
We (Daniella and I) are in the painful process of cleaning-up our diet through eliminating pro-inflammatory, unhealthy foods. We started by removing grains, dairy, and sugar- including alcohol, most fruit, and starchy vegetables… a lot of what we consider the “treats” in our lives. It’s hard and it sucks and it’s brought up a lot of weird emotional triggers.
This has made us realize some addiction issues, self-medication with food. When we were both growing up, food offered comfort, solace for loneliness, something that let us feel in control. Now, all of those safe and happy feeling manifest themselves in a batch of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (but I made them with teff flour and coconut oil!) and homemade pizzas (from scratch! Fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella!) Each “healthy” alternative gave us another excuse to eat our way to comfort.
After a couple of weeks, we tried introducing some things back in (thank goodness!!!) in small amounts. Using elimination diets gave us a tabula rasa to notice how certain foods and ingredients affect us. In retrospect, I wish that I’d started journaling to help keep track of things.
In order for all of us to make real change in our bodies, this process works for a number of reasons…
First, both Daniella and I took notice of how foods (especially refined and natural sugars) affected our mood, energy and overall health. We gained awareness of how very emotionally addicted we are to the biochemical changes that cause a temporary self-soothing for our emotional triggers- all done with food.
Second, it allowed us to examine our relationship with food. I personally never would have considered myself addicted to sugar, but after fully eliminating it I’ve had to admit that I am. And looking back at the daily choices we made, the litany of rationalizations for the desserts, the too-large portions, the unrealistic caloric expenditures… Wow. Just wow. Doing this kind of detox gave us a perspective on our lives, a mindfulness about food and activity.
Maybe the most important aspect about doing this detox was the structure. I don’t do as well with nebulous plans- I cheat, I rationalize, I make excuses. Giving up “comfort foods” made me grumpy. I had a hard time focussing the first couple of days. I had a couple of bike rides that were more difficult than they should have been. Granted, a lot of that was my fault for not preparing enough, and not eating often enough. But there was definitely some withdrawal symptoms. If I didn’t have a plan of action- definitive items we were eliminating- I don’t think we would have gotten through those first days.
Don’t get me wrong- it wasn’t horrible. We had the chance to step outside the usual recipes we tend to rely on, and found some new favorites. We’ve both lost some excess weight, and definitely notice the reduction in inflammation. It’s interesting when paleo “ice cream” made with just bananas, cocoa powder, and coconut milk tastes really sweet. I think we taste things more acutely.
After making these changes, “detoxing” from what had become the standard diet for us, We both really feel like crap when we don’t eat cleanly. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have pizza again or enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, but now there’s a more noticeable consequence to not taking the best care of ourselves.
Look for my next posting, I’ll go into a bit of the scientific reasons why we felt this way and why you should try radical changes in your life, too!