A few years ago I had a crazy, indulgent, out of control with the chocolates — and cookies and candy — holiday season. It went on for way too long. Now, I’m all for a little indulgence every now and then, especially when everyone is at their baking best, but this was genuinely out of control. I was eating dozens of chocolates and cookies per day. I really felt like I had no control. And, the weirdest part is that I don’t usually have much of a sweet tooth. I far prefer crunchy and salty to sweet. But that year it was all encompassing and it seemed to last a really long time. I had new baby and a toddler, I wasn’t sleeping much, it was a cold and dark winter, my nerves were a little frayed and the sugar had total power over me.
When I got back to the office in January, I knew that I had to do something pretty drastic — and so Tara’s Post Holiday Sugar Detox was born. Here are the basics:
- No simple carbohydrates – no white flour, white rice, pasta, corn, potatoes or added starches.
- No sugar. Not even a little. Read all of your labels, because sugar hides everywhere.
- No sugar substitutes – no honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, palm sugar, corn syrup, stevia and absolutely no artificial sweeteners. Even though some of these sweeteners have lower glycemic indexes than sugar, part of this detox is to stop sending the “sweet” message to the brain.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Especially bitter greens (kale, Romaine lettuce, broccoli, rapini, arugula, chard…) and brassica family vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, broccoli). These vegetables help up regulate detoxification in the liver and the bitter taste help to balance the sweet.
- Eat a maximum of two fruits a day. No juice.
- Eat adequate protein (50-70+ grams/day depending on your weight and activity level). Eating protein throughout the day will help minimize cravings. Limit dairy as it has naturally occurring sugars.
- Have a maximum of two serving per day of whole grains – in their whole form. Steel cut oats, brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, etc… Avoid processed flours.
- Herbs and spices are all allowed.
- Have at least two cups of detox soup. A detox soup should have lots of veggies, good quality stock (vegetable or meat/bone), few beans/legumes, no grains, no meat. Use herbs and spices liberally.
- Drink two cups of Dandelion or Nettle tea/day.
- Drink adequate water.
- No booze.
I stuck to the diet for a solid three weeks and then felt that I was back on familiar ground. I won’t lie, the first week or so was rough. I felt cranky and tired and all I wanted was TO EAT MORE SUGAR. We got rid of everything with sugar in the house, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it through the first week. I’m not, what one would call, a strong willed person when it comes to food. In the years since then, I have used this sugar detox protocol with many patients and three weeks isn’t always enough. Some people need to stay on a protocol like this for six or eight weeks until they’ve really kicked the sugar cravings. And though supplements weren’t originally a part of this program, for people with serious “sugar addictions”, I have used certain herbs and/or minerals to help with the cravings.
This year wasn’t so bad. I certainly partook in the holiday festivities (ending with a Chanuka party last night where I ate my own body weight in latkes). I’m not feeling out of control. In fact, I’m kind of feeling like I never want to see a cookie again. But I did get a Vitamix blender for the holidays, so I’m thinking that whipping up a batch of detox soup will become a regular thing.
Here are a few of the FAQs from my Post Holiday Sugar Detox handout and a recipe for a simple detox soup.
Why is it so hard to kick a sugar habit?
There are a few reasons why sugar cravings are hard to ignore. Firstly, sugar is everywhere – in breads, pastries, sauces, flavoured coffees; and simple carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, and potatoes break down into sugars. Second, sugar creates a neurological reward similar to nicotine, alcohol and cocaine – it makes your brain feel good. Also, sugar affects (and blood sugar is affected by) stress hormones like cortisol. Basically, being stressed makes the body crave sugar and eating sugar makes the body stressed. Lastly, it tastes good. We often use sugar as a reward – “I made it to 3 p.m., I deserve some chocolate”.
Is sugar really that bad for me?
There is no question that processed sugars and simple carbohydrates are linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But even natural sugars in fruit, honey and maple syrup can trigger the brain’s need for sweet. Excessive sugar can also be related to fatigue, insomnia, mood disorders and brain fog.
Here is a simple Detox Soup recipe.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 small onion, roughly diced
- 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
- 1 cup bitter greens (i.e., arugula, dandelion, chard, watercress)
- 3 cups water
- Sea salt and peper to taste
- Juice of half a lemon
Sautée onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add broccoli and cook until bright green. Add water, bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Cover. Cook until broccoli is just softening (approximately 8 minutes). Add bitter greens, salt and pepper. Cook for another five minutes. Take off heat. Purée. Add lemon juice.