Six tips for recovering after a sugar binge

I’ve written about my relationship with sugar before and while I feel like I have the upper hand most of the time, once in a while (during a birthday celebration weekend, perhaps) I may find that one dessert can easily turn into three and the “why not?” careless attitude takes over and overshadows what I know to be true— that sugar gives me headaches, makes my belly hurt and my skin break out. I’m less present as a wife and mother. Fortunately, I know that getting back on track—while a little challenging—is totally doable. Regardless of if this is something you’ll put into practice right away (after Independence Day BBQs) or if you’ll bookmark it for a later date, here are six tried-and-true tips I personally use to recover after a period of over-indulging on sweets.

Tip #1 Drink water

Why it works: Extra H20 will help eliminate water weight, flush body of toxins and ward off cravings as we often mistake thirst for hunger. Besides, who doesn’t feel better sufficiently hydrated?

Tip #2 Move your body

Why it works: You know the feeling of pleasure you get from eating sugar? That’s dopamine being released in the brain. Exercise can stimulate dopamine release and produce that same feel-good sensation. I find intense exercise can temporarily suppress my appetite (great for keeping the sugar monster in check) and I’m more likely to refuel with something healthy if I’ve just worked out.

Tip #3 Support digestion

Why it works: After consuming high levels of sugar, the body’s gut bacteria are most likely out of whack. A probiotic supplement can aid in rebalancing the good bacteria. Get similar benefits from eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. Soothe an upset tummy with one of my current favorite beverages—a homemade lemon ginger concentrate with immune-boosting and digestive-soothing properties added to boiling water.

Tip #4 Have a plan (and know your triggers)

Why it works: If you have non-sugary snacks and meals on hand, you are less likely to succumb to a treat craving. Nuts, eggs and sweet potatoes are a few of my favorite foods post sugar binge (or any time, really). Also, know your triggers. If eating bread makes you crazy for cookies, steer clear of those refined carbs for a few days. Likewise, if any area of the grocery store temps you (bakery aisle or bulk candy), be honest with yourself and try to avoid those when shopping.

Tip #5 Fill up on the double F’s (fat and fiber)

Why it works: Fiber and healthy fat can both help you feel fuller, longer. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels, especially helpful when eating fruit. Grab a small handful of nuts with berries (naturally high in fiber) or blend a banana with an avocado and raw cacao powder for a not-to-sweet chocolate pudding.

Tip #6 Avoid the double A’s (alcohol & artificial sweeteners)

Why it works: Not only does drinking alcohol put strain on the liver, your body’s detoxifying organ, lots of drinks are high in sugar themselves. Plus temporarily abstaining will make sure no bad choices (food and otherwise) are made under the influence! As for artificial, no-calorie sweeteners—your body can’t tell the difference between that and the real stuff.  You’ll keep perpetuating the cycle.

Keep in mind, a few days of unhealthy eating won’t derail all of your previous efforts so don’t be too hard on yourself. It means you’re human—we are biologically adapted to crave sugar. It happens to everyone (even fitness instructors and health coaches-in-training) so take it as a learning experience, bringing you one step closer to figuring out what works and what doesn’t in your personal journey to optimum health.

The words "too much sugar" written in sugar grains.  Overhead vi

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Two Words: Oregon Strawberries

After completing just about two weeks of the 21 day sugar detox I dined at the Silver Grille. My original plan was then to start the detox over again from day one. A week later, I attended a birthday celebration, complete with a gluten-free, organic cake. On Mother’s Day, it was a pineapple. I’ll just start over again, I thought.

Today, my son hands me a strawberry and says, “Eat my strawberry, please.” This is a big deal. Strawberries (okay, all berries) are D’s all-time favorite. Sometimes, he’ll bring me food that I just pretend to eat. But a strawberry, a fresh Oregon strawberry? I couldn’t say no and, at this point, I don’t want to.

After the over-indulgences of the holidays, a January detox was exactly what my body needed. With summertime festivities and the availability of fresh and local fruit, 21 days—in a row—of a strict detox might not happen right now.

Biggest accomplishment: going so long without dairy. I don’t drink milk but I like good cheeses (feta is my fav – still waiting on a feta ice cream) and real cream. I feel better, plus going dairy-free deters me from eating the feta crumbles out of the Costco container with a fork (what, it’s not supposed to be eaten that way?) or stealing sips of cream from the carton.

Unless I find that feta ice cream, I’m going to still limited dairy but may have it as an ingredient in a recipe or use a little cream in my coffee once or twice a week (coconut milk is pretty tasty as are my almond milk lattes, but sometimes you just need the real deal). I won’t stress if my banana isn’t green enough.

I still definitely recommend the detox if you have never done it. It changed the way I fuel myself and how food tastes. It sparks an awareness of how your body functions and how you feed it. I’d love to do it again with a group for accountability and support (if you are looking to start – check out this Facebook group!). Fall detox, anyone?

Timing is everything.

Strawberry

Coconut Butter: A Paleo Pantry Must-Have

I have a bit of an obsession with coconut butter. This stuff is dangerously good, so I can’t always keep it on hand. Coconut butter is different than straight coconut oil. Made from the meat of the coconut, it has the consistency of a peanut butter, but with a semi-sweet, coconut-y flavor. Just like natural nut butters, the oil rises to the top. If it’s cold,the coconut oil solidifies so you’ll need to warm it up (I wrap my jar in a heating pad) to give it a good stir. Once it’s soft and runny, I dump it in a bowl and use electric beaters to blend thoroughly (I actually do the same thing with peanut butter minus the heating pad step) and then pour it back in the jar. I don’t mind having the beaters and bowl to lick!

You’ll find coconut butter in many Paleo recipes, but it rarely makes it that far for me—I eat it right out of the jar. I’ve tried MaraNatha, Artisana and Nutiva (it’s called Coconut Manna, but it’s the same thing). It’s not cheap—the best deal I’ve found was the Nutiva version at Whole Foods with a sale price of $7.99 for a 15oz jar. Locally, Roth’s carries Aunt Patty’s Organic Creamed Coconut (it looks like coconut butter to me) but I’ve never used it as it’s more expensive for a smaller jar. I’ve even gone as far as to make my own in the VitaMix, but I haven’t been able to recreate the same consistency and flavor.

coconutbutter1_crop
Mmmm…sweetener-free Paleo deliciousness.

 

If you are embarking on a sugar detox and/or just love all things coconut or want something that feels like a splurge that’s actually good for you, you’ll want to scoop up a jar of coconut butter next time you are at a natural foods store. Beware: it’s easy to eat more than a serving size. Essentially, if you are eating real foods you won’t need to count calories, but it’s easy to go overboard with this stuff. If your goal is weight loss or even simply maintenance, watch how much you consume. For built-in portion control, Artisana makes individual packets—great for an on-the-go snack or for traveling.

coconutbutter2_crop
Jar after one week: I told you it was dangerous! I’d like to point out that Lil’ D eats it, too! Note the tablespoon for attempted portion control.

 

Sugar Detox

People who don’t like dessert are like people who have the “pushed six times and then he was out” birth stories or complain pants don’t fit because their booty is too small. I know they exist, but I cannot wrap my mind around any of those concepts as actual reality. I just don’t get it. It’s too far beyond my personal experience and what I know and feel at the very core of my being.

Unfortunately, my sugar addiction really does go so deep that, in a way, it almost defines me. “The Reetz and her treats,” has been my motto, my mantra for so long. I should feel lucky I’ve stayed in my current physical shape with how much sugar (even “healthy” sugar) I’ve consumed on a daily basis, let alone the weekend free-for-all baking extravaganzas. I’m an addict through and through. As a child, I remember feeling anxiety during parties with piñatas or cake because I had a hard time waiting for my sugar fix—I wanted it NOW! I didn’t understand why my brother was fine with having a piece or two of Halloween candy when I wanted to finish the whole bag. At one point my parents found quite the collection of Skittles wrappers under my bed. We lived a few houses down from the corner market and I’d walk there once or twice a day for a treat to eat while I read my Babysitter Club books.

Monday I started another 21-day sugar detox alongside my pal Jessie at www.myselfimprovementkick.com. I first completed the sugar detox in January with great success. It was actually the most in control I have ever felt with sweets. Since then, I have been able to keep my sugar monster somewhat in line with healthier versions of treats and the occasional splurge. With the past holiday/birthday weekend, White Rabbit cinnamon roll, Silver Grille meal and then more White Rabbit cake, I felt the need to check myself.

Just like in January, I’m following Diane Sanfilippo’s plan laid out in her book “The 21 Day Sugar Detox.” She’s also written “Practical Paleo” and both are awesome in explaining how sugar reacts in your body. Her detox program is strict—no sweeteners of any kind (natural or not) and no foods that act like sugar in the body (wheat, other gluten containing grains, legumes). Peanuts and cashews are also out. Fruit is limited to one piece a day of a green banana, green apple or grapefruit. Even sweet potatoes, a paleo staple, aren’t allowed unless you’ve completed a hard workout or are pregnant. Depending on which of the three levels you choose, you may also cut out all grains (gluten containing or not) and dairy. I bit the bullet and committed to Level 3 (no grains of any kind and no dairy). Be mindful that if you decide to keep dairy in the mix, you’ll eat only full fat varieties.

One thing about having a blog, even if I have no readership, is that I feel held accountable for things I write. Even if no one reads or cares, I feel compelled to follow through. I do need to throw this out there, one loophole or clause in my agreement to you: I will only deviate from my detox if J and the in-laws decide to celebrate a special occasion at the Silver Grille at the end of this month. I will splurge, I will have gluten, I will have sugar, and I will enjoy every last bite of the life-changing Strawberry Cheesecake. Because a treat shouldn’t be a pack of Skittles you eat alone and hope no one finds the evidence. It should be something savored and enjoyed with family and friends. I’m learning that there is no “bad” or “good” but rather “balanced” and “unbalanced,” when it comes to food or life. But believe me—if put my detox on pause for that one meal, I’ll back at it, starting the 21 days over again.

Jelly Beans

Birthday Cake

Damn you, Peppa Pig.

Not only has my son’s interest in puddle jumping skyrocketed to an obsession-like level (he even says ‘muddy puddle’ in a British accent) but he asks me, “You Mommy Pig, right mom?” and calls J, “Daddy Pig.” That would be fine, I suppose, if he didn’t say “Daddy Pig has big, big tummy,” like they do in the show (J is not amused). And now, thanks to you Peppa (and probably Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat), Lil’ D keeps asking for cake—more specifically, a birthday cake.

For the last two years I chose not to give D a traditional cake. Year one, I still wanted the obligatory cake smash photos so I adopted a sweetener-free oatmeal banana baby cookie recipe and frosted the “cake” with coconut milk “whipped cream.” Year two, I still wasn’t giving D processed sugar treats so he celebrated with his favorite fruits (he’s still my little fruit bat).

This year D asked about a birthday cake and even showed me how to blow out the candles. While I love to bake (eat?) treats, I wanted this first cake to be special (and since I battle my own sugar demons, baking can sometimes—okay, always—leads to overeating).  I ordered a small chocolate cake with raspberry filling and vanilla buttercream frosting from my favorite White Rabbit Bakery in Aurora (home of lots of gluten-free, vegan and even paleo goodies).

Even during pregnancy, both my husband and I were adamant that our child would be refined sugar free for as long as we felt was possible. Although I love all things sweet, it’s pretty obvious that sugar is detrimental to optimum health. Numerous studies prove that sugar feeds disease like cancer and is as addictive as crack but people still ask why I choose to feed (or not feed) my son in this way. I’m told he only “likes” healthier food because he doesn’t know better. My response, simply: D will get to eat his fair share of cookies, candy, cake, ice cream and other treats in his lifetime but why start now? I don’t want to prime his palette to choose sugar over whole, nutritious food.

Now that he’s close to three, I’m much more lax: D loves ketchup (he’s even had the regular kind with—gasp— high fructose corn syrup) and jelly and likes to go on Mom/Dom dates for coffee and hot chocolate. He loves cookies but I try to make a healthier version with almond flour and coconut sugar or honey. He may only like them because he doesn’t know better but I’m happy he doesn’t know worse.

I want to clarify: this was important to me and my husband—I do not judge the parents of babies given sweets in moderation. With my relationship with sugar (more on that at a later date), this was really the only way I could feed my son. It makes me feel, at least in one area, like good mom—not a better mom than anyone else but a good mom. And I hope that cancels out some of my bad parenting habits, because, let’s face it; I obviously let D watch way too much Peppa Pig!

Cake2

 

Update:

D ate his first cake! He liked it, but seemed to like the show if it more: the presenting of the platter, singing “Happy Birthday,” blowing out the candles (“I blow really really hard,” he said) and slicing the cake.

With every bite, he’d point to a different layer and ask, “What’s this?” I’d answer (chocolate cake, frosting or raspberry filling) and he’d nod his head in a why-of-course-it-is kind of way. I asked him if it tasted good and he answered, “Tastes like birthday.” D ate about half a slice before wanting to play, but I made sure his cake didn’t go to waste. I did leave him another bite for when he woke from his nap.

His first cake experienced was exactly what I had hoped for—utterly yummy, but without the crazy sugar high and crash. He ate a bit, but wanted to play with his birthday puzzle more. I hovered over his plate like a sugar vulture, swiping finger-fulls of frosting when no one was looking.