A week ago, I told everyone I would be embarking on a 21 Day Sugar Detox that sounded fantastic on paper. Rebalance your sugar levels, regain health and vitality and balance insulin levels.
The plan was that I would go on the diet and log via photo taking everything that was passing through my mouth during the day for 21 days. It didn’t sound at all difficult to me because by my standards, I’m generally quite a healthy eater already and didn’t really have much of a sweet tooth, so how hard could a sugar detox be? Heck, just recalling what I had for the past 1 week and I didn’t even have anything with added sugars or refined flour in it so how difficult would it be?
So wrong. I’ve never been on a diet before and I must say following a diet plan has GOT TO BE THE WORST THING EVER ON THE PLANET.
I started the plan all fired up about it. I read every single detail and knew exactly what was allowed and what wasn’t. It went against what I believed in that there should be no segregation between allowed and disallowed food but I figured that it was only for 3 weeks and wouldn’t matter.
Foodwise, the diet was fine. There was no calorie restriction, nothing. The first day was fine. By the second day however, I was dealing with a little bit of constipation from the lack of fibre from wholegrains and fruits. Things also seemed a bit ‘off’ in some way. I figured it was just a bit of a detox phase I was going through and decided to use WILLPOWER to power through it. When night fell though, I couldn’t take it anymore and gave in to a prune and a ripe banana.
Does this sound bad? It’s just fruit right? No?
Well let me tell you the supreme danger of being on a diet. When you are on a diet, you fail to see food/fruits as it is- whole, real, natural and bursting with nourishing vitamins and minerals. Instead, everything is judged by the ‘allowed’ and ‘disallowed’ list that somebody wrote up. It doesn’t matter anymore whether the food infront of you is a banana or a potato chip. You eat it and your mind races the same way, your heart palpitates and you are overcome by an overwhelming guilt for having done something you shouldn’t. All i could think of was the sorbitol in the prune. Sorbital sorbitol sorbitol. SUGAR! On a sugar detox!
And I was only on day 1.5. What kind of loser was I?
It was made even worse by the fact that I had promised to log whatever I ate. I briefly contemplated leaving it out and decided I was better than this. I COULD RISE TO THE OCCASION! I could eat better! This diet was supposed to be good for me right? I could get back on track. I was caught between berating myself and encouraging myself to do better next time. (On hindsight, how stupid is that? All that self-talk and time wasted over the consumption of a ripe banana and several prunes!? But diets do that to you, they make you self obsessed and unable to function properly like a real human being.)
The next day dawned and I was back scrutinizing every single bottle for added sugar and all other things on the ‘disallowed’ list, even things I usually ate and knew would not have any adverse effects on me. But I couldn’t stop thinking of the sorbitol from the previous night.. and the illegal banana. Somewhere deep down inside, I thought… if I could eat that… what’s a little bit more. Besides, the diet is only 21 days. I could start the 21 days again tomorrow or some other time. Suddenly, I was craving things I didn’t even usually consume. I had the most horrible craving for CHILI SAUCE and CHIPS and whatnot.
I must stress that these are things I do not normally eat on a usual basis and my diet on the 21DSD, while restricted in some ways, was carefully planned out to meet my usual nutritional requirements. What I didn’t forsee was how much of a mindgame a diet is.
A RESTRICTIVE DIET HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH NUTRITION OR HEALTH. It’s a mindgame you’ll end up losing.
I made it to the end of the week with a few hits and misses here and there and at the end of it, I was exhausted and ridden with guilt. The feelings were so bad that for the first time in years, I slipped back to my old habits of binge comfort eating again. On the sunday after work, I actually skipped whatever I had to do and places I had to go to stuff myself silly. I had long forgotten what it felt like- that same mindless foraging for food. The need to just cram everything down into me as soon as possible. The scary numbness of nothingness. I just needed taste and flavour and I was getting none of it. A year of healthy eating has left my house almost devoid of anything I would consider binge worthy. I was almost on the verge of despair and contemplated running down to the nearest macdonalds to buy burgers I could binge on. I was literally FORAGING for the unhealthiest things I could find. It’s hard to explain and I wouldn’t because I know if you’ve been there you would understand.
Then I found a tube of oreo and my brother had some chocolate milk in the fridge. There was also a pack of instant noodles in the cupboard. (ohmygoodness. I hadn’t had the urge to eat instant noodles in years). That’ll have to do I guess. And just like that. Everything was gone in seconds.
Is chocolate milk bad? Are oreos bad? Instant noodles? By themselves, no.
But what separates disordered eating from healthy eating is the feelings when the act of eating is taking place. I hadn’t felt this out of control in years, this constant obsession with what I should be eating and what I shouldn’t’ be eating. It has NOTHING to do with what you ate. So if you know somebody with disordered eating, and she/he’s seeking for some post binge reassurance, please don’t tell her/him that ‘hey, it’s just a couple of oreos or it was just a fast food meal. No biggie.’ That is likely not going to go down well because it’s no longer about the food. The disorder stems from the stranglehold the food has on the person, the feelings of worthlessness it conjures up, not the food itself.
I guess we all have it in small amounts. That sort of guilt that you shouldn’t have eaten so much… or a particular food judged ‘yummy but unsuitable’ in your mind’s list. As people in society, we subconsciously pass on this message to one another such that by the time we are all adults, we take part in such rituals of judging our food, giving in and compensating over and over again.We subconsciously teach it to our children as well, parents making junk food freely available then telling their children they shouldn’t eat so much of it.
Suffice to say, the magic eroded quickly and once the numbness wore off I was left with nothing but severe bloat, guilt and self hate. In the past, it would turn into a vicious cycle where I would condemn myself and restrict my eating for the next few days before falling once again into binge mode.
I contemplated getting back on track again and starting again for week 2 but just couldn’t. To my surprise, I could actually identify that THIS- following a ‘healthy detox diet’ was not healthy at all. Could I lose weight on it? Would I be skinny? Maybe. But it was doing nothing for my physical or mental health. In fact, over the course of the past week, I had spiralled from ‘healthy eater extraordinaire ready to take on the world all day, anyday!’ with my usual diet to ‘obsessive fearful eater’ afraid of consuming even natural, wholesome food.
It felt like nirvana coming out from that diet cycle. Is it ironic that my usual diet is a detox from my detox diet? Oh life, you crack me up sometimes.
But I am now more sure than ever the message I want to spread. I want to tell everyone, girls especially that food should not have such control over you. You can love yourself more than eat healthy and well for only x amount of days. You deserve to be well nourished and happy EVERY day of your life. The diet mentality will ruin you and it’s a torture you really shouldn’t and don’t have to put yourself through.
In the midst of it all I told a well meaning friend I felt like giving up on the detox and she encouraged me gently in a tone reserved by girls worldwide to tell their friends to get back on the diet bandwagon. “You can do it, it’s only a few more days.After that you can indulge all you want! Eat all the sugary things!”
The moment I heard that, it really brought me to my senses. I almost laughed out at the sheer ludicrousness (?) of the entire thing. If I didn’t do this diet, I wouldn’t have the need to ‘reward’ myself with a mountain of cupcakes at the end of it. It wasn’t even an ‘indulgence’ to me because I don’t even usually want to eat such things! Just because I had restricted myself, ironically, sugar has now become the proverbial forbidden fruit and I feel a sense of entitlement and need to eat copious amount of it to reward myself for my ‘good behaviour’.
Do you not see how a diet can only succeed based on perfect performance? What happens when you fail then? A diet no longer becomes about food or weight loss, it becomes a tool in which it’s lack of success determines and defines your worth as a person. Can’t stick to a diet for just 5 days? You are a loser who can’t even control yourself. How do you even think you can achieve anything else in life? Start again? Why? You are just going to fail anyway.
I really really don’t want that for anyone and most importantly, for you. I want you to live life free from what to eat and what not to eat. Just stick to the basic principles- eat till you are satisfied and eat well. Nourish your body with natural, wholesome food and in the right amounts. Not too much and not too little either. Leap off the diet bandwagon while you can. Health isn’t a 21 day diet. Health is the everyday. And when you indulge, indulge not in chemical and factory made things but indulgence in the best the world has to offer- sashimi made by top japanese chefs, desserts made with real food, unrefined flours or sugar and as close to its natural state as possible, maybe a little more than usual. A burger made from real premium ingredients you usually wouldn’t have- that is true indulgence, not a greasy burger from a drive thru take away .
Love yourself, indulge yourself, because you are very very worth it. And while you’re at it, say bye bye to diets and hello to better, healthier, happier living.
P.S Interestingly, people are still curious as to what I eat. (I am a novel zoo animal!) In order not to plug up this page which I’ll reserve for articles and recipes, I’ll be uploading all my food pictures from my instagram (@vegsmoothiebunny or search #vegsmoothiebunny) onto MY TUMBLR. Check it out if you’re interested! Will also be posting what OTHER people eat for your inspiration!