Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Another experiment.

My friend Jaime is a health coach. I get emails for her newsletter and a sugar detox catches my eye. The 7-Day Guided Sugar Detox. I’ve been wanting to try no sugar for a while now. In the past couple years, I’ve done my best to cut back on sugar. Because in case you didn’t know, sugar is in everything. So I check labels and try to steer clear. In most cases, but not all.

The skinny on sugar is that it’s basically poison. So I wonder what would happen if I cut it out completely. Would I feel better? Would I sleep better? Would I wake up easier? I’ve been curious about this, but I know that it will be hard. So when Jaime’s email pops up, I’m intrigued. By signing up for the detox, I get access to recipes for sweet alternatives, I get to have guidance  and a group so that I don’t feel alone, and I get to support my friend.

Jaime is an amazing person. We met in Writers Group, and from Day One, she has been so kind, generous, empathetic, and supportive to anyone she comes in contact with. A few years ago, I came to her for help with my health. I forget why, exactly. I was feeling bad about myself. I was drinking too much. And while I thought I was being sort of healthy with my food choices, I was in complete control mode. Trying to eat healthy and not too much during the day so that I could splurge at night.

Jaime agreed to meet with me before Writers Group one night, to sort of go over my health profile and see what steps I might want to take. She asked me about my diet. I can’t remember what I told her, except that wine and Cheez-its were a big part of it. She asked if I’d be able to cut back. I told her no, I didn’t think so. And that was the end of that. I wasn’t ready to make any changes.

I’ve come a long way since then. It seems like perfect timing. Almost kismet that this email should stumble into my inbox. I call Anna Rose and ask her if she wants to do it, too. When I was in California, AR was always asking me to do this kind of shit with her. Once she asked me if I wanted to do this exact thing. Seven days, no sugar. She asked me, like it was the best, most exciting idea in the world. I looked at her with no hesitation and said, No. That sounds awful.

Of course, AR is on board. We are doing this! I thought it was going to be very strict with absolutely no sugar, but you can actually eat fruit. Natural sugar is OK. I’m not really a big fruit person – except for dried fruit. I love dried fruit, especially on the go.

Here will be my struggles with no sugar – alcohol, bread, and condiments. Those are the big three. Three things I love. I’ve done a week no drinking before, so I know I can do that, but I eat bread and condiments every day. And without alcohol, it makes me even more want to eat delicious foods that have sugar in them. I deserve it!

I am shocked to say, the first three days are cake. But there are a couple reasons why. First, I had drank too much over the weekend, so I was ready for a break from alcohol. Second, I just started pre-season last week. Which means three hours out in the sun coaching in the late afternoon, and no working at the restaurant at night.

Oh, that’s right. I got a job. And it’s amazing. This awesome, adorable wine bar only ten minutes from my apartment. I’ve been working non-stop, but during hockey season, I’m only available on the weekends. So my schedule just changed. No more late nights getting home during the week. I get to be home from practice by 6:30 every night, and eat a healthy, homemade dinner by 7:30. Working in a restaurant, you never know when you’re going to eat. More often than not, I don’t get to eat, and am starving when I get home, and so I have to eat a late (but hopefully light) dinner.

In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg says to make one, tiny change in what you’re doing, to see the effects. My no-sugar is coupled with a big change in my schedule, so it’s not exactly a fixed variable. Oh, well. I’ll get the next experiment right.

I start the detox on a Wednesday. So Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I’m in good shape. No more fried egg on toast for breakfast – my go-to. Now it’s scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and maybe some other veggies, or an Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin with butter. Both are very tasty and satisfying (but nothing beats my fried egg on toast).

For lunch, I do something like, canned chicken with sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, avocado, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with Mary’s Gone Crackers. Otherwise, I just mix whatever veggies I have with whole grain brown rice or scrambled eggs. When I get home from practice, Steve and I either do salmon or grilled chicken with a side of rice or vegetable, or make a stir-fry.

Jaime has sent out some sugar-free dessert options, so on Friday night, Steve and I make banana ice cream – it’s frozen bananas, almond butter, cacao powder, vanilla extract, and a little almond milk all blended together. It is SO good. So good that Steve wants to serve it as dessert at our next dinner party.

And then comes the weekend. On both days, I work from about 1:30-10:30pm. Long shifts. I prepare myself. I pack a stir-fry with rice, a Larabar, and some nuts with dried fruit. That should be plenty. Around 5pm on Saturday, we have our line-up. This is when everyone gathers in the back to go over wine and food specials. I knew this was coming. I planned to do that thing that some people do when they taste wine – just spit it out. But now that I’m here, and a glass is placed in my hand, I know I can’t do that. I smell the wine. I smell it a lot. And then I just hold it. After the explanation is over, I hand my glass to Greg – one of my co-workers. Greg is very reserved and professional with his long red hair in a tight bun, but when work is over, he let’s his hair flow and looks like a lion. I’m sure he’ll drink it for me.

Another co-worker, Matthew – a young teddy bear with a thick southern accent – looks at me, annoyed. “You better drink that wine.” I laugh. No. “What, are you hungover?” No, actually, I haven’t drank in a few days. “Are you PREGNANT??” No! I am not pregnant. “Lindsay, you’re pregnant?” Matthew, no, I’m not pregnant. I’m just not drinking this week (I know, so hard to believe).

A second glass of wine is handed out. This is just mean. Again, I smell the shit out of it before handing it off to Greg. Now, it’s on to the food. Sometimes they don’t even have anything for us to taste. Of course, tonight, they have two specials. One is a delicious-looking bruschetta, and the other is little fried hog snapper po boy sliders with house-made pickles, slaw, and remoulade. You’ve got to be kidding me. I rush out of the kitchen to check on my tables. That was tough, and it’s only 5pm.

Matthew approaches me again and asks me to please get pregnant, for him. Steve and I really deserve to have a baby. …People in the south are so weird.

The night gets super busy, and while I find time to eat my stir-fry, I don’t have time for anything else, so I’m starving when I get home at 10:30pm. After a long, busy shift, all I want is a glass of wine. But I can’t have that. I also want something delicious, like a fried egg on toast, but I can’t have that either. I settle for a bunch of cherries and grapes. I’m really not used to eating this much fruit. I feel like it’s not exactly the healthiest thing to be eating, because even though it’s natural, it’s still a lot of sugar at night, but it’s better than eating the bad sugar, I guess.

Sunday is more of the same, except that work is a little more laid back on Sundays. I have more time to eat when I’m hungry. I pack the same food as yesterday and eat all of it throughout the day. I’m still hungry when I get home. I suppose I could try to write, to see how my body really feels, but after working all day and not being allowed to have sugar, I just don’t care. So I make the banana ice cream again… and then again the next day. It’s so unnecessary. But it’s the feeling of deserving something delicious. Besides, I’m allowed to eat it. No sugar.

Monday and Tuesday are the home stretch. I talk to AR on the phone. She’s so proud of me for sticking with it, especially at work. It feels good to have her support. I wake up Wednesday morning and it feels like Christmas. I can eat sugar today! I am so excited!

How do I feel after the seven days? I feel good. I know that I could feel better. Last night I watched the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and my God, it was a nail-biter! I ate way too many pistachios and dried mango. I felt bad afterwards.

If I were to do a sugar detox again, I think it would be more beneficial if I cut out fruit entirely. Because I don’t really eat that much fruit, anyway. Still, I didn’t drink for seven days, which is always a victory in itself. I didn’t eat any bread or condiments. Or cheese. I missed cheese, too.

I don’t really feel like I slept any better. It was still difficult to fall asleep and difficult to wake up – maybe because I was eating too much fruit at night!

Moving forward, I think my best bet is to stick with moderation. Making a conscious effort to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. That feels the best. But I’m still glad I did it. Another experiment in the books!

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