At the beginning of June, I started what I dubbed a 30-day primal challenge and coupled it with an earnest effort to include more daily activity and exercise, which included (finally) taking Convict Conditioning strength training seriously. I extended it to 38 days, so that the last day was the day before I left for Costa Rica to learn Qigong from Sifu Anthony. Looking back at my meal logs for that period, I see that I was eating a lot of fruit and was also including a considerable number of carbs with my meals, mainly as plantains, sweet potatoes, and white rice, but sometimes also beans, corn, and tapioca starch (those meal logs are in updates 1, 2, and 3, if you're interested).
While I was in Costa Rica, carbohydrates dominated my macronutrients (I'd estimate moderate-to-high carb, moderate protein, and moderate-to-low fat). I ate a lot of novel foods, including pejibaye and freshly prepared pejibaye flour, freshly prepared banana flour, and many tropical fruits and berries. The not-so-novel carbs included sweet plantains, black beans, white rice, quinoa, and freshly prepared sweet cornmeal. When I got back home, I knew I needed to do a much more serious strict paleo eating period and that it needed to be low carb, so I decided to jump on board the August 21-Day Sugar Detox group challenge, which started on Monday August 5th.
What is the 21-Day Sugar Detox?
Well, it's a program developed by Dianne Sanfillipo, author of the best-seller Practical Paleo, available at my affiliate partner Amazon.com as a paperback or ebook. It's very similar to a Whole30, but has 3 levels of strictness to choose from to help out people who are totally new to a low-carb style of eating, and it doesn't require you to adhere to paleo to participate. There's even modifications for vegetarians. But, level 3 (which my husband and I are doing together) is pretty much low-carb strict paleo. No grains, legumes, dairy, starchy veggies (unless you are engaged in heavy activity), or fruit.
Basically, this is how I was eating when I first went primal in the fall of 2010. I maintained a pretty consistent low-carb paleo (and threw in a Whole30 or two along the way if I hit a weight-loss plateau) for the first year and a half or so. Once I moved to Miami Beach in March 2012, though, I started letting myself have more starchy veggies and also a lot more fruit (since that's predominantly what the locally grown produce is here! Wonderful, exotic, tropical fruit.) For the longest time, I didn't have any negative side effects, and in fact noticed some positive changes in my body composition and energy levels. But, gradually over time, I've let the starches and the fruit become too much of a staple in my diet, and as I mentioned in early June, I did notice a slight increase in body fat (as indicated by my skinny jeans fitting too tightly!) a couple of months ago.
I am optimistic that a clean eating "reset" coupled with my increased activity will let me get back to where I was a few months ago, all while continuously improving my fitness.
Based on the signals that my body has given me since beginning the 21DSD, I know without a doubt that I was eating WAY too many carbs the past few months. I am MUCH hungrier than "normal", which is my body's way of telling me that it was so used to using carbs for energy that it had started to forget how to use fat. Even though I am eating plenty of food that is high in good fats, I've found myself not feeling totally satisfied and satiated after meals and I have been craving fruit or something starchy like nobody's business. Mark Sisson has a good post here about the differences between being a sugar burner and a fat burner, and why we all want to be fat burners/fat adapted.
I remember this feeling clearly when I first went primal. But, It was a LOT worse then. Now it's only minorly annoying. I know that it will resolve itself after a few more days.
Like I did with my (half-hearted?) primal challenge in June & July, I am keeping detailed meal and exercise records for this 21DSD, as well as detailed notes about my hunger and how I feel. I think I'll post 3 updates about the 21DSD: one at the end of each week.
If you are interested in doing a 21-Day Sugar Detox as well, you can start any time, but if you're like me, you may find it helpful to start with the group. In general, a new group starts on the first Monday of every month. I am now an affiliate for 21DSD ebooks and guides, and if you purchase them using my link below I'll get a small commission that will help me pay the cost of hosting this website each month. I appreciate your support!