I’m not perfect. I never pretended to be. I’m pretty honest when it comes to my shortcomings so I thought I would share my latest news.
For the last few months, I’ve been treating myself occasionally. Subway once a month, a couple bites of rice when my husband ordered sushi, cheesecake after an otherwise completely Primal meal at a steakhouse. It was occasional, and usually planned, so I thought I was doing okay. After all, the 80/20 rule says we can treat ourselves. What I didn’t take into account was the carb addiction.
The food and beverage industry spends over $11 billion per year to get you to eat. They’re clever. They run ads for cheeseburgers and chocolate late at night when your willpower is at it’s lowest. They show fit, healthy people drinking their sodas but don’t show the reality of the situation. It’s easy to justify a treat in this society – food is everywhere and we’re told that it’s good for us (or that we can have it in moderation. That’s a load of shit if I’ve ever heard it). Some of us know better, but the majority of people don’t. And even those of us that know the score fall prey to the industry from time to time.
Carbs are addictive. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine. There’s a reason why sugar is in everything. It releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good and we’re hooked – our brains love sugar. It’s an easy form of energy, nothing to convert, no work to do. Have it once and your brain wants more. Have it twice and you may as well give up the ghost.
When people go on low carb diets, or start eating Primally/Paleo, there’s an initial detox period, which can last from 2 to 3 weeks. They can feel tired, lethargic, cranky, as their bodies adjust to having to convert fat and protein into energy instead of having a quick, easy supply of glucose. Once you’re over that first hump, the real energy kicks in. If you’ve never eaten low carb for an extended period of time, let me try to explain how it feels: Imagine the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had. You get up feeling refreshed, the sun is shining and all is right with the world. Exercising gives you an extra euphoric blast of energy. At 3 in the afternoon, you feel like you could run a marathon. Oops! You forgot to eat lunch. No worries, you still feel great. After eating, you feel even better – not bloated or tired. Nothing about your day seems overwhelming and even after a long day, you don’t feel like sitting on the couch. When you crawl into bed at night, there are no aches or pains or complaints. THAT’S the type of energy I’m talking about. Most of you have never experienced it. For me, this energy is usually accompanied by an extremely positive attitude, which makes me feel better in and of itself. It’s a great way to feel.
So, why would someone give up feeling this way and go back to eating sugary crap? Because sugar is addictive. As a race, we are ALL addicted to it. Don’t try to fool yourself – that means you too (I’m assuming you’re a human being). Even if you abstain from sugar and carbs, you know the pull I’m talking about. It will be there in some form for the rest of your life, just like a recovering alcoholic. One drink may not make an alcoholic relapse into a slobbering drunk, but you bet your ass if they drink consistently for 3 or 4 days, it certainly won’t be easy to pull the Jim Beam out of their shaking fingertips. Sugar is the same way for me and I assume, most of you.
Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple explains how things can quickly get out of control:
“What used to be a “fallback” 20% gradually, insidiously gravitates toward 30%, even 40%. Instead of a margin of error, the concept of 20% takes on a new life of its own. Practical contingency gives way to self-justification. And so the cycle continues…. Primal focus and/or motivation wane, practical planning apparatus isn’t maintained, and daily habits begin to shift.”
I was completely grain and sugar free for almost a year, so when I started to cheat, I didn’t see any effects right away. I didn’t automatically gain 40 pounds, or have my face break out. What I did do was start to crave carbs again. Sugar is a drug and our brains will talk us into it, again and again and again. It was so easy to justify. A couple of weeks ago, I hit a low point. I was stressed, not exercising and sneaking bits of carbs when I fed my kids, which was making me crave them all day long. I was in the mall and didn’t even hesitate – See’s Candies was there, and they needed my business. I bought 3 chocolates, took them home and enjoyed every bite. The next day my husband bought me some 60% chocolate, which I ate (I usually eat 85-99%, 60% has way too much sugar). Then, the following day I was in the mall again (don’t ask). It wasn’t even a conscious choice to visit See’s again. I ordered the same thing. On the way home, I said the following to my husband: “I wonder how long it will take before I start to see some of my hormonal problems come back. I know I can’t keep this up.”
Well, I had the answer about 20 minutes after I ate that last batch of chocolates. It took about 3 months for my skin to clear up after going Primal. It only took 3 days of eating relatively small amounts of sugar for me to break out again. THREE DAYS!! I also experienced minor blood sugar crashes, general bitchiness and lack of energy.
I’m detoxing right now. You would think that after a year of eating clean, it would be easy. But it’s not. So far, I haven’t had any other problems crop up and I have had an answer to a question that’s been bugging me for a while now: how long does it take to undo all the benefits gained from going Primal? The answer: not long at all. It’s sad, really. I have discovered that if I can truly keep that 20% at 20%, I’ll be fine. When it starts creeping up to 30% or 40%, that’s when I have problems.
My friend Sonia (who I think I’ve converted to this way of life, yay!) came across this blog talking about the “Detriments of Eating Paleo/Primal.” I could have written it myself. Give it a read for some of the benefits of going Primal/Paleo, including the energy I was talking about earlier. See, it’s not just me!!!
Also, I stumbled upon a website talking about sugar. There’s a video that you should watch if you’re at all interested in your health. It’s 90 minutes long, and gets pretty in depth but most of the good stuff is at the beginning.
“Anyone who is still in the dark about exactly how carbohydrate in general (sugar and HFCS specifically) botches-up the blood chemistry and ramps-up the body’s fat storage mechanisms, needs to pay close attention. And get ready to be schooled — though, in a very entertaining way.”