Sugar Withdrawals: My 21 Day Sugar Detox Journey


The 21 Day Sugar Detox is the brainchild of nutritionist Diane Sanfilippo, the driving force behind Balanced Bites and author of Practical Paleo, her New York Times bestselling cookbook. Simplified to 21DSD, it is a real-food based program designed to help you break free of your sugar habit! It is a three week program focused on eating quality protein, health fats and good carbs, as well as giving special attention to lifestyle, sleep and movement.

Anyone of us can easily become addicted to sugar at anytime! It can manifest itself through carb cravings, mood swings, acne, premenstrual syndrome, fatigue, and other health issues, and increases inflammation throughout the body. But overcoming addiciton is possible through the 21DSD program!

As I have been living a paleo lifestyle since 2014, I assumed I was in pretty good shape. I’d been eating real food, cooking all my own food, and avoiding all processed foods. Yet, despite doing all the right things, sugar had craftily wiggled it’s way back into my diet! What’s more, indulging on yummy paleo desserts and treats over the holidays, I knew that with the new year approaching, it would be the right time for a detox!

The plan

Starting January 1st, I set out to free myself from my own sugar addiction using the 21DSD. My goals were to rid myself of carb cravings, bloating and a general detox to naturally eliminate sugar and toxins, and to keep inflammation at bay. I also I wanted to be more mindful about what, when and how much I eat, especially when it came to carbohydrates.

I chose the 21DSD Level Three, the paleo level, because it was pretty much the way I eat anyway, minus the sugar! To cover my issues with autoimmunity, I added the autoimmune modifications, abstaining from consuming eggs and nuts, as nightshades are already a food group I avoid like the plague!

Sugar withdrawals

The first couple of days went swimmingly, but soon the sugar withdrawals set in! I experienced headaches, and I rarely get headaches! The carb cravings were real, finding myself longing for something sweet after a meal, or actually thinking about chocolate!

My biggest struggle was constant hunger! After about a week of this, I figured that the program I had chosen was too low-carb for me, especially as I had stepped up my activity level around the same time! For this reason, I decided to add back small portions of sweet potato and plantains and other starchy vegetables, especially after working out. Doing this made me feel a lot better, helping me to feel full after eating, and increase my energy levels.

My results

The 21 Day Sugar Detox helped me achieve my goal of breaking my dessert habit. I now feel full after eating without having to rely on a lot of starchy vegetable to get me there! Detoxing wasn’t as difficult as I thought it was going to be once the first five days or so were out of the way! My hardest day was during the first week when I spend the day with a friend. The restaurant we planned to go to happened to be closed that day, and so the only choice I had was to watch my friend eat tacos while I went hungry!

21DSD Round 2

Even though Round 1 of my 21 Day Sugar Detox was a success, this doesn’t mean that I won’t need to do a sugar detox again in the future! As much as I hate to admit it, sugar has a sneaky way of wheedling it’s way back into what I eat! Here are some of the things I plan to do next time to ensure success!

Plan, plan, plan!

I didn’t follow the 21DSD meal plan, assuming I could rely on my usual paleo lifestyle minus the sugar. Not the smartest of ideas! For round two, I’ll plan menus week by week, and do a lot of batch cooking, making quick go-to meals, such as soups or stews that I can easily fill up on!

Ditch the modifications

As I had completed the Autoimmune Protocol back in 2014, it really wasn’t necessary to add the autoimmune modifications as I’m already aware of my food intolerances. Having said that, I found that excluding eggs made breakfast options especially challenging!

Go moderate carbs

Going sweet potato free didn’t really work for me! Without really thinking about it before, I set myself up for a pretty low carb detox program, eating a multitude of leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables, but not still not getting enough carbohydrates required for the levels of energy I was expending at the gym each day.

Partner up

Diane Sanfilippo spearheads numerous 21DSD Facebook support groups for people in the program. Still, I chose not to join her group at the time, but it would have been beneficial to share the detox journey with a friend or two for the added accountability and camaraderie!

Free stuff

Despite foregoing the support groups, I found the free printouts available for download on the 21 Day Sugar Detox website extremely helpful. My favorite was the Daily Success Log, which helped me to stay mindful of what I was eating, as well as keeping an account of my sleep and movement habits throughout. I actually looked forward to completing it every day!

#detox #health #paleo #21DSD #nutrition

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