Hello Fall in New England: Remaining Sugar-Free

Though we are still technically a few days away from the Fall Equinox, this weekend has felt like Fall in New England. The weather has been gorgeous with cold nights and mornings, warmer days, but a hint of crispness in the shade. We have had clear blue skies, puffy clouds, and the foliage is just beginning to hint at the promise of an extravagant color show to come. Yesterday I did a 6 mile run through the woods and the perfectness of the day filled me with joy, gratitude, and a glowing appreciation for this beautiful area of Western Maine. Apple picking and pumpkin hunting need to be added to our weekend agendas, and thoughts of the last fair of fair season in Maine (The Fryeburg Fair) bring about excitement to our young girls thoughts. They ask about rides, cider, donuts, and ice cream.

So, yes Fall means that there may be new temptations as sweets and sugar seem to continue to abound in the landscape of life. I have made it 5 weeks sugar-free, and a common question has been, so what has changed for you? As I have written about before, the changes have been subtle, and I have come now to appreciate these questions (mostly from yoginis) as a chance to really reflect on what the benefits have been.

I have lost some weight, but now I need to focus on making sure I get enough to eat that I don’t lose any more weight, as being underweight may affect the immune system. Losing weight was not really the goal of this change in lifestyle. I feel more “even” and do not have nearly the extreme swings and sudden outbursts in temper or loss pf patience with my kids that I had before. My energy and endurance are improving, and the other day I noticed with my running that I am able to do about 10% more mileage in a given time period then I was able to do before without feeling any more effort.

But I have to say the greatest aspect of being sugar-free is that my anxiety has decreased greatly. Things that would normally send me into an internal stomach knot, I am now able to contemplate, recognize the feelings, and start to breathe through them. I feel as if I am more aware of my body in yoga, and I am able to find my edge and then back off a bit to be in a greater state of focused relaxation. On the days I don’t work out, I don’t feel quite as antsy I usually do.

I still have not gotten my lab work done (hopefully I can do that this week), but my hope is that with the elimination of sugar and the associated processed foods, perhaps my high cholesterol levels will have come down. I think this will be a huge supportive factor in continuing this process.

I also know that I need to be gentle with myself, and I need to focus on an eating plan. I am currently reading the book the Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, (SATRP) and the author, Kathleen Desmaisons, has some great ideas about how to change your diet and lifestyle. I honestly had never thought of myself as a sugar addict,I was doing this as part of my yoga training, but when I look at her definitions and the lifestyle of a sugar addict, I realize that indeed I fall within the parameters of the sugar addict. I prefer to not eat breakfast, I prefer to eat a sugary treat as my first food of the day, I get hypoglycemic episodes, and I had my special foods and treats that nobody else was to eat.

With the SATRP, Desmaisons has a gentle and long-term approach to supporting the recovery from sugar addiction. Although I don’t feel I can completely start from the beginning of this program (you start by eating breakfast everyday that has a protein source), I would like to incorporate some of her ideas, such as eating 3 meals/ day at regular times and incorporating some protein, equivalent to 1/3 of daily needs, with each meal. I did order some protein powder to add some protein to some of my meals; I think being a vegetarian may make this a challenge. I have found some protein bars that are sugar-free and meet this criteria, and I will combine those with a piece of fruit for a meal. Hard boiled eggs and cheese will be my friends, as will veggie burgers, Quorn products, and beans. Desmaisons also recommends a potatoe before bed to increase serotonin levels and she offers an understandable and somewhat scientifically sound explanation for how this might work in the body and brain.

I know this will take a lot of planning, and trips to the grocery store, but I think the nurturing of my body is worth the effort I will need to put forth. I know that should I opt for a sugary treat, I should combine it with a meal to decrease the impact on my blood sugar and spend the time to really reflect on how my body-mind-spirit feel after having the treat. In all honesty, I almost want to have a treat to see if it really does make me feel woozy/ foggy, but perhaps I will wait until the fair to try it out…