Hi! I’m Lauren and I quit eating sugar, dairy, bread, alcohol and fried food for an entire month.
It all started when I noticed I was going out a lot, drinking more and more, to a point where my drinking and poor food decisions started affecting my workouts, weight and work performance.
You see, I run with a women-led trail running group here in Kansas City called the Mud Babes. I’m also on Team Run 816, sponsored by Run 816, a local runners’ shop. And I’m in a half marathon training group, Train 816, training to race in the Hospital Hill Half Marathon June 3rd.
I can officially say I workout and run more than the average person. I try to watch what I eat and how many calories I consume. But I’m not very good at making healthy food choices.
My diet was getting out of hand. I drank coffee with at least four creamers and several sugar packets every morning, bought Cheez-It’s and anything with processed cheese from the vending machine every afternoon, ate McDoubles a couple times a week and chowed on buffalo wings with blue cheese at least once a week.
I watch what I eat however I would have a great food day where I’m within my caloric range but then I drink a glass of rosé, then another, then another until my calories for the day are completely shot. And let’s not forget all the crappy food I eat when I’m buzzed or drunk or hungover. So just one night of drinks screws up my caloric intake and running schedule for at least two days.
As a woman in her early 30’s, I don’t bounce back quickly from a night of cocktails and beer so I would scrimp on my workouts the next day. Even though I was running at least 10 miles a week, I was actually gaining weight. And I didn’t feel my best. I felt sluggish when I ran, like I had lead weights in my feet.
During the last week of April, after a particularly busy week of social drinking, I told my boyfriend I was going to give up alcohol for the month.
But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that alcohol is only one of the health culprits in my life. Cutting out alcohol will help me lose maybe five pounds and I won’t eat as terribly but I wanted a drastic change.What if I quit eating sugar?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to cut out sugar once before and that lasted one day, seven years ago. This was uncharted territory and I’m surprised I even thought it was possible to quit sugar. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he thought I was joking. A day later he was ready to join me except he upped the ante.
The no sugar, bread, dairy and alcohol diet rules
I quit eating sugar, dairy, bread, alcohol and cooking oils for an entire month. My boyfriend and I came up with our own set of diet rules:
- No natural or added sweeteners. This includes natural sugars like agave, honey, sugar cane, etc. The first week I consumed artificial sweeteners like Equal in my coffee and drank Diet Coke. However I nixed those after a couple of days because it seemed silly to say no to natural honey and yes to aspartame.
- No dairy. Farewell goat cheese, extra sharp aged cheddar and feta. This also includes no cream in my coffee, not even half and half or non-dairy creamer. I’m not a big dairy drinker (except in my coffee) so almond milk takes a hit, as well.
- No bread. I honestly thought my hardest vice to give up would be sugar but I was so wrong. I banned all forms of bread including grains like quinoa, rice and crackers (farewell, Cheez-It’s.
- No alcohol. What do you do for fun when you cut out alcohol? I still don’t know because everything I do with friends involves drinking alcohol in some way, shape or form. Or my plans include working out. That’s pretty much what I do for fun: drink or work out.
- No cooking with oils. Because my boyfriend did the detox for weight-loss purposes we excluded cooking oils like canola oil, coconut oil, butter, etc. This was only a little difficult at first. I didn’t know how to roast veggies or cook eggs without oil but with some experimentation I figured it out (use water).
- No fried food. It wouldn’t be called a diet if I could eat fried food. So long, potato chips (my boyfriend’s favorite snack in the entire world).
- No sausage. Again, because my boyfriend wanted to lose weight we decided eliminating super fatty meats like sausage and pepperoni from our diet was the best route for us. We joke about how much he loves sausage (because it’s just so damn tasty). Saying no was the easiest way for us to do this.
What we can eat: vegetables, fruit, meat, fat-free or non-dairy based salad dressing for massive salads and Mio water enhancer.
Things worth noting:
- Just because we quit certain foods doesn’t mean we believe these foods are “bad.” This is something we came up on our own and are by no means nutrition experts.
- We’re not following any specific diet except our own so we aren’t counting the carbs and sugars in our macro nutrients. I’m not giving up strawberries because they’re higher in natural carbohydrates.
- We aren’t weirdo jerks who insist the cooking staff at restaurants not cook with oils or ask for the ingredients of items. We understand that food cooked at restaurants will be cooked in butter or other oils and salad dressings will be high in calories. We just limited our dining out or ordered poached eggs instead of fried eggs.
- I tried drinking water without an enhancer and I just don’t drink enough water without it.
I announced on Facebook (my social media channel of choice) I was giving up sugar, bread, dairy and alcohol. I wanted to make sure all of my friends knew about my diet so I had accountability and they wouldn’t unknowingly tempt me. I received tons of support.
One acquaintance on Facebook warned not to eat too much fruit because I would gain weight. This really bugged me because I hate being told what people think I should and shouldn’t eat (I used to be severely overweight). And the idea that I could gain weight from eating too much fruit is preposterous due to my lifestyle of running 10+ miles in a single stint alongside the detox. I would have to eat a shit-ton of fruit to gain weight.
The first three days I felt really tired in the afternoon and got a fairly intense headache, which I hardly ever get headaches.
I began to post an update every day, something I wanted to keep up on a weekly basis. However on day two of updates, someone I hardly know, my boyfriend’s grandmother’s neighbor who I met once before, said “Milk is still good for you Protein”.
First of all, again with people telling me what they think I should and shouldn’t eat. Just don’t do it. Second of all, this milk is good for you bullshit has been debunked. Milk is so high in calories and saturated fats and there’s way better methods of getting nutrients like protein and calcium. So I just replied, “No thanks.”
This turned into a circus where another person chimed in that I should drink milk. Please note, in my rules above, that I’m not excluding a food from my diet because I think it’s bad for me. I LOVE cheese. The ignorance turned into a tirade and ended in me blocking one of the people. The other person apologized.
Fortunately that was the last time someone did that during my detox. Unfortunately, I stopped sharing updates as often because of this.
- Pack more fruits and veggies to eat at work so I don’t feel like I’m starving by the end of the work day.
- Talking excessively about my diet opens the door to potential unwanted feedback.
- Rx Bars and Lära Bars are awesome! They’re very tasty, fulfilling and contain simple ingredients.
I ran 12 miles with my running partner and bonked out at mile 9. It was my first long run in the heat and I failed to pack enough water or eat enough food prior to my run. I felt terrible. I didn’t know if I was going to puke, shit or pass out. When I got home I just laid on the couch and cried for a bit while my body worked through my mistakes.
I reached out to the running community for advice on whole foods I can eat prior and during long runs. The answer was apples and bananas before runs and Lara Bars during long-distance runs.
Two days later I went on a seven mile run with friends and made sure I was plenty hydrated. My energy levels were through the roof! After my run I met up with my boyfriend and the Kansas City Dog Club (a group he organizes) on a hike then ate steak and eggs for brunch.
- Mandarins and Just Mango Slices from Trader Joe’s are the best movie theater snacks.
- We made our first Nice Cream which has the consistency of ice cream but made entirely of blended frozen bananas. Freeze a few bananas, blend them along with vanilla flavoring for a couple minutes and it turns into nice cream. We’ve added cashews, strawberries, cacao powder and chia seeds as add-ins and it’s all delicious.
I noticed I have more clarity and focus at work. My primary job is writing and before when I was eating like crap I would feel like I was in a daze, like I was fuzzy-minded.
It’s also becoming easier to turn away food that isn’t allowed on my diet.
I used to not be a huge fan of fruit. I always thought it tasted too bitter. But now fruit tastes like heaven! It’s so sweet and fulfilling.
On day 18, I announced to all of my friends and Facebook that I was officially signed up for a 50K ultra marathon in November, something just a week prior seemed like a crazy idea.
Honestly, the confidence I have knowing that I can detox from sugar and carbs helped me decide to take on a 50k. My running partner had been talking to me about it but I had marked an ultra marathon down in my 2018 goals. Now that I quit sugar and bread I feel like I can do more than what I thought was possible.
Week three has me thinking that this diet is sustainable. Can I actually stay on this diet, (or a modification like it) to carry me to my first ultra marathon?
- I tried making Xocolatl Energy Balls from world renowned ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek’s book Eat & Run. After making a couple of tweaks I perfected the recipe for my go-to pre-run snack. This also marked the introduction of coconut oil into my diet (but only in this instance).
Week four is hard. Real hard. Because mentally I’m already thinking about my diet being over. I was planning to let loose June 1 with my boyfriend, however in light of the Hospital Hill Half Marathon on June 3, I’m staying on the diet just a few more days.
I already have my drinks planned out. The folks at Rock & Run Brewery are brewing a special peach wheat beer just for the race and are giving out pints after the run. After my race, I’m going to brunch with my close friends from the Mud Babes who also are running the half marathon. After that I’m going on a day trip to Weston, Missouri for a short hike, Rosé and more food.
Knowing that the end is just around the corner is so hard.
The diet results
- I dropped from size 12 to size 8 jeans. That’s insane. I still can’t believe it.
- I lost five pounds. Big whoop. See the first bullet point.
- My mind is sharper. I can focus on tasks longer than I could before, like writing for thirty minutes straight rather than ten.
- My friends and I actually went out and did stuff rather than sit around and drink. True story: my friend who plays recreational softball took me to the batting cages and I actually hit the ball 80 percent of the time!
- I feel less hungry. I still get hungry and hunger pangs sometimes but I don’t feel like I’m starving to death.
- I feel fuller when I eat a meal. I don’t know the science behind this, but my proof is that I couldn’t finish eating a Chipotle burrito bowl (without rice, sour cream or cheese). That’s just crazy.
- People tell me I inspire them to eat healthier. That’s pretty cool.
- Fruit tastes like a delectable dessert.
- I have a stronger sense of confidence in myself. I just accomplished what I thought to be impossible.
Towards the end of my diet, someone at a cookout offered me a beer and asked me what difference it would make drinking a few days before the month was over. I was friendly and declined but mulled it over internally.
What difference does quitting my diet make? It makes all the difference.
Leading up to my detox I was so worried about failing. But now I know I have the mental discipline to stop eating sugar, bread, dairy and alcohol. What other mental restraints do I have on myself?
What else am I stopping myself from doing for fear of failing or thinking something is impossible to accomplish?