No More Sugar?!

February is food change month at school. It is our belief at CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism that we can’t stand in our integrity as holistic herbalists, if we have not experienced the things we’re asking our clients to undertake. I was actually excited for this month on the outset, thinking “Oh, I’ve already given up gluten, dairy, soy, caffeine, fake fats, corn most of the time, alcohol most of the time, and switched to only natural sources of sugar like honey, maple syrup, and molasses. This will be so easy!”

But sitting in class knowing I needed to give up all forms of sugar other than relatively low sugar fruits (no bananas), as well as nightshades, I was overwhelmed with how loudly my inner addict was voicing her objections. Last month’s dairy free, gluten free, soy free chocolate chip binge notwithstanding, we don’t have a lot of sugar in our diet at home–certainly not much processed sugar anyhow–at least, I didn’t think so.

And then there was Day 1. That’s today by the way, and holy hell!! Last night my inner addict kept trying to convince me to have just one more day, one more day of the “good” stuff. Surely I could start tomorrow, right? But I knew if I didn’t start today, tomorrow would never come because well, sugar. It’s more addictive than cocaine. Truly. There’s a study to prove it and everything, and it’s such an ingrained part of our culture’s lives.

I have to admit right off the bat that we had French toast this morning. Hear me out, though! It was made with gluten free, dairy free, soy free bread, AND I didn’t put any honey or syrup on mine. Regardless, though, the bread was processed, and each slice had 3 grams of sugar in it. I won’t tell you how many pieces I had. Ok, fine. I had 5. I know, I know, but they weren’t very substantial, and I love food, and I hate feeling hungry. Ugh, inner addict, go away!

So ok, 5 pieces of french toast made with almond milk that no, was not unsweetened, so I figure with breakfast alone I had probably 20 grams of sugar, which is the recommended daily allowance for adults. Wow.

I immediately started to harp on myself about how I had screwed this day all up. I might as well go in whole hog for the rest of the day and start over tomorrow, I told myself. NO! No. All was not lost. This was merely a learning experience–a very eye opening learning experience. I had to remind myself what I have told many others over the years. This was only one meal. All is well. Plus, we don’t have French toast, or even bread, on most days, so my inner harpy could retreat back into her lair.

Unfortunately, for me my inner addict did not choose to join her. I ping ponged back and forth all day from craving something sweet and preferably chocolate to craving french fries. On top of the constant nagging from my inner addict, I am right in the thick of my monthly cycle (hello mood swings!), and we were in the house all day because of more snow. I must have been out of my ever loving mind to agree to this, which my husband very kindly pointed out to me. Luckily for him, it was after I had eaten some chocolate peanut butter mousse made from avocado that had no sugar added, and I was able to laughingly agree with him. I was actually smiling for what I’m pretty sure was the first time today, I was feeling full for the first time today, and my sugar addict was happy for the first time today. Yay! Avocados, cocoa powder, and peanut butter for the win!

Clearly, what my teachers said would happen, happened. I’m sure tomorrow will be another rough one, and perhaps even the day after that. BUT the good news is there is light at the end of this hopefully short tunnel and the benefits outweigh the struggle. My health is really important to me. I am willing to and can withstand anything, if it means feeling truly healthy.

I’m just thankful I have this blog to document it all, and great family and friends, and classmates going through similar changes this month to talk it all out with. When I post my progress in a week, I expect to be over the withdrawal period and in smoother waters, perhaps even pain free? I don’t want to jump any guns, but fingers crossed!

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To Bean or Not to Bean?

The saying “Old habits die hard” is so accurate, but it falls way short of conveying just how hard that death truly is, especially when it comes to food. Needless to say, I have been struggling lately. I was having a bit of a pity party about all the things I can’t eat and how hard it is and how I’m not sure how to reconcile this new knowledge I’ve gained about different foods with my spiritual beliefs where foods are concerned.
A little back story is in order, I think. Before I started herbalist school and learned all that I have about how certain foods affect the body, I was well on the road to becoming a dairy free ovo/pecto vegetarian, or as I liked to think of it, a vegan who still ate seafood and eggs 🙂 The only time my girls and I ate other types of meat was at dinner because my husband is a diehard carnivore, and it was too costly for us, and I was too unmotivated, to prepare separate meals. Dinner is his meal after all. He loves to cook as much, if not more than I do. I couldn’t take that from him, right?
So how did I come to the 3/4 vegan path? The short answer is through my spiritual journey. I have read many Doreen Virtue books in which she talks about healing herself through her veganism. She says that when you eat meat, you’re taking that animals essence into yourself, so all the pain and suffering most animals go through in their lives is locked away in that meat, and you consume it with each bite. Even if the animal is humanely raised, it was still killed, so we could eat it.
At the time I read this, I was already having some aversions to meat, especially pork. I prayed about it and asked the angels for help releasing all the foods that no longer served my highest good. My aversion to meat increased so quickly that I had to ask them to dial it back a bit because I was having a tough time with the transition. When you’ve eaten meat for 27 years, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to no longer eat it ever, even if I was a ¾ vegan.
Now with school I’m being taught that legumes have lots of toxins in them and very little nutrients and in order to even get to those nutrients, I have to soak and rinse my beans twice a day for a couple days. If I don’t do this, I will be gassy and bloated and will disturb my gut flora, which is already highly disturbed. And even if I do all this, beans aren’t actually as complete a protein as meat, even when consumed with a grain like rice. Well, shit. Now what? Any vegetarian/vegan knows that beans are a HUGE part of the diet. And I find it truly difficult to eat a lot of animal products.
This paleo thing is getting hard. Having to eat meat with every meal is tough. Really tough. Not to mention expensive. And I miss my black beans, pink beans, and chick peas dammit! But can I commit to soaking and rinsing over the course of a couple days just to eat some beany goodness? I sure as hell hope so!
I’m all for cutting out all grains except for rice, which is now limited, and I’ve already proven I’m fine with being dairy free. I’m good with not eating soy, limiting my fruit and nut consumption, although that is hard for a confessed fruit and nut lover, and eating twice as much veggies in a day as I was previously. I’m totally on board with all of those things, but I’m struggling hardcore with this inundation of meat and lack of beans.
Do I stick with this paleo lifestyle until I heal my body, and then slowly add the beans back in? Or do I say “Screw this!” and add the beans back in now, while sticking to everything else? My teachers did say that they could get behind someone who wanted to be an ovo/pecto vegetarian because you’re still getting the necessary animal proteins. So maybe I should stop overcomplicating things and go with that with the addition of my super soaker beans 😉
I am hyper aware now of all the stomach and digestive issues I have, which is part of the reason I was led to herbalism in the first place. I need to get those resolved through a whole foods diet supported by herbs, but that doesn’t mean I have to consume something that is not aligned with my spiritual path just because my mentors do. I am learning to trust in my gut more and more each day, and that is wonderful and about damn time!