This week I spontaneously decided to do a sugar detox. I thought it would be a great way to reset my sugar cravings, increase my energy and well-being, and improve my overall health. Instead, I’m feeling worse, and reflecting on why I stopped eating a strict paleo diet in the first place.
Yeah, I’ve probably been eating too many organic chocolate bars and homemade treats, but really, I’ve felt good regardless. Truthfully, I think part of the reason I’ve felt well is because I quit paleo, not in spite of it.
Why I quit paleo
To say paleo gave me my life back would not be inaccurate.
As I began my healthy living journey, I essentially restricted foods until I finally felt better.
First, there was msg and high fructose corn syrup.
I tried veganism soon after that, which was really more an exercise in self-punishment than seeking health. I didn’t feel a bit better on a vegan diet, but it did begin my love affair with getting creative in the kitchen.
Following that failed experiment, I began sprouting and grinding my own wheat berries and making traditional sourdough. Surely this would be the key to easing my debilitating symptoms. But it didn’t help much. And was a LOT of work for a mama of several tiny children.
Desperate for relief, I eliminated all refined sugar, which helped, but finally pulling the plug on grains was the real catalyst for change in my health.
By day five, the joint pain and constant bloating were gone. I felt like the clouds had parted and angels were singing. Surely this was the way to health.
And for many people it is.
But after time, my symptoms began to return.
Breaking up with paleo
My path to quitting paleo has been a slow fade, a single drop in the bucket of balance.
I spent a long time on a low carb, grain-free diet, and it worked for me. I really felt good.
But migraines persisted, albeit less frequently, and the stress of remaining on a “perfect” diet was constant. After having my fourth son, I was back to feeling worse than ever, despite still eating mostly grain-free.
I was mystified as to how I could be back to feeling so awful. I thought if I could just stick with the right diet, and keep everything under my control, I would get better. I got more stressed and sicker.
Ketosis: the holy grail of paleo eating
I had done the GAPS diet in the midst of all of this, and during the intro portion, actually felt really well. My son did really well on it too.
The GAPS intro diet sends most people into ketosis, a state where your body begins burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. It’s effective for weight loss. It helps with neurological conditions, as high fat diets tend to really fuel the brain.
Later, when I felt out of control with my health, I attempted to return to the GAPS diet, with disastrous results, which goes to show that if something works at one time, it might not work the same at another time, because our bodies (and needs) are constantly changing. And that if you don’t enter into big changes with thoughtful prayer, you may miss the Holy Spirit’s warning (more on that later).
As I began the sugar detox this week, my body began to enter ketosis. I was a mess. Short and snappy as I homeschooled my kids, mean to my husband. I experimented with adding some carbs back in, but it wasn’t enough.
My breaking point was a couple of nights ago, when I was on the verge of throwing up. I finally ate a handful of fruit and instantly felt better.
Detox vs detriment
I’ve been through a number of detox diets. Usually, I see enough benefits that I want to keep going.
I know what it feels like to feel good as you fuel your body with what it needs and cut out junkie foods that make you feel bad. I also know what it feels like to stress my hormones by restricting carbohydrates, as my hair falls out, insomnia and panic attacks return, and I become so tired and grouchy I can hardly stand myself.
Today’s 4:30 am wake up call was the last straw. I simply cannot afford this insufficient, disturbed sleep. It’s far harder on my body than eating fruit and sweet potatoes. (Which actually aren’t bad for me at all.)
The truth is, prior to starting the detox, I’d been feeling really great. My mood has been the most stable I can remember it being in a long time. I’ve had no joint pain, migraines are becoming scarcer, and I’ve finally, blessedly been sleeping through the night.
This sugar detox has been detrimental to my health, and I’m not too proud to say I made a mistake. At this time, my body needs more than I’m giving it, and I cannot be so rigid and punish my body into submission.
Which brings me back to why I quit paleo in the first place.
Does paleo cause eating disorders?
I recently read an article about how the paleo diet gave Karen Pendergrass, the CEO of The Paleo Foundation, an eating disorder. While I didn’t relate strongly to the article, it gave me pause.
Has restrictive eating caused me to have disordered eating? I don’t think so. But I do think we have to be careful about sticking with something just because it’s what we’ve been doing, and any changes will be viewed as weakness.
It’s not weak to admit you may be off course and your body needs foods you once thought of as “bad.” Foods you once warned everyone against eating. It’s not admitting defeat to try eating those things again.
Eating grains again
Throughout the last several years of eating strictly and not-so-strictly, moving several times, seeing my son totally healed from behavioral disorders only to regress nearly completely, and experiencing total healing myself only to regress completely, I’ve learned that eating a stricter paleo diet doesn’t really help.
It turns out that just eating a balanced diet has been what has helped me feel better. And minding my stress and sleep.
I needed to cut grains from my diet for a period. Going through ketosis has been helpful at times. I needed to work on healing leaky gut in order to begin properly digesting my food again. Eating a paleo diet allowed me to do that, as I ate easier-to-digest foods while my gut healed.
After time, though, it’s become clear that unnecessarily restrictive eating can lead to nutritional deficiencies, and may not be good for long-term health. At least for me.
Carbohydrates aren’t the evil I thought they were.
Women need carbohydrates. Lost of ’em. They are essential for proper hormone production, and when we restrict carbs long-term, hormone imbalances tend to occur.
For years, I’ve preached a low carb diet. And I think it bears repeating: a grain-free, low-carb, keto-style diet can be super healing, but I don’t think it’s a good solution long-term.
I’m starting to see lots of paleo bloggers beginning to incorporate grains and even traditional gluten into their diets. The paleo police have had a field day, but these are the same folks who will yell at you for eating a potato. I wonder if these bloggers are experiencing what I’m experiencing. Yes, I felt great at first, but eventually my symptoms returned, even while continuing to adhere to a strict diet.
As I’ve began to let go of my need for strict control of my diet and incorporate foods I tolerate well back into my meals, I’m feeling better.
I don’t know if I’ll ever tolerate gluten well, but for now, I’m eating a balanced diet, which includes unlimited meats, vegetables, eggs, raw milk, cheese and other dairy products, gluten-free grains like rice, corn, and quinoa, starches like cassava and tapioca, and treats when I feel like it. I feel really good and I don’t want to change that.
No more detox for me
I’m throwing in the towel. The truth is, I didn’t pray about starting this sugar detox; I just decided on a whim to do it. I think if I had prayed, I would’ve heard a Holy Spirit whisper warning me that right now is not a good time to put my body through this.
That right now, my body is better balanced than it’s been for a long time, and sending it into a tailspin is foolish.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’ 1 Corinthians 3:19
Do as I say, not as I do.
Does that mean I think you should stop eating in a way that works for you? Of course not! If a sugar detox feels good- do it! If eating low-carb, grain-free is healing your body, go for it!
But pay close attention to how you feel; watch for symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Don’t over restrict yourself in an attempt to get healthy.
You can’t punish your body into health. Trust me, I should know.