So more than a month after I finished the 21 Day Sugar Detox I’m finally ready to post a review about it. And honestly I’m glad I waited, because my thoughts on it have changed slightly in the last week.
For those who missed my previous posts about it, the 21 Day Sugar Detox is a 21 day elimination diet by Diane Sanfilippo. Unlike other elimination diets like the Whole30, which focus on healing your gut or discovering food allergies, this ones primary goal is to detox from sugar. Which I needed. Big time.
Throughout most of September and October, I found myself reaching for things I knew I shouldn’t be eating – nightly hot chocolate, more than one chocolate chip cookie, my midnight dash to 7/11 for M&Ms….
Right around this time Diane released the 21DSD in book form (previously it was available through digital download from her website). I decided it was fate, checked the book out of the library and set my start date for November 4.
The 21 Day Sugar Detox is split into three levels: a beginner level for non-paleo people that still includes some grains, legumes and dairy products; an intermediate level that excludes grains and legumes; and an advanced strict paleo level. I did level 3.
So you might be wondering, if it’s a strict paleo detox, how is it different from the Whole30? Well there are a few more things you’re giving up. Mainly fruit and starchy vegetables like sweet potato. The point is to break your body’s craving of sugar, so you eliminate all sugar, even natural.
The first few days I definitely felt the withdrawal symptoms, mostly lack of energy. There were two days where, even with a full night’s rest, I was falling asleep on the couch mid-afternoon. I also experienced headaches during those days. But I quickly realized these symptoms could be fixed just by eating more food.
If you cut out food groups, you have to remember to replace them with something else. This is super important and I see this mistake all the time from people who try going paleo and say they don’t feel well. If you’re used to eating a hardboiled egg and toast for breakfast, you can’t just eat the hardboiled egg and think you’re good. Eat two! Add vegetables.
Week 2 was filled with highs and lows. Highs because the detox forced me to make healthier decisions. On the Saturday of week 2 I attended a conference. Lunch was your typical pizza, cookies, soda and the like. Even though I keep gluten, dairy and soy free at home, occasionally I cheat when going out. This would have been a time when I would have cheated.
But I didn’t. I found a small salad and picked out the croutons. I brought my own dried veggie snacks. I drank water. And I felt great. The same thing happened at a friend’s birthday. I passed up the pizza, beer, birthday cake and ice cream and instead brought my own dinner.
But my lows came from letting my emotions get the better of me. Like I’ve blogged about before, some of the biggest “problems” that comes from strict paleo detoxes are mental. No one cared that I brought my own food to the conference or to my friend’s birthday party. In fact my friends are incredibly supportive of my food choices. But in my head I felt like I was an outsider.
By week 3 I was done mentally. I honestly just didn’t give two shits anymore. In fact, the only reason I actually finished the detox was because the last week I ate 100% at home. So I could easily keep to the detox by just not buying any groceries that I shouldn’t eat.
I did, however, cheat with one thing. Sweet potato. Technically you’re allowed sweet potato but only if you’re exercising. My running 2 miles a few days a week doesn’t count.
I can’t even remember how it happened exactly, but there was one day in week 3 that I realized I was pissed at the world. And it had been showing with my interactions with Jake. He’s amazing and took it in stride. But it wasn’t pretty.
So when I went grocery shopping I grabbed a few sweet potatoes. “Ha!” I thought, “Take that stupid 21 day sugar detox!” I know, real mature. But strangely, it worked. My mood improved by leaps and bounds and I finished off the detox thinking “This actually isn’t that bad. I could probably continue for longer than 21 days.”
In the end, I finished with mixed feelings about the detox. On one hand, it had worked. Even though I ate a few cookies and sweets at Thanksgiving, my cravings for sugar were gone.
But it had also turned me into an incredibly moody person. I’ve never gotten that reaction from the Whole30. If I ever do the detox again, I will definitely include sweet potatoes, even if I’m not exercising.
Although honestly I’m not 100% sure I would want to do it again. I’m not a big fruit person so I pretty much already exclude it from my diet. So in a way, doing the Whole30 works better for me. It includes sweet potatoes and unlike the 21DSD excludes “paleo-fying” recipes. So I can’t use baking sugar free sweets as a crutch.
But that’s just my experience. Like I mentioned before, the main objective for the 21 day sugar detox is to break sugar cravings. And it definitely does that. And if you’re someone who still eats most grains, legumes and dairy, I think level 1 would be a good fit. It just wasn’t a fit for me.
However, I did say my opinions have changed slightly in the last week. As I was collecting my thoughts for this blog post, I came across these two pictures:
The first photo was taken at the end of September. I unfortunately don’t have a photo from right before the detox started, but I’m assuming I looked about the same. The picture on the right was on Thanksgiving, the day I stopped the detox. Can you see the difference in my face?
Now, I don’t own a scale anymore. I realized I get too obsessive about the number so we just got rid of it. But I’m pretty sure I weighed around 130 lbs in both photos. At most there might be a 2 to 5 lb difference. But to me, the difference in how my face looks is huge.
Because of that, I recommend this detox for one more thing. If you have an event coming up, maybe a wedding or big party, and you want to make sure you look your best, you might try the 21 day sugar detox. . It will definitely be a lot more pleasant than those three day juice fasts that most people do.