Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Letting Go of Sugar and Cacao

Today I'm picking up where I left off in my updated health post regarding my sugar/cacao free diet plan for the next month, and how I am making it possible. Ideally I should be off sugar completely for a few years, as a result of all the damage I've done overdosing on sugar over the years. Instead, my goal is to take it one step at a time.

After going completely off cacao for 3 1/2 months, I proved to myself that I AM capable of going without, and I've vowed to take breaks every so often from now on. Some people can easily eat cacao occasionally (for many women it's during their time of the month) - not me. It's just like the person who cannot eat just one cracker or chip - funny, I AM someone who can eat just one cracker. But I have never been able to eat only a small piece of chocolate, or just a few bites of dessert.

On December 26, I went off sugar and cacao completely. For a while I will not even be having stevia or berries, but will reintroduce low glycemic sweeteners in a few weeks. Leading up to Christmas, I knew I had to take the step - but it was only on Christmas day that I actually decided to go for it.

Here's how I did it:

- The important thing for me was to tell myself that I WILL eat and enjoy these foods again. If I thought it had to be this way for the rest of my life, I never would have started, in fear of the deprivation.

- I have a willingness to do what is necessary for my health and mental emotional well being - this is big and what I believe to be a huge factor in avoiding self sabotage. From what I know, sometimes we don't think we deserve true health or happiness, or there is a long standing negative belief that is standing in the way of achieving health goals (or any goal, for that matter). I have done a lot of work with a spiritual therapist named Ria Caro (email me if you'd like her #) over the years to get to the bottom of why I use sugar, and it has helped tremendously.

- On a physical level, I have been giving my body lots of great fuel - specific low glycemic foods. Denyse has me on a high protein diet containing a lot of high quality animal products (much like a Paleo diet, and the meat/fish I eat is wild). While I know this appears scary to some people, I attribute the animal protein to my success. For the first time since becoming a vegetarian at the age of 14, I feel truly satisfied after a meal. I feel GOOD, and much more balanced eating this way. To me, this is a true test. Of course it's not for everyone - I know people who thrive on a raw vegan diet, and I did well for a while too. (I'll go more into my diet tomorrow).

- I eat small meals every few hours throughout the day to prevent energy crashes and cravings.

- I've dropped the idea of "eat light until afternoon". Despite the fact I did it for 13 years (juice, smoothie, or fruit), I don't think it worked very well for me, because I would often overeat at dinner, or would end up craving/eating sugary things most of the day (fresh/dried fruit, raw desserts, cacao). I now eat something substantial in the morning. Usually I have a salad with wild moose meat, or eggs and veggies.

Recap - My strategy for going off sugar:

1. I told myself it would only be for a while - that way my mind doesn't freak out and feel deprived.
2. A willingness to take the action required for my health.
3. Eating a high protein diet which includes animal products.
4. Eating every few hours.
5. I start off with a solid, low glycemic meal in the morning.

There you have it. A few steps and voila. It's been the most effortless thing and I'm still a bit in shock because I've tried to cut out sugar before and I never lasted. I was plagued with cravings and "no willpower" - but now I see that it's nothing to do with will power. I think that my body is getting what it needs, so it doesn't need to search out anything else.


  1. You said it best. When you know your body needs to let go, it'll let go without "willpower."

  2. Heathy, funny how that 'eat light till later' thing started.. when the truth is, you have fasted for at least eight or more hours when you wake up. My motto is, take a fasted walk or if not, eat breakfast as soon as you can after waking. Makes life just more fun and easier to keep your cravings at bay.
    Love you lots
    deb xoxo

  3. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I am devouring every word! I am in the same boat....years of too much sugar = depression/anxiety/fatigue, etc. I know exactly what I need to do, I'm just having such a hard time actually doing it. Going paleo-ish is a big hurdle for me. I have a hard time wrapping my head around eating so much meat. But, I know I need to do it, and my kids need to do it too. We are all sugar crazy around here. Once I can get my mind there, I know my body will follow.

    I am so excited to follow along with you and see how it all goes!

  4. Heathy!

    What a ways you have come, Dessert Goddess ;) From Cacao to Moose Meat, I am truly proud of you for making the commitment to your health and livelihood by taking healing action. It sounds like you have found what will be supportive to your healing process and that brings me joy! You know I can resonate with all of this, and the outcome of persistence and commitment provides such satisfactory results.

    Here's to healing and living in our power!

    I love you girl! You are an inspiration :)

    ~ Ali

  5. I will do a youtube response for this one to show people what happens when you become a carb phobic breakfast skipper and think you ill health is due to a lack of roadkill...

    Read 811 and join the fun or join the rest of the corpse munchers that struggle with fat gains longterm. Lierre Keith included. ;)

  6. Durianrider speaks lol! You did help me get over my fructo-phobia though. Thanks for that. 6 bananas a day is plenty for me however.

    Those all sound about right to me Pacemaker. My first big steps towards overcoming my sugarholism - and I was once the king - eating a couple chocolate bars per day and a pound or so of stale Halloween candy at the low point, started with very simple psychological shifts... as simple as allowing myself to enjoy sugary treats and adamant refusal to feel guilt over my choice to eat them.

    Then came a very regimented diet that combined unrefined starch, veggies, fat, and animal protein at regular intervals which had my stomach turning at the smell of chocolate for the first time in my life within a week.

    But as history showed, this diet too effed me eventually due to chronic lack of carbs. Fat-driven metabolism bad. Glucose-driven metabolism good.

    My advice - maintaining mental flexibility over the composition of your diet is the great secret. Trouble arises when people continue to eat the same diet due to some mental conviction (moral convictions common to vegans being the most atrocious, but Paleo can be just as destructive with the pseudo scientific aura that surrounds it). When the mind drowns out the body's requests, we lose. Our conscious thinking ability is absolutely pathetic and incomparable to the greater intelligence from which our bodies were constructed.

  7. I'm still consuming honey. Plus natural sugars from fruits and yogurts. Plus I eat a lot of squash and potatoes. I assume I can get enough carbs from those things?
    You are such an inspiration. You don't understand how helpful you are being. I hope to learn more about a detailed plan you follow. I'm not ready to "dive" in, but ready to do something.
    Keep in mind though that I've always been an animal eater. So, Iknow we're different.

  8. This is Epic, Harley VS Matt.. :)
    Matt has it right, Eat The Food.
    Harley, holding our breath waiting for your next youtube vid. They always give me a good laugh.

  9. Hey Heather,
    I really think you have a lot of courage, essentially letting go of one identity (raw) and moving into what your body really needs - which has a whole different identification/life style etc. I have many friends who have been through what you are going through - specifically needing some pretty serious health interventions after being raw a bit too long.

    As a fellow Pace, I know the love of sugar! You come by it honestly. Good luck and I think I will also try to at least cut down on some of my own sugar consumption. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Your cousin, Alicia

  10. Again Heather, I so respect your honesty in speaking out about your journey! You're energy is beautiful! Look forward to following how it all goes! Happy New Year :)

    (On a diet note though, did cutting out sugars include fruit both fresh and/or dried for you?)

  11. Thank you all for sharing!

    Harley, you're a character. I've tried 811, and it put me out of balance.

    Matt, I think Im getting more than enough carbs because I eat veggies at every meal, and do eat squash/yams. I dont believe that we're grain eaters.

  12. Chantal, thank you :) I have cut out fresh and dried fruit at the moment, but will add fruit back in again in a few weeks.

  13. Heather - reading all your blogs with great interest as hubby went down the same road with similar health problems after being vegetarian for 15 years.
    I personally think that we all have different needs and there is not 'one diet fits all' anymore.
    Having been a Raw Foodie for the last 5 years I am now re-evaluating the way I incorporate it into my life as I feel I have a very unhealthy relationship with food now as a result. Physically it has served me well thus far but emotionally I am way too judgmental about the things I eat and that is a dangerous place to be.
    Love that you are sharing your journey with us. Keep up the good work.
    Helen x

  14. Finally catching up after a super-hectic week: I'm so excited to be able to journey along with you in this! Very interesting that even stevia can trigger sweet cravings. Perhaps I've known this instinctively, because I tend to use it (and xylitol) sparingly, thinking that otherwise I'm missing the point.

    But I appreciate the no cacao thing: I made so many wonderful choccies over Christmas that inevitably I ate some, and it really has an obvious bad effect. It feels so good to commit to no more choc again, and to health and better balance.

    I'd love to hear more of how you are incorporating these new insights into your vocation as chef and yoga teacher.

  15. Hi Heather,

    I love hearing about your diet shift - I'm on the same path, too! No sugar or grains!! I do eat green apples and berries since those are low glycemic, which I know you will eventually. :)

    Anyway, I noticed you don't eat any beans. Is that just personal preference or is there a reason for it?

    Thanks for your candor!

  16. I must admit, I find what works for me and has done for years now.... have a decent size breakfast (My most fav meal of the day tbh) that'll keep me going until lunchtime (around 12/12.30 ish) and have a large lunch and then normally I am done for the day...maybe a few raw crackers or cookies but lots of herbal tea too. My digestion should be well over by the time I go to sleep by then to enable all my bodies energy to recuperate and repair during sleep instead of digesting.
    Bon courage!!!
    Loulou x

  17. What can I say but a big bravo to you Heather.. So happy to hear you are kicking the sugar habit..Much good luck to you..

  18. Thank you all for your comments and support!

    Moeign, yes the bean eating is just personal preference - I would, however go for beans over most grains. I might consider eaten beans at some point, as I used to enjoy them.

  19. you go girl lol. im actually on a sugar free life since two years ago. Im happee and proud for that. About the cacao, are u talking about the raw cacao beans? I love cacao. I have it once in a while not in nibs but powder, especially when I been good and all. I give myself a little treat. But that is good. I mean its very impressive that u are keeping firm to what u want. I know you will succeed. Im positive. I gave up bread, dairy and meat and candies (b-cus of the sugar).
    my best wishes.

  20. Hi, great blog. I've just started mine ( I think we have the same background). I find what you're writing very interesting because I've been a pescatarian since I was 12, and just recently I've adopted a raw diet which is what I'm writing about. I've been sick recently due to too much nuts and cacao I think. I've been searching for a long time to find a balanced and satisfying way of eating, such as you are describing.
    Tnx :)