My 21-Day Sugar Detox Update: 1 Week Down, 2 To Go!

January 8, 2013 in Categories: by

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So, I have been following my slightly modified version of Diane Sanfilippos’s 21-Day Sugar Detox for a whole week (my modification is the addition of grapefruit to the list of allowed fruits, which I explain in this post).  I have been doing this in conjunction with following the autoimmune protocol, not allowing myself snacks (except 1 day, which was really only because I made pork rinds and they were just too darned tempting not to), and starting to wean myself off of caffeinate tea (well, I really only started this 2 days ago, but that’s because my mom was visiting and it’s really hard not to drink tons of black tea around my mom).

So, how is it going?  Actually, pretty well.  I have been taking photos of my meals and posting them on Facebook to share with anyone who is interested.  Many people see the autoimmune protocol as so restrictive that you can’t possibly eat good food, so it’s nice to be able to show evidence to the contrary.  It’s also nice to share with you just how often I eat fish, organ meat, broth, and fermented foods, which many people are intimidated by when they first approach the autoimmune protocol.  I hope that you have found these photos useful and/or inspiring.  I’m still not sure if I will keep this up for the whole 3 weeks, but I’ll try.

Maybe, I should have been taking photos of the foods I found tempting that I didn’t eat.  Mostly fruit, since I know that any paleo baked goods with nuts or eggs will exacerbate my autoimmune disease, those rarely hold my attention.  There have been daily (several times daily) temptations, times when I would have normally eaten more and more fruit.  Like when my youngest sat beside me with a small bowl of dried apricots that her Daddy gave her (it was more than I would have given her and if it had not been the 21-Day Sugar Detox, I would have easily relieved her of 3 or 4).  Like when my oldest ate three quarters of an apple (my kids like Fuji apples, which are too sweet to be considered 21-Day Sugar Detox-compatible) and I normally would have popped those last few pieces into my mouth without even thinking of it.  Like when I bought the nicest looking green grapes at the grocery store yesterday.  They must have been good because my kids demolished half the bag between snack and lunch today.  Like any time I have honey or maple syrup on my fingers and I would normally just lick my fingers and instead I have to wash my hands.  These temptations have been on top of the few that are related to me being on the autoimmune protocol, like my kids eating fresh pecans from my CSA box (which I have to crack for them), or my husband sneaking an entire bar of extra dark chocolate into his lunch box to bring to work (which he said was to eat over several days, but I can’t fact check that one).

In the normal course of life, this extreme deprivation would not be good for me.  I would get frustrated and resentful and eventually binge on a giant bowl of frozen mango or banana chips.  I do mean giant.  I feel so dedicated to this experiment though, that I’m feeling at piece with the deprivation.  I need to know one way of the other if my fruit habit is hindering the healing of my autoimmune disease.  It’s only 2 more weeks.  I can make it.

I can make it in part because I am cooking foods I love.  I am eating bacon (never a bad thing).  My meals are large and satisfying.  And it’s only 2 more weeks.

So, how am I feeling?  I haven’t had any headaches.  I did have trouble falling asleep one night, but that may or may not be related to my lower carbohydrate intake and have slept very well since.  I have had tremendous energy for my yoga classes and a hike on Day 3.  Actually, if anything I feel like my cortisol is better regulated, in the sense that I wake up with some energy (would probably have more energy if my kids let me sleep later) and feel that energy slowly drain throughout the day.  I was crazy hungry on day 4, but felt my appetite reduced on day 5, and then leveled off again.  So, all-in-all the transition is going very smoothly.

Have I seen any benefits yet? Well, erm, not really, but maybe, I guess, I don’t really know.  I have not lost any weight, but that was not my primary goal here.  A friend actually mentioned that I looked like I lost weight a few days ago and I wonder if that has something to do with a little less bloating.  Hard for me to tell but I do think my pants are fitting a bit better.  I wish I had measured myself when I started so I could say for sure.  My skin seems about the same.  My lichen planus lesions don’t look any better or worse.  The little bit of cystic acne I had from some chocolate nearly a month ago has completely cleared up (finally!) but at the same time, I feel like I have more small surface stuff going on, maybe more redness, but it seems to be healing quickly.  Might be because I ran out of fermented cod liver oil two days ago (more should be arriving tomorrow!) or it might be a bit of a die-off detox-type reaction.  Or it might completely be imagination and this is what my skin always looks like.  The skin on my hands feels dry, but so do my kids, so I’m guessing that’s the weather instead of my diet.  I feel like I’m desperately searching for any one thing that I can say is for sure better or for sure worse.  I just can’t yet.

Just because I can’t point to obvious benefits yet doesn’t mean I’m giving up.  I happen to know that changes tend to be slow with my body (especially positive changes).  I happen to know that 7 days of anything is really too early to be making any judgements.  It’s also possible that nothing will be obvious until I try and add more fruit back into my diet.  Or maybe the conclusion to my big experiment will be that my fruit intake doesn’t really matter.

So, the great experiment continues… on to week 2!

I shared these photos on Facebook (with a description of what each meal included), but I thought those of you who aren’t as plugged into social media as I am (or for those who find the week in review interesting) might enjoy seeing them here.

I’m not going to re-itemize everything I ate this week (you can go back over my Facebook posts if you’re really interested), but since I’m on the autoimmune protocol, I thought you might be interested in a few super/healing food facts:

  • # of cups of bone broth: 3
  • # of meals with bone broth as an ingredient: 4
  • # of meals that included organ meat: 6 (heart and kidney this week)
  • # of meals that included fish: 6
  • # of meals that included bacon: 4 (pastured, sugar-free, nitrate/nitrite-free from )
  • # of meals that included vegetables: 21
  • # of meals that included meat on the bone: 1 (that seems low for me)
  • # of meals that included fermented food: 8 (that also seems low for me)
  • # of meals that included seaweed: 1
  • # of snacks: 1 (on day 3)
  • # of days with a spoon of coconut oil between meals: 3 (days 2,3 and4)
  • # of meals shaped like a smiley face: 1 (this needs improvement)


Wonderful post! Curious…I was thinking you noticed once how fermented foods were a bit of an issue for you…not any more? I am hopeful to be able to add them in at some point. Almost day 80 of SCD…nightshade, nut, fruit free….and low to no fodmaps….hoping the break for my system will equal the ability to try kraut again at some point. Horrible reaction to it..I.e. bloating, constipation, eats in September. A always, I adore your posts…your knowledge and honesty, thank you!

I wasn’t sure if the yeast in fermented foods were causing a problem or not. I seem to be handling sauerkraut really well, but that’s quite low yeast. I’m still unsure of kombucha but I’m trying some. I switched from making kefir to using a yeast free probiotic to make coconut milk yogurt and that’s working well for me too.

Sounds like a pretty dramatic reaction to kraut. I wonder if it’s FODMAPs or fiber? Did you make your own? An older kraut would be easier to digest… Good luck!

Thank you! You know, i hadn’t thought of kraut being a FODMAP issue but in the elimination diet FODMAPS have shown to be an issue for me, at least early on. Maybe i’ll try fermented carrots instead of cabbage!

Thanks. I find myself really posting the photos more for the autoimmune protocolers out there than the 21-day sugar detoxers (although I’m happy for whoever the photos help!). :)

The food pictures are beautiful and helpful! Thank you for doing that. I am trying to do the 21 day Detox on the AI protocol too. I am struggling to let go of nuts/seeds because they are my go-to food if I must delay a meal or need a snack. I’ve been craving a treat at night after dinner, but last night a green apple drizzled with coconut oil and covered in cinnamon seemed to help with that. I am modifying the plan too, I think, because I know my digestion needs some soluble fiber in the form of complex carbs from veggies, so I am worrying my detox is too high carb. None of the carbs are sweet or fruit (except for 1 grn apple/ day). Should I be concerned or keep going?

No officially. Officially, I am allowing myself a green banana or green apple too. It’s just that I find grapefruit helps my digestion, so when I’m making a choice, grapefruit seems to win every time. Plus, I have a ton of grapefruit and oroblancos in the house now and only ripe bananas and red apples. :)

Something that stood out for me in your post was your comment about “extreme deprivation”. I think we Americans need to reevaluate how we phrase things to ourselves because one could hardly call your diet (based on your pictures) one of deprivation, let alone extreme deprivation. I think technically extreme deprivation would be no food or water. This is not meant as a criticism, because I do the same thing. But more of as a reminder that what we say to ourselves is both descriptive and prescriptive (?). I’ve been struggling with the sugar detox myself because I was really indulging in lots of sugar and carbs over the holidays. I need to remind myself how much more valuable a diet rich in protein and fresh veggies is – that rather than depriving myself I am in fact lucky enough to be able to eat a diet that most people in the world would consider an extreme luxury.

Thank you for posting your pictures on Facebook. I am on the AI Protocol, and I thought I was eating enough vegetables with my meals, but after seeing your pictures, I really ramped up the veggies I now have to about 1/4 meat, 3/4 veggies. I am feeling better too.

Yay for feeling better! Without measuring, I always keep Dr. Terry Wahls recommendations of 9 cups of veggies per day (3 cups green, 3 cups cruciferous, 3 cups colorful). I don’t measure and don’t stress getting exactly 3 cups of each per day, but I do feel better when I eat a lot of veggies too! :)

Great post and chronicle of your sugar detox…While I applaud your efforts and sincere search for knowledge in “what works/does not work” for your own personal digestive health…the “extreme deprivation” sentiments you expressed are decidedly NOT healthy…The “tracking”/hyper-awareness of what your children and husband are eating (fruit pieces/chocolate bars) and your acknowledgement of the difficulty/frustration of NOT licking your fingers for the errant drips of maple syrup…rings a little too close to “home” for someone who is struggling with recovery from eating disorders. I struggle with “not licking the spoon”…not tasting the sauce ..being way too “aware” of what my family is eating/not eating when in a restrictive phase of my anorexia…Please take these signs as a cue to let up on yourself a tad…I so worry that 21 Day Detoxes or even severely strict Paleo adherence can engender or “feed” eating disordered behavior.

Thanks for these awesome posts! I’m just curious–why no snacks? I haven’t read the 21DSD, but is that one of the recommendations? Or is that your personal preference?

Curious- you say you had a breakout that took a month to clear from eating chocolate? I know chocolate is not AIP friendly, but isn’t cystic acne hormonal? I can see chocolate with a high sugar or dairy content causing such a breakout- were you eating that type? Or did 85 percent dark chocolate cause it? If so, what is the science behind that? I am asking as a chocolate lover who has PCOS, endometriosis and symptoms of Candida overgrowth other stuff too. Holistic Doc put me on AIP and I’m finding it very difficult to do without eating an entire can of full fatt coconut milk a day which thwarts weight loss efforts to stabilize hormones.

It was 85% dairy-free, soy-free, organic, the works. And only a square. My understanding is that cystic acne can also have something to do with lymph drainage, which would imply a relation to immune activation.

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