21 Day Sugar Detox Complete!

My wife and I just finished the 21 Day Sugar Detox protocol that we started after the Christmas season. I had been feeling a little gross and my immune system had been dragging over the holidays, in part because of the amount of sugar I found myself eating! It's so easy to indulge when sweet things are all around you (and I had a good time with it, don't get me wrong)--however, I decided that a comparable period of time with very little sugar would be a good reset to do, and Diane Sanfilippo's well-received protocol (and new book) seemed perfect! 

The Detox Experience

Throughout the detox we cut out added sweeteners of any kind, but besides that we pretty much like we normally do. My wife craved chocolate or something slightly sweet after dinner most nights for the first part of it, but after a few days I noticed that my sugar cravings had gone down almost to nothing, which is really one of the main points of the detox. The really interesting thing that I took away from it was how I had been misinterpreting the signals I was getting from my own body. In almost every case, when I had the craving for something really sugary, what I actually wanted was real food! Usually protein and fat. I was really just hungry, and my thought processes were going to candy and ice cream first.

Breaking the Mental Pattern

I started changing my mental pattern and every time I would think, "Oh man, some sugar would be really good right now," I would take a second and ask myself if any other foods also sounded good. Lo and behold, everything sounded good, especially meat. I would end up saying, "Man, some sugar would be good... Oh, wait, some ground pork also sounds really good!" and I would go eat that instead. I've found that I need carbohydrates in my diet to feel my best, and am constantly telling people how the Paleo Diet, as it exists now, is not necessarily a low carb diet, but the mental pattern of reaching for sweets when I was really hungry for nourishment was something it was great to get out of. (Other sources of carbs are usually more nourishing.)

The 21 Day Sugar Detox protocol is great for many reasons, and I feel almost like I could do it any time without trouble. It wasn't hard to keep up, and I found that I lost a few pounds of fat over the course of doing it. If you feel like you're stuck on the sugar roller coaster and want to find some more balance, I suggest checking it out!

You can check out the 21 Day Sugar Detox book and the companion cookbook with more than 100 additional recipes. You can do a detox by just cutting out all sugar for a while, but the book is really great because of all the background information it contains on how sugar works in the body, what issues it can cause, and why people seem to be so addicted to it. It also has individualized plans for people with different needs and has a bunch of amazing recipes, some of which we tried with deliciously great success.

It was also perfect that during our detox we got to see Diane Sanfilippo speak during the Balanced Bites/Nom Nom Paleo/Primal Palate book tour ("#paleotour".) Lucky us!
Source: Wife's IG


It's delicious because it's good for you.

We've all been tricked! Our biology has been hijacked and it's causing us so many problems. When modern, industrial food processing and preparation came along and everyone started buying TV dinners and everything in a can, our taste buds could no longer be trusted. Before this, when there was only local food access, nobody had to worry about whether or not something tasty was good or bad for you. If you were a hunter/gatherer and you found something oily, sweet, or salty, it was a godsend! Precious dense nutrients!

We evolved to think salt, sugar, and fat taste good because, in nature, those substances are the best sources of energy to fuel our body, and they're hard to come by. (There's an entire book by this title. I haven't read it but the concept sticks with me.)

But now, foods that are salty, sweet, and fatty are addictive and we see them everywhere in our culture--and they make us unhealthy.

I started thinking about this a lot earlier because I heard somebody on the radio say the simple sentence, "Bacon tastes so good, but the fat is so bad for you." Which I know is not necessarily true (note this article, this article. But I wondered how we've gotten to a point in the world where we all think that nothing that tastes really really good can also be good for your body. How have we gotten to this place?

It used to be, tasty foods were healthy

This wasn't always how it was. In the wilderness, things that are poisonous tend to taste really awful. Why? So that we don't eat them! Fruit tastes sweet so that we will eat it, spread the seeds around, and help them pass on their genes. And it has some nutritional value to us, particularly if we're hunting and gathering and need fast energy. Our biology recognizes sweetness as a marker that a food has a lot of valuable energy for us. The same is true with fat, which gives us stable energy. And salt, which contains vital nutrients.

Case in point? Bacon. It's delicious, fatty, and salty. And if you were a hungry early human, you would really need healthy saturated pork fat to thrive! Think about the Eskimo diet of blubber. If we need food, bacon is a great source of healthy fat. (Read this for more).
From my IG: Real bacon from a healthy hog, homemade from our hog share

The trick of tasty food

So, how did we end up getting the situation completely flipped around? It turns out that the industrialization of our food systems has had a bigger consequence than any of us normally imagine. It's not just the pesticides, the preservatives, or the political agendas. It's the fact that we have a system with the fundamental goal not of making the best quality food, but of making the largest amount of the best tasting food possible for the cheapest amount of money. For a large part, food suppliers don't have any incentive to care whether or not their apples are mealy or their tomatoes brown. They have no reason to care about feeding antibiotics, hormones and low quality food to their livestock. As long as the cow gets big, and they can kill it before it's too sick to die on its own, they can cut it up and sell the meat just the same.

The entire structure of our food system, as a planet, since the first chemical pesticide was sprayed on a potato plant has been completely reversed--to the point where everything tasty, instead of being a marker of natural nutrient density, is immediately suspect. We've forgotten that there's a big difference between the wild/cultivated plants and animals that our ancestors used to eat and those exact same species today. And when we combine salt, sugar, and fat in processed foods, they become hyper-palatable and addictive (trust me, I know--I'm halfway through a 21-Day Sugar Detox right now!).

Real food is delicious

Bacon is not the enemy. It's delicious because it's good for you if you're a hungry human in need of fuel. Luckily, the same is true of all real, unprocessed food sources. Real food wins!


Announcing the Grassfed Geek Podcast!

I'm excited to announce that I'm starting a podcast based around my blog concept. It's called (you guessed it), the Grassfed Geek Podcast! Basically, I realized that there were certain things I wanted to talk about that I felt would be better if released in an audio format. I'm still working on the technical side of things, and as I don't have much background in studio recording there may be some issues to work out. Please let me know if you feel the podcast has some glaring issues that, if fixed, would improve your enjoyment of it. This will be a really fun experiment, and I hope you all like it!

Grassfed Geek Podcast Episode #1

For this first episode I talked to Dr. Allison Siebecker. She's a naturopathic doctor here in Portland, OR who specializes in gut health, and specifically SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). We had an awesome conversation a few weeks ago about the human microbiome, the gut issues we all may face in our lifetimes, and the positive impacts of eating a more whole foods, Paleo-type diet.

You can find her through the National College of Natural Medicine Clinic website for more information about her as well as contact info if you are having some kind of digestive issue and would like her help!

She also has a great website dedicated to SIBO that has a ton of info about what SIBO is, what symptoms are associated with it, and what treatment options are available (SIBOInfo.com). There are SO many symptoms that are potentially caused by SIBO and it's more common than you may think; anyone with a persistent digestive issue will want to check it out.

We're finding out more and more every day about how the health of our gut determines the health of our entire body and mind, so I'm so excited to share my conversation with Dr. Siebecker with you and I hope you dig it!


Salt vs. sodium - And why I eat LOTS of sea salt! Why your body needs salt

I mentioned once before that we altogether stopped buying table salt a while ago. And, when you cut out all processed foods (on a Paleo/real foods diet), you tend to dramatically lower your overall sodium consumption. But, neither of these means pure, natural salt is unhealthy at all!

The original "Paleo Diet" by Loren Cordain was low-salt, but since then the Paleo community has evaluated more research about salt and sodium, and nowadays, most Paleo bloggers/authors/doctors/community leaders are pro-sea salt. Nice summary of some real food perspectives on salt here. I, too, used to assume that salt was unhealthy in large quantities, and could cause heart disease or high blood pressure or other conditions.

But when I learned about Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Diet and "biohacking" through diet, sleep, and stress reduction, I heard his recommendation to take a teaspoon or two of ancient sea salt every morning to kick start your adrenal glands, in addition to him talking about the general benefits of sea salt. He even had an extreme guy on this podcast who ate TONS of natural salt for an experiment and did not experience any of the health dangers we're warned about. Not that any of us need to try it at home.

Table salt vs. real salt, and why salt is essential

Table salt is manufactured, not found in nature, and contains toxic hard mineral anti-caking agents (great piece on what all's in table salt here). I do not eat table salt (ever, if I can help it), but I eat real, naturally harvested sea salt (my favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt!). Sea salt contains essential trace minerals and electrolytes (the pink color actually indicates the trace minerals), and Himalayan salt is about 250 million years old, so it was deposited long before the Earth became polluted with heavy metals and pesticides. For many years of history, salt was a precious commodity--"Worth your salt," as they say (in fact, the Roman word for "soldier" translates to "one who is paid in salt").

In addition to the essential minerals in sea salt, sodium is critical to proper function of a number of processes in the body. If you're a nerd for this stuff like I am, don't take my word for it; check out Chris Kresser's thorough salt series:

I've found that when I try the "dose" of sea salt (with water!) in the mornings, it fits in well as part of my stabilizing, energizing morning routine, perfect for starting out with a nice walk or meditation at the beginning of the day. When we're stressed, our adrenal glands are overworked, and we can support them with real salt function (here's a post about healing the adrenals with salt). Adrenal fatigue is commonly talked about these days, and stress reduction is so important--through mental and diet techniques.

You may not be up for eating spoonfuls of salt plain, but don't be afraid to add a little extra natural sea salt to your food!
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