Friday, November 15, 2013

An attempt at sugar detox in Sri Lanka

A few months back I made an attempt at trying a sugar detox diet. Some of you who follow me on twitter remember my moans and groans as I gave up sugar, carbohydrates, sweets etc. for three weeks. It was a definite challenge, especially living in a country like Sri Lanka where sugar is almost like its own dietary food group! Do you remember my blog post My Sri Lankan Food Diary - Just an average week of eating? Well, see my write up on "Thursday" and my little sweet note on sugar intake (or maybe it's more like addiction) in Sri Lanka lol

The average diet for Sri Lankan families has the food staples of rice and curry, tropical fruits, pastries or shorteats and sweets. I've become quite accustomed to this kind of diet over the past few years, though I've added my own favorite British and European dishes into the dietary mix. One of the things I recognized early on with the changes in my diet, was the requirement to either reduce my food portions or include a good exercise routine to burn the calories.

My intention in trying the sugar detox was primarily associated with cleansing the body of toxins as well as giving myself a break from the sweet stuff. However, I actually learnt a whole lot more about dietary food groups, lifestyle, food preparation, sleep quality and much more from the experience. It was challenging to attempt the sugar detox because a lot of the meals served by my friends, colleagues and at local establishments contained a lot of sugar or carbohydrates which convert to sugar.

For example, items you would take for granted in everyday meals, such as rice, bread, potatoes, noodles, pasta... could not be included in meal plans during the sugar detox. Do you know how hard that is? Suffice it to say, I eventually realized after a couple of days, I cooked many of my meals at home and had to reduce my visits to have dinner at friends' houses during this time. Yeah, I'm not the sort of person to dictate the meal plan and/or my dietary "issues" to people kind enough to invite me over. It's a surefire way to ensure you are never invited back for a meal again!

If you've read my food diaries then you'll know what kind of diet I've been maintaining here in Sri Lanka. If you haven't read my two installments then you can go to Food Diary 1 and Food Diary 2 for more on this. I definitely enjoy my rice and curries, shorteats, string hoppers, hoppers, kiribath and lots of tropical fruits. Before starting the sugar detox, I spent time researching the internet to figure out what I could and couldn't eat. Essentially, I had to remove most of my Sri Lankan meals from my diet and re-think the way I eat. For example, I could eat a bean curry or fish curry, but not the rice or potato curry. It's quite "weird" when you can't have an accompaniment like rice or potato or bread to mop up the tasty gravy!

In essence, I ended up eating mainly protein and vegetables for all meals during the sugar detox, which reminded me of English style meals. I have read previously how it's better for digestion to only combine protein and vegetables or carbohydrates and vegetables, but not protein and carbohydrates.

During this time, I also refrained from caffeine drinks (shock horror... no coffee or tea!). Initially, I thought, I'd still have at least one coffee a day, but then I thought about the principle of doing a detox to cleanse my body and it didn't make sense to still consume caffeine. If you're going to detox, just go the whole hog!

AND, I definitely did not allow myself any... chocolates, lollies, biscuits (sweet or savory), cakes, muffins, desserts etc.

Daily meals

The following gives an idea of my basic daily diet or formula meal plans. I've included some photo examples...

Breakfast - some form of eggs (scrambled, poached, fried or omelette) OR salad

Lunch - grilled meat, fish or seafood with vegetables or salad OR salad

Snacks - small portion of raw nuts (i.e. almonds or cashews)

Dinner - grilled meat, fish or seafood with vegetables or salad OR vegetable soup

Mostly I drank water or water with a squeeze of lime. I wasn't allowed to drink fruit juices or soft drinks as the sugar content is high in all of these drinks.

Transitioning back to normal diet

An important point to make is the transitional process as you complete the sugar detox diet. You can't revert straight back to your normal diet as your body has gone through quite a cleansing process. It will need a gentle transition over a few days before introducing more complex foods which include sugars and carbohydrates.

I kept the same diet as I had on detox and introduced fruits into my diet in the first couple of days. Following this, I introduced small portions of rice, potatoes and other starchy vegetables.

I felt this gentle transition helped my body to re-adjust. I also noticed how I no longer "craved" sugary foods, so the process was easy.


Overall, I felt physically healthier during and after the sugar detox. I lost about five to seven kilograms over the three weeks as I adopted the sugar detox and maintained my regular exercise routine of running and stretching. My sleep patterns adjusted so my sleep quality improved and I found I needed less sleep over time. I also found my overall disposition happier, more grounded and open.

Initially, I craved sugar and carbohydrates (i.e. I guess my body had gotten used to a richer diet) but this changed after the first week. By the end of the sugar detox I no longer craved rich or sugary foods and drinks. What I noticed afterwards, when I eventually re-started eating chocolates, cakes and sweet desserts my body reacted (or maybe it had always reacted but I had gotten used to it) in a less than positive way. I felt lethargic, sleepy and mentally affected a short time after consuming these foods. Interesting!

I think the sugar detox is worth taking on with the caveat of undertaking the proper research beforehand and, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, obtaining medical advice from your doctor first. In my case, I think I'll do the sugar detox a few times a year to cleanse my system.


Kerri said...

This is a really interesting article, I eat a no sugar/low carb diet and I have wondered frequently how I will get on in Sri Lanka. So much temptation there, but at least the fresh vegetables are wonderful. Resisting hoppers will be a challenge.

Eva Stone said...

Hi @Kerri, it was an interesting time doing this sugar detox diet. I remember feeling hungry a lot ;-)

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