Real Sugar

When I decided to do the Whole30 after Christmas, I really figured it wasn’t much different from how I had been eating.  Basically, my diet with Donovan is lean meats, fruit (in moderation), vegetables, and nuts.  That is the core of Whole30.  Both my diet with Donovan and Whole30 remove legumes, dairy, sugars, and grains … really I just felt I would be trading potatoes (allowed on Whole30) for open meals (allowed with Donovan’s meal plan).

Then I started doing some research … let’s just say Whole30 is a bit more complicated.

With the healthy eating, I started in June with Donovan, I occasionally eat sandwich meat cut up on a salad.  I also use beef jerky, in moderation, as a grab-and-go protein since most protein bars have dairy and they are all loaded with sugar.

With Whole30, you can’t eat anything with cornstarch and a whole list of other processing chemicals… let’s just say the only way to eat meat on Whole30 is basically cook and season it yourself. (Yes, there are some exceptions but they are hard to find and expensive.)

Another adjustment was my homemade trail mix.  I make it with almonds, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, raisins, and dried cranberries.  If you follow me on Facebook you know that I make about 30 little bags of this at a time.  Well, peanuts are off limits with Whole30… so I remade it.  Then found out so are cranberries and had to remake it again.

But these adjustments were not too difficult… the hardest part of Whole30  for me was drinking water.

See, I drink a lot of water… but none of it tastes like water.  Usually I add some raspberry flavor that has glucosamine and some lemon flavor packed with B-Vitamins. Not only does this “raspberry lemonade” taste awesome, it is a great recovery drink because of the supplements packed into it. Another way I will drink water is with an electrolyte infused lemon lime flavor.

In both of these drinks, I use the amount of flavor you are supposed to put in 16 ounces to make 32oz, just a hint of flavor to keep the water interesting.

The problem is that all of these flavor enhancers include sweeteners of some kind… so they are completely off limits on Whole30.  I’m going to be honest, y’all, I was pretty dehydrated the first few days of Whole30.

So, I started making unsweet tea.  I would brew hot tea and then pour it over ice and drink that all day.  Since I am not one who consumes much caffeine, around the 3rd day of this I started getting pretty bad headaches.  I switched to green tea, since it is lower in caffeine (I thought it was caffeine free but turns out I was wrong).

Then I was at PT for my second session and was talking about some specific pain I was having with the treatment.  Her response was, “That kind of pain usually means you are dehydrated.  How much water are you drinking?”  I told her I drink a lot of unsweetened tea … and she told me that doesn’t count.

Ok, so back to just plain water. I made it through a day of drinking about 100 oz of plain water and the PT pain went away.  But the next day I couldn’t get down 50 oz (water is just so boring!) and I knew I needed to do something different.

So I changed the rules.

If you are a Whole30 purist, you can judge me or hate on me or whatever you want to do but I figured that Whole30 wasn’t about a cleanse for me; it was about reestablishing healthy habits for the year.  As I thought about it, I decided that drinking flavored water was better for me than being dehydrated.

Funny thing, though.  Since there is basically no sugar in my diet (outside of fruit), the previous ratios of flavor to water tasted way too strong for me.  The friends who teased me before about watering down my flavor would laugh harder today, since I basically doubled the ratio.

While Whole30 discourages fruit juice (since it’s so high in sugar) and bread (duh), it does allow for one exception which is taking Communion at church.  This morning we took Communion for the first time since I started Whole30 and, honestly, I didn’t think much of it.

The music started and I got in line, picked up my bite of bread and little cup of grape juice and headed to my seat.  As is my custom, I took a few seconds to thank Christ for the sacrifice He made for me on the cross and how his broken body freed me from my sin.  Then I put the bread in my mouth… and bursts of dopamine exploded in my head.  What is this phenomenal taste? (Y’all it was just basic French bread.)

I was distracted for a moment as I finished the bread then returned to prayer.  I took a moment to thank God for the graces that He provided with his resurrection, listing off a few breakthroughs I have experienced personally this year.  Then I took the cup to my lips and put that swallow of grape juice in my mouth.  Y’all I was delirious.  It was so sweet, I thought I was drinking sugar water.

I couldn’t understand, I have taken communion many times before. The music continued and I sat in stunned silence as the dopamine started to clear from my head. Then it hit me.

Without noticing it, those little bites of cookie or sips of coco are slowly deadening our flavor receptors to what is considered sweet. (Or, in my case, those protein bars, protein shakes, and strawberry lemonade recovery drinks… all also loaded with sweetness.) With this period (now 19 days) of cutting out all the “sweetness” in my life, just a teaspoon of grape juice tasted like pure sugar.

As I pondered this, I realized it’s a lot like the other fast I am doing in parallel.  During my Whole30, I decided to cut out YouTube and Facebook* because they were consuming so much of my time. (I have been on track with Facebook but missed a few times on YouTube.)

Facebook had become a problem because it was becoming my identity.  I would post a blog and then check 100 times to see if you liked, commented, or shared my post.  I felt this 30 days would be a chance to re-center my identity on who I really am and remember that my hunger for affirmation will never be satisfied by anyone else.

YouTube was just becoming a time sink.  I would log in because I had a moment of pause waiting for a call, sitting at a stoplight, or visiting the restroom.  But then one video would end and recommend the next and the next… and before you know it I had been on there for hours.

In my post yesterday, I talked about rediscovering a hunger for reading and I do believe that I was right to say that it started with just doing it anyway. But after this morning’s experience I think there is another layer.

Removing these cheap substitutes made books “taste” better.

When I read the Greatest Miracle in the World, instead of watching the story of someone breaking down a scene in Star Wars, I read the story of the Ragpicker, Simon Potter, who rescues Og from his own living hell.  And instead of finding affirmation of my value in your Facebook comments, I am reminded of my value in the Memo from God to me at the end of that awesome book.  Having starved off the false substitutes, the empowerment from that book left me hungry for more.

So I scoured my shelves for the sequel, The Return of the Ragpicker and got through it in a day. I looked for, and couldn’t find, The Choice, so I jumped into The Greatest Salesman in the World, and today I pulled 7 more books from my shelf to feed this new hunger.

All these books cover a variety of topics but they share a common theme: you are a miracle created with a purpose and destined to do great things.  They are all drenched with the affirmation that I hunger for and rather than affirming me for a behavior or action they remind me of the treasure buried within in me just because I am a human being.

In twelve days, I will no longer be avoiding Facebook, but I hope to carry with me this re-centered perspective.  I hope that your comments on Facebook can encourage me without being necessary for my emotional survival.

In twelve days, I will no longer be eliminating YouTube. And let’s be real, there is some fun stuff on YouTube. But my hope is that I can learn to moderate my time there because, honestly, I have too much life to live to be burning hours and days looking at a screen watching other people live their lives.

So, here’s my question for you: what blessing in your life has lost it’s sweetness?

Has nature lost its wonder?
Has fruit ceased to be sweet?
Do books feel slow and dull?
Has “quiet time” with the Lord become a chore?

What “artificial sweetener” in your life has deadened you to the real thing?
And are you brave enough to eliminate it for 30 days?

I think you will be glad you did.

*Just because some of you will ask… I post blogs to Facebook from WordPress and I text Facebook from my cell phone to post updates but I am not logging in so I can’t see your responses till January 27th.
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