Monday, September 21, 2015

Paleo Changes You: Sweets Taste Sweeter

     If you are what you eat, then when I was little, I was made of sugar. I ate something sweet every day. When I was a toddler I would ask for a cookie, and when my mom said yes, I would say, "Can I have 'twofum'?"

     Just recently I wrote a story on another blog about going with my dad when he would get his haircut and then going to the nearby store to stock up on candy. If you read it, you're probably wondering how I could eat that much candy, but that amount of junk food would last me a month or two. I would hide it and only eat a piece or two at the time, but I would eat some every day.

     Don't get me wrong, I could have eaten it all, and occasionally, I would binge on candy, believing the consequences to be well within the range of acceptable in view of the reward of eating all of my favorite things and then drinking a large glass of milk because I'd be so thirsty and craving protein to counterbalance to sugar surging through my system.

     I got my sugary addiction from my dad. He and I would eat dessert with our meal. We both felt that we couldn't eat a meal without something sweet to help the rest of the food go down.

     Then over two and a half years ago, I was fed up with feeling bad and looking worse all the time, and I decided to do a sugar detox right after Christmas. Believe me when I tell you that it was a tough decision to make. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to do it. I was terrified that I would gag on my food, but I knew I had to do it.

     In my search to find tasty recipes with only natural carbs, I stumbled upon some Paleo cookbooks that were free on Kindle, and had some delicious-looking recipes. I made it through that detox, and I've never looked back.

     The weird thing is, when I started the detox, it said something to the effect of eating dates if your sugar cravings got out of control because they are naturally sweet, so I bought a bag of dried dates and tasted one. It had NO flavor at all! I tried a couple more, just to make sure I hadn't gotten a bad one, but I kept getting the same results. I was so disappointed. Then two weeks into the detox, I was craving chocolate like the world would end if I didn't get it, so I popped a date in my mouth, and it exploded with sweet, delightful flavor. My craving was satisfied, and I could move on.

     After that, I started to realize just how sweet other foods were naturally. Broccoli, lightly roasted, danced with a light sweetness in my mouth. Herbal teas tasted amazing, even without honey. If I needed a little extra flavor, I could add coconut aminos, avocado or mayonnaise (instead of ketchup, honey mustard or maple syrup) and be satisfied.

     Once you're used to that way of eating, going back to regular, processed or even natural sugars can throw you for a loop. You start to realize just how sugar makes you feel. (For me, it makes my feet and back hurt, can give me a headache, and just generally makes it harder to make it through the day.) And then there's the taste. Going back to sugar of any type will make you realize just how much of a tolerance you had built up for the sweet stuff. In fact, the other night we tried out a recipe for cookie dough fudge to see if it was suitable for a birthday treat. It was delicious, but no one could eat more than a piece because it was so sweet, it verged on cloying.

     This is the very reason that I and my family see Paleo as a way of life. Once you get over the initial detox period, you wake up to a realization that you don't feel deprived. You realize that on top of feeling like you have superpowers, you just don't need as much sugar in your life. You can now pass when someone you work with brings in two bags of candy and a bucket and says, "Happy fall. I got this for us to share." Just saying.