Roughly 5 months ago, I went sugar-free for 45 days. I've continued on that diet since. An additional change has been the conscious choice to choose foods high in fiber. Simple changes to whole wheat pasta, whole wheat flour, whole wheat breads, far more fruits, flax, and chia seeds has drastically increased the fiber in my diet. Once changed, you don't really notice the difference. The benefits continue to accrue in ways which are surprising to me. Here are the obvious:
- I have more energy consistently throughout the day, the peaks and valleys are smoothed out over the day.
- Smaller amounts of food provide just as much energy as before. I'm feel full faster, which has resulted in more leftovers. In many restaurants, appetizers completely fill me up. This is also something I notice when returning from Europe, the sheer size of portion sizes in America.
- Many foods taste really sweet due to either the natural sugar content or the added sugar content. Fruits like apples, oranges, mangoes, plums, etc used to not taste sweet, but now they do. Most restaurant desserts taste very sweet now, as do most store-bought snacks.
- I eat a lot more nuts as a snack, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and almonds.
- Many recipes, for say, cookies or brownies, taste great without the sugar, and by substituting whole wheat flour and 100% chocolate and a bit of honey for sweetener.
Over the past few months a few more subtle changes have happened. And these are really things I've noticed over time by their absence, not so much something obvious that hits you right away. Here are the more subtle:
- I rarely say, "I'm starving." Hunger sort of builds and sneaks up on me, to the point where I realize I'm hungry hours after "normal" eating times. The peaks and valleys of full/starving have gone away and my "normal" eating times are more fluid and variable.
- My body shape is more consistent. My clothes don't fluctuate from feeling loose to feeling tight. I've also had to go buy new clothes as the weight loss has been enough to bring me down two waistband sizes and one shirt size.
- I'm more ready to exercise whenever. I can hop on the bike, go for a walk, or go hiking without trying to plan meals and food around the activities. I can just go enjoy the activity without so much forethought beyond route, timing, and weather.
- I read nutrition labels to see how much sugar and fiber are in each product. It's a challenge to find canned or jars of products without high sugar content. Thankfully, the US FDA's new labels will make figure out how much is naturally occurring vs added.
When I gave up caffeine after college, the changes were fairly dramatic in a short period of time. This sugar/fiber diet has had both short-term and longer-term effects. We'll see how my next annual physical shapes up, but so far, I feel great.
It greatly helps that my partner and I are doing this together. It would be very difficult to make these changes alone when someone else is constantly, subconsciously pulling you back to your old diet. There is a growing body of research into how peers influence your nutritional intake (aka diet). Think of it in a more extreme example, if all your friends are drug addicts, it's more difficult for you to recover and go sober. It's sort of the same thing with obesity and nutrition. This "new" diet has become normal now and that's probably for the best.