Not bad, like sinful bad, just bad, like I-don’t-feel-my-best-when-I-do-this bad.
I was eating too many sweets & my sweet tooth got out of hand. My skin freaked out (not the first time–I get this weird oozy rash on my chin), I got a yeast infection (my first one in about a decade–the last one occurred after a round of antibiotics).
With some help from my friend Ricki Heller, who has wealth of knowledge on all things anti-candida on her blog (including lots of delicious whole foods based recipes), I decided to do a strict version of the ACD (anti-candida diet). In essence, I cut out grains (though NOT all carbs!), fruit, & all forms of sugar (including dates, agave, etc.).
(More on this, in part 1 of this discussion, should I go sugar free?)
It was rough going the first three days or so (flu-like symptoms, headache, definite withdrawal symptoms). After that, not too difficult. And I did feel better. Most obvious were my energy levels –when I’m eating properly I NEVER feel tired after eating.
Once the infection & my skin cleared up, I continued with a strict approach for several more weeks (about 5 weeks total of the strict ACD diet). I then began eating gluten-free grains again (hallelujah!) & slowly add small amounts of fruit each day.
Now I’m back to just basic, healthy FSL eating. And I feel great.
SO….did I have candida?
I don’t know for sure. (I never got tested.)
Did my symptoms & energy improve after doing strict ACD?
Know that I’m back to square one, will I remain completely sugar free?
The answer to that is a bit more nuanced.
As a few readers pointed out in the comments, sugar on it’s own is not usually the culprit. It’s when it’s tied to fat that it tends wreck havoc (which these twin doctors find out in their diet experiment).
But, based on my personal history, I know I have a really low tolerance to sugar & have to be careful, almost obsessively careful, about keeping my sugar consumption in check (be it from “natural” or refined sources, & even with high-sugar fruits like bananas). Which means, for the most part, I stay away from sugar. On daily basis I use stevia to sweeten oatmeal, or smoothies, or other dishes. And I keep my elaborate treat making (cookies, cake, ice cream — see my desserts index for ideas) to only a few times a month, & when I do make treats (even healthy ones), it’s definitely not a free for all.
Over the years, with all my tweaking & experimenting with diets, I’ve come to a few conclusions.
And the one, over-arching conclusion that I’ve come to, is that the best diet is one that is sustainable, & do-able over the long-term.
Sure there are times when a strict dietary approach is warranted (ie. disease, illness, or other health issue, as in the case with my gestational diabetes, or more recently with the supposed candida issue), but beyond that, for most otherwise healthy individuals, a moderate, balanced diet that includes a variety of whole foods that deliver all the essential nutrients like fiber, protein, carbohydrates, & fat, as well as vitamins, is the best approach.
And, fortunately, with our first-world access to a plethora of healthy food choices, we can meet our nutritional needs through a variety of approaches.
An omnivorous diet can be healthy, a vegetarian or vegan diet can be healthy, a paleo diet can be healthy. It doesn’t mean that any of these are inherently healthy, just to say there is a lot of room for tastes, culture, & access to food to a play a role in shaping what an individual can eat to promote health & longevity. In other words, there’s not only ONE healthy way to eat. (Why I choose vegan, here.)
The focus on no fat, no oil, no sugar, no soy, no this, or that, is slightly off mark.
A few years ago I read Roy Walford’s The Anti-Aging Plan: The Nutrient Rich, Low-calorie Way of Eating for Life (affiliate link) as well as his The 120 Year Diet: How to Double Your Vital Years (affiliate link). CRON, or calorie restriction with optimal nutrition is the only dietary approach that has scientifically been proven to increase longevity.
Not vegan, not paleo, not vegetarian, not fat free, oil free, sugar free, or dairy free.
Restricting calories while obtaining optimal nutrition offers a wide variety of benefits, not the least of which is increasing the likelihood that you will live longer.
I bring up Walford’s work because it was at this time (& since then) that I’ve realized there is no rigidly “right” way to eat.
There are principles, the most important of which are:
1) meet basic nutritional needs &
2) on a long-term basis, don’t over consume calories.
The only way to realistically do this over the long term, is to eat a whole foods, plant-based (though not necessarily vegan, vegetarian, sugar-free, or oil-free) diet.
If I focus on these two things (optimal nutrition & restricting calories), I naturally fall into a pattern of eating mostly whole plant based foods, particularly lots of vegetables, beans, fruits, & grains.
The simplicity of this is almost laughable, especially considering how complicated specific dietary approaches have become. But it’s beautifully simple, & it works. Eating these foods fills you up on fewer calories, delivers a boatload of nutrition, & helps you to maintain a healthy weight. (More on this, in my ebook, Fit, Strong, Lean: The Diet.)
AND, it’s a compassionate, more eco-friendly way to eat & live. Win, win, & WIN!
So, will I eat sugar?
Sure, but it’s safe to say that considering what I know, especially what I know about myself, instead of focusing on the things I’m cutting out, I’ll continue to focus on what I putting in my mouth–all those delicious, satisfying, vibrant & colorful plant foods that give me energy & make me feel amazing.
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out: