Breaking Up with Sugar as an Act of Self-Love, and My Top 5 Favorite Healthy Desserts
I recently celebrated one year without refined sugar. This has been the single most impactful dietary change I have ever made, and the greatest act of self-love I have ever expressed.
My journey to living refined sugar-free actually started many years ago, when I was a young teenager with inflammatory acne. My parents took me to their favorite spiritual healer, who recommended I cut all sugar and alcohol from my diet. I followed his advice for the next two years and saw drastic improvements in my skin and overall health. Then the temptations of college living took over and I quickly forgot his good advice. Painful cystic acne and an onslaught of autoimmune systems (poor digestion, chronic fatigue, skin rashes, achiness) were the result. Years of visits with skin and nutrition specialists and a number of dietary changes later, I still couldn’t kick all the symptoms.
Fast forward to two years ago, after completing an intensive month on the GAPS elimination diet, I was feeling great. But I also knew I couldn’t eat that way, cooking every meal at home, forever. In an effort to balance clean eating with an active social life, I started drinking alcohol on occasion and enjoying gluten-free desserts every now and again. By summer 2015, the acne, reoccurring UTIs and mood swings had returned; sure signs in my body of candida overgrowth (a direct result of a weakened immune system).
I felt frustrated that my efforts with GAPS were so short-lived, so I sought the help of an acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health and hormones. He recommended an anti-candida protocol that included acupuncture treatments, herbal anti-fungal supplements, a diatomaceous earth cleanse and low glycemic diet. Four weeks into the program I started feeling vibrant again, and another month later I was thriving. So much so that I added dark chocolate a couple days a week back into my diet. To my dismay, within two weeks all of my symptoms had returned.
I had done sensitivity testing with raw cocoa powder while on the GAPS protocol, so I knew that wasn’t the trigger. I couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. A few months later, while sitting around the holiday table with my parents talking about my health. I kept asking questions: “Why is my immune system so compromised that I am susceptible to chronic candidiasis? Why is my body having such a hard time fighting bacterial infection? Why am I not living everyday in whole health?”
If you ask your body “why?” enough times, you are bound to get some answers. And so I did.
Like a neon light flashing in front of my awareness, SUGAR came to me. I knew straightaway it was the missing piece. All of a sudden, this realization shifted everything. I could pinpoint each moment in time when my relatives and I had eaten sugar in high doses and the lingering effects. Those gummy bear binges as a young child, my obsession with counting my Halloween candy, my grandfather whose later life depression was no doubt inflamed by his love of desserts… I was a sugar addict through and through.
It only took years of hormonal imbalances, mood swings, chronic fatigue, UTIs, acne and inflammation to come straight back to the awareness that my spiritual healer had shared years before. It’s amazing how quickly we can forget such divine wisdom.
I was finally ready to listen to what my body and guides had been telling me all along. The very next day I broke up with refined sugar, and I haven’t looked back. Sure, there have been exposures here and there, both known (like the birthday cake a friend lovingly prepared) and the unexpected (I should have asked if the iced tea was unsweetened).
People often ask me if living free from refined sugar is difficult. At first this lifestyle definitely required intentional effort – reading labels and asking questions while eating out – but over the weeks and months it’s simply a part of my normal routine. And more than anything, I am so excited to be building a deeper relationship every day with my body’s wisdom. She tells me in no unclear terms when I eat something that doesn’t support her optimum function, and in return, I thank her for continuing to ask me for what she needs.
My commitment to loving my body fully and honoring her completely for all that she is and what she desires has transformed all areas of my life. Through this practice, I have learned acceptance, forgiveness, intuition and tenacity to live every day as my most vibrant self. As I continue to heal from the inside out, my skin has improved dramatically and I can see significantly less inflammation on my face when I look at photos.
I hope this story inspires you to listen to the wisdom of your own body. Whether your trigger food is sugar, alcohol, gluten or something else, be brave and bold in committing to making loving choices every to honor your body.
And while you’re at, have fun indulging in some of my favorite refined sugar- and grain-free desserts. Even if you’re not super sensitive to sugar like I am, sugar is inflammatory and highly addictive. Most people see reductions in food cravings, lower inflammation markers and improved immune response when they remove sugar from their diet. Try going a week or two without it and see how you feel. How’s that for an act of delicious self-love?
- My original Raw Chocolate Truffles are a quick and easy recipe to make together with friends or to place in a decorative box and impress a special someone. Roll these protein-packed delicacies in cinnamon, cocoa powder, crushed dehydrated raspberries, coconut flakes (or any topping your heart desires) for added flavor and a pop of style. For a vegan version, substitute maple syrup for the honey. And for a nut-free version, use unsweetened (check the ingredients list!) sunflower butter and hemp seeds instead of the almond butter and nut meal.
- For all you chocolate lovers like me, this Dark Chocolate Bark, modified from Wellness Mama, is divine. I prefer cocoa butter instead the coconut oil version and use half the amount of honey she calls for. Then I sprinkle super foods of choice (like goji berries, chopped macadamia nuts, bee pollen, course sea salt and/or coconut flakes) on the chocolate before I put it in the fridge to set for added health benefits.
- This Raw Vegan Carrot Cake with Cashew Cream Cheese Frosting from This Rawsome Vegan Life is insanely delicious. I like making it with 50% oatmeal flour and 50% buckwheat flour for a slightly darker flavor. Decorate with pumpkin seeds, lemon zests, dried rose petals and sunflower petals for a standout dessert, every time.
- Grain-Free Rose Shortbread Cookies. Need I say more? These little beauties from Savory Lotus are rich and buttery like you would expect from a traditional shortbread cookie, and when rolled out and cut into heart shapes (or baby bottles or bunnies or wedding bells – the possibilities are endless!), they are perfect for any loving occasion. I recommend rolling them out with a LOT of arrowroot powder and omitting the top parchment paper to avoid having the dough stick badly to the bottom paper layer.
- Raw Strawberry Truffles from The Savoury Soul are lightly sweet and oh-so-beautiful. I find them to be the perfect balance of creamy and fruity; like the adult version of a strawberry creamsicle. I like to add 1 tsp honey or maple syrup to the filling to make these a little sweeter and substitute coconut oil for the peanut butter to highlight a simple strawberry flavor. Scroll down on her page to discover the original recipe, titled “Peanut Butter and Jelly Truffles.”