Most people are familiar with the freshman 15. You know, that little pooch most of us gain during our college days as a result of too many snack-filled study sessions or late nights at the drive-thru. (And maybe a little too much alcohol.)
I knew the freshmen 15 very well. I also met the sophomore 15 and the junior five. By the time I graduated college, I had gained about 30 pounds and I had developed some bad habits, leaving me feeling lethargic, frustrated, and not really looking or feeling my best.
As I started approaching 30, I was determined to make a change. But it wasn’t even about the way I looked. I wanted to feel healthy more than anything else. I also hoped that adopting a healthier lifestyle would help ease my psoriasis, a skin condition I had been dealing with since my early 20s.
I decided to start seeing a nutritionist, and that’s when everything changed. Besides learning I was seriously lacking in the water department (I used to drink two to three glasses of water on a good day), I also learned that I was seriously addicted to sugar.
The first couple of weeks on my new nutritional plan were rough. Besides starting to incorporate two glasses of barley grass juice throughout my day to help me hydrate, I had to say goodbye to all my favorites: bread, pasta, rice, milk, and pretty much everything else that I ate on a regular basis. This wasn’t permanent, of course. But before I could start eating those things again, I had to help my body to stop depending on all the sugary goodness it had gotten so used to over the years. My nutritionist told me to picture myself as hitting a “reset” button on my body.
To say this new way of eating was challenging would be an understatement. During the first several days, I was having massive cravings. I fought terrible migraines and felt crankier than ever. I avoided seeing friends and going out to restaurants with my husband because the pressure was just too much. All I could think about was French bread and pasta. I even saw them in my dreams!
Don’t get me wrong, I was by no means starving myself. I was eating generous portions of chicken, fish, even steak, along with big salads, fruit, and all the green veggies I wanted. I wasn’t hungry. I was simply feeling the effects that came with nixing all that sugar. During appointments with my nutritionist, I whined, asking if all this torture was really necessary. She simply smiled and encouraged me to keep going with the plan.
As much as I wanted to quit, I didn’t. Then something awesome happened. About four weeks in, I stopped missing sugar. Not only could I see a cupcake or doughnut without feeling like I was going to break out in cold sweats, I didn’t even feel like eating it. I was also down about seven pounds and feeling more energized. Seeing these changes was the motivation I needed to keep going.
It wasn’t long before my nutritionist did start incorporating carbs and sugar back into my plan. Finally, carbs and I could get back together. But surprisingly, our relationship had changed during those weeks. When I began eating things like rice and pasta again, they felt extremely filling, so I naturally wanted a lot less of them. My favorite Starbucks Mocha Latte also wasn’t as satisfying as it used to be. After weeks without any sugar, it suddenly tasted way too sweet, as if my teeth were rotting with every sip. Surprisingly, plain black coffee began calling my name.
These days, eating healthier has become a lot less challenging. After a year of working with a nutritionist and losing 20 pounds, I’ve developed habits that have stuck. I enjoy salads, green smoothies, and depend much less on carbs and sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I still indulge sometimes — like on the weekends and while I’m on vacation — and I don’t think my weakness for pizza will ever go away. But my month-long breakup with carbs and sugar was definitely good for our relationship.