Thursday, 14 November 2013

Why I turned away from sugar-free, paleo, low-carb and Trim Healthy Mama

Here's the thing...I've been 99%  sugar-free (other than very occasional, small amounts of fruit) for about two years.  Previously I was never really one to diet much...I tried Atkins when I was about 23 and probably 10 kilos (22.2lbs) overweight, when my second child was around 1 or 2 (11 years ago).  That didn't last too long...I didn't have great results, so I went back to a generally S.A.D diet (I live in NZ, not America, but it's much the same).

I had lost all my baby weight, plus some (reaching my ideal weight) a year after my 5th child was born.  I ate a pretty standard/healthy-ish diet, but I walked a lot (1-1.5 hours a day) and didn't eat after 7pm.  It just came off easily. But, unfortunately, I slowly put a lot of it back on when I stopped all the walking and started eating at night, even though I started using an exercise bike and doing regular pilates .

Then about two years ago I decided to try a raw vegan diet (that didn't last long) with lots of green smoothies, and then moved onto low-carb paleo, and more recently the Trim Healthy Mama diet (whole foods, sugar free, controlled-carb, food separating). 

I felt fantastic on a raw vegan diet for a few weeks (which I think can be good for a short-term cleanse, but I don't at all recommend long-term), but with a family to feed, passing up the roast chicken was ultimately far too difficult anyway!  Then, somewhere along the way I just started getting very passionate about health and nutrition.  I read all sorts of nutrition and diet books...some that I knew were unsustainable financially (like the South Beach Diet), and some just too difficult and ultimately unhealthy in my opinion (like raw vegan).

About two years ago, I had an intensely stressful experience that brought on an emotional breakdown and I totally burnt-out.  I wasn't able to eat or sleep for 4 straight days (I lost a whopping 6kg/13lbs in those 4 days!), and slowly from there, my struggles with IBS and FODMAP intolerance began.  I became lactose and fructose intolerant, suffering contant bloating, discomfort and gas.  I had to cut out wheat, rye, oats, large amounts of fresh fruit, all dried fruit and juices.  Anything I ate a lot of, I became intolerant of...coconut flour was the worst! The weight crept back on.

I cut ALL sugar out of my diet, using stevia to satisfy my sweet cravings (it only partly worked). Eating only whole foods.  I felt like I was eating 'right', but I wasn't able to lose the weight, even though I was exercising an hour a day.  I discovered Trim Healthy Mama about 7 months ago, which was basically the same as I was already eating, but you separated carbs and fats, only eating them with protein about 3 hours apart.  Because of my IBS, I couldn't tolerate the recommended 'good' carbs that THM recommended (oats, sweet potatoes etc), and so I never ate enough of the "E" (up to 45g carbs, very low fat) meals, and ate mostly very low carb.  When I started THM, I had 3-5 kg I wanted to lose.  After 7 months of following this plan, I weighed an additional 2.5kg, putting me 6kg away from my goal.  I tried a paleo gut-healing elimination diet for 2 months, and then a ketogenic diet, both of which were really hard, and ultimately didn't help me...I put on a little more weight.

I threw it in.  Some online friends told me about Dr Ray Peat's research on metabolism and thyroid health, so I started reading, and realized that sugar was in fact not the devil, and what I was doing was screwing up my metabolism and just plain NOT WORKING FOR ME.  It was really hard to make the decision to add sugar back into my diet, after reading just about every negative article and book that completely demonizes it, but I did it.  And guess what?  I feel SO MUCH BETTER. I am adding sugar to my coffee.  I am drinking milk and orange juice (I am still overcoming intolerance issues there, but I'm making progress).  I am letting my kids have sugar in their food and drinks.  I have let go of the Food Nazi in me.  It feels SO good.  I feel free. 

So, this is my new motto:

I am learning to be healthy and happy in my own skin and I am not going to let any guru, doctor or author, tell me what food is "good" and what is "bad".  There are foods that work for you, and foods that don't.  There are foods that help your metabolism and foods that slow it down.  There are foods that give you energy, and foods that take it away.  Life is about balance, and finding what works for YOU.

Thank for taking the time to visit my new blog (my previous blog was called No Added Sugar, so I felt that I had to start again there!!).  I hope you appreciate the irony of my new blog title ;)

Please leave a comment, I'd to hear your thoughts, or some of your journey!!


  1. Hello :) I totally wholeheartedly agree with you about eating what works for you, not what some book or website tells you to. I learned a new term the other day - orthorexia - have you heard of it? I hadn't until I read a comment on a whole foods blog talking about it. Turns out it's a fear of unhealthy food. I couldn't believe that in our blessed countries with abundance of food we now have a genuine fear of eating badly. But then again, I can believe it, because my newsfeed and Pinterest board is full of pictures of healthy food, what not to eat, and my bookshelves and web favourites contain much of the same. Like you we have a tonne of dietary restrictions to live with, but even in the midst of that I believe in balance. There is nothing wrong with treats when they remain treats :)

    1. I only just saw this comment! Yes, you are right. It is easy to fall into the orthorexia trap these days. Too much "knowledge" and conflicting ideas/studies/books/diets that all say something different. There is some-one saying something bad about just about every food on the planet!! What's left? Water? You can overdo that too!! Here's to finding balance.

  2. Great blog Andrea.Love the photo.Looking good!

  3. Great blog Andrea.Love the photo.Looking good!

  4. Great blog Andrea.Love the photo.Looking good!