Fix for a Blue Christmas? Sugar Detox!

It’s been almost 3 months since I’ve gone full-blown Paleo, and I can say without a doubt that the winter holiday season has been the hardest time to maintain my healthy lifestyle, for a number of reasons.

One obvious reason is the celebration factor. During the holidays, everyone wants to eat special food, go out for copious drinks, and drown in a sea of desserts. I’m definitely not immune to this desire, and it seems like once I start engaging in the celebratory consumption, it’s a slippery slope. I start feeling like every night deserves booze and chocolate, every morning is a sleep in, and every day is a rest day. Sure, taking time off to enjoy myself is really important, but if it starts to go multiple days in a row, the ‘rest’ can actually turn into unhealthy habits that are decidedly non-Paleo and have an obvious effect on my energy, my weight, my skin, and my mood, among other things.

Speaking of my mood, this is a second significant reason for my difficulty. As a graduate student living far-ish away from my family, and having made the decision to stay in North Carolina to work over winter break, I’ve been getting progressively more and more lonely over this holiday season. The majority of my classmates have gone home to spend the break with their families and friends from home, and I feel extremely orphaned down here without anyone to celebrate with. I’m extremely fortunate that my roommate is ‘abandoned’ down here with me, but our schedules have been pretty opposite, so I’ve been on my own most of this week. Combine this lack of human contact with some significant disappointments I’ve dealt with in the past couple weeks, and its been turning into somewhat of a ‘downer’ Christmas season for me. So being in a lonely mood hasn’t helped my motivation to be healthy over the past couple weeks.

Thirdly, being on break from school actually makes it more difficult for me to make healthy choices. Normally I’m very busy and I don’t even have time to think about being bored. However, despite the fact that I’m working most nights, during the day I have way too much free time and not a whole lot of motivation to be productive. I don’t totally waste the day, but there are many times that I just sit around on my laptop rather than getting outside to enjoy the crazy nice global-warming-induced weather (like right now… hmm…) If I don’t have structure to my day, my self-efficacy kind of falls apart.

I’m sure this sounds like a fairly common holiday scenario for a lot of you: too much celebratory eating/drinking, stress or poor mood (ironic, huh?), and a schedule change that leaves you feeling uprooted from your routine.

Can you tell I'm feeling a bit Grinchy?

So what’s a lonely, unmotivated Cave chick to do at a time like this?  

Well, I’ve decided to muscle through the next week or so by planning for a 21-Day Sugar Detox that starts on January 2nd. My friend Diane Sanfilippo from Balanced Bites leads this three week detox from sugar (and carbohydrates in general) that has a three different level options to choose from, depending on your stage in the Paleo lifestyle makeover. Since I’ve already done a 30-day Paleo challenge, I’ve decided to go with the Level 3 detox, since it’s the most intense and probably the most appropriate adjustment for my current dietary habits.

It’s definitely going to be hard, and I’m a bit apprehensive for the level of commitment its going to take. Here are a few of the foods that I’m probably going to have the hardest time forgoing over those three weeks:

  • Heavy Cream (Black coffee??)
  • Alcohol (wahhh!)
  • All Fruit (except green apples and underripe bananas. Both which I don’t even LIKE.)
  • Sweet Potatoes (Holy. Sh*t.)
Elimination diets are SUPER fun.

Granted, this is the hardest level of the sugar detox, and those foods are not all banned from levels 1 and 2. But I have a few reasons for wanting to do this challenge.

One is that I’m participating in a CrossFit Level 1 Certification course on January 21st, and I really want to be at my maximum possible fitness level for that. I feel like I’m definitely not as in-shape as I’d like to be, and part of that is due to my dietary laziness/gluttony over the past few weeks. So I’m hoping by cleaning up my diet this intensely, I’ll see some improvements in my overall fitness and energy levels so that by the time my certification rolls around, I’ll be ready and raring to go.

Second reason is that my old CrossFit gym coach in New Jersey has asked me to present an introductory Paleo nutrition seminar when I’m home in the second weekend of January. I used to talk to him about nutrition all the time when I was there, and he’s seen my blog and likes the information I’ve been presenting. So I’ll be giving a 45 minute presentation on Paleo/Primal nutrition on January 14th, which will be my first one ever! I feel a bit nervous about it, but really excited too. I definitely want to look my best on that day (so people think I’m legit), so the sugar detox will certainly help with my physical appearance I’m sure.

Those are my primary reasons for wanting to detox, besides just the general desire to look and feel better in general. I think this is a perfect time to do it, especially with the whole “New Years Resolution yearly motivation kick” sweeping across the world.

If anyone wants to try and complete this challenge with me, I encourage you to go to The 21-Day Sugar Detox website and check it out for yourself. As I said before, there are 3 different levels, so you don’t have to go straight to the hardest level like I’m doing. But you might find it to be a great time to participate in a bit of a diet cleanse if you’ve found yourself straying from the path a little these past few weeks, as I have!

Leave a COMMENT if you’ll be joining me!


(Yes, this is a LOLcat heavy post. Deal with it.)

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  1. I feel your pain Laura, and I’ll do my best to distract you with some questions 🙂

    Did you finish reading Nutrition and Physical Degeneration? Have you developed a strategy for upping your levels of the following critical nutrients: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, and Fat-Soluble Activators? It would be great to have a paleo nutrient cheat sheet which outlines the best paleo food choices for obtaining those nutrients. We could collaborate on that if you’d like.

    The toughest realization for me after reading N&PD was that the sea contains perhaps the most potent foods for optimal human health, while those foods are at the same time most subject to contamination as water is nature’s greatest solvent. I have a hard time trusting seafood these days.

    Anyway, perhaps making some magnesium oil will cheer you up…

  2. Thanks Brad! I actually do take magnesium plus cod liver oil and high-vitamin butter oil for the activators.

    Turns out, I’ve noticed, that even a nearly optimal diet doesn’t always make up for the poor mood brought on by being lonely during the holidays… Sometimes you just need some contact with your loved ones. Too bad they don’t make that in a pill form. :-/

    Would be great to design a cheat sheet though! I’m planning on trying to finish the book by next week. Shoot me an email at if you want to chat more about that!

  3. wow that’s unfortunate you don’t get to spend Christmas with your family, I hope you have a merry Christmas at chapel hill! my sister goes there too, you should meet up with her and get her on board with paleo :p I’ve been paleo for 9 months but noone else in my family will make the switch! do you have any tips to help convince them to try it out?

    1. Jeremy – I think the best way to convince your family is to just keep “walking the walk” as they say. If they see how happy it makes you, and constantly hear you raving about how great you feel, hopefully they will eventually give it a try themselves! Diet change is one of the hardest things to force on someone, they really have to be motivated to make the change themselves.

      Or you could just try cooking them some really awesome Paleo meals to show how much better the food is. Could work!

      Good luck, and Merry Christmas!

  4. Hey, Laura,
    So funny that I was searching online for a sugar detox buddy and found one right down the road: I live in beautiful sunny Carrboro! I will happily join you for the 21 day challenge and since I am mostly paleo now I am also doing the level 3. I will definitely be missing my daily glass or two of wine but really want to stick it out for the full 3 weeks – I am curious to see how much the whole sugar thing affects my body, mood, skin and weight. Keep in touch!

    1. Awesome to hear, Kathy! I think we have another Carrboro girl named Christina doing the Sugar Detox too. I’m trying to rope in a classmate of mine, so we’ll see if she jumps on board as well. I’ve started to taper down my carb intake over the past few days so Monday doesn’t come as quite a shock. Going to try not to drink any alcohol (except maybe New Years) either, since I definitely had enough this past weekend to last me the rest of the month… 🙂

      1. I was reading some of your older posts and it seems we have a lot in common. I was heavily involved in getting our local school system to improve the school lunches – recruited Alice Ammerman to join the committee and we actually made some changes, although not as much as I feel is necessary for the kids to be truly healthy.
        Also am involved in CrossFit though not affiliated with a gym. But I like to do various WODs that I make up or copy from folks who post their workouts online. Maybe you, Christina, your classmate and I can do some email support and possibly a mid-detox meal out (GlassHalfFull has lots of good paleo options)

    2. i just signed up to complete level 3 of the 21 day sugar detox as well, however i live around 40 minutes away in cary. i know a couple people that eat paleo in my area but none around my age (16) and none that i know of are doing the 21 day sugar detox

  5. It is pretty tough staying on paleo druing the holidays. I managed to stay away from the sugary treats but the alcohol was hard! So I’m on the sugar detox bandwagon as well. By the way I hope you get to PaleoFX. Good luck with the detox 🙂