• How I Conquered Sugar

    Once Upon A Time:

    Girl meets sugar at a young age. Girl falls in love with sugar. Becomes overweight. Struggles with diets. Is always hungry. Finds exercise. Tries to “get healthy”. But refuses to break up with sugar. And so, the dysfunctional relationship between girl and food continued into adulthood.

    That girl *was* me…until I found the Whole9. But let me back up a little.

    My Sordid Food Past:

    Growing up, I was overweight kid. Okay, I was fat. Though my mom made a variety of healthy meals, I knew how and where to feed my sugar/junk food addiction. I loved carb-heavy foods like pasta and bread, and say no to dessert?! Never! Soccer kept me active, and I continued to play into high school. I also joined the track team and started tae kwon do, and though my weight came down a little, I hated my body. Eating made me feel guilty. Eventually, I had to quit track and get a part-time job during senior year. The freshman twenty struck early, and I topped out at over 165 at 5’3″. So I did what any logical teenager would do…join a gym but keep eating what I always did. Not too long after, I found mountain biking.

    Now in college, I ate a lot of processed food and worked as a cake decorator (Danger, Will Robinson!) though I was active enough to shed some weight. I remember, though, never feeling happy about my body and like something was missing. I had acne breakouts, low energy, mood swings and was always hungry. Exercise had now become second nature to me–I loved working out and riding my bike–though I was always fighting with food. Most of my 20s was spent experimenting with all sorts of diets: Weight Watchers, vegetarian, high carb/low fat, etc. Nothing ever worked. Eating became a psychological battle riddled with worry about consuming too much fat.

    In late 2009, I heard of Paleo from a fellow mountain biker and dear friend. “What?! Give up grains, dairy, and legumes?! This sounds nuts! How am I supposed to fuel?” I wondered. As an endurance athlete (multi-hour mountain bike races), carbs were a staple in my diet. Nevertheless, on January 10, 2010, I cleared out my kitchen and decided to “go Paleo”. Kinda. Like 80%-kinda. Grains and sugar were still in my diet in low levels (sports bars/gels/drinks, post-ride trips to our favorite Mexican eateries, etc) though I cooked and ate “pretty” clean at home. And yet still, I could not stop my sugar addiction–candy, baked goods, even diet soda–seemed to hold an inexplicable, magical grip over me. I would “snack” on M&Ms and Coke Zeros though the idea of avocado seemed sinful, taboo even. Butter? Fuhgeddaboutit. Red meat? Almost never. MORE grains? Why, certainly!

    Enter CrossFit:

    I was introduced in August 2010 by yet another friend (I hang out with such smart people!) and was instantly hooked. I always joked about my pseudo-muscles because though I appeared to be toned in the upper body, I couldn’t do a single pull up and push ups were laughable (though I could ride my bike for 12 hours at a time and had endurance). I skipped over the nutrition part of our on-ramp–hey, I already “knew” Paleo, right?!

    Immediately I saw gains in strength and muscle mass while body fat decreased. I added Olympic weightlifting to the mix and became even stronger and faster. Nutrition-wise, I tried Zone. For a week. I cannot weigh or measure my food without it becoming a downward spiral of obsession (remember my WW stint?) or guilt (I ate 1 tbsp too much of…). So, I kept on pseduo-Paleo’ing and by now, the sugar gremlin was the size of a sugar Kraken–enormous, scary and seemingly impossible to kill.

    Enter Whole9/Whole30 (I imagine the sounds of angels trumpeting…):

    As my circle of CrossFit and Paleo friends began to widen on Twitter (Six-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon-like), I started to see lots of #whole30 and #whole9 hash tags flying about. After going to the Whole9 website and devouring the articles, blog posts, and Manifestos, I knew without a doubt that this was the next step in my Paleo evolution: I would finally begin walking upright…no more knuckle-dragging! Everything made perfect sense to me. To shake this sugar demon, I had to suck it up and commit. Armed with a buddy (my dear friend Jen), a Whole9 shopping guide, and a whole bunch of common-sense information, I did it: I went Whole30.

    Those 30 days changed me to my core. I became cognizant of what I ate and focused a lot on food quality. Red meat wasn’t scary or off the menu anymore. I ate fat. Lots of good fat. I eliminated all dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and everything on the “don’t” list. And here’s what I got:

    I got rid of the nasty, heavy, bloated feeling in my belly. I never realized it was abnormal (when you live with things daily, what becomes the new normal?). My skin cleared up (I had been very acne-prone all my life). I no longer felt the upper respiratory congestion I experienced when I used to consume dairy. I felt strong and continued to set PR’s in the gym and ride my bike long distances without an issue (goodbye, Honey Stinger Waffles *sniff*). My mind was clear, and I had plenty of energy. I felt healthier than I had in years!! And Clash of the Titans-style, I conquered the sugar Kraken!! And so (with another Whole30 under my belt and one currently in progress), I continue to eat clean, the Whole9 way. I have delved even further into primal/Paleo/clean/anti-inflammatory nutrition, reading and learning more whenever I can because I realize: this makes sense! There is no measuring or weighing. It’s not complicated. Healthy food is SIMPLE by nature. And, it’s only 30 days of your life. I bet you’ll feel better after you’ve tried it (and I’m not a gambling woman).

    Where Do I Go From Here?

    I hold a bachelor’s degree in Biology and have been a high school biology/chemistry teacher for more than decade. When I think of everything I was taught about the USDA’s nutritional guidelines, food pyramids, and “healthy whole grain” campaigns, I get angry! Why didn’t I know the real story?! I felt lied to and swindled. And then I realized that even though I can’t reverse time, I’d love to help others learn what I didn’t. After all, I teach by profession, and I am passionate about nutrition/health. Call me a clean-eating zealot! I know I can make a difference–simply by talking to folks out there who are like me and have struggled with food but want to make a change or by posting recipes on my blog. I’ve struggled and succeeded. I killed the Kraken. You can, too.

    116 thoughts on “How I Conquered Sugar

    1. Love your blog! I’m just starting Paleo after a structured, protein rich diet. I’m a little stuck in the 40/40/20 mentality and am working on eating via hunger/continual hunger. How do I know if I’m eating enough fat? I think I’ve been eating too much fats in almond butter and almonds kind of as comfort food. How do you recommend I get adequate fat intake w/o overdoing the nuts?

      1. Thanks Kelsey!! I try to include fat at each meal, and for me, I’ve learned that if I can’t stay full for 4-5 hours after eating then I’m either 1) not eating enough protein (usually not the case as I can weigh it out if I really want to check, though usually I eyeball it) or 2) not eating enough fat. Nuts are a HUGE domino food for me…once I start, I can’t stop. I try to keep them at a minimum and use them as an emergency snack or as a garnish for extra crunch. Truthfully, I just try to limit them. My favorite go-to fat sources are avocado, olives, coconut products (full-fat milk in a can, shredded unsweetened coconut meat, coconut butter, coconut oil, etc) or finishing off a dish with a bit of extra virgin olive oil after it’s finished cooking.

    2. So where are you in So Cal? I used to be in the OC, CrossFitting at CF Costa Mesa, and now I’m in the Pacific Northwest, at CrossFit Untamed. Really enjoying your blog, I found you via The Clothes Make the Girl / Melissa Joulwan. I think the video decision was a good one. I have my beef jerky marinating in coconut aminos RNTM. Looking forward to all the goodness you have to come!

      1. Hi Brandy…I’m in the San Diego area. No kidding…I know a few people who go to CFCM! Thanks for your feedback…it’s kinda scary to put oneself out there on video because it’s a lot less anonymous than a normal blog post…ack! Hope your jerky came out awesome!

    3. Hi! I found your blog through some other ones but have been curious about this style of eating for a while. I’ve been vegetarian for 7 years or so and believe both paleo & veg base their diets on eating whole, real food, but differ in a lot of ways too. I want to cut back on refined/processed grains and carbs but stay vegetarian. Is there a way to be a paleo vegetarian? If so, how would you suggest going about this? I can’t seem to find too much info about this. I’m also an athlete. Thanks!

      1. Hi Sloane! The topic of vegetarian-paleo seems to be gaining in popularity lately. The best resource I can think of off the top of my head is to check out Whole9’s website, particularly this article: http://whole9life.com/2012/03/paleo-nutrition-for-vegetarians/. In it, you’ll find resources that may be a good jumping off point for you. I’m not sure if you can still get the Vegetarian Shopping Guide from them but if you contact the Whole9 crew, they may be able to help you out. What type of athlete are you/what sports do you participate in, out of curiosity? Thanks for visiting the blog!

    4. Thanks! I’ve seen that site before, but I’ll take a look around. I don’t think I’m quite ready to eat meat again, but I’m interested to learn more and if it’s possible to eat in more “Paleo” ways.
      I play volleyball for my college team, so with that I do a lot of lifting (Crossfit style workouts), agility, jump-training, etc… but I’ve gotten into mtn. biking & road cycling & getting quite strong with that, I run, etc. I like to be active, it’s fun to compete & push our bodies, huh?!
      Thanks again 🙂 Any additional advice or possible meal plans for what I’m looking for would be awesome.
      Also, did you feel like your body composition has changed? I’m fit, but I’m looking to lean out a bit.

      1. Definitely poke around on their site…you may find links to other sites as well. Wow, great diversity of activities! My background is mountain biking (racing) and road riding. I’ve also been doing CrossFit for 1.5 years. Do you eat eggs? As far as carbs, definitely investigate starchy veggies (sweet potato, yam, squash like butternut/acorn/kabocha, and others such as plantains, yucca, etc). Since I’ve been eating paleo (2.5 years) I’m definitely leaner and have more muscle mass!

    5. I literally found out about and completed my Whole30 thanks to THIS blog post! Not only did it change my life, but I’ve got two friends now doing their own Whole30 now after seeing my results. The latest unexpected turn of events is the beginning of my CrossFit journey. The Paleo lifestyle is now dramatically improving the life and health of myself and others, and I want to thank you for starting the ripple effect.

      1. Hi Mary! I am beyond humbled by your message. To know that this blog (which is a hobby) has positively impacted others in such a way means the world to me. I appreciate you taking the time to share it with me. Keep up all your hard work!!

    6. Okay, I’m ready to start this Paleo thing. Been cross fitting for about six months with pretty good success have dropped about 13 pounds and body fat and am feeling better but know the last piece is diet. I am in good shape and active. I’ve been an Army officer for the last 22 years (and can still keep ip with the young pups but at 43 I’m lucid enough to realize the All-state high school miler days are behind me. i am also a wife, a mom who works about 60+ hours a week. I don’t tell you that for sympathy. I tell you that so that when I say I want to do this but I need it to be fairly simple and easy to employ into an already overstuffed life (war is Hell Sherman and two combat tours later I most certainly concur.) I am a lousy cook ( I do other things well, like command a battalion of 1500 sons and daughters of America daily) so this Paleo thing can’t be difficult. I have tried other programs and the bottom line is I need to know what to eat daily (probably what to buy to make it) and it has to be simple because as stated earlier I am not Julie Childs ( or even a distant relative). So what resources exist that would simplify this Whole30 process? I get overwhelmed when i goggle ‘Paleo.” I need an app basically that says eat this and here’s what you need to get at grocery store to make it in 30 minutes or less.

      Appreciate any help you can offer.


      1. Hi Angie…thanks for checking in. I’d actually say that nutrition is paramount to exercise…it’s the foundation upon which everything else is built. You seem more than ready to take the next step. Sounds like you are definitely busy, and I’ve got some tips for you:

        1. Buy a crockpot if you don’t already have one. One with a built-in timer and keep warm function will allow you to throw a few key ingredients in, set the timer, walk away and come back home to a hot meal.
        2. In the beginning, concentrate on these three things: meat / eggs, veggies and spices. You’d be amazed at the tasty combinations you can create just by rotating foods and keeping the prep / method simple – pan fry the meat and veg, add spices. Done. It’s okay to eat the same meal for, say, lunch and dinner to make it more simple in the beginning when you are trying to get a handle on things. As you keep going with it, you’ll get more creative and probably branch out a bit.
        3. Read “It Starts with Food” or “The Paleo Solution” to get a handle on Paleo basics.
        4. Finally, I’ll send you the URL for an app I’ve created (it’s still in very rough form but completely usable) that will address some of the questions you had. All you need to do is download the app service, Yapp, for free and then access the content.

        My recommendation is that you give Paleo a go before going all-in with a Whole30. Though they are similar (and I’m a big proponent of the Whole30), trying Paleo for the first time and being very, very strict about it is incredibly overwhelming for some. Let me know how you’re getting on.


        1. I was wondering if you could make the information about the app public. I would love to purchase an app with easy information about Whole30!!!!!

        2. That’s great advise! I have been looking at paleo and trying to wrap my brain around the concept for a couple of weeks. I want to do a whole30 but feel like I need a little more knowledge to be successful!

    7. Steph:
      Great words of encourgement. Crockpot I can do…and three ingredients are simple. Will also follow the app link u sent.

    8. I think I need to try paleo…but thing I have major problems with eggs (due to eating them in excess). I have tons of digestive issues. You can email me if you want/can. Issue is that I’m low energy and lower weight but also “binging” at night on “safe foods”. FULL of gas (can’t burp it out!). Also, live in an area with no hormone-free or organic things, very very poor choices and limited income. Thoughts ? I’m eating grain fed turkey as is…

      1. Hi J. It’s totally fine to eat Paleo and avoid eggs. I know a few folks with a sensitivity to them, and they seem to do just fine by cutting eggs out. It sounds like you may to include more protein and healthy fats in your diet to increase satiety (feeling full). You definitely don’t have to eat organic, etc if you have limited choices or income…instead focus on lean cuts of meat (so I would stay away from most ground beef unless it’s extra lean, fatty cuts like rib eye, take the skin off chicken, etc).

    9. Congratulations on your continuing pursuit of health & fitness. I’ve been eating Paleo for a week now & I’m all in! Starting Crossfit tomorrow (super psyched!) and returning to work after a blissful 2 weeks off…..this is where I am hoping you might have some suggestions for me. I travel to SD regularly for work & would love some thoughts on places to get a good clean meal. Fortunately there is a Whole Foods & TJ’s near UTC so they are great resources, but I know local recommendations are usually the best.
      Continued success to you & I can’t wait to make your jerky for my upcoming travels!


      1. Hi Chawn! Thanks for checking in. Glad that you are liking Paleo and good luck on your first days of CrossFit…the two are a great combination. When you are in SD stop in to CF Invictus for a workout! Wow, I have to admit to not eating out a lot because 1) I love to cook and 2) it’s easier to control what I eat this way (fewer surprises if you know what I mean). Trader Joe’s and WF are definitely my stand-bys for food that you can prep yourself, and the hot / cold bar at Whole Foods can be a lifesaver (though not cheap by any sense of the word). For a nice dinner out, Candela’s in Coronado has a Paleo menu (you just have to ask) and for a quick bite, Burger Lounge in Little Italy sells grass-fed burgers. Hope this gives you a few ideas. Cheers!

    10. I just found your website-awesome content and can’t wait to try some of the recipes! (my first jar of Coconut butter is on its way…i see a downward spiral in my life soon LoL)
      My husband started CF while deployed to Iraq. I was skeptical (been a runner forever) but when he came home after 6 months of doing nothing but CF with a 6-pack, i was sold. (and mind you, we’re both in our late 40s) I’ve been heavy into it since June ’12 and I have to say, it has changed my life. the friends I’ve made at my box, the positive changes in my life, its been pretty amazing.
      We just started our first 60 day Paleo challenge, so I am eager to see what our results will be after 2 months of strict Paleo. Thanks for sharing all this great info!

      1. Hi Marty! Thanks so much for checking in 🙂 I love hearing about your story and how you’ve embraced CF and a healthier way of eating. For me, living on the west coast 3000 miles from any family has meant that my gym friends have become like a second family. They’re awesome. I can’t wait to hear how your 60 Day Challenge goes. Promise to check back in and let me know how it goes? -Steph

    11. Hey steph. I’m thinking of getting back into Paleo eating . . . I don’t do CrossFit but I do a standard workout routine. . . Can Paleo eating work with what I’m doing?? . And what do you do for a post/pre workout meal?

      1. Hi David! It absolutely can work with what you’re doing. I’m about to release a pre/post workout guide in the next couple weeks but basically, if you are really hungry pre-workout you should stick to protein/fat (I like a hard boiled egg – for convenience – and a handful of nuts). Post-workout should be protein and for a standard workout routine, a small amount of carbs. Hope that helps! Stay tuned for the guide 🙂

    12. I don’t know how you do it!!? I have a huge sugar addiction, and can’t seem to make the Whole 30. I am weak I know. I have a very similar to yours, minus the sports. I eat paleo…with a lot of dried fruit and tons of nuts! Thanks for sharing, feeling inspired!

      1. Hi Karr’a…it’s not being weak. Sugar has some really (REALLY) potent effects on the brain…think “huge reward” every time we eat it. It’s biology speaking, not your lack of willpower or a sign of weakness. With that in mind, it’s nice to know that if you can stay away for long enough, it’s possible (at least it was for me) to stop the vicious cycle. You can do this!

    13. I finished my first Whole30 60 plus days ago. I have not re-introduced any foods into my diet because I am way to scared to get that bloated, gassy stomach ache stuff. I didn’t lose any weight on whole30 but I completly got rid of my sugar cravings (which is huge for me, since I am a sugar addict), I have more energy then ever and I am not bloated all the time. My questions is..Can I continue to eat this way? Do I need to introduce some foods to see if I am sensitive to them? I would really like to continue to feel this way, but going out socially is so hard I would like to have some sort of social life.

      1. Hi Rachelle…great questions and congrats on finishing your Whole30. If you do choose to reintroduce foods, be sure to follow the format detailed in Ch 19 of It Starts with Food (if you have it). If you don’t have the book, it’s basically Dairy (Day 1), gluten-containing grains (Day 4), non-gluten grains (Day 7) and legumes (Day 10). However, you do NOT ever have to reintroduce any food you don’t want to. I eat pretty close to the Whole30 template most of the time. So, since you may want to reintroduce things and see how you react, I would follow the timeline above and pay very close attention to how you feel, only reintroducing ONE thing at a time. So, if you want to see how you respond to wheat, you would reintroduce that at Day 4 and eat according to Whole30 guidelines for the rest of your foods. Does that help? For me, I’ve found that gluten and dairy really, really upset my stomach so I avoid them all the time. And when I go out, my friends know that I choose certain foods because I’m just sensitive to others. If they really don’t get it, just use the word “allergic” (even though it may be a bit of a white lie) and most people back off.

    14. I do have it starts with food book, and love it. Thanks for the reply. I think I better introduce some foods I might come across while out at restaurants so I can avoid them. Thank you for the guideline for reintroduction. That helps alot.

    15. Hi Steph,
      Whole30 was referenced on a group on FB and it led me to you. Great blog. I’m ready to get on board.
      I have about 60# I’d love to lose, but will be happy with 10# at a time…I find I stick to shorter goals longer.
      I, too, have a sweet craving, (as I just finished a bowl of ice cream…I’m addicted). I definitely need to reprogram my brain. Growing up, sugary foods were given as comfort foods, celebratory foods, stress relief foods…you name it. So, 60 years later, I’m still in that mode. Need. To. Change. Now!!!

      I saw your first video, but can’t seem to find your next ones. I wish I would have found this a week ago so I could join your group on the 17th. ..and know if I wait til August, I will forget about it. How do you recommend I start now and where do I find your other videos? Any help is appreciated.

      Thanks for the Public Service…I’m sure there are a lot of people you are helping.

      1. Hi there! I’m glad you’re here.

        Having the short-terms goals to get you to where you want to go is awesome. Good for you. I definitely hear you on the sweet foods being a trigger. For me, going without it for a month was enough to help me start breaking the cycle. It took time to get rid of it for good, but I think if I can do it, anyone can.

        The videos are all on my YouTube channel: http://youtube.com/stupideasypaleo. Jump in whenever you’re able to…you can start now and just follow along. There’s no strict start or stop date….just add the number of days you have left to the end after I’m done.

        I’m very happy to help and I really appreciate your kind words.


    16. I’m really really interested in trying Paleo, but, I live in Japan. This means I don’t have access to any foods you’d normally find a health food store, I have limited access to western food or other country’s foods, and I only have a stove top to cook with. No oven, though I do have a little toaster oven. I can’t really go out and buy a bunch of super great spices to cook with, and fruits and vegetables are awfully expensive (like 6 dollars for a half sized cantaloupe expensive). Meat, nuts and fats are pretty limited in variety and expensive as well. I do have access to a lot of fish though! Any ideas about how to make Paleo work here?

      1. Hi Sarah…if you can hold tight for a bit I’m going to put out a request for some assistance from my Facebook fans! I’ll let you know what they say 🙂

    17. Thanks for putting this all together for ye rest of is! I am new to Paleo, never done a diet before but liked he straightforward and easy to follow rules of the paleo diet. I have been wanting to cut out sugar and processed food but didn’t know how to go about it. I would never consider myself to be addicted to sugar but find the cravings very strong. I am doing a 30 day paleo challenge and have been very faithful without cheating. I am on day 16 and still really desire making cookies or pumpkin bread etc. Will the 30 days really cure this craving? Like you mentioned, it seems hard wired into our genetics to seek out sweet salty and fat. I have never had any issues like food sensitivities, bloating, etc. I have noticed I have been really tired since starting the paleo and been feeling fat in the belly, is that what you mean by bloated? Is this normal for the beginning? I had several days of severe brain fog the first week but that seems to be gone now. I went from 119 lbs to 115 in 13 days. That is certainly encouraging but I feel very sluggish and hardly feel the energy to exercise. Any pointers? I am not used to eating so much protein as I lean towards more of a vegetarian than not as I don’t care for eggs (but have been eating them everyday since starting this) and only used to eat meat a few times a week. Maybe 3 times or so. I am guessing this is an adjustment period but am confused about inheriting the symptoms paleo is ridding everyone else of. Thanks for your time. I am excited to try several of your recipes this week.

    18. reading this post, I feel as though I could have written it myself. It makes me sad, because I struggle with everything you did, went through the same frame of mind (the 80-ish % paleo, exercising, etc.) and I still haven’t had my moment when I commit 100%. Here’s hoping that readng through your blog gives me the inspiration that I might be missing 🙂 It’s good to know I’m not alone and that it is possible to beat this mother-father, sugar!!

      1. You are certainly not alone, Jeannette. If you can find a buddy to do a really strict 30 days with you, it’s sometimes a lot easier because you have each other to lean on and keep you in check. That worked for me. Don’t give up….you can do this!

    19. Hi Steph,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager and I am so beyond frustrated with all the diets and calorie counting and measuring food.. I have been toying with the idea of going paleo or at least cutting way back on bread & grains and see how it feels. I was just wondering if you know anyone who has done the Insanity workout while eating paleo. I am currently doing the workout and I am so frustrated because I expected to see huge changes in my body… I’m on week 6 and no huge changes. I feel like my diet must be to blame here so I’m thinking about trying to eat paleo for a week and see how it goes. My friends who have gone paleo or just cut grains from their diets have lost a lot of weight and seem to feel much healthier all around. I’m just worried about my carb intake because Insanity requires sooo much energy and I feel like I am hungry all day long on workout days. Any advice? Thanks so much!

      1. Hi Carol…without working with you on a 1:1 level, what I see in the meal plan is a high reliance on grains and processed carbohydrates. This can really keep folks on the blood sugar rollercoaster. I’m able to maintain training at a high level by incorporating carb-dense veggies. I’d also be suspicious of the recommendation to eat 5 meals a day. Requiring your digestive system to be constantly “on” instead of eating a majority of your food 3x a day can be problematic for some people. Hope this helps!

      1. Carol –

        How did Insanity while eating Paleo go? I am in week 4 and not losing weight and low energy, I’ve been eating paleo the whole time. I’m wondering if I need to increase my carbs.

        1. Hi Jessica…jumping in here. There *is* often an adjustment period with energy levels for some people when going lower carb. I recommend no less than 100 grams of carbs per day if you’re exercising, though. Track for a few days and figure out what your intake is, then adjust accordingly. Often it will take longer than 4 weeks to lose weight, too. Be patient!

    20. Hi Steph – I ran across your blog on Pinterest and have really been pondering starting Paleo in the new year… you’re just making me more convinced I should try it! 🙂 I crossfit 3x/week and will be starting training for my second half marathon after the holidays, so I’m pretty active and need to be able to fuel for this stuff. My main concern is… I battled an eating disorder for many years, and though I’ve been 90% “recovered” for a few years now, the last time I tried a Paleo-esque diet (the Daniel Fast at Easter), it immediately triggered anorexic mindsets to pop back up. I wisely called it quits after a week of high anxiety and unnecessary weight loss. Do you know of any websites or resources that could help me learn to balance Paleo/Whole30 as a healthy (instead of super-restrictive) way of eating? Thanks for any input you might have!

        1. Thanks for the link! It’s the super-restrictive “can’t have this, can’t have that” that gets me. It’s very easy to slide back into obsessing about what’s allowed and not allowed. I’ll have to do some more reading before I jump into it… but we do need to clean up our diets somehow! haha 🙂

          1. Ahhhh yes…I can understand that. I always frame it as, “I’m removing these foods to give my gut the best chance to heal that I possibly can.” When I think about it that way, I know that there’s a reason for why certain foods are avoided and others aren’t. Have you read It Starts with Food yet? It really goes into the rationale behind each category.

    21. Steph,

      You are so inspiring. I’m dealing with an ongoing sugar addiction myself right now. As of tomorrow I want to start the Whole30. I’m coming to the new year’s resolution party a little late, but I’ve decided it’s time to overhaul my life. Thank you for your story and your website.

    22. I am on day 8 of my 1st ever whole30. I was a pretty strict clean eater (not paleo), however had been a bit lax over the holidays. I ended up about 5lbs heavier than I feel comfortable. I had become somewhat obsessed with logging my food, counting calories & worrying about my macros and this and that. I lift and am very active 5-6 days a week, and was becoming consumed with whether I was eating too much or too little, reading that low carbs are bad, low carbs are good, metabolic damage…. and on and on. So my first 5 days of whole30 I continued to log. The last 3 days I have not. It is a little scary for me which obviously is a problem. Anyway, I am hoping I will learn to listen to my body and eat accordingly according to the ISWF guidelines. And that I will see the results of my hard work in the gym, and of course will feel and be healthier long term.
      Cool blog – thank you.

    23. Hey Steph,

      Love your articles, very insightful and interesting. Just wondering – did you go through any withdrawal symptoms during the first few days/weeks after giving up sugar? I’m on day 3 of a sugar detox and feel somewhat weak…it was a struggle to get through my Crossfit training this morning. I definitely feel that I am eating enough fat/protein to fuel my activities, so do you believe that these symptoms of fatigue/weakness are just temporary during this period of adjustment? I don’t want to ultimately end up damaging my body. Thanks!

    24. Hi! I love your blog and appreciate all the free content so much. I’m trying to choose between two different edu programs to become a holistic nutrition consultant and would love to know which program you completed and if you have any tips for getting started. Thanks!

      1. Which programs are you considering? Do you have a strong background in science and physiology? If not then go for a program like IIN which is pretty in depth. I had an extensive background in the subject matter so I did a shorter program.

        1. Thanks for taking the time to respond. I have a graduate degree in nursing and used to work as a nurse practitioner. It’s been over ten years though since I stopped working to be a homeschooling SAHM – with no recent experience and some rusty knowledge, I don’t want to enroll in a program too brief. I’d rather get a thorough review especially now that my thoughts about health and wellness are so very unconventional. I’m strongly considering programs at both Bauman College and the Nutritional Therapy Assoc. Any other thoughts or suggestions?

    25. Just found your blog and your story about sugar addiction sounds so similar to mine! Just recently started eating Paleo after trying to be a vegetarian and I’m no longer craving jar-fulls of Nutella, constantly hungry, or dealing with indigestion/tummy troubles. It feels so soooo good to finally feel like my sugar cravings are no longer dictating how/when I eat. Thanks for so much for sharing your story/blog! Nice to know that I’m on the right track.

    26. Started Paleo after stumbling onto your site in December (bad time to start with the holiday). Did the Whole 30 on your recommendation. I now am pretty much completely following the Paleo lifestyle. I started with Paleo to see if my joints, hips and knees would benefit. I lift weights and run and I’m 52 this September. I feel and look better than I did in my 30’s. I use your recipes everyday! I consider Paleo a lifestyle and not a diet. Looking forward to my health risk assessment in December.

      P.S. Love your blog and videos. I tell everyone about your site when they compliment me and ask what I’m doing. Keep up the good work and thanks!

    27. Hi! Just came across your blog, a friend of mine recommended It Starts with Food and I’m doing some research on it and the paleo lifestyle to see if it’s something i may benefit from. Your story in this blog sounds just like me… Weight fluctuating constantly, major sugar addiction, mood swings, low energy… Over the years I’ve tried lots of different things, most recently going vegan, then vegetarian, then pescatarian. In addition to working out, to the point of injury. And still have never felt completely happy about my body. I have lots of concerns about the amount of meat in a paleo diet… I come from going vegan/vegetarian and eating meat just feels like such an unhealthy thing! But I feel compelled to try this way of eating. I’m just now starting my research on it so any tips you have would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!!

      1. Hi Nataly,

        The most important thing I recommend folks like you do is to read It Starts With Food so you can understand the rationale behind the Whole30 rules. It’ll make Paleo a lot easier.

    28. Hey Steph,

      I noticed your mention of upper respiratory issues with dairy and I experience the same thing. Have you ever figured out why that happens? I’ve read a few different things about it but wanted to know your perspective. I figured it out after my first Whole 30 a year and a half ago and try to stay dairy free as much as possible. Most people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that I will almost immediately start coughing if I eat ice cream and if I have too much dairy over several days I’ll notice a horrible cough after I go for a longer run. It’s never really been an issue though after Crossfit. Thoughts?


      1. Dairy causes inflammation, and if you’re really susceptible to it, that’s what you’re experience is inflammation of the respiratory tract.

    29. I too am really struggling with the “sugar demon”! I have done the same thing as you had in the past, exercise to counter act the guilty pleasures, but am now realizing it is more than a physiologic, but more a psychological struggle. I do now realize I need to make the commitment to giving up on the foods that don’t seem to really benefit me in the long run, keep my body inflammed, and only feed that addiction further. I too am a mountain biker and love to be on my bike for hours. The problem I’ve found it trying to get the right and easy nutrition along on the ride that isn’t sugar heavy. Any suggestions on how you overcame that?!

    30. Hi Steph!
      Just came across your article and although I haven’t had refined sugar in years, I think I’m addicted to natural sugars like honey fruit maple syrup dates etc.
      I train 5 days a week doing a full time circus course 8-5 everyday and I want to be super strong and fit. I would love to try this lifestyle but I can’t bear the idea of a eating meat again… I follow a pescatarin lifestyle and meat simply repulses me.
      I could possibly return chicken to my diet but I don’t know if red meat will ever reappear…. Please help

      1. Hi Ela,

        It’s super hard to get enough protein while eating vegetarian. Chicken is fine, as are eggs, fish, etc. If you can get in any animal protein from those sources, I’d recommend it over forgoing meat altogether. If red meat is off the menu, I don’t think that’s a problem. Just watch your B vitamin intake!

    31. Hi Steph!

      I’ve stumbled upon your blog a few times now… Can’t wait to try some of your recipes! 🙂

      Currently, I’m trying to discover what kind of diet is best for me. I have hereditary high cholesterol (I’m just about to turn 25) and have been on medication since I was 19. I would LOVE to be off of this statin drug completely, and have been crazily researching to discover what works for most who were on statin drugs… The hang-up always seems to be when someone has “hereditary” hyperlipidemia, drugs are “needed”, but I don’t buy it. Anywho, Paleo seems like it might be a great way to go and I’ve also been looking into the Keto Diet. Are you familiar with this at all? The biggest difference between Paleo and Keto seems to be dairy consumption.

      I was also curious as to where you went to school to become a nutritionist. I am currently working on my personal training certification (I have my bachelor’s in dental hygiene, but am no longer practicing) and would like to become a health coach or nutritionist. Are there any programs you’d recommend?

      One more thing… What are your thoughts on sugar alcohols? There seems to be a lot of controversy about these in a Paleo diet, and I’ve noticed some people use them in their recipes while others don’t. The biggest two that I’ve noticed are stevia and erythritol. Stevia seems to be a safe product to me, given that it comes from the stevia leaf and is an extract (Sweet Leaf products, specifically). I’m not so sure about erythritol, though.

      Looking forward to hearing from you! 🙂

      1. Hi Danielle,

        The biggest difference between Paleo and Keto is not really dairy consumption: It’s that Keto is basically a zero carb diet, while the carb consumption in a Paleo diet should vary based on your activity level.

        I’d recommend something like IIN or NTP. You can find info about them on their respective websites.

        Overall, I’m not a fan of sugar alcohols or stevia. They are all hyper-sweet and have influences on the brain / eating behavior and may reinforce poor eating patterns. If I *need* to use a sweetener, my choice is raw local honey.

        Hope this helps!

    32. Love your writing style! So personable. I identify with your struggles of growing up addicted to sugar and hardcore diets that set you up to fail. Great article! Thanks!

    33. Hi Steph! Thanks so much for sharing your sugar story. I can totally relate! My diet for the most part, is pretty clean. I’ve been doing 85% ish paleo for about 2 years now. Not because of any digestion issues or intolerances, I just like eating real food. I do however, struggle with that sweet tooth of mine. Eating the paleo diet definitely helps tame the cravings. I would love, for my love of sugar to completely disappear. You know…where you walk past the bakery isle and want nothing to do with any of those foods… (that would be awesome) I have not tried the Whole30. I’m wondering if I should though. I usually try to go sugar free for as long as I can before giving in again. My longest was 16 days….(then came the donuts!) Do you ever crave sweets? How many Whole30’s have you done? I have learned so much about nutrition from bloggers and sites like yours. You are truly appreciated 🙂 I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta on July 18

      1. Hi Alicia,

        I don’t really ever crave sweets anymore and from time to time, I’ll have dessert but my cravings for it have almost all but disappeared. I’ve done 3 Whole30’s since 2011.

        It really gave the support I needed to go all 30 days. I think that was really the turning point was being able to go without the junk food, baked goods, candy, etc.

        I don’t live my day-to-day as sugar-free. I still have raw local honey from time to time and I eat fruit and carbs from starchy veggies, but I know for me that dried fruit is a trigger, so I rarely eat that and baked goods just don’t happen in my house.

        I’ll see you there 🙂

    34. Hi Steph!

      Oh dear, I feel like I am coming to this conversation SUPER late, but I am here, so I’ll take it! I was introduced to your cookbook, your website, and your podcast by three different people all within a week. I took it as a sign and have been reading, listening, and cooking posed-paleo ever since. [SIDENOTE: I LOVED the women’s strength summit! I’m still talking about it with friends/family]. Two quick questions, first, I don’t cross fit (for a variety of reasons) but I run and I do cardio kickboxing (I actually coach a bit on the side), are there any adjustments that I should make to the paleo way of being if I am not engaging in the same type of workout as cross fit? Second, sugar remains my nemesis at 34; even more so, as I am in a high stress time of life (writing my dissertation). After reading this blog, I am planning to complete the Whole 30. Any suggestions on someone jumping in — things to consider, things to be aware of? Thanks for your thoughts here. I am grateful for your work and your voice in this space!

      1. Hi Kristin,

        Wow that’s so cool! I’m glad you found me 🙂

        Running and cardio kickboxing are still going to tax your body much like CrossFit would (in other words, while probably a bit aerobic) your activities are still demanding glycogen which you’ll want to refuel via carbohydrates like starchy roots and tubers…potatoes, sweet potatoes…plantains, etc. There’s a common tendency to go too low carb and still be pushing your body which leads to all sorts of issues.

        It’s good that you’re considering a Whole30! My best advice is to read a lot about the program before you start because there are some rules that should be followed closely. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is cutting way back on portion size because they want to use Whole30 to lose weight. Just be careful there. I have a ton of posts about Whole30 if you skim back through the archives.

        It really depends on you whether entering into a food elimination during your dissertation will either make your stress levels higher or lower. Some people want the structure, while for others, it adds more pressure. It’s totally up to the type of person you are!

        Wishing you all the best!

    35. I almost didn’t comment, and then noticed that someone had commented recently and gotten a reply, hooray!! I sound so similar to you it is amazing, right down to the whole mountain biking thing! I have a serious problem with sugar right now… I can’t seem to ever get away from it completely, and I know that I probably ever won’t, due to the facts that I am a) only 17 living at home so basically have to eat whatever is put in front of me, and b) my mom is an amazing cook who sneaks sugar into everything, and so do all of her friends, so that means that I no matter where I go, things that should be healthy have been polluted. (think fruit ruined with scads of sugar, it’s that disgusting.) I can’t seem to run away from sugar. Does whole30 mean that you haven’t eaten sugar since, or you do eat sweet things now, just in small amounts, and have you really killed the craving??

      1. Hi Holly! I do my best to reply to all comments and questions 🙂

        I did have a break from it during my whole30s but you’re correct, I don’t crave it like I used to…I also don’t eat a sugar free diet and I’ve eaten sugar since then.

        To me, it’s not realistic for most people to live 100% sugar free forever. For periods of time, avoiding it can help break cravings and reset the relationship. Hope that makes sense. Wishing you lots of luck!

    36. I noticed in your blog you mentioned feeling full for 4-5 hours. I have to say, I get ridiculously starved immediately after eating! My girlfriend too. I have been a vegan/vegetarian for several years and all the carbs have been killing me. So I am 2 weeks into eating Paleo. Any thoughts?

      1. How’s your digestion? Sleep? Protein intake?

        If you’re a former non-meat eater I’m wondering if your protein intake is just too low. Should be 0.8-1.25g protein / lb bodyweight per day.

    37. I just finished day 4 of my first whole30. My main reason for doing one is to cure my sugar addiction. I am in my early twenties and I have sugar all the time! It’s frightening to think about how much sometimes. I hope that this will help me have more willpower over my cravings and that after my whole30 I won’t go and eat all the sugar. Thanks for this encouraging post!

      1. Keep up the good work, Elizabeth. I think you’ll be amazed how fast your tastebuds can change when you stick with it for a short time 🙂

    38. Do you practice the new One Bite rule. That doesn’t work for me.
      I can’t bring paleo cupcakes and donuts home, place them on a countertop or by my bedside, play with them awhile and then throw them out into the garbage. I can’t see the logic in testing your power and resolve by bringing food home, playing with with it and throwing it away.
      Why bother with it at all. I don’t think it helps binge eaters. The anorexic typically sees food as something to be salted, stomped on or destroyed, then tossed into the garbage. What’s the real answer, how do you manage these kinds of foods without demonizing them?

      1. I don’t do the one bite thing generally. I tell myself I can have any food at any time…because I’m an adult.

        It just so happens that a vast majority of the time, I don’t want junk food. But if I did want something sugary or whatever, I eat it, enjoy it, and move on to the next meal.

    39. Thank you.
      I will own it, take full responsibility for it and eat it. When I do eat it, I won’t post a boohoo vid of myself pretending that I went to bed with it, waking up with the crumbs in my hair. Totally upset that I could not maintain my resolve and get that medal by keeping everything at an arm’s length – then feeling/reaping glorious rewards for throwing food in the garbage.

      1. Cindy, life isn’t perfect. Sometimes we do things out of habit. It’s automatic. The key is to provide yourself with a new habit to take its place.

    40. I have always thought that in order to lose my weight I had to do more exercise. Hence I started going to the gym. 2 years in and I gained 40lb of fat, instead of losing any weight. I thought that gaining weight was great, especially when it’s done in the gym. However, I didn’t understand that gaining fat was not the main goal of being in the gym. It was 20% of a gym and 80% of food, I finally understood.

      Frankly, it wasn’t me who understood this on myself. It was my coach, who actually told me how to lose and control the weight. I’m so pleased that I had to go over such a torture to understand that the food is the main reason why we are alive and the main reason of how we look and feel.

      Glad you managed to overcome this too.

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