I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. I get to work from home and do what I love more than anything else- create recipes, photograph them and write about them. But no job is perfect and transitioning into the food industry has not been without it’s problems. Before attending culinary school I was never a desserts girl. I would take an appetizer or salty snack over sugar any day. Heck, I even named this blog Savory Simple. But something happened while I was at school. Every single day for six months we created a 3-course gourmet meal; an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. And every single day we ate the food we made for lunch. Baking desserts became a source of comfort for me in a chaotic, stressful environment. I loved the science, I loved the process and I grew to really love eating the results, so much that sometimes I would skip the main course and go straight to dessert. Fast forward several years in the industry and there’s no getting around the truth; I have a sugar addiction.
Throughout high school and college I was a smoker but I quit around 10 years ago. And I would never go back to smoking cigarettes, especially after losing several people in my life to cancer. But the reason I bring this up is because the cravings I now get for sugar are equally as intense as the ones I used to get for nicotine. They are sudden, they are powerful and they are persistent. Once I start thinking about sugar I have a hard time thinking about anything else. 4 out of 5 times I give in to that craving, just as I did for years with cigarettes. And to be blunt, this has caused me to gain a lot of weight. About 20 pounds.
Now I find myself in a bit of a tricky situation. I have a job that I absolutely love and wouldn’t trade for anything. But this job requires me to taste recipes with sugar on a regular basis. It is like trying to quit smoking while having a job that requires me to take several puffs per day. There’s no escaping it. And I have no interest at this time in becoming a recipe developer who specializes exclusively in healthy recipes. It’s not what I love to do and it’s not why companies hire me. There is nothing in the world more satisfying to me than photographing a beautiful layer cake or dripping ice cream. I’m not ready to give that up yet. Sorry to toot my own horn but I think I’m damn good at it (and proud).
Health experts are often very divisive when it comes to sugar. It’s either “Sugar is a drug and should be completely eliminated” or “Moderation is key and eliminating anything completely is wrong.” I am not here to argue about anything, just share my own experience. Personally, I don’t think there’s one right way for anyone and I need to find my own path.
I was contacted last November by Suja Juice about doing a review and giveaway. I had always wanted to try a juice cleanse but was too scared, mainly because I occasionally suffer from bad migraines. But after repeated failed attempts at cutting back on the sugar I was feeling very down on myself and… kind of hopeless. I decided I had nothing to lose. So a week before Thanksgiving I embarked on my first juice cleanse. For five days my diet would consist of six 16-ounce Suja juices and not much else. I was kind of petrified.
Before starting I consulted with a few health coaches about whether it was ok to keep the caffeine in. “Absolutely not!” they all said emphatically. “You will not get all of the cleanse benefits! Caffeine is BAD!” Hrm. You know what? I ignored every single one of them. I honestly think that attitude is what keeps so many people from experimenting with juicing. Why does everything have to be so all or nothing? So what if I don’t get 100% of the benefit? Isn’t 90% of the benefit still much better than nothing? I kept in the caffeine and made a few other modifications which I’ll discuss in more detail below.
So how did the cleanse go for me, even without eliminating caffeine? It was amazing. The experience was a revelation and I’m hooked. No headaches. In fact, as I type this I’m on Day 2 of another 5 day Suja detox and this time it isn’t sponsored. I bought the whole thing myself. It is expensive? Yes. Is it worth it for someone like me? Absolutely. For the first time in ages, I feel real hope about conquering my sugar addiction in a way that will allow me to keep doing what I love.
I was surprised by how much I liked the flavors of the six juices. The Fiji was a bit heavy on the ginger for me but all of them tasted better than anything I’ve ever managed to juice from scratch. And they use some creative ingredients as well. The Vanilla Cloud juice has almonds and the Fuel juice has turmeric. I never got bored with them. I hate to sound like a commercial but Suja really makes the whole juicing experience very easy. It would take me forever to make all of these flavors from scratch at home every day. And it wouldn’t be much cheaper. These juices are expensive but you’re paying for convenience, flavor variety and ease of use.
After the 5 day detox all of my cravings were gone and my appetite was a fraction of what it normally would be. On that last day I woke up craving juice. And when I started incorporating real foods back into my diet, all I wanted was fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Remember how I finished the cleanse two days before Thanksgiving? Well, this sugar addict had zero interest in the holiday desserts. Ultimately what threw me off track again was work. I had many dessert recipes due before Christmas and taste testing slowly worked sugar back into my diet. My hope is that with this second detox I will be able to maintain the results longer. I’m keeping refined sugars and carbs out of my diet for at least the next month.
In summary, I’m not ready to give up yet. Is there a possibility that eventually I’ll have to give up sugar completely? Sure. But my weight issue is not yet out of control and I’m a fighter. I’ve worked very hard to get where I am today and I want to believe there’s a way for me to have it all- the cake and the body. I think juicing will help me maintain control. And I’m very grateful that Suja sent a free detox my way.
Here are my Tips for Juicing:
- Figure out your goals in advance and come up with a game plan to help you succeed. I left in the caffeine because eliminating it would have set me up for migraines. My goal was to detox off of refined sugar and carbohydrates. Every day I had 2-3 cups of coffee with plain, unsweetened almond milk.
- Come up with a “cheat” in advance that you’re allowed to have if you need it. Suja recommends options such as half an avocado or a small sweet potato. Most days I had a hard boiled egg with a sprinkle of salt mid-afternoon. It’s better to come up with an option in advance so you have a safety zone before giving up.
- If you happen to work in the food industry like me, take care of as much food business as possible in the morning. Don’t torture yourself by brainstorming recipes at 5pm.
And now I’d like to share this experience with you! One reader will win a free 3 day Suja Juice cleanse. You must be at least 18 years old to enter and have a US address where the juice can be shipped. This contest will run through Saturday, January 18th at 7pm EST. I will select a winner at random and that person will have 48 hours to respond to my email before a new winner is selected. Good luck!
This giveaway has ended.
Disclaimer: Suja Juice provided me with a free 5 day cleanse to review as well as a free 3 day cleanse to give away. As always, all opinions are my own.
I really enjoy your recipes. I’d love to try these juices!
I would love to try the juice cleanse.
Trying to do a juice / vegan diet right now; this would help a lot .
natalie @ wee eats says
just thought of this again today and i’m so sad i didn’t win! BUT… i did see that there is a store near me that sells them so I think I’m gonna pick a few bottles up over the weekend and see how it goes :)
Jason Shriner @ The Aubergine Chef says
Wow Jen, this was a very open honest post about your diet and sugar addiction. I love that you said you have to find what works for you and that it shouldn’t have to be all or nothing. You’re totally right – it’s that kind of attitude that turns people off from trying it in the first place.
And the part where you asked health coaches their opinion and then ignored it anyway? ME. It made me literally laugh out loud. I ask for advice and then do what I want almost daily. I get called out on it all the time.
I haven’t looked at their site just yet, but I’m wondering if these would be good meal replacers in general – or at least a way to get more veggies/fruits.
Congratulations on finding your path to a healthier life – a lifestyle you chose for yourself :)