Age: 27 Height: 5’4″ Weight Now: 110
Occupation: Certified Holistic Health Counselor
Hobbies: Spending time with my family and friends, making collages, photography, yoga, walking, running, dancing, being outside, cooking, reading, writing and meeting new people.
Major Benefits From Kicking Sweets & Refined Carbs: Happier, increased energy, more motivated, improved mental clarity, as well as regular periods and digestion, decreased allergies and better sleep patterns.
Connie: What was your rock-bottom moment before you decided you needed to change your diet?
Felicia: I did not have a rock bottom moment. I knew for years (since I was a teen) that I needed to change my diet to improve my health. I started that experimenting with food when I was 14. I became a vegetarian and I tried cutting out dairy, but I kept eating candy and bread. I wish I had had someone there to tell me it was the sugar that was causing most of my problems. Then, in college, I discovered beans and grains and started cooking more so I was doing much better but I was still eating candy and bread all the time. I was in and out of depression and struggled with finding the cause. My conviction to really cut out sugar for good in 2001 came from my frustration of always being congested and constipated. This always accompanied my feeling of being stuck in general in my life. After years of trying to pin down the cause and coming up with the same cause – refined sugar and flour, I realized I just had to stop.
Connie: Just how bad were you feeling? What ailments did you have?
Felicia: Already at age 10, I was creating an ulcer in my stomach. I started menstruating very early (which could have been due to my sugar habit). Plus, I had cysts and terrible PMS. I also was a borderline anemic shortly afterwards. Then, I had acne, water retention, and recurring gastritis. In addition, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and chronic fatigue. In fact, I was always tired. But thst wasn’t all: My allergies were notorious. People knew that I was always congested (I’d stopped allergy medication years previously). What’s more, I was unable to sleep well because I could never breathe through my nose. And, when I was congested in my head, sure enough, I was congested in my colon, too, and I was always constipated. I always felt bloated and was always on an emotional rollercoaster.
Connie: What are the biggest benefits you’ve gained from taking control of your habit of eating sugar and processed carbohydrates? In other words, please tell readers, “What’s in it for me?!”
Felicia: I can breathe and I’m no longer constipated! I have much more energy, I think more clearly, and my relationships are improved. I no longer go through nightmarish emotional roller coaster rides. My periodic bouts of depression no longer come around. I no longer retain water or gain 5 pounds before my period. What’s more, I’m happier than ever.
Connie: When did you turn to sweets and what did it do to you?
Felicia: I grew up on sweets. I ate sweet cereals, I ate candy whenever I could, I snacked on granola bars and sugar-laden yogurt and loved ice cream after dinner. I remember getting blood drawn when I was young and being scared about the needle and then when we left the doctor’s office, my father
bought me a beautiful glass container full of candy. As a child, I learned that candy — sugar — was a reward. Initially, I would always feel great, giddy, and excited about anything — this was during and immediately after eating sugar or refined carbs. But within a half hour at most, I became tired, unmotivated, negative and down on myself. If I’d been planning to go out, suddenly curling up on the couch to watch a movie seemed so much more appealing.
Connie: Describe any pivotal moments in a doctor’s office or an embarrassing event that made you decide to tackle your sugar habit, etc.
Felicia: Honestly, there have been few embarrassing moments because I feel that I have mostly been surrounded by sugar addicts! In hindsight, even some of the many doctors I saw from age 10 to 14 seem hooked. But most of my friends and family members — like the average American — also went overboard on sweets. Throughout my years of experimenting, most friends and doctors just did not take me seriously when I wondered about the connection between my intake of sugar and refined carbs and my allergies, irritable bowel syndrome and other symptoms.
Connie: How did confronting and cutting out your sugar habit help you?
Felicia: It changed my life! I got more energy; I became more focused and happy; my digestion improved; and I lost five annoying pounds. All of a sudden, instead of spending time thinking about how uncomfortable or unhappy I was with my physical state, I was thinking and planning and starting a business and reading and writing more, being more creative. I just hadn’t realized how much time I spent thinking about my ailments until I stopped eating sugar, and as a result, I had mouch more time on my hands because I wasn’t focusing on my pain. When I cleared my system of refined sugar and carbohydrates, I also opened up space for clarity and inspirations that didn’t otherwise come. It also became clear to me that my health was, for the most part, a result of all of the food decisions that I made on a daily basis. This, I discovered, was marvelous, because it meant that I had the power to change the direction of my health and my life.
Connie: Did you find a doctor or other health professional (acupuncturist, nutritionist, etc.) who understood all about how eating sugar triggers drastic blood sugar swings, etc.
Felicia: In the year 2000, I read a fabulous book by Santiago Portilla called The Marvelous Existence of Sickness (La Maravillosa Existencia de la Enfermedad). I’d always been interested in food and the relationship to heath, but Portilla’s book really made me realize that our symptoms always provide lessons and clues to for us. From there, I began experimenting with what I ate and started reading books on nutrition, and then finally in about 2001, I decided to kick my sugar habit for food. Sadly, I never found a knowledgeable doctor or health professional to help me. I wish I had! It would have been so much easier with that kind of support. That’s a big part of why I became a health counselor – to offer the kind of support to others that I didn’t have when identifying and kicking my sugar habit.
Connie: What made you finally decide to eliminate sugar and refined carbs to help with your health issues?
Felicia: Discovering my purpose in life and committing myself to that purpose has made it easier to make food choices that serve me and my intentions. I know that my gift is helping others align their thoughts and their actions with their goals, and I can’t do that well when I am not in alignment myself. I agree with Gandhi that we must be the change we want to see in the world. I want to see a healthy world full of healthy and happy people. And for me, to be healthy and happy, eliminating sugar and refined carbs is essential.
Connie: How did you first learn about the dangers of sugars and refined carbs?
Felicia: For years, I knew that sugar wreaked havoc on my system for years, but I don’t think I recognized the real dangers that I now know and speak about until I went to school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
Connie: What did you used to eat before you began curtailing the culprit carbs?Felicia: Lots of white bread and bagels, pasta; way too much cereal; too many granola bars, cookies, peppermint patties, blow pops, gum, tootsie rolls, etc.
Connie: What do you think most people don’t know about processed carbs that they need to know?
Felicia: Of course, we’ve all heard about empty calories. But most people don’t realize that refined sugar and flour provide NEGATIVE calories. By that I mean that when you eat sweets, they rob your body of its reserves of protein, minerals, enzymes, etc. In fact, one teaspoon of sugar may compromise your immune system for up to two hours. And this number increases as you boost your sugar intake. Also, most folks don’t realize that sugar and refined carbs compromise our creativity, our productivity and our happiness.
Connie: What have been your biggest challenges to kick sugar and refined carbs? Can you help prepare others for any potential pitfalls ahead?
Felicia: The most difficult thing for me is saying no to sweets in social settings. I have several food allergies which always seemed to complicate things further because I don’t just say no to sugar. But because I don’t want to offend or hurt someone’s feelings, I’ve often said yes to foods that I know aren’t actually good for me. It was hard for me to recognize that people who love me do so because of my company and the kind of person I am — not whether or not I eat their pies and cookies. Whenever I would say yes to a good that didn’t work in my body, my focus would shift from enjoying the company of the people I came to see to my physical discomfort (bloated, gas, stomach pain).
Connie: How do you say no now?
Felicia: Now I now decline graciously. I think the key is to be authentic and enjoy whatever you have chosen instead (the conversation, the comraderie, etc.). In other words, you can enjoy these other things as much or more than the cake everyone is enjoying. You don’t want people feeling bad for you!
Connie: Do you have any favorite websites, blogs, books, organizations or support groups that have helped you to lick your habit?
Felicia: At the time that I quit sugar, I didn’t know of any books. Then, a year ago, while at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I learned about Sugar Blues by William Duffy. It’s very well written and really gets to the heart of so many different aspects of sugar – physical, personal, political and cultural. But talking with other people (both friends and acquaintances) about sugar and its effects and addictive quality has always been the most helpful for me. It’s helpful to know you’re not alone and I always learn from other’s experiences. I’m looking forward to reading your book, SUGAR SHOCK!, too, when it comes out next month.
Connie: What are your best 3 tips and tactics to help other people kick sweets and quickie carbs?
Felicia: (1) Keep sweets and refined carbs out of the house! If you want them, go out for them, and do not bring leftovers home with you. (2) Get clear on why you want to be healthy in the first place. (3) Drink water!
Connie: Please share some final words of wisdom, inspiration or motivation to others who are thinking of cutting out sugar and simple carbs.
Felicia: We are innately limitless in our potential. Sugar and refined carbs however, are limiting factors. Dream big dreams, and surround yourself with the support you need to make them a reality.