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Food Diary: A Weekend Without Sugar

Is that even a weekend? I don’t know.

02.02.17
Strawberry Sugar Detox Man Repeller-4 v.2

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When I was 23, I practically lived on Sancerre and candy corn; today I had lentils for lunch of my own volition.

I’ve come a pretty long way where healthy eating is concerned. I quit 16 Handles. I know where my greens are grown and my almonds sprouted. I cut Sancerre completely. I’m down to a single caffeinated beverage per day, but incidentally, it’s not enough. Now the evil leaders of the health food movement are doubling down on the nasty side effects (like DEATH) associated with not just processed sugar, but all of it. Naturally occurring sugar, too.

Bananas are practically Snickers according to some nutrition bloggers. If I eat any genus of fruit past 2 p.m., I may as well resolve to coat my lungs in milk chocolate. And smoothies? Smoothies are straight up frozen yogurt dressed in a fitness outfit.

So you can do one of two things right now. Request the short cut* or take the long, windy road down a photographic food diary chronicling a weekend of eating care of my digestive system (and iPhone), nary a sugar cube in sight.

Friday, 1/27:

Meal #1: By 7:45 a.m. I have completed my 10-minute Headspace journey for the day and recited two chapters of David’s psalms. (What? They relax me.) My next call time is 10 a.m., we’re conducting a shoot, and following that shoot, I’m going to yoga (to complete the 30-day challenge, you know), so I should load up this morning.

I would love to eat this cookie — it’s a great way to wake up.

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But nooooo, in spite of the otherwise innocuous nutrition facts, there are eight grams of sugar. (Did I call the supplier to ask how many of these grams are added vs. naturally occurring? Yes. One gram is added. One gram too many.)

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So instead, I go for:

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A cocktail of water, coffee and a sorry-ass smoothie that is more like a bunch of powders mixed into water than anything else. The coffee, sipped out of a mug boasting my high school’s name, is actually a cocktail of cacao powder (no sugar), Elite coffee (Israeli, practically fake), ground cayenne pepper (try it!) and unsweetened almond milk. It’s a small but impactful way to cheat the system.

Meal #2: Moving on! We wrapped the shoot around 11:15 a.m. and I was hungry, so I scarfed down a plate of lentils and avocado from a restaurant at the Mondrian. I acted the part of an annoying millennial and asked, “is there any sugar in this?” The answer was an eye roll and a no.

Meal #3: Cut to 2 p.m. Hungry again, I walk over to Egg Shop, order two poached eggs on a bed of quinoa but request that they hold the miso and I am fed.

By 6 p.m., when I get uptown for Friday night (Shabbat) dinner, it occurs to me that I can’t eat the challah rolls I made with my own two hands on the account of the full cup of sugar that is required from the recipe.

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Meal #4: Instead, I eat three pieces of chicken and like, two plates of salad. I am floored at how many of the dishes that my mother cooks require sugar. (I’d add a list but it’s extensive, so let me just say that I was robbed of my propensity for her cabbage salad, okra, peas, meatballs and lima beans).

Saturday, 1/28:

Meal #1: I wake up at 8:40 a.m. and inaugurate the sun being out for the first time since June with two slices of Ezekiel toast — there is no g-dang sugar in Ezekiel toast.

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That matcha isn’t mine and I’m not done spreading seven-nut butter onto the toast, but hey! Do you like my plates?

Meal #2: Immediately following a Pilates class, I go to Sant Ambroeus.

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This omelet contains Fontina cheese (no sugar, yes hormones), mushrooms and egg whites. The dressing on the side salad is a cocktail of like, mayonnaise and whole-grain mustard. It’s 11:30 a.m., btw.

Meal #3: At 11:50, I am still hungry.

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Which brings me to this avocado toast. I can’t eat the underlying bread, which is arguably the best part of this toast (it’s grilled and there is a sunflower crust), but the avocado smash and poached eggs are fine.

By 3 p.m., I am really hungry again.

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All I want to do is eat these cookies, but I know I can’t do that, so…

Meal #4:

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A very sad plate of dates that are stuffed with walnuts.

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Only Abie ate one, so I had to settle for a solo date plus a handful of cashews.

Meal #5: At 5:15 p.m., we see The Founder (a movie about the McDonald’s story), which should have been better. Following the movie, we get sushi. I forgot to photograph it, but I ate two pieces of salmon sashimi, one piece of salmon sushi aburi-style and a roll that contained salmon and avocado. I had to request all rice be rendered in brown, which made me feel like a wondrous, macrobiotic Gwyneth Paltrow, if only for a moment.

Meal #6, which I had to opt out of:

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Stracciatella ice cream.

Sunday, 1/29:

Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about ice cream from the moment I woke up on Sunday, so I did the next best thing and attempted to eat an apple. This in spite of the fact that I am supposed to be abandoning all sugar.

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Apparently that date I ate the preceding day wasn’t all that good for me either.

Meal #2: After eating one slice of apple, my teeth got really sensitive, so I gave it to my husband and moved on to:

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Fiber crackers x almond butter x a couple of blueberries.

Here’s what’s in this morning’s coffee concoction:

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This weekend was annoying because I had to geographically limit my caffeine intake to home. All the almond milks used at coffee shops are basically sugar water. Yum!

Meal #3: We met Emily (Weiss) and her husband for lunch at a new restaurant on 6th Avenue and King Street, aptly called King. We were served a tasting menu.

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Mind you, it was awesome. I also had burrata:

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And fried Jerusalem artichoke.

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What? I said nothing about oil, which I am sure the health oligarchs will remember to re-criminalize soon.

Meal #4: Purple yam puree.

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Meal #5: Dinner was kind of sorry-ass, I had kidney bean soup.

And that concludes this boring weekend!

Conclusion: If you requested the short cut, I technically still made you take the windy road, but only ironically because the conclusion is the shortcut.

Confused? It’s not important.

*The point is that we all have an achilles heel. One person’s soft spot for gluten is another person’s emotionally charged relationship with cheese is my dependence on sugar. Yeah, I feel better when I’m avoiding it. I don’t drink and am frankly comforted by the boundaries I must set for my food options. But it’s so boring. Not fun at all! And I will never be one of those people who eat to live, not live to eat. So let me live.

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Feature photo by Krista Anna Lewis.

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  • Amy Mills

    Thank god for that ending, was really worried about where this was going

  • Yeah there is NO WAY that I would do this. I’m already vegan, don’t do drugs, smoke cigs or drink alcohol. If I gave up fruits and donuts I would die of boredom. Donuts make the world more fun.

  • How am I supposed to continue my not-so-boring everyday routine if I’m not sugar high? No cake for breakfast? Not today, Satan.

    • Grace B

      I’ve decided to pretend to be French so I can eat chocolate/hazelnut/butter croissants with a tiny coffee and not give af.

    • Cake for breakfast is the best! My boyfriend and I have cake for breakfast in bed almost every weekend and it honestly makes my day.

  • Leandra Medine

    Update: I had a banana walnut muffin for breakfast

  • Jamie Leland

    I try to avoid added/refined sugar, but I cannot accept the idea that naturally occurring sugar in fruit is bad for you, so I just comforted myself with this article disputing that very idea: https://deniseminger.com/2011/05/31/wild-and-ancient-fruit/

    • 808kate

      I think the point of the linked article about bananas is that high sugar fruits aren’t the greatest meal/snack on their own because they won’t fill you up for long and depending how big the fruit is, it might spike your blood sugar compared to eating something more balanced. So yes I agree with you!

  • Hilary

    I had a feeling that cutting out ALL sugar would be something I could never do, and this experiment proves it to me. Also, that burrata looks amazing. Also ALSO, I remember you mentioned your love of Nuttzo a while ago and it went on sale at the Whole Foods near me (you know, only a mere $12 down from $16) and I decided to try it and NOW I AM ADDICTED THANKS. (My wallet is weeping but my taste buds are so happy.)

  • roni

    hi from israel! like the elit coffe 🙂 and the conclusion!

  • Erin Zahn

    Damn girl! Those are some expensive groceries. And how many times did you eat out this weekend? Good for you. I am totally jelly. But congrats on the sugar thing. I may treat myself to a dollar cone at McD’s parumph 🙂

    • sleepingonsnow

      This reads very not kind. Which I hope wasn’t your intention! I know things can be misread on the internet!

  • Julie Meowmeows

    Tiramisu at the end?

  • Olivia Dello Buono

    Are you still drinking Diet Coke? That’s makes a no sugar diet a little more bearable.

    • Leandra Medine

      No! I got really nauseous around can 13 and that was that

      • Olivia Dello Buono

        Ah, I just started drinking it again after a few months hiatus. I’m trying to re-quit. A good bout of nausea would really work in my favor.

        • Lyla

          Really? Diet coke is one of the only things that cures my nausea. I can only imagine how much I will be drinking when I’m pregnant.

          • Olivia Dello Buono

            Ah, I could never drink DC while pregnant!

  • Lenam Mahj

    Um. Your brain needs glucose. That is a biochemical fact.

  • Anne Dyer

    The last sugar cleanse in my family resulted in (insert drum roll) pregnancy. Just say’n. Fertile, sugar free eggs I guess.

  • jess

    I believe strongly in Everything In Moderation. You just shouldn’t cut stuff that you love out of your diet unless you’re supposed to be put on a doctor-recommended diet. Don’t eat bad stuff all the time but using olive oil instead of coconut or eating a brownie isn’t going to kill ya

    • Miss J

      Exactly! As a food coach, I always recommend that cutting out things 100% is too radical of a change, and therefore, most likely, it will be harder for most people to stick to. 80/20 is the way to go- if you’re careful 80% of the time, there’s space for life’s little pleasures. For example, I’m on a dairy free, fish based, no processed foods diet (diet as in lifestyle) for years now, but when I travel, I eat everything that I normally don’t. And around the New Year holiday celebrations. I’ve had clients who went gluten free during the week and then during weekend brunches they would just eat whatever. It’s a lot easier to reduce things than to cut them out, at least in the beginning, however, IMO, it’s the dairy that’s a real killer.
      P.S. Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes are tubers that look like ginger or turmeric root. In the photo above is a regular baby artichoke. I’m sorry to point that out, but I’m OCD when it comes to food.

  • Amaia Orueta

    This reminded me so much of my first days when I changed my diet completely due to chronic candida overgrowth. I did it for 2 years (no sugar, no dairy, no gluten or flour, no fruit, no potatoes,…). I was completely miserable but I can now say it was worth it because I no longer have problems with candida!

  • I’m not a heavy drinker, neither smoker, neither sweets eater. They key is to balance your life, but restricting yourself of everything has a contrary effect: Anxiety. I sport and eat a lot of veggies. I don’t drink sugar-drinks, and I try to avoid pork, heavy sauces and fried products. However, I love to have an ice-cream or tiramisù every now and then, and I love to put some honey or brown sugar on my coffee, which is never more than 2 a day. I’m a happier person when I do that, and being happy is also important to life longer 🙂 So, hallelujah sugar.

    Check out my latest shooting at Cuba de Janeiro, a very tropical cafeteria in Barcelona.
    http://www.mgluxurymarket.com/shooting-cuba-de-janeiro/

    Have a lovely day! MG

  • Cristina

    I will always pic yummy food over a sad, boring “healthy” life. I mean, I could die from a car wreck tomorrow and what if I hadn’t just eaten that Girl Scout (by a cookie I mean half the box). In fact, what if I lived in a world where there wasn’t Girl Scout Cookies?! How sad!

    • Grace B

      As long as they are Little Brownie Bakers (Samoas, Tagalongs NOT caramel de-lites!!!) of course! I’m gonna have to drive for those this year.

      • Cristina

        I am currently re-thinking that half a box of tagalongs I ate because my stomach hates me haha!

  • Sheila T.

    please share recipe for challah rolls!!!!!

  • Jen Kreuder

    I can’t believe no one has said anything yet but that was not a Jerusalem artichoke you showed us. Those are sunflower tubers. The picture shown is a regular thistle-type actual artichoke.

  • Phoebe

    Can you do a post relating to tips on how to avoid alcohol? Xx

  • Brave! Bold! You did it! (Except if they prepared your brown rice sushi-style then it def had sugar in it–but maybe you knew that already and requested it sans sugar?!) Also those challah rolls looked LEGIT.

    xx Hannah // http://www.HomemadeBanana.com

  • Alana Vieira

    It makes me happy when people suffer to avoid sugar.

  • Andrea Raymer

    I am giving up sugar for lent this year and i now i need to decide whether i go this route or just the no added sugars route. probably the latter because i don’t want to set myself up for failure.

    I think i need to learn how to make my own cereal in preparation for this.

  • wut? there is sugar in miso soup? isnt it ok if its fermented?

  • DM

    Is that a glass straw used in the hot beverage in Day 1 Meal 1? or a spoon? Does anyone have any recs for a glass or aluminum straw?

    • ApocalypsoFacto

      Check reuseit dot com, they have tons of reusable straw options.

  • Luka Fjelddahl

    Just an irrelevant (not irrelevant enough for me not to leave a comment #sorrynotsorry) pointer – they misspelled chocolate on the ingredient list of the cookie… Or is this a new “healthy”/gluten free/vegan chocolate replacement?

  • Jan Phillips

    I just went to a seminar on healthy eating and the thought of giving up all grains and sugars is hard on me. Love fruit, love oatmeal, love an occasional chocolatey delicousness for dessert. Needless to say, I haven’t jumped in with both feet yet, I am still at the dipping my big toe in to test the water.

  • dietcokehead

    OK but HOT TIP!!!!!!!!!!!: what you should do with those dates is make cashew cheese and stuff them with it and then put a pecan on top (and drizzle a little honey if you’re off the dumb restrictive kick).

  • Carlie Lamke

    Fun Fact!!! 1: 74% (omg yes seventy four percent) of all food in grocery stores has added sugar. Isn’t that insane?
    Fun Fact 2: The FDA is going to being requiring that foods with added sugar be labeled “Xg of added sugar” woah,
    Fun Fact 3: I am ~currently~ writing an article on sugar, hence why I know such fun facts. Also, why is MR always so relevant in my life? #blessed

  • Shahi Biscus

    sushi rice is full of sugar :p

  • Elizabeth Sankey

    Can you guys do something on intuitive eating? It’s the best.

    • Leandra Medine

      YES

      • Elizabeth Sankey

        thanks love you bye xx

  • Mikaela

    Fika coffee shops have unsweetened almond milk! Just say no to sugar water!

  • Beatriz

    Leandra, I love that you try a bunch of different stuff, but this disappointed me a little bit. Natural sugar (fruits especially) is healthy and very much necessary for our body to function properly. It should not be feared but embraced. When you give in to this sort of crazy thinking that all types of sugar are harmful to our health and should be avoided at all costs, you’re feeding the fire. Idk… just my opinion. I do think echoing, even acknowledging this sort of trend, is highly prejudicial, especially when you guys are the ones doing it. You have such an influence on so many people’s lives, it’s dangerous that you spread around these misinformed ideas. Adults are as impressionable as kids sometimes, especially when it comes to diet/health related things. So, I’m sorry for this long-ass comment, but I’m worried about the effect this sort of diet challenge might have on people. I’m not trying to dictate your content, especially because it is your content after all, just thought I’d say what’s on my mind.

    • Leandra Medine

      Hey! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I totally hear you — but that’s kind of why I call out the heath craze movement as, you know, kind of crazy, abandon that theory (cue the dates, the apple) and then end the article with a tiramisu! It *is* too much, the key is moderation, across the board.

  • Sydney Stewart

    “…and a sorry-ass smoothie that is more like a bunch of powders mixed into water than anything else.” Haha, so true. Have to get all the powders and herbs in there. It is never the RIGHT ratio.

  • Harriet Johns

    About to do this for lent, wish me luck