Malcolm Jolley talks about sugar detox with Summer Rayne Oakes.
As is often the case these days, Sugar Detox Me the book came out of author Summer Rayne Oakes’ blog, SugarDetox.Me. What began as the charming young woman’s personal experiment to rid herself of cravings for sweet things became an inspiration and guide for others who wished to stop or limit sugar in their diet. Published this year, Sugar Detox Me the book distills the entrepreneur, model, broadcaster, blogger and author was in Toronto earlier this spring to promote and we met to discuss the project in the form of the interview below.
This interview has been edited for clarity, style and length.
Good Food Revolution: I have a son with a real sweet tooth. Enough that my wife and I try watch that he doesn’t eat too much of it, and we read labels to see if there’s a lot of sugar in foods. Because of that I have come to realize that there is added sugar in nearly all packaged foods. It’s actually hard to avoid.
Summer Rayne Oakes: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the Natural Products Expo that takes place in Anaheim, California? It’s a massive show and I went recently to promote my book. You could come back from it and fill your coffers with food samples. I went through the show with the idea that I wouldn’t take anything with added sugar in it. Literally 95% of the stuff, I couldn’t have. And when I would ask, ‘Does this have any sugar in it?’ People would say, ‘Oh no, it only has some honey.’ Well, honey is sugar! I was very much like your son. I grew up in a happy and healthy family, and my brother did not have the same thing for sugar as I did. I have all kinds of funny stories about holding sugar as a kid. My mother used to keep this green glass bowl on the table. It was around Christmas time, and when you had old Christmas lights she would put them in the glass bowl. They had all different colours and looked like candies, so one day I reached into the bowl and ate the Christmas lights… I had to go to the emergency room. So, at the end of the day, I was a kid looking for a sugar fix.
Good Food Revolution: How does it happen? Is it all genetics?
Summer Rayne Oakes: You can’t blame it all on our parents! It could be something like deciding to feed your child sweet fruits before mashed vegetables that could have an impact. It’s much harder to try and feed somebody broccoli after they’ve had the sweetness of a strawberry. Or a pea, or even a carrot, which is a bit more of a sweeter vegetable. But everybody is hardwired for sugar. And now, with three out of four products on our shelves that are laced with sugar because the products are designed to hook you. When I started to think about changing my diet and looking at what’s in packaged foods I started to get a little angry. How come there is so much sugar in our food system? At least now we’re starting to see companies claim to lower sugar because it’s becoming top of mind. Not for everybody, but but enough people that they are now starting to turn a new leaf, hopefully.
Good Food Revolution: So how did SugarDetox.me come to be? What triggered your change?
Summer Rayne Oakes: SugarDetox.me came to be when I started to work in local food systems. Specifically, I was working with an organization that was looking at how we could get more fresh foods to people’s homes in the city. I am the type of person who has a lot of side projects. I have a lot of side hustles, and I was supposed to be writing another book at the time, that had nothing to do with food. But I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t switch the gears: my cogs weren’t moving in that direction because I was focused on food. So, this project really bubbled up to the top because I was like, now that I’m in food and I am trying to get good, fresh, organic foods like locally raised vegetables and true whole grains I should be looking at what I’m eating. I always considered my self a relatively healthy eater, but there was always that one thing that annoyed me. I felt like I was owned by my cravings for sugar, in a strange way. I knew that it affected me, but I didn’t know how. I had always had a life with sugar, it always seemed so innocent. So, I started the blog so I could motivate myself. I was excited to stop eating sugar and I launched SugarDetox.me at first as just a 30 day journey. It was a personal blog because the ten step program I had designed was a personal thing, for me only. So, I thought I could help myself by documenting, and maybe help others along the way. But it would keep me honest and on course, and I could showcase what I was eating and talk about the process. Now SugarDetox.me is a site that provides 10 day and 30 day guided cleanses for people, and the book was really born off of that.
Good Food Revolution: And how does it work? I mean the book.
Summer Rayne Oakes: One of the things I recognized, as I was working with the local food company, was that some people thought that organic foods were really expensive – prohibitively expensive. That isn’t always true, and I wanted to show people what to put in their baskets, and give them recipes to work with that would end up being around $3 a meal. It’s way less than you might think because there is some meal planning involved. I do believe that if you want to take control of the sugar you eat, you do have to cook for yourself. At the heart of it are what I call ‘Meal Maps’, which are shopping lists, recipes and meal plans all in one. So it’s like: here’s your nine fresh ingredients and here’s your 14 pantry staples (which you probably already have). You might have to spend $70 if you need to by all 23 things, but I’ll give you 12 recipes to use them in, and you’re never going to have leftover asparagus! Most of the recipes are for two people, but they can be modified for a larger family. And they’re super healthy. Sugar for me is almost like a lens into getting people to eat whole, real foods again.
Good Food Revolution: Because if you want to avoid sugar, you have to avoid processed foods.
Summer Rayne Oakes: Exactly. I go into this in the book. It’s really hard to figure out what things are. There’s so much marketing. For instance, I want my readers to really understand what a true whole grain is. I don’t consider Sugar Detox Me a ‘diet book’ at all, but I know in some diet books are suggesting people remove grains from their diet. I understand why: there is more of a focus on gluten-free now. And we have so overly processed our grains that it’s almost easier to say forget it and just stop eating them. But there’s so much benefit to be got from a true whole grains you don’t get rid of the germ and the bran so all you have left is the endosperm. There’s no nutrients left and that’s just starch. It’s a processed food that just turns into sugar in the body.
Good Food Revolution: What happens to you when you stop eating sugar?
Summer Rayne Oakes: People have very different reactions. One of the first things that happened to me was at our family’s 4th of July when my uncle said my skin was glowing. My uncle went vegan for health reasons, so maybe he’s a little more sensitive to changes from diet. I don’t know if I lost weight per se, but I noticed a difference because everything fit better. I was still the same weight on the scale, but it was if my body had shifted. Maybe a I lost fat and gained muscle. This wasn’t my case, but a lot of folks who have written in say that they have cleared their brain fog. Or their energy levels will become neutralized, so they’re not riding that rollercoaster.
Good Food Revolution: You want to avoid that spiking and crashing, right?
Summer Rayne Oakes: Yeah. A lot of people don’t realize how much sugar they eat in the morning. In that sense breakfast really is the most important meal of the day for that reason because it sets you up for either that roller coaster ride or smooth sailing. So I switched over my breakfasts: no granola, no sugary yogurts. Now it’s savoury: eggs, avocado on a sourdough toast. Things that are super simple to make. If you’re making the effort to remove sugar from your diet, you don’t want to make it complicated.