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Pasta Makes Me Tired {and other sad food truths}

By August 11, 2017 10 Comments

Sad, but true.

Pasta makes me very very tired.

I discovered this sad food truth after an unintended break from pasta. One evening, short on ideas for dinner, I had a big plate of spaghetti. Within a half hour I was in a pasta coma on the couch. The revelation hit me hard: wow! pasta makes me very very tired. I began to wonder – what other foods are killing my game?

Why do I always feel like I need a nap at 1? Why am I sluggish all afternoon?

The culprit? Processed foods made with white flour. It’s foods that burn quickly, have close to zero nutritional value, and contain sugar – anything that comes in a package, tube, box, or shiny wrapper.


In high school, pasta was the superfood. We ate it daily, carbo-loaded on it before cross-country meets, soccer games, and track meets. Turns out, maybe I could have run faster on vegetables.

Through much trial and error, I know what superfoods work for ME (and I think it varies much for every individual.) I still drink lots of milk, eat yogurt, cheese, beans and lentils, and I’m definitely a carnivore. My body has no problem processing gluten, although guess what else makes me tired? Lots of bread.

Out our the bagels, waffles, pancakes, most cereals, and doughnuts for breakfast. Why? Because I need at nap by 9am! I become so, so tired. Do you ever have that brain foggy feeling after eating these types of food? It’s the sugar and cheap white flour (yes! it’s in all of the above!)

So I have a few food guidelines I try to live by:

  1. Avoid sugar. (It’s in everything packaged and processed.)
  2. Avoid processed food. (Because sugar.)
  3. Eat real food that comes from the ground.
  4. Loads of vegetables at every meal.
  5. That’s it.

Man, when I live by the above rules I feel like a superstar.

Really, I think it’s that simple.

It’s that simple and it’s that hard. I break this rule almost daily. Because…sugar! I love chocolate cake, and well, desserts in general. I love bread, pasta, pancakes, waffles, and doughnuts. But I know I don’t feel well when I eat them.

So, I try to limit treat consumption to one a day, sometime after dinner. Just a little. Not too much.

Moderation, I believe, is overrated. Many, many times, an all or nothing approach works much better for people.

Daughter Cope has proven this very well. She’s been a huge example to the rest of us: No Added Sugar. Period.

When she goes to Five Guys, she has a burger wrapped in lettuce because guess what that delicious bun has in it? SUGAR, of course. When eating at the school cafeteria I can hear her asking politely, “excuse me, does that Asian slaw have sugar in it?” I think she drove them quite mad 🙂

When we have grilled burgers, this is what hers looks like:

 No bun! She doesn’t make exceptions. She doesn’t budge. No Added Sugar. Period.

She’s learned to scrutinize all food labels. She’ll eat bread or english muffins, but only if there are zero sugar grams. This usually means the bread is expensive or homemade. The above is her birthday breakfast: egg mcmuffin and loads and loads of fruit.

Doesn’t fruit have sugar? Yes, but it’s naturally occurring. And, because it’s in its whole form, the fiber makes for slower digestion instead of acting like juice, which hits your bloodstreams the same way a bag of skittles would. So, juice is out. Whole fruits are in.

Some exceptions: pure honey and pure maple syrup. Because those occur naturally!

Cope went hardcore no sugar when she got the part of Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

After a few days without the white stuff she said, “Mom, I feel SO SO GOOD!”

She made the connection for herself. I’M A BELIEVER!

Cope had energy to do her one million school activities, keep up with her school work, and sing her heart out every day at rehearsal. Her skin was clear, her hair shiny. Best of all, she was so  pleasant 🙂 (she’s usually pleasant, but she was EVEN BETTER!) She practically bounced out of bed.

Her eyes sparkled. For real.

She didn’t have time this spring to get much exercise, but guess what happened just from avoiding sugar? She started to lose weight.

Her costume director was ticked as Cope was shedding inches off her waist after her measurements had already been taken. They kept having to take her yellow dress in! “Amy, make the girl drink whole milk! FEED HER FAT! SHE CANNOT LOSE MORE WEIGHT!”

Did you know? I’d take healthy fat over sugar any day of the week. Fat good! Sugar bad.

She looked fabulous:

Graduation. Off sugar: she totally glowed.

So. What to eat or drink for breakfast? Eggs and smoothies (mostly greens!). We feel totally wicked and have loads of morning energy!

What we’re eating for dinner all summer? Tons and tons of grilled vegetables (and usually a protein on the side like chicken, fish, or beef.)

Did you know vegetables are carbohydrates? They are our first energy source.

Don’t think you like brussel sprouts? Try THIS RECIPE NOW!

But Amy, don’t you need summer treats like ice-cream? Need? No. Want? Oh yes, believe me, we sure do. I still partake. But after being off sugar for three months, Cope had this cone and felt “so sick. I wish I hadn’t done that.” After a few weeks of withdrawal, she didn’t crave it or want it.

She eats all-natural peanut butter, tons of lettuce wraps, hummus, rice, and beans. When she needs a treat she makes this fabulous banana cocoa concoction – I’ll post!

What to pack for lunches? I still get caught in the trap of Goldfish and crackers because of convenience, but with a little planning, we can send the darlings off into the world armed with nutrition that will actually help their brains and muscles instead of putting them at a disadvantage.

One of my students used to drink a caffeinated Monster drink every morning for breakfast. He said he felt pretty good until 10 o’clock a.m. Then what? Then he went and bought another Monster or 5-Hour Energy Drink to get him to lunch time. He was just sugaring it out until collapsing from fatigue, which happened on a daily basis. Believe me, conversations were had!

The whole family has taken note from sister Cope. Every few weeks Paige goes sugar-free. And she gets fiesty about it. When repeatedly pressured to eat cookies and cupcakes on a field trip one day, she finally yelled, “You’re all going to get diabetes and DIE!”

Oh my.

But you know…cancer, obesity, diabetes, ADD, autoimmune diseases are all on the rise. Scientists are convinced that our food is largely to blame. For the first time in history, the life expectancy has dropped. In America, the land of PLENTY.

Food can be our medicine or our poison.

Let’s also get to the WHY. We don’t have scales in our home. It’s not all about weight. The reason to eat better is because of the WAY WE FEEL. Good, wholesome food makes us FEEL better. We get sick less. We have more energy to go to school, play, work, run fast, think, kick soccer balls, BE A REVOLUTION!

And yeah, it also makes us look better (which means more to teens than “you’re going to die a slow death in fifty years….”)

Skin literally glows, acne clears up (the biggest motivator for my teens). We are less moody, grumpy, and snappish. Our brains and hearts and muscles and bones are shouting THANK YOU DEAR PERSON FOR TAKING SUCH GOOD CARE OF ME!

I’m not always the best  or perfect example. I still eat too many treats, but I’m more conscious about what I buy and what I put in my mouth because I’ve recognized the connection between food and feeling. When our kids start making that connection, too, it’s pretty cool. You can inspire them, and they can motivate you.

As Habits guru, Gretchen Rubin tells us: we need accountability buddies and we need the strategy of convenience.

Simple Food Rules:

  1. Avoid sugar
  2. Avoid processed food
  3. Eat real food that comes from the ground.
  4. Loads of vegetables at every meal.
  5. That’s all.

We’ve got ONE body in this lifetime. It’s a miraculous gift. What are we going to put in it?

Chime in! Thoughts? What food truths have you discovered? What are you eating?



  • LOVE this post~ I feel the same way and every couple of weeks put myself on a mini processed food cleanse where there’s NO: sugar, salt, caffeine, dairy, processed foods, flour/non-natural carbs (aka, apples have carbs, but that’s okay). I basically eat boiled eggs, blueberries/cantaloupe, tons of leafy greens, an apple or two, and walnuts/almonds. Oh, and salmon for protein. I feel so great after 3 days or so. But I’ve never tried to do it for an extended time. I love cheese and salt too much and pizza too much. Good for Cope!

  • maisymak says:

    Yes! I don’t really like boiled eggs, but they make me feel so good so I eat them all the time now. Yes to leafy greens, nuts, salmon, fruits!

  • Terry says:

    Love love love this post. Inspired! Woohoo for veggies! Fruit! High quality protein! Yippee!!
    Best appliance for making smoothies?
    Thank you for sharing! ❤️❤️

  • Molly says:

    Ok. Yes! Yes! Yes! And yes. I have to eat clean. Because of allergies. So summer hits, we go off routine and oh my gosh the grouchies hit and it’s enough to scare you into thinking something is wrong. Sugar is SO so toxic. And then I realization how much a little off routine is A LOT!!! I am so proud of Cope and YOU for allowing her to make the connection. Love this!!!!

  • Cindy says:

    Yes! I concur! Years ago when I had a bout with breast cancer, I cut sugar totally out of my diet and was strict about it. Lo and behold, I begin to lose weight and felt so energized! I had no idea that would happen! I eventually became lazy about it again and recently decided to go on a no more ice cream and processed sugar diet. I am excited and motivated and was especially impressed with your youngest lately refusing birthday cake the other day! Thanks for the good article on such an important topic!

  • Laurine Cihak says:

    A year ago I went sugar free to some degree. No cookies, cakes, ice cream, candy, chocolate, bread, butter, etc. I lost 20 pounds in 5 months. I felt good. I had some brain fog and decided to try to eliminate sugar and it worked. I, too got lazy, and started back eating ice cream and a few desserts and I gained back some weight. I ate a lot of raw vegetables and some fruits, plus lots of peanuts and walnuts. However, I kept eating crackers and some processed foods. Along with my desire to eliminate brain fog was to get rid of my belly fat. Therefore, I tried to eliminate butter, sauces, mayonnaise, hamburger, bacon, etc. but I have decided that it was probably the crackers, pretzels and other types of processed junk food that creates the belly fat, so I think I will discontinue those items and see what happens. Maybe someone can tell me what helps eliminate belly fat.
    Walking and going up and down 7 flights of stairs helps keep the weight down, plus eating salads without sauce. My taste buds have definitely changed and I love eating the veggies, nuts, bananas and apples.

  • Julia Tomiak says:

    My daughter is vegan and because of that we are all eating more veggies, nuts, and legumes. I’m currently reading “Vegan Before Six”- the author, a NY Times food columnist, makes a lot of the same arguments you do. This post is perfectly timed to help me as I overhaul our pantry and menu! Thanks.

  • Dana says:

    This is so timely. I had been eating really well for about two months, and today I had some leftover pasta for lunch. I had cramps and felt disgusting for two hours afterwards – not worth it! I find that the less sugar I eat, the less I want. Not that I don’t want it, but a small piece of chocolate will satisfy me, instead of a pint of ice cream.

  • Aball says:

    Pasta makes people tired because it triggers an insulin surge. The surge pushes all amino acids to the muscles but leaving tryptophan, which can be easily utilized by your brain to create serotonin. Since serotonin assists in sleeping (hence turkey causing sleep), it makes you tired.

    To combat this, include protein or whole grains into the meal to limit the surge.

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