body-confidence

Body confidence tips (& the link with sugar cravings)

Whilst this blog primarily helps you reduce your sugar cravings, overcome sugary emotional eating and the rest of it, I want to take this time to cover something that is important and potentially related to your relationship with sugar.

The topic of how to feel more confident with your body.

Why do body confidence tips help with sugar cravings?

Well, because low body confidence can be the root cause of cravings and can make you eat more sugar.

Feeling really naff about your body causes negative emotions including upset, frustration and desperation amongst others. 

If sugar is your default response to negative emotions, hello non-physical sugar craving!

The need to stuff down or temporarily cover up what you’re feeling, combined with the dopamine effect on your brain that sugar (or sweetness) has, can make your favourite sugar form of choice ever so tempting on those unappealing body days.

The sugar somewhat soothed the pain of the emotion before so it can do it again right? Repeat this pattern a few times and your emotional eating body confidence related sugar habit cycle is born.

Triggered by things like:

  • Weighing yourself and seeing that it’s gone up (thanks scales!)
  • Seeing a photo that someone has taken of you that is far from desirable (thanks Facebook!)
  • Seeing photos of others and comparing yourself (thanks Instagram!)
  • Feeling bloated or suffering from water retention (thanks pms!)
  • Wearing something too tight (thanks H&M for blatantly WRONG sizes!)

My experience with body confidence

I write all of this because I’ve been particularly curious and exploring body confidence more recently with myself, my close frineds and some of my clients. The last year has been a huge learning curve for me in terms of body confidence because I’ve had to work extra flipping hard to cultivate and practice it.

Going back before this, I didn’t even really think about body confidence for many years because I was primarily pre-occupied with maintaining my figure – keeping a certain weight and trying to change the things I didn’t like. I had that feeling that I could always be doing better i.e. be slimmer, more toned etc.

I don’t want body confidence, I want to be skinnier! Then, when I’ve reached that point I will be really body confident and not worry about anything anymore ever! 

It seemed that simple.

Yet I emotionally ate on ‘fat’ or body dissatisfaction days and frustratingly sabotaged what I was trying to do in the first place. 

It was more complex.

The realisation

A few years ago, I went on holiday with my family to Greece. I have an extremely attractive (and amazing!) sister Amy who is 8 years younger with a body frame that is a few sizes smaller than me. We actually have relatively similar figures, she is just smaller (see picture)

meamy

meamybeachportugal

Before the holiday, I remember feeling secretly determined that I would get as skinny as possible so that I didn’t feel fat next to Amy.

I seem to remember I did alright and lost a few pounds as I had the nutritional/exercise knowledge and could leave off sugar like a pro. However, like most women in the world I still wasn’t completely happy with my body before I went (despite having a perfectly good figure).

I spent some days of my holiday slightly comparing myself or feeling dissatisfied with my body – if my thighs were a bit thinner, I could wear the denim hotpants with crop-tops like Amy does.

Then one night Amy was on Instagram. Scrolling through these beach body perfect models exclaiming that she wanted to get abs like that, that she was going to eat like XYZ to look like that and wear that. That she wasn’t happy with her thighs!  

She was 19 years old doing this. 

I was mortified.

Mortified at Instagram. Mortified that my lovely sister was falling for these mental demons that I was also succumbing to. Mortified that she wasn’t appreciating her amazing figure right then right now – she was striving for perfection that possibly just wasn’t worth it.

Then I realised I was doing exactly the same too. This is messed up!

When I returned from the holiday, I was also at that time facing the prospect that to get my periods back I needed to potentially put on a bit of ‘healthy’ weight and increase by body fat %.

This was also mortifying, because deep down I knew how much of my self worth was tied to my figure and how crap I would feel if I was bigger. 

Now I’m not saying that wanting at certain points in time to lose weight is always a bad thing, but it’s worth noting when it feels over consuming, obsessive or too heavily tied to your sense of worth that you are emotional eating when it doesn’t go to plan. This is where body confidence techniques can actually help you eat less and feel better about yourself so you change your body in a healthy way.

So what happened…

Two years later from the holiday, having put on the extra weight I needed to (luckily I don’t weight myself much to know exactly) I have my periods back and am ‘healthy’ in all senses. But heck, have I had to embrace body confidence to deal with it.

So I really wanted to share load of body confidence tips I’ve picked up along the way that I have been practicing with varying but steady success in the hope they will help you tap into this when you need:

Reframe the inner dialogue

I know you read it everywhere but the negative self talk really is a beggar at times. I can’t express how much mindfulness (i.e. catching myself and reframing my thoughts) has been huge here for me which is why this is top of the list.

Try to focus on the things you do like about your body or the positives elsewhere in your life that are more significant. I used ‘my body is now healthy to have a baby’ for a while and ‘I can now wear a much wider range of tops without feeling flat chested’ or ‘I have an amazing opportunity to help others and my mental energy is better used to do that right now’ 

It doesn’t work all the time but with practice it becomes more familiar and soon becomes a nice mindfulness habit.  

Also think of the fact you can move or do cool things with your body like play with children, lots of sports, dance etc. 

Wear comfortable clothes

I remember being defiant that I would still wear the same pencil skirt one day.

Not only was I late to a meeting because I was walking like a penguin, I was reminded nearly on a minute to minute basis that I was notably not the same shape and it was horrible.

I felt it when I sat down, when I bent over and even breathing – like a constant reminder. I especially felt bad about myself this day and thus I ended up emotionally eating a totally unnecessary granola bar on the way home from work.

clothes

The days where I wear comfortable clothes, this doesn’t happen so much. Old uncomfortable pencil skirt no more. Nice still flattering maxi skirt, yes please.

Throw comparison out (when you can)

I know this is challenging but comparison really is the thief of joy.

If it’s models or celebrities, remind yourself they have airbrushing and a gazillion photograph shot iterations.

If it’s fitness models, remind yourself that they have more time to exercise where you maybe have kids, a demanding job, ambitions and other hobbies.

If it’s your sister or friends, remind yourself they’ve got hang ups in just the same way and you are all beautifully different.

Yes, sometimes people can inspire you to make healthy change around your body where they set an example you’d like to follow, but you need to strike a balance. Only you know when this goes too far and you fall down some comparison black hole (we all do it!).

Become a critical viewer of social media

Seeing as we’re on the Instagram fitness model topic, just start to notice which feeds, images or quotes make you feel good about yourself and which don’t. Use this to alter your feed accordingly.

I like to follow a nice mixture of health & fitness inspiration along with body confidence stuff to keep it balanced. Think of your media consumption as mindset food!  Oh and please don’t use someone’s Instagram feed as a benchmark because you know it’s not a real representation of life!

Also read: Is social media hindering or helping your low sugar efforts

selfloveselfjudgement

Emma-Watson-Body-Image-Beauty-Redefined

 

Spend time with less on (& more in front of the mirror)

You know when you haven’t been to a hot country for ages and stepping out in a bikini feels so foreign and scary?

Compare this to the last day when you’ve worn the bikini everyday and saunter up to the bar quite comfortably more concerned with the drink you want to order. You kinda get over the big deal of your bare flesh as the days go on right?

This is you getting more used to and familiar with your own skin and you can cultivate the same process without the need for a holiday.

Walking around at home in your underwear, looking at yourself nude more often in the mirror or even doing your make-up whilst naked can actually change the perception of your body to become more positive over time. So give it a go!

Surround yourself with more body confident people

This can be somewhat challenging if you’ve a guilty pleasure of complaining about your body or your eating habits with like minded friends. Heck women do this all the time and sometimes you won’t be able to escape it. Sometimes you might just want to indulge it like a bad habit because it feels familiar and easy.

You can however, stop initiating it and reduce the frequency.

You can identify people who don’t do the whole negative body chat stuff and stick around them more.

You can admire and observe people who blatantly just don’t think about their bodies that much and are evidently comfortable in their own skin.

You can try to switch a conversation to more positive terms, change the subject or state what you’re liking about yourself at the moment.

Embrace exercise

Our bodies are amazing. Use exercise to really appreciate this. Enjoy exercise for the challenge, the process of it and what your physical limbs are capable of.

Yoga and dance have been game changers for me. No, I am nowhere near doing a head or handstand yet, but I’ve really enjoyed the process of seeing my strength and tone increase slowly over time and really seen my mindfulness practice develop too (which helps you stop comparing yourself to very slim yogis!).

yoga

Toss the scales

I’ve worked with a number of clients who have weighed themselves on a specific occasion, and not liked the number. This has subsequently led to a sugar binge of sorts. Regular use of scales or other forms of constant measurement are prime territory for self or body dissatisfaction based sugar binging.

I know you may think that it keeps you on track, but have a look back if it’s also triggered an overeating binge of any sort. Iff the answer is yes, question the use of your measurement and if it’s really helping. 

Have sex

This post is already pretty open for me. I’m not quite ready to detail out a specific story here, especially as my Mum reads it!!

However, I don’t want to leave this out because talking to others about increasing their body confidence, there was a unanimous vote that it helped, like loads. Do what you need to do 😉  

Grooming & new things

I’ve been away in Bali with the same wardrobe for nearly 6 months. My friend came out to visit with a load of new clothes I could borrow and I felt amazing in some of the new outfits. New stuff works. Make up, perfume, nice nails etc. all work. Someone complimenting you on the new look can obviously help.

Get grooming to feel good inside and out!

Accept the time of the month

If naff body confidence emotions are hitting you hard, check in on the time of the month.

I’ve written before on how to manage pms sugar cravings and avoiding body confidence emotional eating through being aware of what is going on with your physical body at particular times of the month.

Body confidence equals less sugar

So there’s my lot on how to get more body confident so you can reduce emotional distress and thus reduce the amount of sugar you eat. This then might make you lose weight or slowly change your body later down the line also. 

Chances are, even if you do lose weight or improve your skin etc. from eating less sugar, it’s all still applicable because the temptation to strive for perfection is ever prevalent these days.

Know I’m practicing this all myself still and f you’ve got any more tips to add, please put them in a comment so others can use them or just let me know what you thought of the article :)

Share the love

This is a great one to share with friends, young sisters or whoever else you think it might help.

Laura x

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sugar-free-salad

Sugar-free diet: What are the foods I eat

One of the most common questions I’ve had over the years is what do you actually eat on a sugar-free diet?

Sometimes people ask me about it as if it’s an alien concept, and other times people are just curiously interested as to what I eat.

Like sharing the low sugar shopping list a while ago, I’d thought I’d give a similar insight into my low sugar diet with pictures and that. 

A few points though…

This is not the optimum ‘healthy’ way of eating because there isn’t one

I’m a big believer in you working out your own optimum healthy diet which incorporates foods that work with your body and digestion that integrate into a lifestyle that keeps you happy and socially healthy. 

I’m constantly experimenting and refining things for myself by taking note of how different foods eaten at different times make me feel or impact on my energy, digestion, mood etc.

I know it’s said all the time, but everyone is different.

sugar-free-breakfast

 

The foods and meals listed in this article aren’t a prescription, it’s just insight and inspiration to help open up your options a little in terms of what to eat and show you the eating philosophy I currently roll with. 

It’s worth highlighting that a no sugar diet can exist within a wide range of other diets like vegetarian, vegan, paleo, gluten-free etc.

I actually eat quite close to a vegetarian, even a vegan diet at times whilst in Bali because it’s very east to here, and quite frankly, the vegetarian food is delicious!

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I know there are strong and valid reasons for vegetarian and vegan diets but I’m not going to open up that can of worms here.

The stage of your transition matters

These days I’m well beyond feeling like my sugar cravings control me. I still get the odd one and sometimes indulge it- but on the whole I crave a savoury diet (time of month depending!).

However, for my first year on a sugar-free diet, I didn’t have this level of sugar self trust and I kept to a lower sugar (fructose) diet. You need to consider where you’re at in terms of how much fruit and sweet stuff you eat.

The longer you can maintain lower fructose or general sweetness in your diet, the more you turn into a savoury queen or king!

I’m not eating the same things everyday

This is a genearlised snapshot, but to be honest right now I’m a bit all over with a routine.

As I write this today, I’m starting to work at a new co-working space and I have no idea what I’ll eat for lunch. I also eat out a lot in Asia with friends so it depends on where we go (I use my influence to go to my favourites!).

My hunger can also be really erratic in the heat and vary significantly depending on the time of the month, the exercise type and how hydrated I am. There’s usually 1-2 days a month where I’m a carbohydrate fiend and want second portions of everything!

When I’m in the UK, I generally make my salads and cook my own meals more often so things can be a bit more routine there. I’m actually looking forward to this when I return in the summer!

sugar-free-meals

Note: I’ve written more about places and what I eat in Bali here and why I made the move for community health reasons

The general principles of my diet

If I had to sum things up, I eat largely unprocessed and bulk out all my meals with vegetables – at least 60-70% if I can, then I add some protein (e.g. eggs, tempeh, chicken), make sure there’s some healthy fat (e.g. avocado, olive oil, seeds) and occasionally have something more starchy carbohydrate-like (e.g. red/brown rice in Bali, sweet potato/rye bread in London).

sugar-free-salad

Due to my previous history of constantly trying to control and restrict my diet, I know the impact this can have on me from an overeating and binging standpoint. So these days I make a point of not really overly restricting anything – especially if I like it and I haven’t noticed any significant physical downfalls of a little here and there. I’m talking about things like diary, gluten, alcohol and coffee. I just keep mindful of moderation on my own terms and watch for any regular habits that start to develop so I can nip them in the bud!

So what do I eat on a sugar-free diet?

Breakfast

My standard is eggs, with veggie sides and some fat. For example:

  • boiled eggs with smoked salmon & greens
  • an omelette with avocado
  • scrambled eggs with tomato & mushrooms

sugar-free-breakfasts

Interestingly at the moment in Bali, I try write in the morning before exercise at 9am (Zumba or yoga usually), so if I am hungry, I’m just having some fruit or a green juice and maybe some nuts and seeds – my favourite at the moment is dragon fruit and cashew nuts, but again I mix this up – it was melon and sunflower seeds today!

Occasionally at breakfast, usually a weekend, I treat myself to something different that I don’t usually have but really like.

low-sugar-breakfasts

Here in Bali I love the black rice pudding unsweetened with a dash of coconut milk and a bit of banana. Then there are these savoury spinach and feta muffins I am partial to. 

Interesting to note that I never crave the sweet muffins and only these savoury ones. That still feels like a low sugar lifestyle success to my former blueberry muffin loving self!

Lunch

I have a love affair with salads. Like big. I LOVE SALAD! This is my lunchtime staple and as long as there’s a base of greens with interesting stuff on top, I’m a happy lady. Different things go in my salads everyday to keep up variety and interest.

In the UK I tend to make my own and in Thailand I ate The Salad Concept nearly everyday (see my Salad Concept selfie!).

the-salad-concept

I usually just ask for olive oil and vinegar if I suspect the dressing is sugary and I will add extra boiled eggs if I don’t feel there’s enough protein to fill me up because this averts inevitable snacking later on. 

sugar-free-lunch

Snacks

I expect this is likely where your sugar downfall comes right? Join the rather large club! 

Snacks can be so habitual and are most often not really to satisfy physical hunger – they happen because we are bored, emotional, stressed – basically we seek some form of quick pleasure in the form of ‘nice’ things to eat. 

I am not fully immune to this still. I have a lifelong urge to snack so I still actively practice mindfulness, intuitive eating and emotional eating techniques to combat my long built up snacking tendencies. 

I try not to snack excessively and let myself get comfortable with getting a little bit hungry (I used to fear this). I stick to main meals where I can but if I do snack, it’s nuts/seeds, carrot sticks with hummus, a fresh coconut or a hot milky drink (currently I love a decaf nut milk latte or Matcha green tea).

cashew-milk-latte

fresh-coconut

If I have a post meal sweet craving, I satisfy with cacao nibs, 99% or 85% Lindt dark chocolate but I’m very mindful of my habits with these. If it becomes closer to a daily ritual, I’ll stop buying the stuff for a few weeks as I know I don’t need it. It also saves me a ton money and proves to myself I can easily go without chocolate for weeks (which of course never used to happen!). 

Evening meals

These really vary but you can check out the main meals in my recipe section which are all completely sugar-free and things I used to cook quite frequently.

Salmon and chicken with a side of greens and some sweet potato is generally a staple. My food blogger friend Emma also lists out 6 simple suppers here which are very my style. 

Here in Bali my current dinner favourites are Gado Gado, Kitcheree and tempeh pumpkin lasagne! With Gado Gado there is usually some sugar in the peanut sauce which doesn’t make my diet completely sugar-free but it’s minimal and I don’t stress about stuff like that on the odd occasion.

kitcheree 

If I want something lighter, I opt for soup with a decent portion of nuts/seeds for protein & fat. 

When in the UK, I never really buy shop bought sauces, dressings or soups as they do so often contain sugar and I’ve trained myself to make my own. I keep frozen homemade soup in the freezer so I’m never caught out.

The 80/20 balance (or even 90/10)

It’s worth saying that about 90% of the time I eat similar to this – largely sugar-free and unprocessed.

However, the other 10% of the time I might eat things less associated with ‘healthy’ and interestingly people who I meet and see me eating this stuff are sometimes surprised at how laid back I seem – they assume ‘health coaches’ are food healthy 24/7.  

Last week we had a house party and I drank beer, ate pizza and really enjoyed nacho crisps with guacamole. There was a huge chocolate cake and loads of other cakes & treats that previously I would have dived into but this time I didn’t because I was full and didn’t want them. It felt good. I’m changed!

However, I’ll be completely honest with what happened the next day…

I needed to wait for my friend to wake up and I was hungry. I opened the fridge and there was one last piece of chocolate cake leftover. I hadn’t tried it the night before so I used that as the rational and being slightly hungover it appealed anyway. So I ate it.

Yep, I ate chocolate cake for breakfast. Slightly hungover, not really mindfully. I just ate it. Making a mess with my hands as I didn’t even bother to get a fork.

When I used to be hungover I would let myself run riot on sugar. It was like an excuse to eat whatever I wasn’t ‘allowed’ usually and they inevitably ended up being a blow out.

I could feel this breakfast chocolate cake incident bringing back up that old pattern and line of things and a hungover sugar storm was about to erupt.

What did I do?

I de-shamed. I laughed about it, told my friends who didn’t judge me.

I used it as a chance to practice letting guilt go. I actually felt more guilty about not being the ‘role model’ I thought I should be and then I realised it was just negative mind chatter and reframed – hey I could write about this!

I made a mental note that I didn’t really want to do that again and would rather have waited for a more enjoyable breakfast rather than just be swayed by a chocolate-cake in front of my face opportunity. Also noted that having X amount of drinks impacts my impulse behaviour the next day!

I reminded myself I am not perfect, and imperfection makes me who I am.

I practiced mindfulness to notice any urge for later in the day ‘sod it I’ve eaten chocolate cake already today’ justification which is polarised thinking, and intervened to eat what my body really wanted (healthier food).

I ate a fruity salad for breakfast the next day and loved it so much more (see below).

breakfast-salad

A sugar-free diet that’s not completely sugar-free

So there you have an insight into a lower sugar diet that discusses chocolate cake breakfast. Not sure where else on the internet you’re going to find that!

If you’re currently far away from eating in a lower sugar way you want, don’t get overwhelmed at instantly trying to make your diet better overnight. Pick just one meal or snack habit and give it some initial focus.

If you know snacking or binging is a problem area for you, then really do look outside of what you’re eating and more at WHY you’re eating to address the root cause. I’m just launching a 7-day mindset revamp course to challenge people out of their comfort zone with this. So check it out here as I’m only taking on a small group to start.

Know someone that would find this helpful?

If so, I would love it if you could share this with them and of course leave me a comment if you’ve any thoughts or questions.

What are are your staples in a lower sugar diet?

Have you got the chocolate cake for breakfast t-shirt!?

Laura xx

 

vegshopping

Why you need to be sugar-free experimenting as of today

I’ve got a new healthy habit for you. It’s developing the habit to continuously experiment on yourself.

I’m one to totally dig the value of routines, but there’s equally a place for trying new things out and pushing out of your comfort zone for healthy growth in all areas of your life.

Interestingly I wouldn’t be sat here writing this blog if I hadn’t started experimenting with changing around sugar and really challenging myself around some of my toughest sweet habits.

So what benefits do we get from experimenting?

It’s all learning

When you experiment with health or food changes, you learn, no matter what the outcome.

You learn about you and your bodies response to sugar e.g. when you feel sick after eating that cupcake.

Alternatively you learn that your body doesn’t scream at a cupcake’s worth of sugar but the guilt rush lends you to go home and have a ‘sod it’ day where you munch on other sweet things that you really didn’t nee.

This is where conscious, mindful experimentation can work it’s wonders – you can learn so so much about yourself.

Remember, your body, appetite, tastebuds and behavioural patterns are completely unique to you. You’re the only one who’s going to know exactly what works and what doesn’t.

More variety

Our ability to buy such an array of foodstuffs these days is a luxury so why not make the most of it?

Getting a a wide range of colourful ingredients in your diet helps increase the chances that you’re packing in loads of essential nutrients.

If you can experiment with a wide range of healthy foods, you get the health benefits of lots of ingredients over time and you learn which ones you respond well to or give you more energy, better skin etc.

cupcakeshop

Keeping it fun and interesting

Although food is a necessity, it doesn’t have to be boring, even when you seek to eat less sugar and taper down your tastebuds to sweetness.

Having an open, willing and light hearted attitude is actually one of the best things you can do for yourself because it means you’ll be a bit daring in what you try and make yourself more likely to find delicious winning savoury combinations that you’d have never known existed!

Why not chuck in some broccoli for breakfast or carry some boiled eggs around as snacks for a change?

Laughing about it and not taking yourself too seriously, brings fun to whole process.

vegshopping

 

What low sugar experiments could you try this week?

So now I challenge you!

Pick something a bit out of your comfort zone and plan an experiment this week. Here are some of my best suggestions:

Eat savoury things for breakfast

Some parts of Western culture really aren’t used to everyday savoury breakfasts – I know I wasn’t. We love our cereal, fruit, salad, smoothies and granola right?

However, this is one area to really open yourself up to in terms of experimentation as it can do wonders for shifting down you sweet cravings and adjusting your tastebuds overtime.

A few years ago, I travelled in Asia. I was repulsed by the thought of a spicy something first thing but over time I mustered up the courage to try a curried roti canai for breakfast (a kind of pancake with curry sauce).

Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it and ever since have made an effort during Asia travels to really embrace some of their breakfast savoury options.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still places where I draw the line (greasy whole fried fish – not yet!) but I’ve loved the adventures of this experimentation journey (see a rice ginger spicy savoury porridge from Bali below).

savourygingerbreakfast

New and adapted recipes

Experiment with adapting your own recipes!

Now I know there tends to be different cookery camps here – those that follow a recipe to the ‘T’ and those that just improvise (I’m very much more in the latter group).

Improvising and adapting recipes can yes go wrong at times (had my share) but can also lead to new healthy discoveries. Many of the recipes from my website have materialised like that.

One thing particular is to adapt them to become ‘sugar-free’.

Many recipes sneak in a little sugar when it just isn’t necessary – like this haddock in tomato basil sauce.

I expect you wouldn’t really miss the sugar if you removed it and you’d barely be able to taste the difference.

Don’t discount experimenting outside of recipe instructions to make some of your favourites more sugar friendly or create your own new variation.

I made this adapted broccoli mash with walnut rosemary granola for breakfast once!

broccoli-basil-mash-granola

Buy a random ingredient

How many ingredients are there in the vegetable aisle that you’ve never tried before or never put in your own basket?

Fennel? Kale? Romanesco broccoli!?

We live in the privileged age of the mighty Google, so there really is no excuse for not knowing what to do with an unusual ingredient.

Why not pick up something this week that you’ve walked past 100 times and never even considered.

Try something you thought you didn’t like

When I was younger, at some point I decided I didn’t like quiche, hard boiled egg yolk, lamb chops and mushrooms (what a selection!).

I think much of this came down to texture at the time.

Years later, when I decided to try these things again, I was shocked to discover I didn’t really dislike any of them at all and I’d been missing out on juicy butter fried mushrooms – what a crime!

Sometimes we can grow up thinking we don’t like something, but we’re in fact just depriving ourselves of wonderful tastes and nutrients. Give your dislikes a second chance, especially if they’re over a decade old!

There is it…

Experimentation certainly is a healthy habit to develop.

Try something new each week and by the end of the year, you’ll have 52 knowledgable insights about yourself and what you like/don’t like or what works/doesn’t work.

Chances are there’ll be a few epic discoveries and some stick around habits.

Anything you’ve ever challenged yourself on or experimented with that surprised you?

Laura x

eggsbreakfast

Stick to it: Handy strategies for sugar habit accountability

We all commit to make healthier upgrades and changes here and there but what really makes them stick?

What makes the difference between those that do successfully swap nuts for Dairy Milk and those who struggle a bit more to make lower sugar changes cement as a new habit?

Perhaps a sugar detox programme has worked for you in the past – but how to sustain this when technically it’s still a ‘diet’ and will inevitably come to an end?

I’m currently reading The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey (who spent a year doing random experiments on himself – like meditate for 35 hours a week (mental!) – in his bid to find optimum productivity.

productivity-project

I have to say I really like Chris and he’s totally real and honest in his book – it’s a decent easy fun read where it could have been dry as anything. And there’s loads of his advice I want to implement.

But I know myself well and if I try to do too much, I’ll soon get disheartened and fall by the wayside. Whether it’s sugar habits, productivity, fitness or any other behaviour change, there are some concepts here to help that I wanted to share.

1. We aren’t very nice to our future selves

Chris spends a whole chapter explaining how we see our future selves as strangers; therefore we aren’t actually as considerate to them – which might explain why will don’t exert the willpower to follow through on going for a walk at work to avoid the regular trip to the cake-laden shop. 

Would you give up your favourite sugary ritual in a single moment for a stranger? Probably not. We don’t know that person well enough to care and this interestingly applies with us and our future sugar selves. 

The solution?

Take a moment to imagine your future self in a few months when you’ve changed that afternoon sweet fix habit – in quite a specific and deliberate way.

Can you visualise how you’ll be different? How will you feel?

Note the content and satisfaction in yourself when you say no to some sugary monstrosity because you really just don’t feel like it.

Where will you be? What will you be wearing?

Get to know your future self on the 1st of June to remind yourself of you then. Your willpower might just see this habit change through as a result.

2. Sugar change scores high on a procrastination front

Chris also talks about procrastination factors – what makes us put things off.

Firstly we all put things off – it’s normal and human to procrastinate. This was reassuring at least. 

Why is it that sorting a sock draw or watching that YouTube video is suddenly way more appealing than taking some time to reflect on what health habits you really want to change when you know the latter is potentially going to make a much bigger impact on your life?

youtubedistraction

Well, because the sugar habit thinking is much more ambiguous (the goals aren’t clear); we don’t know exactly how to do it or where to start; and it’s often perceived as boring, miserable (& antisocial). Oh and it’s likely to feel frustrating.

Really selling it here aren’t I?!

The problem is, these are all key attributes that drive procrastination – thus we put off making those steady simple low sugar habit changes that will really make a happy-ever-after lower sugar lifestyle stick.

The solution?

Clearly defined practical goals that are made a bit more fun and reassurance that you’re doing the right stuff and some healthy accountability (someone holding you to it).

Start seeing your sugar-related health goals as a bit of a game rather than a painful ordeal you have to put yourself through.

Ask yourself now what can you do this week to reduce your procrastination factors on those habits that you know when tackled will have a really positive impact on your health and life?

Maybe you could make your goals clearer e.g. start the next two weekends with savoury breakfasts or swap the evening sugar snacks for natural yoghurt with berries at least three times a week

eggsbreakfast

Maybe you make getting healthier into a challenge or a game with a friend to move beyond the boring factor.

Maybe you could find a really nice interesting new recipe that you feel super motivated to make.

Let this be your prompt to think about it and take some action and stick to your goals!

Hope this has been helpful :)

How do you manage your own accountability and what sugar habits have you been successful in changing to date?

P.S If you want support (& an extra kick of accountability and commitment!) I can help you chose, craft and prioritise the right low sugar goals on your situation with one of my Clarity & Planning Sessions.

 

drinks-supermarket-cans-beverage

Why I drank Coke on the day the sugar tax was announced

The ironic thing about the day the UK sugar tax was announced was that I drank some Coke.

Yep, you read that right. The ‘sugar coach’ and Founder of Happy Sugar Habits drank full sugar ice cold Coke on the 16th March 2016.

I was in Nandos with two male friends who ordered bottomless soft drink refills. I’d finished my drink of water and wasn’t going to get another.

I wanted to take the edge off the lingering onion flavour in my mouth (anyone else find that sometimes drives sweet cravings!?) and a curiosity got me. It was ice cold, free and in front of me.

I wonder if I still even like Coke and how sweet it tastes?

Here Terry*, can I have a sip of your drink please (Terry looks somewhat perplexed at my request but passes it over regardless).

*Terry has replaced my friends real name :)

Like when someone who hates green juice drinks a wheatgrass shot, my face screwed up.

‘That is disgusting, urgh. So sweet’. Two sips and I was done. Experiment complete. Desire to drink Coke again – pretty much zero.   

coke-can-street

Fizzy drinks are flipping sugary

I know I’m stating the obvious, but heck are fizzy drinks sugary. It seems even I need reminding of that from time to time.

They are disproportionately higher in sugar than many other foods.

A bottle of Coke or Sprite has 46g of sugar in comparison to evidently sugary treats like a bag of Maltesers at 19.7g or a 50g packet of Haribo at 31.7g.

Yet it’s surprising how many just don’t realise or consciously think about this very much. Soft drinks are often seen as a ‘drink’ rather than a treat – as my two friends making the most of the Nando’s refills demonstrated.

Sweet preference

Whilst I could taste the sweetness in that Coke, the guys I was with didn’t bat an eyelid.

After years of weaning my sweet tooth down, I’m lucky enough for my body to tell me what’s horrendously sweet and what’s not.

However, many have the complete opposite. After years of consuming a large amount of sweetness in a wide range of foods, that Coke is simply a refreshing beverage on the side.

A standard habit and preference that’s developed over years of habitual repetition and well established social norms (having a Coke at most meals on holiday was what I grew accustomed to for a while).

Children and teenagers are these days growing up feeling that ‘water’ is boring and with sweet toothed preferences stronger than ever – it will shape their relationship with sugar and thus their future health significantly.

I’m not just talking the diabetes risk and the other obvious physical damage sugar does.

When you really get going with a pronounced sweet tooth, you also risk strong fructose cravings and then restriction attempts to control your desire for sweet which can lead to binge behaviour and other psychological issues which I see a lot of in my work as a coach.  

So will the sugar tax change this and will it ultimately change behaviour?

drinks-supermarket-cans-beverage

Before I go on, let me just note that I am no expert in politics, economics or policy although I have taken a great interest in the debate around the sugar tax the few past days.

I am a coach, a writer and (excuse the clique) a changemaker. I help, inform and inspire people change around sugar, but really, I specialise in understanding what makes people tick and using that to enable long term habit changes and lifestyle shifts that make them happier with themselves.

I’m by no means the sugar police – I still eat and enjoy sugar and don’t advocate by any means a totalitarian quit sugar forever approach.

So what do I think of the sugar tax?

Even after reading all the counter debates and arguments, I have to say I still support it.

Firstly, I feel it’s a well needed signal and warning to manufacturers to take note and start reformulate their recipes and finding lower sugar versions of drinks (& other foods) that inevitably many people will still buy for years to come.

This is the government acknowledging sugar is a problem and saying, we’re going to start doing something about it.

The message of this tax may also incentivise new drinks companies coming market to make things lower sugar.

I fully appreciate, artificial sweeteners aren’t the answer and there is a concern that the sugar tax will lead to a higher consumption of these, but it could also foster lower product sugar innovation in the industry which long term is a good thing.

Already companies like Ugly Drinks are doing great work to give people less sweet options and I feel the sugar tax indirectly supports this work.

Will it change behaviour?

This is the big question, and really, until we’ve tried it, we just don’t know.

The sugar tax showed some positive signs in Mexico and other countries but it hasn’t been so successful in others. I don’t feel we’ll ever know if we don’t try.

Here are some scenarios to consider….

The occasional sugar drink indulger

For someone who drinks 2 portions of a soft drink a week, let’s say tonic water (which is included in the tax), the sugar tax increase at 20% could equate to roughly 10p a can (it’s not clear what price is going to be passed to the consumer yet).

That’s an estimated 20p a week, £10.40 a year.

For those who are moderately drinking soft drinks or are partial to a few G&Ts (myself included), it will dent their pocket slightly, but it’s unlikely to change behaviour with it being a relatively small amount.

It might seem unfair to this group of sweet drink moderators and of course this will feel harsher to those in the lower income brackets, but I’d ask them to consider the wider ramifications of this tax to our children and the potential future health of generations.

The soft drink regular

On the other hand, for someone that drinks say 2 cans of Coke or Sprite day, who really is at risk of consistently high sugar consumption over time and the damage it causes, the pocket money difference is £1.40 a week, £72.80 a year.

That’s a couple of copies of Grand Theft Auto is it not!?

Being so, this just might make a few frequent sweet drink guzzlers stop and think twice. Not saying all of them, but some. It will hit a threshold that makes some of them question the expenditure.

Do I really want to be spending this much on soft drinks.

I know I’ve had this habit for a while now, maybe I actually do something about it. Even just cut back a little or try out other options. What else could I spend that money on?…

The thing is, people need to want to change their behaviour, they can’t be forced.

There is a heck of a lot of information out there on reducing sugar if you want to find it.

Admittedly it’s a bit of a minefield and can be confusing, but we are in the free information age and there are great resources and support programmes for people to learn how to reduce sugar for them and their families.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, to successfully change, people need a motivation, a fire, a strong reason –  a WHY – because serious sugar habit change takes effort and commitment.

And the extra cost of unsavoury sugary drinks habits if the tax does manage to pass it on?

It might just work as a motivation for some children or teenagers and stop these sweet habits entrenching themselves early on.  

Many of those who probably most need the advice on my website don’t ever find it. Right now they don’t care and aren’t looking. They don’t want to be educated on sugar – they don’t feel it’s a problem for them…yet.

It’s getting people to start ‘searching’ and listening for lower sugar help and advice that will help those who need it the most.

quit-refined-sugar-for-lent

 

When people argue for more education – I fear this education might just go in one ear and out the next. People actually have to want to listen, be open to take it in and take action upon it.

What the sugar tax might do, directly or indirectly, is provide some behavioural motivation for more people. It might give them that trigger that sparks behavioural change that may slowly start a seismic shift of sugary social norms.  

Even this sugar tax media hype is an awareness that might just make the odd teenager pause for thought as they reach for that Monster drink and consider some alternatives.

Let’s appreciate the baby steps

Finally, the sugar tax is something. As in, I think it’s better than nothing.

Many are saying that this isn’t going to solve the obesity crisis and that only looking at soft drinks is narrow minded – all sugary foods should be considered.

That we need to be looking at education, putting more direct pressure on manufacturers and even the shops who are responsible for those crazy walls of colourful sugar.

That the way this tax is set up isn’t exactly the right way to do it.

You know what, I completely agree with many of these arguments. There’s lot’s more that can be done and the tax does seem to have it’s flaws in a number of places.   

Buy hey, this may not work perfectly, but let’s at least try? It’s bold and it’s brave. I commend that.

It will have an admin and implementation cost associated yes. It may do something to inflation yes. But if there’s a chance this works and saves lives or starts a small snowball of change in the industry that will serve future generations, it’s surely worth the risk of trying?

One of the most debilitating mindset shifts of those that struggle with sugar is all or nothing thinking. If I’m not going to do this perfectly, I may as well do nothing. If I have one chocolate, I may as well eat them all. It’s the mindset that makes sugar moderation incredibly hard.

Let’s not allow similar all or nothing thinking take us away from a positive step in the right direction that has a chance of making an impact on the sugar situation (either directly or indirectly).

It will also serve as an experiment to properly measure and analyse the impact of such a levy, which if successful, may influence other countries to follow suit, or shape a different type of policy that works better and thus has ramifications later down the line.

So there’s my stake in the ground on the sugar tax. What are your thoughts? I welcome all lines of thought and views..

Lastly, I’m not here to demonise sugar. I’m here to help all of us now and our future generations rebalance to a sensible consumption of it and re-learn to moderate so physically or psychologically it doesn’t take the joy out of life.

I eat and enjoy it moderately. I might even treat myself to a Gin and Tonic later on as I write this, but thanks to the 16th March 2016, the potential sugar tax and Nando’s free refill deal, I’ll forever pass on the Coke thanks :)

P.S this interview with Dr Aseem Malhotra summarises lots of other points and arguments if you’re further interested

boredom-eating

7 ways to combat sugar boredom eating

You don’t feel stressed or particularly emotional but you’re still finding yourself later in the evening in front of the cupboard looking for something to eat.

That digestive biscuit ends up in your hand before you’ve even had time to think about things.

Frustration and guilt starts to kick in. Either you’ve got ironing and a 100 other more productive things to be doing right now OR you’re just chilling, knowing you’re not going to do anything productive but at a bit of a loss with what else to do with yourself.

Say hello to boredom eating. The thing that you just ‘do’ sometimes and you don’t fully understand why.

When you think of stress vs. boredom eating you’re essentially looking at times when you have too much to do vs. times when you don’t have enough exciting things to do.

Kinda feels like you can’t win right?

My big boredom eating 

I’m sure most can relate to some form of boredom eating at times but for anyone working at home or in an office, I know it can be a serious issue.

The number of times, even when I was low sugar, that I found myself in my kitchen for ‘breaks’ was ridiculous. For me it was compounded with a lack of community and connection at home too.

Likewise when I was in an office, my breaks from the daily grind of work were usually the cafeteria, or a vending machine or the tea corner (well stocked with sweet goodies of course).

coffee-cup-table-morning

I wasn’t particularly stressed many of these times or more than usual emotional. I was just a bit bored of that spreadsheet task that I’d been doing for 2 hours and I needed a well earned break. Tea and a ‘treat’ was all I knew.

However, there was difference I remember between boredom and stress eating. With boredom eating I’d eat anything – I just wanted the activity and the break. Emotional eating i.e. feeling down or upset – I’d want the foods that comforted me – the indulgent nut butter, the dark chocolate etc.

Interesting to note the slight distinction right? Either way, the amount of unnecessary overeating when I blatantly wasn’t hungry escalated as these actions started to become pretty entrenched habits. Didn’t feel so great about myself. 

Maybe you can relate?

Why are we as humans so prone to this?

Unfortunately studying boredom eating is pretty hard. Until clever brain scanners can track every kitchen move in terms of what’s going on with our brain activity, we are somewhat in the dark.

However, many make a logical assumption of responsibility towards dopamine – the hormone that get’s fired up when you’re in love or when you’re occupied intensely by Candy Crush (two very different things I know!)

in-love

The common link between being obsessed with someone and zapping pieces of fruit to open up some fancy new level is that both keep us excited and away from food thoughts.

So a theory on boredom eating is that we’re trying to quickly fire up that excitement to get a dopamine hit. We go for food (especially sugar) because it does this very well and it’s accessible, quick and easy.

So what can we do to combat boredom eating sugar?

Here’s 7 things for you to try and consider based on some things that I have found from my coaching work, my studies and what worked for me:

1. Brainstorm other FUN activities to do instead

It’s the most obvious and you probably knew I was going to say it.

Sit down with a pen and paper right now and write a list. Think of anything and everything. Things that might need preparation and things that don’t. Things you can do in 2 mins, 30mins and a few variations in between.

Consider ideas for every setting and situation – home, the office or out and about.

Consider what is really FUN for you. Going for a walk might work wonders for someone but it might bore you so much that you eat even more when you get back.

For me, and this is embarrassing – I discovered You Tube supermarket selfie comedians who would sing a rendition of Take That in front of some unsuspecting bystander (I know, random!  

The thing was, I laughed at these. A lot. I forgot about food and wanted to watch another. Now I know this isn’t the most productive use of my time but I’m telling you it really worked in diverting my kitchen cupboard habits at home because it was a quick and easy dopamine fix.

I also tried meditation, messaging friends and squats. Meditation and friend messaging worked well for me but squats just weren’t fun enough.

meditation

2. Make a boring activity fun

Often the boredom eating comes because we know the next thing we need to do is boring and we are procrastinating from doing it by eating food.

Ever avoided ironing with a cup of tea and biscuit? Yep, that’s it.

It’s an absolute killer for overeating because we know when stop eating, we have to do the boring task.

So what to do?

Add something to the task to spice it up.

I seek to find exactly the right tunes when I have to churn through e-mails and if I strike gold with the playlist, I really feel great and forget about a food wander break.

Maybe you could buy yourself a new audio book whilst you clean the house or do the ironing? Paint your nails whilst listening to a study lecture?

http://happysugarhabits.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/woman-girl-technology-music.jpg

Have a think and consider what can spice up your boring tasks to get that dopamine fired up again.

3. Don’t keep certain sugary foods around in boring situations (if you know you’re prone)

Try to avoid working or being somewhere where your sugary boredom snacks of choice are to hand.

So if you’re tackling a tedious presentation, go sit yourself in a meeting room away from the cabinet cakes.

Likewise at home, remove sugary items from your cupboards so they don’t look you straight in the face when you open the door.

When there’s simply nothing to hand, your boredom eating urge is forced into an alternative and it might be the case that by creative problem solving endeavours you find something that is fun instead.

4. Postpone for a few minutes

If you can consciously catch yourself and be fully present with the fact you’re eating because you have nothing better to do or that you are engaging in blatant procrastination then you’re in quite a good place awareness wise.

Why not see if you can win yourself over with ‘ok in a few more minutes’ before I snack there.

So give yourself a full unrestricted guilt free pass to boredom eat whatever you want with the condition that it’s at least 5 mins on from that moment.

You will have to do something for 5 minutes and there’s a very chance you get into the flow with that and forget about your free pass. Maybe you won’t on some occasions but it’s worth a good try and it does work.

If it was a weekend and I was on the cusp of boredom eating I would ring someone for 5 minutes. The conversation most of the time would completely distract me and eating urge passed. If it didn’t, I had my free pass and let any guilt go.

5. Distinguish between stress and boredom eating

This is quite tough but like I did earlier when I could identify the different foods I wanted in each situation, when you really start to distinguish and get clear on the trigger of your behaviour, you can better deal with it.

If you observe the majority of your sugar snacking is through boredom, is there anything wider at hand you can do to avert the trigger. Can you change up your routine a bit? Or manage your mental energy in a different way e.g. do boring tasks at a certain time?

Usually there is a logical non food solution to reduce the amount of time when you feel bored. I know I like to batch in person meetings early afternoon rather than do writing at this time because the people element keeps me super engaged at a prime slump time. Little things like this can make a difference when you tune into them.

6. Accept it happening but watch the habits

At the end of the day, accept that boredom eating will happen from time to time. Seeking to eradicate it 100% of the time is unrealistic and can lead to you heavily judging yourself which can lead to another round of emotional eating to soothe the guilt.

Know I still do it now from time to time but try to use these instances to learn about my routine and my energy levels. What I really try to do is be super conscious of habits developing.  

When you do something more than three times in a row and especially if it’s at the same time, it’s the early formation of a habit. Just breaking the pattern either with a different food, an activity or a change of routine can work.

boredom-eating

7. Boredom eat minimal fructose

Up until now, this article could apply to boredom eating any food, but I’m assuming munchies of the sweet nature are your preference here.

If boredom eating is happening frequently as it was for me, it’s best to make it as lower fructose as possible to help you keep strong sugar cravings from also factoring into things.

Ok you’re still boredom eating which isn’t great but you don’t have to think all or nothing here – sometimes a ‘better’ healthy option can do and you can feel happy with that.

coffee-theme-coffee-peanuts

I’ve got loads of low sugar snack ideas here you could try.

Give things a go

I hope as a result of this article you have MORE FUN! Because that’s in a nutshell what this is about.

Fill your time with projects and activities that engage you, get creative in jazzing up the mundane and try out that 5 minute guilt free distraction pass.

Finally accept this happens to the best of us. I don’t have a full proof guarantee of what will work for you but you can change your habits here and choose better options from this moment.

Hope that helps and comment below if you want to brainstorm any activities that you think might work as they might help others too!

Laura xx

stressedlady

Overcoming sugary stress eating: Understanding your stressors

It’s those days when you’re already overwhelmed with the tasks on your to do list, and someone else requests something at the same time and there just doesn’t feel enough hours in the day.

It’s those days when you feel some tension with someone who’s a key relationship in your life and despite having a ton or other things to think about, you’re going over your anger, frustration or upset with them in your head.

It’s those days when things don’t go to plan – the road on the usual route has a diversion and you’re going to be late which is going to make things difficult and send the rest of your day into chaos.

And what happens? You reach for the sugar.

You barely think about it.

It’s your survival coping mechanism of choice.

Easy, quick, cheap and it tastes goood!

The thing is, this isn’t about the sugar, it’s about the stress management, coping mechanism habits and your emotional processing.

To really change patterns of behaviour here, we need to go a little deeper.

stressedlady

Stress 101 here we come..

Let’s start with what stress actually is….

Stress comes from stressors. Stressors can be a demand on you or a threat or a change.

It doesn’t always have to be negative. Getting married, having a baby or moving house can be a stressor as much as an illness, job loss etc. is.

When I packed up my London in October to move abroad permanently, I was excited about this huge life change. I planned to go home for two weeks, enjoy myself at a wedding in Italy, pack up my flat and then move back to Asia.

However when I got to Italy, my skin erupted in small spots under the skin – the worst it’s been since I had acne as a teenager. I didn’t feel in that moment ‘stressed’ because I was on holiday, but what I can see now that I couldn’t back then was how the life event was such a stressor for me.

It took 8 tormenting weeks for my skin to return to normal. I tried going easy on diary, tried natural skin care (coconut oil as a cleanser?!), had dermabrasion but none of it worked.

In the end, it was only when I felt settled and fully transitioned into my new life that my skin settled again so I concluded it was that wider life event.

italyweddingmakeup

Look the photographer even caught me  putting on make-up in between processco! I would like to declare my love for foundation and powder at this point :)

Being aware of your stressors

Take note of the fact your stressors can be big life events like that or they can be smaller day to day things like getting a difficult e-mail, a traffic jam or a confrontational conversation.

trafficjam

Usually they can come in under the following categories:

  • Major life changes
  • Work or school
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Being too buy
  • Children & family

It’s also worth mentioning that different individuals are more prone to some stressors than others.

Road rage doesn’t bother me, yet it can drive another crazy. However, I know feeling overwhelmed with tasks and confused where to start is a strong stressor that used to push me towards sugar (& sometimes still pushes me towards a less sweet food alternative).

External vs. Internal stressors

In addition to the external stressors, you’ve also got your internal stressors – the ones that you self-generate through your own thoughts (oh joy!).

An especially common internal stressor that you may relate to is the feeling of guilt, judgement and shame after eating sugar. This can then often make people eat more sugar and it’s easy to see how a vicious stress induced circle can start.

Internal stressors exist within the following categories:

  • Chronic worry
  • Pessimmism
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations/perfectionism
  • Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
  • All or nothing attitude

So what to do?

Step 1: Start by picking out your top 3-5 most prominent stressors amongst those categories. The ones that are repeating or ongoing, that you know surface more regularly.

Step 2:  Be honest just how much of the time you use sugar for each of these. If for any of them, you are aware you use sugar (or any food) more than 50% of the time, it’s worth paying some attention here first.

Step 3:  A an immediate strategy, start to experiment with some interventions and things you can do that make you feel better instead of the sugar. I tend to categorise the options here in four categories:

  • Relax
  • Have more fun
  • Get active
  • Get perspective

Can you try a meditation app for overwhelm or watch a silly You Tube video as a work break? Maybe a spontaneous dance or talking to a friend to get a different perspective can help.

Step 4: Dive deeper to understand the emotions that are going on surrounding the stressors.

This is harder and takes time, hence you’ll need to prioritise as you can’t do it for everything straight away.

You can actually be grateful for emotional eating where it’s telling you something valuable and worthy about your emotions and current situation. If there’s one category that really stands out, it could be worth working through this more introspectively with a trusted individual or a pretty journal. 

There’s more to this but this is a start

I realise trying to help you with emotional eating is a bigger task at hand than just with one article but this will give you a starter and some food for thought.

If you take one thing away from this, just let it be a more pronounced awareness of your unique stressors and what categories they fall into.

…oh and that that teenage acne breakouts can happen even when you eat less sugar because life change stressors are potentially always on the cards.

Any categories you can recognise your stressors being strong in? Do you feel you’re defaulting to sugar in any for more than 50%?

 

low-sugar-hot-chocolate

How to manage sugar cravings during your menstrual cycle

Last week running my webinar, someone asked about the intense sugar cravings they were having in the week before their period. As I started to answer the question I noticed lots of others on the webinar chat box chime in ‘me too!’ so I figured it was time to write on this one! (one for the ladies this week!).

Maybe you can relate….

You’re doing to doing well with your lower sugar efforts until that PMS week comes along and you feel maybe one of the following:

I want chocolate.

I feel fat and horrible and I want chocolate.

I’m useless. Life is not feeling great right now and I want chocolate!

You think because I live a generally lower sugar lifestyle these days that I’m immune to this? Hell no.

However, I’ve gathered some knowledge and techniques that have helped, so here’s some practical sugar busting PMS tidbits you can try.

Why the cravings and feelings in the first place?

As any woman knows, the week before our cycle, our hormones go a bit mental. The stress hormone Cortisol increases and the happy hormone Serotonin decreases.

These biological changes remove our sense of emotional well being where generally happy feelings are likely to be replaced with irritability, anger, exhaustion and depression – personality depending.

I’m not really an angry person so my pre-menstrual symptoms usually manifest in some form of crying and a more pronounced irritation at something irrational like a wobbly table! (This was the most recent one I can think of!).

To add to that bundle of fun, it’s common to bloat and retain water. It’s not abnormal to increase 5-10lbs through water retention and when clothes feel tight and uncomfortable, it’s just not fun. I will have a few days where I don’t want to wear half of my wardrobe and feel like a baby elephant – I get the water retention bad.

Psychologically all of this can cause sugar cravings primarily the form of emotional comfort, especially if sugar is your default emotional crutch where habits are well established i.e you’ve always reached for chocolate to feel better. We aren’t feeling great and it’s our natural response to reach for sweet sugary comfort which does temporarily increase our happy hormones serotonin and dopamine. So our brains know that it does work.

Another reason why we can crave sugar at this time is potential magnesium deficiency. During this second half of our menstrual cycle when progesterone and estrogen are elevated, magnesium levels plummet and our bodies are naturally going to crave it.

Guess what’s magnesium rich? CHOCOLATE!!

dark-brown-milk-chocolat

So what can you do to help with these crazy cravings. Here are my best strategies:

1. Up the magnesium

First one is obvious given the whole magnesium thing. Dark chocolate or cacao which has as little sugar as possible and is as minimally processed as possible is actually pretty healthy and will up your magnesium levels. I personally love cacao nibs (click here for 5 easy ways to use them), Lindt 99% and 85% dark chocolate to get my fix. Here’s a video showing you the comparative sugar content between %s.

Don’t forget you’ve got raw cacao powder you can add to smoothies or make a completely sugar and sweetener free low sugar hot chocolate recipe.

low-sugar-hot-chocolate

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, along with some nuts and seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are also a good source of magnesium. You can add all of these things as an addition to most meals and snacks pretty easily e.g. scrambled eggs, salads, soups etc. It goes without saying to just try and keep your diet as healthy, well balanced and varied as possible.

spinach-sugar-cravings

 

You might also want to look into magnesium supplementation. I’ve never done this myself but I will point you in the direction of Dr Carolyn Dean who shares loads of helpful information to help you decide if this is an option you want to explore.

2. Ease up on any restriction

You may have also noticed that you want to eat a lot more during this part of your cycle. Carbohydrates, fat and sugar especially. This ‘I could eat a horse’ feeling can feel frustrating, especially if you’re conscious about your weight (which is even more likely due to bloating & water retention).

So what’s the remedy?

Recognise what’s going on with your body, emotions and cycle and resist any urges to do some drastic form of diet or restriction. These are likely going to backfire and install unhealthy mindsets that don’t serve a good relationship with food or sugar. Binges at this point will inevitably be more likely and your body wants and needs more food, so allow for it. You wont’ be as hungry the other weeks and accepting this natural cycle is really eating in line with your body. 

It’s also worth practice intuitive eating more attentively – so really listen to your hunger and cravings and try to eat the healthiest version of what you’re body is craving.

So if you’re craving starchy carbohydrates, could some roasted sweet potato fries do the job? If you’re hankering for some fat, could you add some extra grass fed butter to your veg or eggs? If ice cream is screaming your name, could you top some full fat creamy yoghurt with berries and grated dark chocolate? Or blend a frozen banana with some coconut cream and a drizzle of chocolate. Yum!

bananachocolate

Try to resist thinking black and white at this point and really seek those lowest sugar or healthy carb middle ground options that will satiate your cravings and feed the hunger.

3. Up Serotonin in other ways

If you know you habitually use sugar or sweet things to feel good, it’s time to up your serotonin in other ways and start getting these established as new habits. Think exercise, sleep, massages etc.

Feeling stressed? Move your body for the pure reason to feel good and get a happy fix (not just to counter and burn what you eat). So take the pressure off how long or hard you workout for and really seek to find something where you enjoy the actual process of the exercise.

Start prioritising your sleep as a health non-negotiable and maybe treat yourself to a massage. Also don’t underestimate the powerful hormonal fix you get from connecting with friends, partners and loved ones around this time too.

Start building these things in as your more default emotional coping mechanisms habit by habit. Track them. Get some accountability to start doing them more. 

If you want more hormone knowledge, two books I would recommend having read both are The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried and The Woman Code by Alisa Vitti.

4. Body confidence, mindfulness & gratitude

I didn’t’ have my menstrual cycle for nearly two years and it was somewhat nerving to say the least. Now when I am throwing a tantrum at my wardrobe, feeling fat and the rest of it, I bring my mindfulness practice right into play to consciously remind myself of a few things – most notably, that my body doing all of this jazz is healthy and I am not to take this this for granted.  

If you are feeling fed up getting PMS cravings and symptoms, chances are your body is working as it should! You’re able to reproduce and is going through the motions which when you think about all that is going on inside, it’s quite an incredible thing. Eating a bit more than usual if it happens can be managed. 

Being aware of your emotions, how they tie into your cycle, what’s going on in your head with yourself and how it all plays out into your habits and decisions is where mindfulness and emotional intelligence can really come into it’s element as a low sugar lifestyle strategy. 

Just consciously practice catching your thoughts and turn any negative ones on their head where you can. Then add in some gratitude. Don’t beat yourself up for overeating a little chocolate and instead use it to practice slowing down and mindful eating. I find journalling in the morning really helps, doing some form of movement everyday (even if it’s a seemingly lame 1k run) and actively try to process negative emotions with talking to friends, dancing and time off.

running-serotonin

 

In a nutshell

If you get sugar cravings for one crazy week a month – know you’re not alone and well, you’re normal!

Eat all things raw and dark cacao.

Put in place your magnesium and serotonin strategies.

Practice intuitive eating over anything restrictive and make ‘better’ low sugar choices where you can.

Finally, be mindful of what is going on with your wonderful healthy body and practice gratitude where you can (even for that irritating wobbly table ha!).

How do you find your sugar cravings are before your period? Do you crave particular things? Chocolate? Share in a comment below or just let me know if this has been helpful – I hope it has!
Laura xx

 

sugar-coffee

What is right for you? Gradual vs. cold turkey with sugar

Quite often, someone muscles up their fire and motivation to change around sugar and then turns to me and goes OK LAURA, HOW? HOW!!!??

It happens when I meet new friends at co-working spaces, at parties (I know not cool!) and a lot via e-mail from responses to the blog.

What are my options to currently reduce the amount of sugar I stuff my face with?

Should I go cold turkey starting tomorrow or just be gradual with this?

How can I stop this last habit I have snacking on Oreos in the evening after dinner?

How do I avoid succumbing to this ‘healthy cake’ which I’m eating 5 times a week for nothing other than emotional reasons?

How do I reduce my cravings like you did without it being so extreme it doesn’t last?

Is cold turkey a healthy way to do it on both a physical and psychological level?

The confusion

I’m not surprised that you and other people are confused. Different health experts, magazines and articles say different things all the time. I was confused for a long time myself. I read like every perspective on it and got my head thoroughly around all the arguments for both. 

Let alone then working out what to do with fruit, sugar substitutes and the rest of it.

The fear with going gradual is that nothing is going to really happen fast and you’re desperate to change quickly. However cold turkey just feels a bit extreme and you may have even been burnt from previous attempts which have backfired.

I really do appreciate the challenges in trying to work out the best approach, so I’m going to help you weigh it all up and get some key considerations on how YOU should go about your current sugar challenges. 

carrotcake

Pros & cons of each

Let’s get some key points out on the table:

Cold turkey advantages

  • Craving control. It is the quickest way to get physical cravings down. Past 3-5 days, if you’re not going crazy on a natural source of fructose, you will notice a change.
  • Intensive focussed knowledge gain. You learn how much sugar is in different things, become a sugar spotting ninja and are forced to find alternatives to everything. It’s a decent learning curve if you’ve not been on it before.
  • Clear boundaries. Decisions take energy so when you know what you’re doing, you reduce internal stress from ‘should I have that or not?’ type dilemmas.
  • Clear benefit attribution & motivation. Skin suddenly looks amazing and energy is through the roof? It’s extremely obvious that the sugar’s responsible which is helpful to know for future motivation.

Cold turkey disadvantages

  • It’s a ‘diet’. No matter how you cut it, there is restriction. I’ll come onto this later in considerations.
  • It perpetuates ‘all or nothing’ and ‘black or white’ mindsets.
  • Detox symptoms. The more sugar you’re eating, the worse these will be.
  • It’s not very social. Life has to somewhat go on hold if you’re being really strict because preparing, analysing and planning takes time and mental energy.
  • Sustainability. What happens when it ends? This is dangerous territory that requires certain things.  
  • It doesn’t address deeper issues around emotional eating, habits and feelings around sugar. It’s a bit of a quick fix.

Gradual advantages

  • Focussed habit change. Less need for discipline when you adopt a steady habit change strategy.
  • Social life & priorities. You can do everything you normally would but maybe with the odd tweak here and there. You can continue to keep the majority of your focus other on work and life projects.
  • No overwhelm or deprivation feelings. Things feel easy & manageable.
  • Things stick. You reduce sugar in 1-2 places so well, it becomes natural & effortless. You then move onto the next and you really trust these changes.

Gradual disadvantages

  • Sugar cravings can still linger. A relatively high amount of sweetness might still be in your diet so physical cravings can still be a problem.
  • Longer & not as pronounced results. Harder to attribute benefits. More patience and trust in the gradual process is required.
  • Easy to slide with habits. You forget them, lose focus or lose motivation when you’re not seeing much difference and don’t have a structure to follow.  
  • Prioritisation. You need to really know which habits to tackle first which can be hard without the right knowledge.

Now with that lot, you’re possibly even more confused but at least you know all sides of each approach in one go.

food-eating-candy-chocolate (1)

It’s now time to get personal and work out what’s right for YOU…

Personal considerations

I’ve got the benefit of experience here – coaching a ton of people through this change and defining their own cold turkey vs. gradual approach strategy at various points of the go lower sugar process.

To do this, I ask shed loads of questions first, like shed loads.

Questions about your dieting background, questions to help determine the significance of your physical sugar cravings vs. your habits vs. your environment.

Questions to understand what limiting beliefs you have in place and where your personal boundaries are.

Questions to understand why you are currently eating what you do and what makes you tick.

Questions to challenge and call you up on uncomfortable areas that are likely your biggest blockers or the root of emotional eating patterns.  

It’s only after weighing up the answers to all of these questions in one go can I with strong confidence, give someone a sugar lifestyle change strategy that really suits them. This vital information helps me devise prioritised practical recommendations that I know are going to work from all aspects of the holistic approach I use. 

So the bad news is one solution does not fit all and it’s not so black and white.

But the good news is you can do some of this self analysis yourself and use case studies to model traits that you think you align with.

Case study 1: Cold turkey (ish) working well

First let’s look at one of my favourite coaching clients Simon Williams who I met last year in Ibiza! We had to start off gradually as there was, in his own words ‘no way he was going cold turkey on diet drinks’.

Si 2013 Dublin (1)

However I recognised Simon was strong on a mindset front with no dieting history and I knew I could push him a little more on the cravings and nutrition front. We were able to really step up his palate change with a mini adapted detox period (that I framed as a fun challenge) and it worked absolute wonders for him.

Simon got completely in the know with sugar in super quick time (read his full story here), lost quite a bit of weight and improved all his blood results. But the best bit in the end was that he felt that trust with sugary food so he can still have his favourite McFlurry ice cream when he wants it and not worry about spiralling back.

Case study 2: Gradual approach working well

A contrasting example with another more recent client, we uncovered in the first two sessions, the actual sugar was MUCH less significant that she had thought. I’ve written about that too here

Cold turkey sugar type detox programmes not only weren’t working for her, they were perpetuating the real mindset problems that were holding her back from longer term change. Sugar was simply the manifestation of this.

I knew cold turkey was absolutely not the option and we worked much deeper on the diet mentality thought patterns using mindfulness and emotional eating techniques alongside keeping the sugar habits slowly changing in the background so physical cravings were kept in check.

This client in 12 weeks, changed unhealthy thinking patterns that had been dominant for years and years – life changing! Sugar habits shifted gradually without the restriction, trust in social settings could blossom and the emotional yo-yo cycle stopped.

What about you?

As you can see, these are two varied examples. Both had challenges with sugar but the approach required in each was different. If you can identify with either you can start to gauge the approach for you. 

If you can’t, you’re probably wondering, how to I work out what’s right for me?

The best place to start is to evaluate yourself how weak and strong you are in terms of my ANCIENT GREEK TEMPLE!!

Yeah get me – who else uses a Greek Temple in sugar dealings?! ha! See the components of it below….

4-pillars-sugar-reduction

 

But seriously, using this framework starts that all important process of knowing yourself first so you can diagnose a strategy that will get you the quickest most effective results to make you feel healthy, happy and most importantly, in charge.

Simply rate each element of the temple from 1-10 where 1 is weak and 10 is strong. Identify your weaker ones and focus your habit change efforts here.

Know that if your Foundation or Pillar 2 is weak, a cold turkey approach is not to be recommended. If these are stronger then it may well work better for you.

Want to learn more?

There’s obviously a lot more to learn about my legendary Greek temple approach, so if you’re keen to use this as a framework to help you change, make sure you watch my video training on it here

I’m also super excited to say that I’m running my first live webinar THIS WEDNESDAY 10th FEB 2016 at 9pm GMT where I’m going to be going through this approach in more detail.

I’ll be highlighting the most common mistakes I see made in each area and you’ll easily be able to identify where you need to be prioritising YOUR efforts so you can go forth in 2016 knowing you’re doing low sugar in the best way for you :)

There are literally only a few places left now on the webinar so sign up here quickly if you want to make it! See you there!!

 

What are your thoughts on the different approaches? Found something already that works? Have some cold turkey war stories? Please do comment below or ask a question :)