depressed

Are you numbing your feelings with sugar?

We all know eating less sugar is going to help with the waistline. It’s going to make you feel better, it’s going to give you more energy and it’s going to decrease your chances of a multitude of metabolic diseases. Quite often you probably know all of this but it still doesn’t stop you – right?

If you’re looking for more motivation, take some time to seriously consider what sugar is doing to your ability to deal with your feelings…

Suppressing feelings with sugar

If you’re eating sugar when you’re stressed, upset, frustrated or bored, ultimately, you’re avoiding something. Chances are the sugar is a way of numbing these difficult and uncomfortable feelings with a quick, cheap, accessible and let’s face it, rather appealing alternative.

The problem with this is that the longer and more often you go using sugar in this way, the worse you get at finding and practising alternatives. Forget what sugar’s doing to you physically, it’s inhibiting your ability to problem-solve and deal with difficult feelings. This is where dependence on it suddenly starts to grow from. It’s effectively suffocating your ability to develop a set of alternative healthy stress-coping mechanisms.

I suffered from this

When I was in the throes of emotional sugar eating, it would often happen before I gave myself a chance to acknowledge it. I vividly remember a difficult day at work a few years ago. I was up in Aberdeen running a workshop with 15 clients who weren’t out to give me an easy ride. I was out of my depth; the workshop (in my eyes) went horribly wrong and I struggled to hold back the tears whilst presenting towards the end. Every minute I was stood up there felt like an eternity. I get shivers still now remembering that workshop whilst writing this.

I came out immensely stressed, embarrassed and did not know what to do with myself. A few tubs of M&S goodies lay around and I dived into them without thinking, just hoping they would help me feel better. I didn’t enjoy them or appreciate them. I just ate loads (until I felt a bit sick) with the hope that I would feel better – because sugar usually did it for me. It was instinctive, impulsive and almost an act of desperation.

The danger in this was that I didn’t have alternative stress coping mechanisms in place. Well, unless you count crying in the toilets as one. Sugar had always worked and been there, it was just what I did when things got stressful at work – grab some cake or biscuits and a cup of tea. But this time it didn’t work. The stress was too intense and eating more sugar wasn’t working, it was just making me feel a bit sick and disgusted with myself.

This is urgent

Changing your relationship with sugar is even more important when instances like this occur and start to happen more frequently. Relying on sugar is not a healthy or sustainable way of regularly dealing with stress. The longer it’s used, the more narrow-minded you become to other coping mechanisms and more dependant you become on sugar. It’s why going to cold turkey can in a way feel like you’re literally chopping off your right arm and thus is not always the right solution for some.

If there’s a motivation to change your sugar habits today, let your ability to deal with your feelings be a highly motivating one to keep in mind.

A progressive process

Change here doesn’t happen overnight (don’t I know it). Habitually creating new coping mechanisms that work for you is a trial and error process that can be slow. It is highly personal to you and your situation.

What you can do for inspiration is look around at the people you know who don’t use sugar as a coping mechanism – what do they use? Exercise, breathing, meditation? There are many very healthy ways of dealing with stress that aren’t going to undermine the other things you want in life – whether that’s weight loss, control, or a healthy piece of mind. You want to seek reliable strategies that don’t propel you towards being dependant on a somewhat toxic substance and up your chances of being a diabetes statistic in the future.

What do I do now?

I’m far from perfect on this front still, but thankfully, I no longer dive into flapjack and rocky road tubs when I’ve had a bad day. I can appreciate that whilst I don’t eat sugar for stress anymore, I have still struggled with using food at times. It’s a progressive process and I’m on my own path with this.

Whilst the almonds or some other sugar-free foods are healthier, I have become aware of my emotional eating tendencies and I’m still exploring alternative coping mechanisms so I don’t just default to eating when nervous, stressed or bored. I find working at home harder, but becoming more conscious over the years has been my first step to change.

These days I time out in periods of stress – I just take a break to think. Strangely, if I’m really stressed at home, instead of going into the kitchen like I used to, I get into bed and think for 5 minutes. My bed has become my de-stress den!

Yoga and meditation works sometimes; so does blasting on some of my favourite songs really loud for 3 minutes, or looking through some old photos on my phone. Sometimes I get some new ideas from the clients I work with who are also addressing sugar-numbing emotional eating. Learn from those around you and take inspiration from wherever you can. Having some support can really help, even if it’s just for the accountability or fresh thinking. I’d love to support you with something I feel extremely passionate with, so do get in touch if you’re interested. I made sure to create whole sections of the Mentor Me Off Sugar detox programme to address these areas because I feel mindset, emotional eating etc. is equally, if not more important as getting the nutrition right.

Take action now

If you can recognise that sugar plays an unhealthy role in dealing with your feelings then start by becoming aware. Know that it’s a common problem and seek some support or commit to an attempted change – because you really can. Sugar is not the long term band aid to difficult feelings and you can change as much as I and the clients I’ve worked with have. Let this be your inspiration to get started…

My brand spanking new video series

Free video series promo

This week I’m excited to launch something I’ve been working hard on which nicely fits with this post. It’s a completely free 4-day video series with lots of strategies, tips and advice to get you living the controlled low sugar life you want – including dealing with this very emotional side of sugar that I believe is a big part of things. I explain the 4 foundational pillars to living a sustainable, happy and practical low sugar lifestyle.

An accumulation of things I’ve learnt myself and through coaching others, the advice in these videos is practical, very ‘real’ and will help you avoid some of the classic emotional and social mistakes when it comes to healthy low sugar change. Sign up here to get the first video and let me know what you think.

Over to you

Do you use sugar to deal with difficult feelings? Can you recognise if it’s when you’re anxious, bored or stressed? Have you tried doing other things? This is a bold and brave one to share but you’ll build instant awareness by doing so and I would love to hear from you.

Laura xx

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Sugary drinks on holiday: 5 refreshingly sugar-friendly tips

Forget ice cream, I’ve come to a new conclusion on what the biggest sugary hurdle is when abroad – cold drinks. Ice cold, colourful looking, thirst quenching juice-like liquids. They’re also tricky when it comes to alcohol because cocktails and fruit punch-like drinks tend to be order of the day when you’re on holiday.

Yes yes, I know it’s a holiday, but I’d thought I’d share how to get around this, highlighting some other options or tips along with some things I did last week on my own holiday.

I’ll admit I did consume a little more sugar last week than usual, and I found it was mostly in the form of drinks. Really, this shows the importance of adequate hydration when on holiday in hot countries – I think the likely appeal for me was mostly to quench my thirst more than craving sugar. Saying that, it could also have been just because I got a bit bored of water, or the water I had was warm and thus not very appealing!

As you may know, I’m really not pedantic about my sugar-free living as I’m well past being out of control, I just do the best I can to avoid unnecessary overloads and I genuinely don’t like things being that sweet. Here are some handy options from a pragmatic standpoint for you to consider when it comes to drinks:

1. Unsweetened iced tea

This is actually amazing if you can find it. I found it relatively easy to get in America, they even sold it in Burger King (yes I was found in a Burger King, my Greyhound bus made a stop there!). Watch out for Lipton iced tea – it used to be my favourite holiday drink growing up and guess what, it’s loaded with sugar. My brother did pick up a bottled mojito flavour variety and strangely that wasn’t too bad for sugar – 11g per 250ml. That is is half of coke when you compare it like for like. Better, but still not ideal.

2. Tomato juice based cocktails

Still potential for a little sugar in these (tomato juice often has added sugar), but it’s a heck of a lot less sweet than your average Pina Colada. I had a Virgin Bloody Mary when we visited a glamorous cocktail bar in Skiathos town. It was totally delicious, tasty, cold and most importantly, in a fancy glass that made me feel like I was having a cocktail like everyone else without having to feel sickly at drinking something too sweet for me.

Tabasco infused virgin bloody mary in hand

Tabasco infused Virgin Bloody Mary in hand

3. Vodka, soda and fresh lime

It’s the most virtuous sugar-free drink on the block. Yes, it can taste a bit bland so ask for lots of fresh lime (lime is extremely low fructose) and try to avoid the artificial green cordial.

4. Dilute with soda or fizzy water

There was one day I just wanted a refreshing drink that wasn’t water. I bought some 100% juice and some fizzy water and mixed together to make my own healthier cold fizzy drink. You can make it appropriately sweet for your tastebuds. I also occasionally drank a vodka cranberry & soda and asked the barman for mostly soda with a dash of cranberry to avoid it being too sweet. Find some friendly barmen and they can do anything you want ;)

5. Don’t rely on Diet Coke (& diet drinks)

My stance on artificial sweeteners (the usual culprit for diet drinks) is that you take the gamble with your own health. Aspartame and the like is a chemical and by clean eating terms, it’s just not a good substance to be putting in your body. Depending on diet drinks heavily is not a good road to go down. Saying that I don’t believe that one every now and then in a blue moon is going to do you masses of harm and in my view is potentially the very slightly lesser of evils compared to a full sugar coke.

P.S. A quick note on ice cream…

Last week I mentioned some healthier alternatives for ice cream. I can safely say I had no desire to eat any ice cream all week. Absolutely none, even when others were eating it in front of me. Give me some cold Greek yoghurt with grated lemon zest instead. I had a bite of my sister Amy’s chocolate Cornetto on the last day to confirm I wasn’t missing out and I can honestly say I didn’t want any more. I write this just because I still find it hard to believe even now how my taste preferences have changed so much!

Do you find the lure of cold sugary drinks a challenge? What do you tend to drink when on holiday?  Any tips you use to manage the sugar overload that drinks that be?

Laura xx

On top of the world at Cape Kastro

On top of the world at Cape Kastro

Hotel dinner

The 5 sugar-friendly hotel tips I live by

Eating at home and being in control of the ingredients in your food makes keeping an eye on sugar relatively easy when you get used to it. However, when you’re out staying in hotels things can get a little trickier. If you find yourself in a hotel for either work or for pleasure then here are my best tips to keep healthy habits in check with a suitable amount of perspective.

100’s of nights in hotels

I can write this post from sheer experience. I have stayed in A LOT of hotels over the past few years. As a management consultant for the best part of 4 years I found myself practically living in them at times. From the Holiday Inn to a Marriott to the old serviced apartments; I had loyalty cards falling out of my wallet, reception staff knew me by first name and I developed my own weird little routines to keep as healthy as possible.

In fact it was my time on a project in Aberdeen living in serviced apartments that was a pivotal part of my own sugar journey. This was the year in my life when I really started to cut back on sugar with the depressing reality that most of the food I liked (& loved) had sugar in it. Ah, the memories…

Living in hotels I have a few key tips to help you navigate healthy eating. It actually isn’t that hard if you stick to some basic principles:

1) Navigate the hotel breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet is not your enemy, you just need to navigate it with precision. I went from a fruit, yoghurt, granola/muesli and toast girl to an eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes girl. The latter is now my default healthy breakfast and fruit/yoghurt is now my ‘treat’ one. It actually seems backwards to most people i.e. hitting the fry up section first but it’s the protein & vegetable rich part of the buffet that is going to really set you up for the day rather than drive cravings. Note: Hash browns and fried bread are still a pretty unhealthy no no. Likewise processed meats like bacon I keep to occasionally rather than standard.

buffet breakfast

This was a rather large delicious feast of a buffet breakfast!

2) Hide biscuits as soon as you enter the room

I don’t have to do this anymore because I know I don’t want them. However, when I was still craving this favourite food of mine intensely, I used to walk in my hotel room, grab them, and put them straight in the safe. Yes, I still knew they were in there, and occasionally I would break in and eat them anyway. However, for the majority of the time the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really did work. Repeat it a few times and you develop the habit. Ever found biscuits in your safe? Yeah that was probably me!

3) Minimise hidden sugar but don’t stress

In terms of hidden sugar, it’s sauces, soups and dressings that will hide the most. A honey glazed chicken dish is pretty obvious so avoid obviously sweetened sauces to start. Order dressings and sauces on the side and then taste them to see how much you really want or if you want it at all. Request plainly cooked food then order extra butter to add flavour, taste and good fat to a dish. Quite often they get this wrong or forget. I know the other day there was a bit of sugary dressing on something, so accept that sometimes either you or the hotel will slip up. Learn from it rather than stress about it..

Hotel dinner

4) Try not to get caught out really hungry.

Healthy snacks are hard to come by in hotels so it’s important not to let yourself get so starving that you’re forced to eat biscuits and mini-bar chocolate to stop from fainting. If you can grab an extra apple or a small cheese portion from the breakfast buffet just in case then you’ve got something healthier to tide you over. Likewise at lunch, if you spot some nuts, grab an extra bag to keep in your hotel room. I know when you’ve had a very long day you can forget how hungry you are until those shortbread fingers are suddenly staring you in the face.

5) Cement a healthy routine to start

This is super important, especially if you’re a hotel regular like I was. Your ‘first’ everything sets the standard so get it the way you want it. Create your healthy ‘norms’ the first few times you’re in a new hotel or location. This means not ordering a dessert, resisting the biscuits or mini bar and eating savoury breakfasts as your standard. It sets this mental benchmark in your head and cements initial healthy habits that will feel effortless after a while. Whoah benchmark?! I’m still a consultant at heart aren’t I…

There are more random tips up my sleeve but I think these are the most worthy to focus on initially and this post could get very long. Now you can go live it up in a hotel and have some sugar-friendly tactics to boot!

Do you travel or work a lot in hotels? What do you do to keep sugar intake under control or just to keep healthy in general? Any other tips you’ve got?

Laura xx

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Ready for sugar-free change? Ask yourself these questions

In addition to the ins and outs of sugar and eating healthy, I have a very big interest in personal change. This past week, I have been studying some different phases of change in terms of recognising where people are and what mental blockers might be getting in the way.

I think it’s helpful to look at these different stages of change in terms of identifying where you might be in regards to sugar or health and asking yourself some powerful questions. Read the following, identify where you’re at and reflect by writing a comment…(note you can use this for any change in your life: career, relationship, sugar, health etc.)

1. Pre-contemplation

This is where you have really no intention of changing. You don’t want to hear how you get healthy by eating less sugar because you feel absolutely fine. When I start telling people what I do (in terms of sugar coaching) and their eyes glaze over, I know they’re probably here. Chances are you wouldn’t be reading this if you’re in this stage. Anyway just in case ask:

  • Am I in denial?
  • Could I just spend a minute entertaining the thought?

2. Contemplation

This might be where you consider changing your habits but other things or ‘life’ get in the way. You don’t have time to embark on a health change or implement new habits.  It’s maybe that you don’t feel you have the money, time or resources to get the support you want. Sometimes it’s a case of having other priorities (which is fine) and sometimes it’s a case of limiting belief where you’re not sure if you can really change (this isn’t as fine and you need get those limiting beliefs out of the head!). Questions to ask yourself:

  • What’s the cost of not changing?
  • How much longer can you put up with the negative aspects of the problem?
  • How much energy is it taking up (mentally & physically)?

3. Preparation

Here you’re pretty sure you’re going to do something about it. You’re going to read some books or get support and you’re just weighing up your options. Questions to ask yourself here:

  • When I’ve changed before, what’s worked in the past?
  • What’s the ideal support I could have with this?
  • What’s the missing piece to make a solid decision?

4. Action!

This is where you get your arse in gear and it starts falling into place. Shifts start happening, you learn about yourself and where you want to get to more deeply. Questions here:

  • What is my ideal outcome?
  • How will I know when I’ve got there?
  • How can I keep motivated, on track and inspired?

5. Relapses

It happens to the best of us. We stumble, falter and have a mighty old setback i.e. eat a load of sugar in some form or another. Trust it’s part of the process, and a very important part at that. Most of the time with my coaching clients, the mega tough points translate to being the biggest breakthroughs. Questions to ask:

  • What have I learnt from this?
  • What conditions were in play?
  • What can I do today to help with this next time?

6. Maintenance

The final stage, the sweet spot. I say this because for many this is living in harmony with sugar. Note, not without all sugar, but with a happy new controlled attitude to it and a rebalanced sense of ‘take it or leave it’ moderation. It really is the sweet spot if you’ve suffered addiction or just an unhealthy relationship with it. Flowing into this stage can take time, effort, continuity and persistence. Questions to ask:

  • What does staying here do positively for me?
  • How will I be in 3 months, 6 months and a year?
  • Who or what is going to keep me on the straight and narrow?

As I went through this myself in terms of sugar, I could recognise the stages, but even more interestingly I thought a lot about my career change choices as I studied these questions and theories. They are great questions you can apply all over.

I’d love to know what insights you’ve drawn from answering any of them or where you think you might be? Leave a comment and let’s get talking!

Laura x

P.S If you’d like that extra support achieving your own version of healthy low sugar maintenance in your life, do get in touch to book a complimentary Sugar Self Discovery session with me.

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Becoming “not as fussed” about sugar: Anna’s journey

This is a guest post from one of my close friends Anna. In January she completed Mentor Me Off Sugar with grit, grace and a stubborn determination that saw her through to success. I was least to say, incredibly proud of her.

You’re probably thinking of course my friend is going to say nice things about Mentor Me Off Sugar, but truth be told I was nervous about Anna going on the programme – out of everyone, she really would tell it how it is. This write up was for her blog and readers and was published last month. I’ve cut some bits out to shorten it for HSH, however you can read the full version at www.bloggedbyanna.com.

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Celebrating Anna’s birthday this year during the detox!

Anna’s success is proof that the nuts and bolts of the programme work – if you stick to the meal plan and stay on track, your taste buds will change.  More importantly she is a shining inspiration for all of you reading that you can successfully complete a sugar detox, be happy, and still live a (somewhat) normal life for 6 weeks. You just need to commit, accept there is no perfection and try. Anna even made it through a month of birthday celebrations without any cake (to the point I actually started to feel guilty it was because of me!).

Over to Anna..

I recently embarked on a 6 week sugar detox programme. Crazy? Brave? Health freak? You might be thinking them all and I certainly had them thrown at me when I started out. But I’m now an evangelical sugar preacher; so my friends, family and colleagues better be ready to hear more!

Firstly, I do need to point out that the programme, Mentor Me Off Sugar, was run by one of my best friends, so it may seem I’m just doing her a favour by writing this review. But I’m not. And here’s why.

I always considered myself to be healthy and have done a couple of low carb diets before, which often meant low sugar. I’ve therefore already looked into food that naturally has high-sugar content (beetroot in your salad and orange juice for breakfast may be the culprits that mean you’re not losing weight), or processed food which has an unnecessary amount of added sugar (bread, tomato sauce, cereal… the list goes on). But I still couldn’t resist a nice bit of cake with a cup of coffee when they were brought into the office and suffered terrible energy slumps afterwards.

Now, if somebody offers me a cake, I’m just “not fussed”.

I honestly didn’t think this would be the outcome – I thought it’d be a great detox after Christmas and that I wouldn’t be able to wait to scoff some Reeses Peanut Butter cups (my favourite, just to point out) once I was done. This hasn’t happened yet.

So I’ll tell you about the programme and see if you think you could do it.

It is 6 weeks of no refined sugar at all, and 3 weeks within the 6 of no fruit. The idea is that by not having anything sweet at all, your tastebuds kind of re-programme themselves to not expect anything sweet. And by the end of the programme, you appreciate the natural sweetness of fruit again.

 

Alongside the detox challenge, there are weekly guides on sugar and emotional eating to build your knowledge, but most importantly, to keep you going. We filled out various workbooks based on that week’s focus (e.g. facing fears or changing habits), which helped me understand what I was going through and reflect on my progress. Although I like to say I have strong will-power, this information and the workbooks were vital for me to get me through the 6 weeks, as I believe you need to understand why you’re doing something to finish a challenge properly.

Habits also formed part of the emotional side of things. Sugar and sweet foods are comforting – think back to baking scones with your gran or receiving treats whenever you were good as a kid. This varies from person to person and obviously some are more extreme than others, but the ‘emotional’ side of eating that I could relate to was the very simple feeling of boredom. So I’ve been using Laura’s idea to assess whether I’m really hungry, or just bored. If I’m sat at work and could fancy a cup of tea and chocolate bar, I ask myself “could I eat a tin of tuna right now?” Because if I was really hungry, tuna would suffice.

The best bit about the programme is Laura. Laura being there for me was a huge part of the 6 week process, as it’s so hard to do a detox like this alone. Also, the other people on programme were there for support, so having both them and Laura meant I had accountability. I told them when I got through my birthday without a cake and felt great when I got a virtual round of applause. If I had had a bad moment, I’m sure I would’ve confessed to the group in the same way. We shared articles we’d found online with each other and commented on the latest video Laura had posted, knowing that we were learning together.

As this is a long old post, below are my main take-aways from the programme:

  • My own aim throughout the programme was to have control over whether I want the cake or not. I don’t want to give up cake forever, but I now no longer have a sugar cube man on my shoulder telling me to eat the cake, rather than concentrate on my work.
  • I listened to my body throughout the whole process – and afterwards once I had my first dose of sugar. I now know sugar makes me feel very sleepy and my skin isn’t a fan too. Towards the end of the 6 weeks, I was waking naturally before my alarm clock!
  • New food! I’ve embraced whole milk and have a new-found snack friend in the form of nuts. Ryan [Anna's bf!] had to work around the programme as he cooks our main meals and he said coconut oil for cooking is the best thing to come out the programme. I think I’m going to have to become a food blogger to show you the amazing food I’ve discovered.
  • My birthday fell over the 6 weeks but I was perfectly happy to have a cheese and red wine evening, rather than a cake and chocolate couple of hours. I will admit I slipped up once during my birthday by having sambuca. It was kind of forced upon me…[Laura here - not by me!]
  • Speaking of alcohol, this was the only hard part for me. Really, I shouldn’t have been drinking as much as I did as my body was going through a bit of a detox. Except it was my birthday (for a month, as you may have recently read). Dry wine is OK on the programme, but I can’t drink a lot as, let’s say, it doesn’t sit well in my stomach. So my usually binge-style drink is spirits. But mixers generally are full of sugar. I therefore drank vodka and soda for 6 weeks, and it was little boring towards the end. Now I’m out of the programme, I can have ‘diet’ versions. Apart from making me worry about ingesting chemicals, the programme has also taught me that artificially sweetened drinks count towards the re-programming of your tastebuds. So it’s better to avoid them still if I don’t want to crave more sweetness. Perhaps my answer to this dilemma could be to just drink it straight on the rocks?

If a detox like this isn’t your thing, I’d advise you to read up on sugar anyway on Laura’s blog, as there are a few things about the little grains that you won’t expect or realise.

I do hope that this will be a life-long lesson for my eating habits, rather than just my stubbornness to get through the 6 weeks. But so far, I’m happy I’ve gone from someone who asked for “2 shugs” in my tea to someone who can, 80’s drug-style, “just say no”.

If you’re ready to start saying no to sugar then join the next Mentor Me Off Sugar programmes which are kicking off on the 12th May 2014. The early bird prices end on the 27th April so don’t miss out on them. 

Anna’s just recently written up on how she feels 2 months after the programme end so have a read if you want to know where she’s currently at.Any comments for Anna or thoughts on her journey? Does it bear similarities to yours in any way? 

Easter eggs

A 3 step guide to keep you sugar strong this Easter

Deciding on this weeks blog post was a bit of a struggle. I had a number of ideas and options and then I just thought, what would actually make the biggest difference? Like last years 5-step Easter survival guide, I decided it would be motivational and supportive to help you keep strong through a sugary holiday that personally doesn’t quite hold the same weight as Christmas, but can be unexpectedly hazardous.

Easter can get tricky because generally it’s a time when you’re back at home or doing something different with the extra time off. This puts you in another environment away from ‘home’ habits with the notion of a ‘special occasion’. If there are young kids around, then Easter eggs are a given, and you might find yourself presented with a foil-wrapped hollowed-out shell of some kind. I know how tempting it is to crack just a tiny bit off the chocolate egg (I remember even trying to strategically get the thick part where there’s more chocolate…or was that just me? Ha!).

Easter eggs

Your 3-step sugar-strong Easter guide

Here is a simple three-step process to use when those tempting, socially pressured situations pop up and you find yourself faced with a chocolate Shredded Wheat egg nest (or FOUR – ah!).

A quick note before we start: if it keeps you happy, healthy, in control and on the straight and narrow, then it’s worth a try right? So please read on…

1) Harness your motivation beforehand

Physically write down the reasons why you don’t want to scoff chocolate eggs all weekend on a bit of paper or an electronic notepad or something. I’ve started using Evernote more recently, so you could try some snazzy app if it makes you feel clever. This step does a few things. Firstly, it will clarify this ‘why’ in your head more clearly, which is an immensely useful exercise. Secondly, it’s a way of holding yourself more accountable. Thirdly, you can refer back to it in moments of need. Do it now. Write something down. Even a comment below will count!

2) Talk about something ‘new’ you’re going to do

Before you give in to temptation, say out loud something new, daring or exciting you’re going to try over the next week or month. Easter is all about new beginnings, re-birth and fresh starts – right? Commit to more meaningful Easter action so that you’re not just celebrating with food. Talk about this for 5 minutes before you eat anything to either distract yourself, or at worst, delay, and allow yourself time to consciously make the decision (I’m all about conscious decision making at the moment).

3) Give it a ‘social significance’ rating

Your daughter has made a one-off special Easter cake versus some cheap leftover chocolate egg that’s just lying on the side. Each sweet offering has what I call a ‘social significance’ rating. The made-with-love cake maybe scores 8 or 9 whilst the naff chocolate egg comes in at 1. If you’re struggling in the moment, give the sweet food a score and ask yourself if you’d prefer to use valuable sugar moments for things that are even higher, or save the ‘spend’ for another time.

Easter for me…

As usual, I’m heading to my Grandma’s this year for Easter, and I am really really looking forward to it. It’s a nice break and a chance to spend some good time with the family. I will of course be faced with sugar, in the form of hot cross buns, chocolate and no doubt when eating out, but at least my Grandma now knows (& accepts) that I prefer my eggs and avocado to my former love of lemon curd on toast!

What is your motivation this Easter to keep sugar-strong? What do you find the hardest and do you have any other good strategies to hand? Oh, and any thoughts on giving things a ‘social significance’ rating? Leave a comment and let me know.

Laura x

natural vs. greek yoghurt

Natural vs. Greek yoghurt (video)

So when I first was going low sugar, swapping from my Muller Lights to my natural yoghurt was a big (& at the time quite painful) step. I used to eat a fruity low calorie yoghurt everyday for years after my lunch.

After trying lots of different natural and Greek yoghurts over the past lower sugar period of my life, I decided it would be quite useful to know what the difference is and state the key things to look out for when buying healthy yoghurts. Hence the inspiration for this weeks video.

p.s. in the video I mention grams of fat and this is with reference to per 100g.

p.p.s. I’ve just noticed I’m wearing my same striped top as the last video. Bad wardrobe decisions there….

What brands of yoghurt are you currently eating? Do or did you have a low fat sugary yoghurt habit to contend with? I’ve now made it easier to leave comments below so please let me know your thoughts and I would love it if you’ve got any questions I can help with xx

Isolated avocado

5 ways counting calories is working against you

Everyone has to make choices about what they eat and healthy efforts can be extremely misguided by ‘the calorie’. Calories have been associated with weight loss and dieting so it’s easy to develop calorie tunnel vision where only this number matters. I know that when I was eating more sugar, I was conscious of calories and over time realised how this thinking was working against me. I’ve fallen down ALL of these traps myself so be aware of the following 5 ways that counting calories can backfire on you:

1. You eat less nutritious food to save calories

For example, you decide to swap 1/2 avocado (140 calories) for a Ryvita (40 calories). Your avocado is supremely more nutritious, natural and filling but you’ve got caught up in a small numbers game. Calorie counting works better as a larger ball park figure so small differences aren’t worth worrying about, especially if they deprive you of nutrients.

2. You chose artificial sweeteners over natural sources

This can be a grey area, particularly if you try to stick to a low sugar (or fructose diet). Whilst you can argue some natural sources are higher in sugar, continually replacing them with artificial chemicals is not the long term healthy answer. A whole apple with some nuts, whilst containing more calories and a little fructose, will undoubtedly serve your body better than a Diet Coke. You also need to weigh up where you are with your self control around fructose at that time.

3. You don’t eat enough calories so you compensate later

This classic downfall where strictly counting calories works against your natural hunger. Common problems are ‘healthy’ calorie-controlled lunch salads or sandwiches. These items fill you for only a few hours but you end up starving at 4pm. The protein and fat (& thus calories) just weren’t able to sustain you. Suddenly high energy or sugary foods become either tempting or convenient, so you fall of the wagon with unhealthy food thanks to your low calorie lunch.

4. You choose low fat products to save calories

Low fat foods don’t sustain your hunger for as long as full fat and you can end up compensating as mentioned previously. Low fat foods also increase the chances that you need to add sugar to make something taste edible. Ever tried to eat skimmed milk porridge with nothing added to it? I will also add that a low fat yoghurt for example, even if it’s got zero sugar in it, is more processed than it’s full fat counterpart.

5. You simply lose sight of the big picture

Sometimes you focus so much on counting calories to keep within a range that you fail to consider the nourishment perspective of eating real food. Ideally you should be eating whole foods and meals that don’t have a label informing you of the exact calories. If you’re carefully counting calories, you might also forget that you need at least 5 (ideally 7-8) colourful portions of vegetables or fruit a day to keep your body efficiently metabolising and processing the food you are eating.

Have you fallen into the calorie-counting trap to the detriment of your wider health or do you relate to any of these like I did? Do you look at calories more than you look at sugar? Let me know in a comment or e-mail laura@happysugarhabits.com – I always love to hear from you.