checkout sugar

What to think when faced with a mass of checkout sugar

You stand innocently in the self-service queue having quickly popped in to buy a birthday card or pint of milk. In my case, this morning, it was a pair of headphones from Sainsburys.

You’re minding your own business not really focussing on anything in particular when your eyes are absolutely bombarded from every angle with sweet food. You’re not hungry, you weren’t really thinking about sugar in any way, but suddenly, it’s inescapable. Oh look at those interesting gourmet chocolate wafers with chopped hazelnuts on top….Wow is that really a white chocolate mince pie flavoured Santa?!

Cravings suddenly descend and before you know it, a Maltesers reindeer has managed to scan itself through the check-out without you even noticing. Your habits are powerful. You can quite easily trick yourself in the moment if you’re not careful. Therefore it really important to making a conscious effort to manage your thoughts while you stand in that slow moving queue waiting to be served.

This is probably a very common dilemma at this time of the year for those of us who have had a history of less controlled sweet desires. I don’t have them so much these days, but I remember those feelings well and I know my clients have struggled with shop sugar pushers and clever marketing.

The worst culprits seem to be Tesco Metro, WHSmith (I just want a notepad!!) and,after today, Sainsburys in Old Street. Marks & Spencer used to be a culprit but I can appreciate that they’re at least trying to encourage a more healthy point of sale offering nuts and less sugary options.

So what can you do when presented with this dilemma?

Try tweaking the unbidden thoughts which come calling. Move from desire to curiosity, wonder, and blend it with a little bit of affirming thought.

This is quite a fun thing to do when you practice it a few times. It does help obviously if you’re not hungry having eaten a filling hearty savoury meal balanced well with fat protein and complex carbohydrates. Just take that out of the equation means you can’t blame use being hungry as an excuse.

Change your thought processes

Instead of saying to yourself ‘Oh gosh I could really eat one of those lattice mince pie right now’ say to yourself ‘I wonder if some people eat all of those lattices in one go and if they feel sick’ or ‘I wonder how many of people buy on impulse from here everyday and how much money they would save if they didn’t’. Let your mind wander with curiosity to help distract from those initial desires…

‘I wonder how long these have been on the shelves’
I wonder how many different ingredients are in that product’
‘How did society get to this point of sugar bombardment?’

Again, instead of ‘Wow that’s new, I really feel like I would be missing out if I don’t try it’ say ‘Seriously these guys are creative, they think of any way to get people to eat more sugar! I wonder what they’ll think of next’(then make a few guesses).

‘It’s only a £1, that is such a bargain’ think ‘I’m not sure I’d get paid a £1 to eat that in terms of what it’ll do to my health and cravings’

‘Today has been such a hard day, I really deserve a little treat’ try ‘Today has been really hard, what nice thing can I do for myself when I get home today’

‘Oh but It’s Christmas!’ say ‘I’m going to enjoy something much nicer than this when I am at [insert special event you’re looking forward to].’

Just play around with this.

Accept that it’ll work on some occasions and other times it might still fail – these things take practice because you’re working to change habits and impulse responses that could have well developed to be quicker than you. However you can slow them down and change.

Some things will work better for you than for others so it’s a case of finding your golden replacement thoughts that stop impulsive, pointless sugary buys that are just a big ploy by the shops to make more profit at the expense of your health.

Any other thoughts you have that I can whip out a counter to? Leave a comment below and I’ll reply with something else you can try. Please share with a friend or family member if they are also prone to these situations! They’ll save money for more valuable Christmas fun.

Laura x

low sugar style

Low sugar style: 3 ways to prepare for Christmas

Your first dilemma of the season is the chocolate advent calendar. Then it’s the dessert at the office shindig followed by the stollen someone bought into the office the day afterwards. FREE mince pies are presented to you only around TEN times during the month of December. Christmas day is full of sugary coated tradition and then there are all the leftover chocolates just lying around the house in full sight for that last week in December.

Sweet intentions

As Christmas kicks off and you’ve made the intention to be a little more sugar sensible this year, you might understandably be feeling a little apprehensive or nervous about the upcoming sugar warzone that is portrayed as all happy, jolly and white. It’s the time of year where you’re most likely to let it go, lose control and find yourself craving every sugary thing in sight.

Often is the case, the more you eat, the more you want and you’ve secretly consumed amounts of some things in previous years that you wouldn’t reveal to even your 4yr old nephew after too many proseccos.

The dilemma

It’s common to eat a lot more sugar at this time of year and chances are, you don’t feel good about it. You know you’re likely to put on weight, weaken your immune system and feel groggy. Not to mention you’re scared all the good sugar deeds you’ve done this year will fly out the window, where cravings and bad habits could come back with a vengeance.

It’s tough on the social side too – how is your old age relative going to feel if you don’t want one of her mince pies or your child has made a christmas tree biscuit just for you.

You want to somehow eat less sugar this year whilst not being a complete sugar scrooge right?

Christmas is a sugar minefield I know. I think because I’ve had a funny relationship with it, I’ll always be aware of it, especially because many of my favourite sugar treats come into their element this time of year (raisins, mixed peel, marzipan). Each year is different as I find myself at varying levels of control. Being a little more relaxed around sugar these days, I’m aware I do still need to watch it if I’m not to fall back into those old habits. A few tactics keep me in check.

Last year I recorded a slightly cringe video with 7 fun and easy low sugar Christmas tips and here are three more key strategies that go a bit beyond generic advice to help you:

1.  Indulge and feast on less sweet stuff

Technically it’s the season for feast and indulgence. You can still actually embrace that with less sugar by splurging on other foods that are still a treat but not of a crazy sugary kind. This will keep the cravings from getting a ton worse. A sausage roll, cheese plate or pastry savoury isn’t the healthiest option but it’s a festive treat that you could have instead of the sweet option.

2.  Plan and pick your moments

So you’ve got an office party, Christmas day and a visit to Grandmas that are the main things on your Christmas calendar. Make the conscious decision that you will have a little of your favourite something on these days (try to specify the amount or portion size) and then commit to eliminating all the mindless sugar stuff around these events e.g. the cheap mince pie at Debenhams, the daily onslaught of office treats. This will keep the small amount of sugar when you do have it really special, let you have things that are of highest value to you and ensure you cut down your sugar intake compared to previous years.

3.  Practice social sophistication

This year you might have learnt more about sugar than ever before and whilst you’re still on your way, you feel proud at the awareness and knowledge you have. This is great but be careful not to preach or start commenting on how much sugar each and every product has in it. People don’t want to know or don’t want to be made to feel guilty around anything they’re eating this time of year which is fair enough. Just do your own thing unless someone asks you a question around it.

If people notice you aren’t eating sugar like you used to then say that you’re saving yourself for xyz on Christmas day or emphasise the fact that you are loving the main course/starter or appetizer SO much, thereby shifting the focus of the foodie discussion. Working your way through the social minefields is as big a part of this so just have confidence in yourself to say no when you really don’t want something. Make your own choices and know that you’re the only one who knows where you’re truly at with the whole sugar thing, cravings, control etc.

Hope that helps!

How are you feeling about Christmas and sugar? Are there any situations that you’re expecting to be more challenging than others? Leave a comment and I’ll help where I can.

Laura xx

running sugar

Are you a running sugar addict?

Have you noticed that with running your sugar cravings have increased?

You’re feeling frustrated that you blast out an awesome 10k only to find yourself later  on the sofa with a packet of biscuits? You know it’s not the best way to refuel but hey, you’ve just run your arse off for the last hour – surely you deserve it?

If you suspect you’re a running sugar fiend (like I was!) then today let’s work through what’s going on here and start to identify what action can help you control your cravings, feel happier with yourself and help you increase your performance.

1)  Know that running can make your sugar cravings worse

Running (or for that matter any extended form of exercise) really can have a significant impact on your sugar cravings and play into the lack of control you now feel around sweet stuff. I know this because a) it happened to myself and b) a very high percentage of my clients are runners who find themselves with an insatiable sweet tooth (or a strong friendship with old Mr Haribo).

This is for a number of reasons…

Firstly, when you run your body needs extra energy, and when the urge hits you can be prone to crave the quickest source of food fuel available aka sugar in all its guises. Just being aware of this, you need to make sure you’re fuelling your body with a good source of energy beforehand so you don’t fall into the ‘give me anything I can get my hands on as soon as possible’ desperation.

Secondly, running burns off sugar calories. You don’t see the physical impact of them on your body, therefore it feels ok to refuel with whatever you want right? The danger here is that over time your palate accustoms itself to love all things sweet, thus cravings arise to haunt you much more than you’d like. It also goes without saying that sugar can damage your insides and do all sorts of other things that you can’t see or feel.

Just being honest with yourself here and observing your sugar habits around running and re-fuelling with sweetness is the first positive action to counteract the cravings.  I was in denial myself for a while which just made my sugar habit worse.

2)  Acknowledge your lack of control needs a different approach

You finish a race and your running pal gulps down a drink or energy bar. They however later pass on dessert (how can people do that!!??) and you know they don’t feel the daily need for sugar in the same way you do (it’s not fair!!). This is where you need to acknowledge that your relationship with sugar and sugary food is at a more unhealthy stage for you than the average Joe…and that’s OK. You’re not alone and you can do something about it. It’s important socially to recognise that others can use sugar and control their intake more than you because they’re in a different place with it (realising and accepting this will also stop you preaching – a big social no no!).

Again, be honest with yourself here and accept the fact that you possibly need to focus for a period of time on taming your sweet tooth and to do this you may need to adjust your running nutrition in a more personalised way to do so.

3) There are ways around this (watch sugar devil telling you otherwise!)

You perhaps feel like you have no choice – you have to drink that energy gel/eat that energy bar or you’ll pass out. You need those jelly beans because you’re tired. Running far and wide can provide you with almost guilt-free excuses to eat the sweet stuff – so watch that subconscious sugar pusher on your shoulder here. Yes sometimes you might need a little sweetness but, actually, there are other lower sugar alternatives you can opt for and it’s often the case you don’t need as much as you think you do.

A quick guide to help you

Recently I interviewed Jeff Gaudette, a professional runner coach who is the mastermind behind Boston Based www.runnersconnect.net. I’ve condensed some of his expert running nutrition knowledge and my practical coaching 4-pillar approach around working with sugar slave runners to create a quick Runners Guide to Sugar that will build further on this post. Enter your details on this page to get yours and start lower sugar post-run snack swapping!

The rest of the interview will be part of a new runners’ resource in Mentor Me Off Sugar. If you’re not already on the Front of Queue list for this, get on it now and 2015 could see you sort the sugar and smash your personal best. The Facebook forum has a whole feed dedicated to sweet-toothed runners (who have seen their performance improve during the programme) and I’m currently working on some helpful resources around recipes and protein powders.

What about you?

Have sweet cravings got worse or better with running? Do you find they are stronger at certain points? Have you found any great low sugar snacks that you can share to help others. Leave a comment below and share your insight.

wine

5 Lessons my sober October can teach you about happier sugar habits

Last month I successfully completed sober October. Well, I officially ended it a tad early at 7:15pm on Friday 31st dressed as a zombified schoolgirl, but by then I’d completed a full 35 days without a drop of alcohol so I’d class it as a success.

What has this got to do with sugar though? How did it compare to a sugar detox? Do read on, because there’s tremendous insight around sugar from this experience that I know is going to help you think deeper around the usual questions of these ‘vice’-type detoxs – is it really worth it? Isn’t life too short? etc. etc. yada yada yada….

Why I did sober October

wine

So first of all, a little background. I have been low sugar for a few years now but I have still drunk alcohol pretty much throughout. I’ve always been very social – personality wise, I am in my element when I’m surrounded by loads of people and get my energy from being out rather than in. Thus alcohol, being interwoven into our social fabric (much like sugar), has established a place quite firmly in my lifestyle. And well, I just really like good wine and a cold refreshing beer at times (yes yes I know it’s not great for health or blood sugar but I still do).

My close friends in London decided to embark on the challenge which obviously made it easier because we could support each other and this also came at a time when I have been starting to question the role of alcohol in my life a bit (quarter life crisis?!). I also was deeply inspired by my friend Stuart Ralph and his 30 day challenge….so I went for it.

What can you learn around sugar from my sober October learnings last month?

1. Making the decision

It took me just over a week to make the decision, I was unsure if I wanted to really do it. Indecisiveness ultimately boils down to one thing – fear. I was worried this was going to make me sad, that my social life – which is what I deem as a ‘primary food’ – was going to suffer and I would be starved of a form of nourishment that makes me happy. I was also worried I wouldn’t stick to it and feel really crap about myself if I gave in half way through. That ‘I would rather not try than fail’ thought was niggling around.

This demonstrates very similar fears to those considering a sugar detox. It’s important to recognise we have these fears – it’s normal. The longer you take to make a decision, ultimately the more fear you have. As scary as it is, it’s so SO much better to try and fail than fail to try at all.

2. Committing

Once I had committed, it was amazing how I started taking incredible positive action to support myself. I got out my diary and filled it with other fun social engagements. I felt excited about the challenge. Creative fun non-alcoholic ideas just appeared in my mind.

Only when you’ve really made that commitment can the true magic start to happen. Sitting on the fence just doesn’t bring out the most of your resourceful self. If you’ve been deliberating for a year or month about taking serious action regarding your sugar habits, you can’t know the impact it will have on you until you really commit. I see this in my clients a lot. Usually as soon as they sign up with me, many stop eating the Haribo/Chocolate/Ice Cream almost instantly. The commitment and accountability is uber powerful in bringing out your best, don’t underestimate it.

3. A reminder of the gain

I did 6 weeks tee-total about 4-5 years ago just to see what would happen. It was such a long time ago I had kind of forgotten if and what the real benefits were of less alcohol. This being the case I was curious just to see what impact a month without would have and if a reminder of the benefits would serve as motivation to keep my intake more ‘moderated’ than it sometimes is. It worked. Like sugar, this toxin gives me spots and my skin is one of those teenage self confidence war scars that I am overly conscious about. I also realised that it doesn’t add as much to social situations as I thought it did and I enjoyed exercise more.

If you don’t know the benefits of a life a little less sugar then how are you going to really motivate yourself to live one? Having a mindful period to experiment and focus on one thing allows you see more directly how it is impacting your health, mental wellness, productivity etc. The gains you see let you weigh up the cost benefit with more personalised evidence than just the generic notion that ‘sugar is bad for your health’.

4. Confidence in yourself

There was one night when I really wanted a glass of red wine – my wine pushing friend even bought around a bottle to tempt me (she’s the equivalent of your sugar sabotager). In the grand scheme of things that one glass of wine wasn’t going to do that much damage to my health but I knew it was going to have an impact on my own self trust and confidence in myself. By this point I was in it for the sheer challenge and to prove I could do it. I’ve tried to do loads of things and end up giving up on them before, thus often class myself as not being able to ‘stick at things’. I wanted to do this just to build my self trust up a bit more on this front. Waking up the next morning, I was so chuffed at myself, all the other later temptations were a breeze.

When that ‘one isn’t going to hurt’ excuse pop’s up, remember that you’re also building your health up in terms of your confidence and self trust. Achieving something that you didn’t think is possible is so rewarding and motivating. Just prove yourself strong once and relish the feeling you get after. The craving for that can then become stronger than the craving for the sugar in question.

5. Control and consciousness

So has old sober October changed the role and amount of alcohol in my life? Good question. I can definitely see that I don’t need the excess in various places and will seek to be more moderated from now on. This month proved I can quite happily be content without it, however, I’m not signing myself up for endless fresh lime and soda waters just yet. Alcohol like sugar now, is just going to be a bit more moderated where I’m more aware of the frequency and amount. Also my body is more sensitive to both that I can’t have as much anyway. That’s the difference, I am in control of it and I’m making the conscious decision knowing full well what the benefits and costs are to me on a number of fronts.

Ask yourself that question to determine your dependence. Could you go without sugar for a period of time quite happily? Do you need it or do you choose it? Let this be the guide to the action you take, rather than what people say or the outlandish health claims you read on a daily basis.

Want to take action?

Feeling inspired? (that is my hope!). If so commit to watching my free 4-videos around getting your ideal balanced lower sugar life. Or check out any of the support programmes I offer. Or just get in touch via e-mail (laura@happysugarhabits), Twitter or Instagram and say what you’re going to do. It’s all in taking action!

Over to you

Is your relationship with alcohol similar or different to that of sugar? Do you recognise any of those fears in your progress towards control around the sweet stuff? Comment below or just share this article if someone you know will find it helpful.

Hope it helped…now where’s that cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc… ;)

Laura xx

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Sugar-free chocolate chip spiced pumpkin cookies

As I’ve mentioned before, some days I still crave cake. I don’t crave the sugar as much, it’s the real ‘cake’ texture with a cup of tea that I occasionally fancy. So I seek to develop recipes that can hit that spot without being overly sweet. My tried and trusted favourite to date is my sweet potato and walnut cake.

This recipe also hits the spot pretty well, but as with my recipes like this I will warn you that it is really low sugar.  Your carrot cake loving friend may not be falling over themselves to have another and likewise because they aren’t too sweet, you’re unlikely to eat more than 1-2 at a time.

I’ve used brown rice syrup but I also tried this recipe with a 50:50 blend of brown rice syrup and stevia (I used Natvia) which worked just as well. If you do want them sweeter, you can probably use the same quantity of a healthier higher fructose sugar substitute like coconut sugar, date sugar or raw honey. However they obviously won’t be as ‘fructose-free’ of low sugar.

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This recipe uses up any leftover pumpkin you have around but works just as well with butternut squash. I quite often roast two halves of a butternut squash and keep them in the fridge ready to use during the week. If I have any left over, I mash and freeze it in ice cube trays to use in recipes like this or, if I fancy it, in pumpkin/butternut squash porridge.

Because I made these more to my low sugar palate, I froze most of them so that I have a quick microwavable cake fix at home that won’t result in later sugar cravings. If you’re a cake fan, it’s a good strategy to try and it can help you break down your cravings i.e. work out if it’s a texture craving or a sugar/fructose craving.

Anyway, enough of my rambling…here’s the recipe…enjoy!

Let me know what you think in the comments below – would love to know how you go with these.

Sugar-free chocolate chip spiced pumpkin cookies

Makes 12 large cookies

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Ingredients

  • 125g butter (softened)
  • 190g rye or wholemeal flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tbls brown rice syrup (or Natvia or a mix of both)
  • 125g pumpkin mash (or butternut squash mash)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp all spice
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg (I used freshly grated)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped(I used Green & Blacks 85%)

 Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Line two baking trays with parchment paper
  • Combine the butter with brown rice syrup (or/and Natvia) in a large bowl. You may need to melt the butter slightly if not soft enough. Do this by placing in a glass bowl and put in the heating oven for a few minutes to do so
  • Add the vanilla essence and whisk together
  • Add the egg and whisk until combined
  • Add the pumpkin mash, and whisk until combined
  • Combine the flour, spices, baking powder together in a bowl
  • Fold 1/3 of the flour mixture at a time into the wet mixture until all combined
  • Add the chocolate chunks or chips
  • Spoon 6 large tablespoons of the mixture onto each baking tray
  • Place in the oven for 20 minutes until slightly brown

Best served when warm straight out of the oven with a glass of cold milk or a cup of tea!

Also a quick note..

Want to adjust your palate low sugar style so you need less sweet to satisfy? Mentor Me Off Sugar is unfortunately now closed for new enrolments but you can get to the front of the queue for the next kick off after Christmas 2014. Click here to get yourself on my priority radar and enter your details into the form.

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What to do when you feel confused by the ‘best’ diet

One minute you read that gluten is a no no, the next it’s dairy. Then red meat is the devil and too many nuts are not good for you. Sugar is the enemy and, according to some press reports, you’re better off drinking wine every night because it helps protect against cancer. Let’s just eat kale and do that then shall we!

Do you feel confused, bewildered and despondent about what is really good for your health? You’re just getting your head around cutting down sugar when your friend says that you shouldn’t be eating that yoghurt because it does xyz to you.

Great, so just when you’d managed to resist the chocolate cake at the weekly coffee morning by whipping out your oatcakes, someone pipes up that oatcakes contain gluten and additives that will make your hair fall out. Ok an exaggeration perhaps, but you know what I mean?

Healthy eating is amazing. I love what it can do for people, especially a transformation around sugar, however since being in this industry I have seen a judgmental side of things too, especially since becoming a health coach and finding myself in uber health circles. I’ve been guilty of too much rigidity myself at times as my interest in health and nutrition developed (sorry friends) but I like to think I’ve grown fully confident of my own choices and outlook on health, fully respecting others for whatever they decide to do – which is the stance I’d advise you to take too. I’ve previously video blogged about what to do if others around you are eating a ton of sugar and I’ve written another post around how I’ve handled being labelled the ‘sugar-free’ one – another challenge that hit me with all the change.

Conflicting diets

As part of my Institute of Integrative Nutrition course I studied over 100 dietary theories – everything from Atkins, to vegan to heck, even the ice cream diet (yes, there’s an ice cream diet and no, it doesn’t mean you can eat ice cream all the time and lose weight!).

Fair to say there is a TON of information out there, much of it conflicting at times. The raw food, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, sugar-free, fructose-free diet …. oh and don’t forget the banana girl! Seriously, the list goes on. There are many scientific studies to support most of dietary theories from one angle or another and there are real life transformations where people have found a certain way of eating that on a personal level makes them feel incredible or lose loads of weight.

That is what is worth remembering here – it is completely personal and down to you as an individual. You just need to work out what makes you feel the best you can through trial and experimentation – both physically and emotionally. If you’re stressing that your diet isn’t ‘perfect’, over-restricting or over-complicating things, then actually it’s worth remembering that stress is probably more harmful to your fat-burning metabolism than the food you’re putting in your mouth.

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I go for variety, colour, wholefoods, minimal processed foods and delicious FUN!

One thing that is agreed on…

Two and half years ago, the day before I set up Happy Sugar Habits I e-mailed Ian Marber – the founder of The Food Doctor, a health guru I really respected. I asked him one question:

If you could get EVERYONE in the UK tomorrow to stop eating one single substance, what would it be  – saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, salt, sugar, red meat?

His answer, REFINED SUGAR!

In light of all the dietary theories out there, I think it’s fair to say that most of them (ok maybe with the exception of the ice cream one) will agree on two things that are worth avoiding excessive or over consumption of:

  1. Refined sugar

  2. Processed foods

So, if you’re still in feeling controlled by sugar cravings or eating a slab of dairy milk each night, and right now oatcakes are helping you with that, then to hell with the rest of it and focus on the one thing you can do to improve YOUR health straightaway. This is actually why I developed the Mentor Me Off Sugar detox programme to just focus on controlling sugar cravings as a first priority. The meal plans I developed are wholefood based and thus don’t have any processed foods and minimal gluten, but the programme doesn’t make you tackle too much at once or bombard you with restrictions that I know hamper success. It’s one of the reasons why the programme really works for people and many find it surprisingly easy to stick to.

I don’t eat a 100% gluten-free, dairy-free or even completely sugar-free diet these days.   I just don’t eat 5 ginger nuts, a bar of chocolate, carrot cake and 50 odd raisins to satisfy my daily sugar cravings like I used to. This still feels like a big achievement for me and allows me to appreciate how much I have improved my health in the past few years. I’m not diet ‘perfect’ although I do eat a shed load of vegetables! To me these days health is so much more than what you put in your mouth anyway. I carefully consider and experiment with other health advice by trying everything on myself for myself encouraging my clients to do the same once the sugar cravings are out of the picture.

If you’re feeling bombarded with conflicting messages, overwhelmed, confused and despondent, then take a step back from information overload and re-focus on a single goal.   Commit to shifting some of the refined sugars from your diet, or try a gentle transition to less processed foods. Once you’ve got control over sweet temptation and are no longer as reliant on convenient sugary snacks, then you’re in a better place to experiment further with gluten-free, dairy-free or a daily glass of wine as you wish… although the latter is not officially recommended!

If this article spoke to you or you think it will help others you know then please share the link on Twitter, Facebook or just e-mail it to someone who might benefit.

And of course, if you’ve an opinion then please comment below.
Laura xx

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Top tips for how to get back on a healthy (low sugar) track

Ever had a crazy week or weekend where healthy went out the window a little a bit and you want to get back on form? Maybe it was a hangover; a celebration or holiday; or even you just got a little caught out and weren’t as organised as usual?

Rest assured, it happens to the best of us, and the key is all in how you bounce back. After dialling up my own healthy post birthday recovery this weekend, I thought I’d share my five favourite tips and strategies to help you get back on healthy (low sugar) track pronto.

Yesterday morning I got back from Ibiza which was my birthday holiday treat this year. Although known as the party island, me and my friend Katie truly packed in a real mixture of things into just 4 days. I found myself on my birthday at the super healthy Passion Cafe for breakfast, followed by a cultural stroll around the town looking at beautiful clothes I could not afford, followed by a boat trip and then some drinks and a party. Talk about getting it all in there!

Look at some of the savoury breakfasts on this menu!

The Passion Cafe breakfast menu, serious inspiration in there!

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Avocado on toast with rocket

Whilst one night we ate at this stunning restaurant where I had some beautiful fresh baked fish, salad and potato (for anyone going it was called La Brasa), there were many points on the holiday where I was far from healthily virtuous. I tend to have a more relaxed attitude these days as I feel in control of my diet and advocate empowerment of your own choices. However, white bread, crisps, alcohol and just a sheer lack of vegetables threw me off (interestingly not extreme sugar). I could feel the impact by the last day and I had spots – which I take for granted is one of my favourite healthy diet benefits these days.

Meal with some new friends at La Brasa

Meal with some new friends at La Brasa

So here are my tips and strategies for getting back on it. Some are just plain practical and some are more around the mindset side of things. Both are really important here…

1. Get serious greens in

I’d put good money that the main thing lacking or neglected in your unhealthy spout will have been green produce. Iceburg lettuce does not quite cut it nutritionally, but is often the salad of choice in places. When you’re hungover too, chances are that you’re perhaps not craving watercress right? Get dark, leafy produce back into your diet as soon as possible to inject maximum nutrition. Broccoli, kale, rocket, spinach – think green my friends, think green!

2. Variety over restriction

The impulse reaction I see with those getting back on track is a total ban of xyz food stuffs or an overly strict punishing ordeal. Move away from this. Start seeing variety and colour as primary importance. Literally pack in a wide ranges of foods into your diet and you increase your chances of ingesting valuable vitamins and nutrients that will help your body recover, restore depleted minerals and aid your body in functioning as an efficient fat burning machine.

3. Be mindful of where you’re at with sugar cravings

If you fell off the sugar wagon (more than a general unhealthy one) then you will need to be mindful of the fact that stronger fructose cravings might be a side effect. If control is your end goal and your sugar cravings are stronger than before, consider a lower fructose diet (or programme like Mentor Me Off Sugar) for a short period of time to pull you and your pallette back to a better level of control with the sweet stuff.

4. Think soups, smoothies and salads

Earlier I mentioned greens and variety as paramount importance. I find the easiest way with this is soups, smoothies and salads so pack in these for as many meals as possible. Smoothies you can add all sorts of superfood powders or healthy supplements whilst soups and salads you can pack in 5-7 different vegetables in one hit. Yesterday I must have eaten over 10 different types of fruit and vegetables, seriously!

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Mixed green & butternut squash soups

5. Feel excited for your body

This is SO important. Move away from a punishment mindset to an empowered and excited one. So instead of saying to yourself ‘you were BAD then and therefore you need to sort it out’ say ‘oh hello body, I’m excited to nourish you to the max and show you the power of food in making you feel incredible again’. This a excellent chance for you to physically feel and appreciate what a healthy, lower sugar and nutrient dense diet does for you. It can serve as excellent motivation to repeat these nourishing steps in the future and flexes that bouncing back muscle.

It’s been just over 24 hours since I got back from my sleep robbing overnight flight from Ibiza and I am feeling good. I’m so passionate about what healthy food can do for you that I had to share these tips asap – hope they help!

Have you got any good things you tend to do post holiday, hangover or birthday celebrations to get you back on top form? Share in a comment below and we’ll have an incredible resource of strategies between us…

Pretty young woman eating cake. Isolated

YOU CAN’T EAT THAT….You don’t eat sugar!!

You’re making good way with healthy low sugar change. Products have been switched and you know you’re eating a heck of a lot less than you were previously (good going!). Your friends and family are aware of this and thus a new, and not so straight forward, social challenge may present itself…

‘YOU CAN’T EAT THAT….you don’t eat sugar!’

This is a phrase I’ve heard A LOT! It’s also a phrase that for a while I got fearful of hearing. It’s something I’ve personally had to manage and something that often troubles some of my clients as they change.

I used to somewhat feel to be authentic to my blog and business, I couldn’t be seen to eat anything sugary. I had to live this perfect sugar-free life to show that I was 100% walking the talk, to inspire everyone and do it ‘right’. It was quite stressful because it’s completely unrealistic and is by no means the way I want to live and embody my lower sugar lifestyle. I am a relatively typical 29 year old woman living in London doing most of the usual things after all.

Don’t get me wrong, I still walk the talk and generally eat very little sugar compared to your average Joe, but I have my % percentage of imperfection like everyone else does. I’m not addicted to it anymore and so I’m kinda laid back about it in some respects (Obviously I still think it’s a very dangerous substance that is responsible for many health problems and mental torture!).

So what can you do to avoid sugary social awkwardness?

Get your mindset in check first.

Fact of the matter is, the perfect ‘sugar-free’ person doesn’t exist and is a torturous ideal. It’s not really about only eating X amount of sugar grams per day, health is so much more than that.

Health is balance, control, empowerment and much of this comes from the mindset you adopt.

What really matters is finding a lower sugar way of life that blends with you as an individual, that makes you feel healthier, lighter and happier because you’re in control, you make your own empowered choices and you live in (somewhat) peace with your own mind chatter (this isn’t easy I know!).

If you’re eating more sugar than you want, then yes you may go through a period of conscious reduction to find yourself a new equilibrium, however it shouldn’t be a punishing ordeal that lasts forever.

The end goal is simply where sugar doesn’t control you and you call the shots. That nice place where you know you sweet habit isn’t permanently damaging your health and that you’ve successfully reset yourself to a sensible approach to balance and moderation with it.

Look at your communication to others

What messages are you sending to those around you? What are your actions saying about your mindset and healthy philosophy?

Be conscious if you feel you’re proving to everyone else that you’re ‘sticking it’ or that you’re more ‘sugar-free’ than they are. You’re doing this for you remember, don’t get caught up in the comparison trap. Occasionally, and usually at the start, a little bit of stubbornness or healthy competitiveness can be an effective motivator, but just be careful to watch this as time goes on.

Reserve judgement

Everyone has a different version of healthy. Everyone has different points in their life when they might be a little more motivated or in a better position to make change. Reserve your judgement and accept people will change in their own way in their own time just as you are.

Comments are an opportunity to communicate

When you’ve previously had a different relationship with food and especially sugar, it’s only a matter of time before you may start getting some comments as you transition into this as a lifestyle rather than random ‘fad’ diet which people may initially think.

If you find yourself with the “YOU CAN’T EAT THAT….You don’t eat sugar” comments, take it as an opportunity to communicate your new mindset and shifting philosophy. The more you do this, the frequency of these comments reduces and those close to you will understand.

Low sugar life and social harmony can work and I hope this post helps! If you’re struggling to make lower sugar life settle then check out my newly launched coaching programmes help support & guide you through all of this funky stuff.

P.S I was inspired to write this post by the amazing Jess Silsby of Awaken your Wellbeing – Thank you Jess!

I’d love to know if anyone has said something like this to you before? How did it make you feel and how did you react?

 

Total peaches seeds

3 things you probably don’t know about Greek yoghurt (& WIN a month’s supply!)

Yoghurt is a weekly staple in my diet. I put it in smoothies , have it with sugar-free granola and/or fruit; and sometimes simply eat it as a dessert with a few cacao nibs sprinkled over. Yum!

Total yoghurt strawberries

My lifelong love of yoghurt

In my former sugary years I used to eat a ‘Muller Light’ or low fat fruity yoghurt pretty much every day, sometimes 2-3 a day. I did this for years. A fruity yoghurt was often my ‘healthy’ post meal sweet fix – anyone with me on this? At University I would chose the cheapest and – shame-shock-horror – I used to buy those Sainsbury’s basics low fat fruity yoghurts. Yes I did, sins confessed!

When I moved to London I would buy Muller Lights, Shapers, Activia brands or whatever was on special offer. I am still in awe of the entire supermarket aisle that is awash with colourful wide variety of sugar laden yoghurts.

Fair to say, in the last two years of lower sugar living I really haven’t touched fruity sugar-filled yoghurts. Of all the sugary things out there, I really don’t miss these. A mouthful of one every now and then confirms this to me – they are way too sweet and sickly for me now, they taste a bit artificial and I would rather drizzle some brown rice syrup or good quality honey on some plain natural yoghurt to get something a bit sweeter when I do fancy it.

A few weeks ago I went for lunch with the lovely Alison White from Total Greek (also known as FAGE) and my very inspirational friend Philippa Moore (who used to write the popular Skinny Latte Strikes Back blog).

Ali salad lunch

As yoghurt low sugar discussions unravelled, I found out some interesting facts, which led me to dig a bit deeper on the yoghurt front.

Here are some handy Greek yoghurt facts you may not know that will help you make informed decisions without getting lured or misled by marketing or packaging.

  1. A thick yoghurt has either got there in two ways 1) it was either strained a few times to remove the whey or 2) it has had milk protein powder, starch or other additives added to it to get there. The easiest way really to determine this is to look at the ingredients list.
  2. In the UK there is a difference between ‘Greek yoghurt’ and ‘Greek Style Yoghurt’. Greek yoghurt now has to be authentically made in Greece. Greek style is just made to seem like it and can be thickened by either one of the two processes above.
  3. In America, anything can be called ‘Greek’ – basically this whole Greek style thing in the UK is the result of a big court case between Total and Chobani. Total (or FAGE) yoghurt is at present the leading authentic Greek yoghurt brand on the market.

Now this post isn’t sponsored by Total, I’m simply writing it because I think it’s helpful to know as buying yoghurts can often be confusing and I know I get a lot of questions about it.

I do personally think Total Greek are one brand with a very good quality product for lower sugar living. They have some superb healthy (& many sugar-free) yoghurt infused recipes on their website too – this Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Baba Ganouche & Roasted Sweet Potato being one of my favourites. They are even bringing out their own cookbook which looks amazing.

You can also watch a video I’ve done on the difference between Greek vs Natural yoghurt.

What’s worth remembering is that when it comes to managing hunger, Greek yoghurt has a higher protein count – 10g per 100g compared to 5-6g in natural yoghurt – thus it will keep you fuller for longer. Also remember that about 4-7g of the sugars listed in yoghurt can be the natural lactose sugar, which is ok on a lower sugar diet. Always check for added sugar in the ingredients list though.

Total peaches seeds

WIN a month’s supply of Total Greek yoghurt

total greekNow this is exciting. FAGE have kindly donated a fantastic prize of a month’s worth of Total Greek yoghurt for one lucky reader. Think of all the Tzatziki you could be making!

To enter, simply comment below on one (or all of the following questions):

  1. Do you prefer Greek or natural yoghurt?
  2. Which brands to buy and what do you use it for? i.e. how do you like to eat it?
  3. What do you find confusing when buying yoghurt?

Then click one of the buttons on the left of the page to share this article on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus. You can get a bonus entry for tweeting the following:

3 things you need to know about Greek yoghurt & WIN months supply with Happy Sugar Habits @TotalGreek @lauraj_thomas http://ow.ly/AYlGt

Competition will close on the 19th September 2014 and the winner will be notified via the comment you leave below.

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