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.


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


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!


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!


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

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


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


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

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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?