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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

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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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How to use 30 day challenges to beat sugar

There’s no doubt about it, structure and focus help with change and could potentially really help you with healthier sugar habits. When I look back over successful and unsuccessful things I’ve done (health and non health related), doing things in a defined period of time or with some accountability has usually worked the best. Thus, I’m really thrilled today to introduce you to my friend Stuart Ralph and his 30 day challenge philosophy which is a fabulous structure you can use to beat sugar in a number of different ways.

Stuart Ralph

I met Stuart just over 2 years ago at a London ‘Meet Up’ group for people venturing into blogs and online ventures. We stayed in touch and have supported each other along the adventurous ride. He’s a self help junkie like myself, gets frustrated at unethical marketing (where sugary foods are usually a common culprit) and has provided much inspiration to help me grow Happy Sugar Habits into what it is today.

I’ve also just devoured his wicked book Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days which is a short, but extremely powerful read that will make you want to take action and set yourself a challenge. I’m still deciding what mine is going to be in October…Do comment and commit below if you feel inspired to start a 30 day challenge of your own.

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Stuart has kindly shared his experience with sugary drinks and offered some fantastic tips….

How a 30 day challenge gave me a healthier respect for sugar

In 2005 I couldn’t help myself, every day I was consuming sugar. Unaware of what it meant to be healthy at that time, I didn’t see anything wrong with it, nor did I know how good I could feel on a more natural diet. That was until I went to the dentist. Laying there on his dentist’s chair, shoes squeaking against the plastic, mouth open, he looked at me and said “if you don’t stop drinking carbonated drinks you’ll need fillings… And you’ll get diabetes”. Wow. I’d always liked my dentist, but now I love him. His candid remakes were the kick up the arse I needed to be healthier.

This happened around the Christian holiday lent. I decided to participate in lent for the first time. My challenge, to give up the consumption of all sugary drinks; both natural and refined sugar. I have since gone on to do more lent like challenges, throughout the last 10 years. These 30 day challenges have made me healthier, happier and a more interesting person – if I don’t say so myself.

The first time I gave up sugary drinks, was unbelievably tough. My unhealthy consumption of refined sugar had spanned across 3 decades. Over the 40 days (and nights) I only consumed water, milk and straight alcohol. At first it was mentally tough, cravings came fast and often. However, slowly over time it became a little easier, eventually I could taste the difference between mineral water brands (let me know in the comments below if you think I’m lying or not).

Because I don’t want you to struggle like I did, here are my top tips for removing sugar from your life for 30 days.

Success tips (in no particular order)

1. Read the Happy Sugar Habits blog

Someone told me it was very good. Joking. Laura knows her stuff. She has written a lot of fabulous articles to inspire and educate. Great for empowering yourself before the challenge and motivating yourself during, especially if you’re having a down day.

2. Remove everything sweet from your house

This was one of the biggest mistakes I made during my first no-sugar challenge. I’ll never forget the pain I felt on day 2, opening up my fridge to see a big bottle of Coke. Reaching for it. Only to realise it was a no go zone. I paused for about 10 seconds, mentally battling that little mischievous voice in my head saying “Who cares just drink it”. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t grab it. Instead I had a nice refreshing water. Learn from my foolishness. You may have world class will power and discipline, but don’t test it during this challenge. Remove all sugary drinks and/or food from your house, work environment etc. Set yourself up to win!

3. Fill your fridge with exciting healthy alternatives

So this may be challenging if you’re giving up sugary drinks. If that is the case, use the money you would have spent on carbonated drinks and fruit juices to buy some mineral water. Go wild, buy some sparkling water. Buy some premium milk. Treat yourself to some Cravendale – you crazy cat (pun intended). Do what you need to keep things exciting. It’s when you hit boredom that your cravings will be the loudest.

If you are quitting the foods rammed with refined sugar, use this 30 days to buy healthier foods that have always intrigued you but you never got round to trying. Fill your shopping trolley with the healthy foods you already love.

4. Visualise yourself succeeding

Seeing the outcome you want it very important. Visualising your outcome i.e. more energetic, happier, will give you a reason to put up with the challenge and see it through. I once heard that the mind can’t tell the difference between a vision and reality. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between what you are seeing in your mind or through your eyes. So think about the outcome, see it in your mind’s eye. Write it down if that helps, keep it to hand. Even if you never call on your vision during the challenge, the fact that you consciously thought about it before you started your brain may be being driven by it, even unconsciously.

5. Reward yourself

This challenge will test your discipline (as well as build it) so make sure you reward yourself each week with something that excites you. That may be a hot bubble path, a trip to the cinema or simply sitting in front of the TV watching your favourite show.

Before you start the challenge decide an extra special treat you will give yourself upon completion. Firstly, because you deserve it. Secondly, because when times get tough, the thought of your reward will push you through.

The results. Upon completion of my 30 day challenge without consuming sugary drinks again, I went from drinking those dubious liquids once a day to once a week. Since my initial challenge I have quit sugary drinks 3 times and sugary foods once. Each time awakening me to their damaging effects, and encouraging me to seek better knowledge around food. I’m somewhat of a health freak now, but I still enjoy a Coke from time to time, as a luxury not a staple.

I have more energy, better skin and hopefully have increased my life span.

The 30 day challenge can be applied to anything in your life whether that’s removing a bad habit or implementing a new skill, give it a go. I dare you! Leave a comment below on what you feel inspired to do.

To your success,
Stuart

About Stuart
Stuart is author of the book ‘Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days’. Stuart’s focus is on empowering good people to realise the majesty that lies within them. You can find out more about Stuart here.

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

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

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

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Celebrating Anna’s birthday this year during the detox!

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

Over to Anna..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A 3 step guide to keep you sugar strong this Easter

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

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

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Your 3-step sugar-strong Easter guide

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

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

1) Harness your motivation beforehand

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

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

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

3) Give it a ‘social significance’ rating

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

Easter for me…

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

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

Laura x

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My sugar journey: where I’m at

Being a relative newcomer to blogging, I’m still finding my feet. Opening up online is taking some getting used to.

I know from previous posts like ‘Why I Googled how to stop eating biscuits‘, that the harder posts to write do resonate and help others the most. So, I’d thought I’d open up a bit more and just lay down where I’m currently at in my sugar-free journey…

First up, a word of warning on this post. It’s bit deeper (& thus a lot longer) than my usual posts…but it’s important things I feel I need to communicate. 

My Happy Sugar Habits

Right now seems like a good and interesting time to let you in on where exactly I’m at with things. Last month I spent three wonderful weeks in America visiting New York, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Boston. It was my first ever visit to America and a trip I’ve been dreaming of for years. It also gave me loads of time to think, recharge and I had some amazing ideas when it came to my Mentor Me Off Sugar programme and future sugar busting plans (watch this space).

Like you, I’m on my own journey with sugar. I was once addicted, yes. I have done some serious time without it (felt amazing for it) and it’s fair to say, I feel very differently about it now than I used to.

Interestingly though, at the moment, I feel like I’m changing and I feel the need to share these developments.

I say this because I’ve become a little bit more relaxed these days – I’m letting a little sugar enter the building, I guess, as an experiment. When I say a little, I’m really not going mad (before you have visions of me diving head first into a chocolate bath). What I mean, is a little bit more relaxed with natural fruit sugar (fructose); a little bit flippant with hidden sugar when eating out; and a dabble to see if very occasionally, I can have a smidge of dessert and feel 100% in control. That’s the end game here right? It’s not for me how I can eliminate every gram of sugar from my life forever, it’s about control, freedom, zero guilt, happiness and what I call my own version of ‘sugar harmony’.

The reason America comes into this post is because it’s where I observed and tested some new sugar habits. I wanted to share some of my experiences and how I felt these three weeks (plus show you some of the photos!).

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An amazing low sugar green juice I relied on out there // It wasn’t hard to find great salads in NYC //Appreciating cake art on St Patricks day // My last day in Central Park

Firstly, there is a lot of sugar bounding around. It’s pretty in your face. I guess it’s not too dissimilar to here in London, but I just think over here (where I live) I have learnt to become blind to it. However, when you’re on holiday, you notice things more. I noticed sugar everywhere, sometimes just for fun. I even took photos of it as a novelty like some sort of crazy sugar tourist…Look at this giant chocolate rabbit ha!

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Salad and wine in the MoMa museum // Me and giant chocolate rabbit (of course!) // Incredible view from the Empire State Building // Sugar addiction in it’s purest form!

What was nice, and made me feel safe, is that I really wasn’t bothered by most of it. Giant cookies didn’t appeal to me like they once would have. I had absolutely NO desire to buy anything in in the M&M store and the giant sweet shops made me feel sick (I just liked taking stupid pictures in them). Feeling this obvious change made me feel quite secure and safe. I think what I like most about my changed relationship with sugar is relishing in this control – knowing that I don’t desire sugar anywhere near as much as I used to.

That said, I’m not going to lie, there were some certain sweet looking things that did appeal on occasion and I did still get some cravings, often for particular things. Strangely, one of these was granola with fresh fruit and natural yoghurt (this used to be one of my favourite things). So I dabbled with some very posh expensive granola (might as well get the best right?!). It was really good, obviously pretty sweet and I didn’t need much of it. I did notice a bit of a slippery slope though. I wanted more and could feel the lure of this sugary food tempting me back in. I felt on the edge of control but I pulled back after a few days, resuming with green juice and egg breakfasts. I’m not going to be eating sugary granola at home, I learnt on holiday it’s still a sweet danger food for me, so that was a holiday special.

Expectations and ‘missing out’

As part of my American cultural experience I was aware that there were some foods I ‘should’ try. Like many, I absolutely love travelling and see trying different foods part of the experience, so I allowed myself some freedom here.

There was one day where I said, “right you’re allowed pancakes today Laura” (note an empowered decision). What was weird is that I just didn’t fancy them all day in the end. It got to lunch and I really really wanted this amazing salad I saw someone have – so I had that. I didn’t have pancakes or cheesecake the whole time. I intended to, but I just didn’t fancy that full frontal attack of too much sugar in my face and the occasion didn’t present itself. Again, nice satisfying evidence that I have changed.

Some will say I missed out. My holiday was jam packed with experiences as it was so I really don’t feel that way. I’m going to go back to America for sure, and I’m sure cheesecake and pancakes aren’t going to go anywhere!

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Amazing fresh sushi from a supermarket // Me in Times Sq // Me freezing to get a photo with a flag // Super healthy breakfast whilst staying with my IIN health coaching friend Kimberly

I tried plenty of other foods I had on my list. I had a traditional bagel with spinach cream cheese; a burger (a good quality one mind). I loved some of the traditional soul food. My favourites being black beans and collard greens. I did try corn bread (which is basically cake) and I knew straight away it had sugar in it.

That brings me to my next point. I quite often ate sugar in things when away either by accident or just because it was ‘invisible’. I really didn’t stress about this because I saw it as part of the social experience and I wasn’t scared these smaller amounts of sugar were going to take me back to my old sugar ways. I controlled sugar where I could, and let it flow the rest of the time.

Because I wasn’t diving into the cheesecake, this hidden sugar is probably where I ate it the most by being more ‘relaxed’. I had some delicious pulled pork which I know is made with sugar. I had some freshly made sushi with a good friend and realised the seaweed had sugar in it as soon as I tasted it. I had some bucks fizz (including orange juice) at a Harlem choir brunch (to be fair, I found that quite hard to drink with it being so sweet). I didn’t worry myself with all this too much because that’s not the life I want to live and is why I have to write this massive post to explain it properly.

The most guilt I felt was that I needed to tell you all about this where I was worrying that everyone thinks I’m this 100% sugar-free goddess all the time. I eat a very very low sugar diet yes, but I’m not completely virtuous. I help others with my knowledge and experience and I think my realistic approach does nothing more to enrich the support I give.

For anyone that knows me, I live my life very socially and I thrive on being out with friends and family. I know that I can do all of this without sugar in my life and for the majority of last year I did that (whilst I was getting full control and finding my way). Now however, I feel I could be friends with sugar again, just in a very measured way. I liken it to splitting with a partner. Only when you truely let them go and accept a life without them, can you become friends.

At the same time, sugar can be a very slippery slop and sometimes I feel a bit risky with this approach. As a result I’m still pretty careful. I can’t eat it completely in moderation like the average (not formally addicted) Joe, because I accept my relationship is still a little delicate for that (& might forever be that way).

I appreciate for some individuals, it’s too hard to be ‘friends’, but I think it’s what I’m aiming for long term. I’m 28 years old and I need to find what works for me, much like you maybe different point in your life and need to find what works for you. I’m learning lots about this working 1-2-1 with my wonderful sugar balance health coaching clients. I ask them and I ask you now…where do you want your relationship with sugar to be in a years time? How do you want to feel around it?

Home ‘healthy’ home

I can’t deny I was looking forward to getting back to my nutritionally dense diet after my holiday. I felt I did eat more sugar those three weeks in total than I have for a while, I think I sensed cravings increasing towards the end because of it. So I got back, had a week back almost fructose free and my home habits resumed.

I had the most incredible holiday. Really, I could have written a whole other blog on it. To think I’ve written just this much about the sugar!

I hope you found this post helpful in some way and that it aids your own healthy efforts. If you’ve read this far and you feel compelled, I would love to hear where you think you are at the moment in your sugar journey? What is your ideal outcome from all your efforts? Leave a comment. It’s amazing to share

Over and out,

Laura xx

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Me trying to look cool but I think she’s doing it better!

 

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Sugar friendly Valentines day tips

So giving in to the commercial hype, this week I’ve got a few sugar-friendly tips to help with some typical sweet Valentines scenarios….

First up, eating out…

Generally, a Valentines meal is going to be more than one course, so go for a starter and main rather than a main and a dessert. At best, fill up on a starter & main and share a dessert if you have to, even just have one bite? (beware – this can be difficult and dangerous for someone who’s had a former love affair with sugar). If you don’t quite trust yourself with that yet, a cheese plate or sugar-free coffee is always an option.

If you can, look at the menu before you go. You can often get hold of menus online these days, and it gives you time to weigh up your options so you aren’t distracted from your loved one by over-analysing the menu when you’re there.

Look for a decent portion of protein to fill you up and bulk up your meal with as many vegetables as possible. To really fill up and satisfy yourself, look for the fat source. Remember, saturated fat isn’t the complete evil, so a steak, some cheese or some buttered vegetables are all healthy sources that will help you avoid sweet temptation at the end.

Dealing with gifted treats

As you know, Valentines Day also screams chocolates, sickly sugar-coated hearts and all sorts of other red and pink-coloured sweetness. It’s an annual occasion where it’s also hard to refuse things, particularly if someone has bought them for you as a sign of love and you don’t want to be ungrateful.

Focus on the communication of your preferences…

If your loving partner is prone to go all traditional with flowers and chocolates, you need to set and manage expectations in the run up. If you don’t ever say anything, you can’t blame them for buying you chocolates, can you?

Now, of course you don’t want to ruin all of the surprises, but you do need to take responsibility for laying down a few subtle hints if you’d really rather not be shown love in a way that’s going to de-rail your careful fructose recalibration efforts. You could try hinting that you’d prefer flowers, would love a poem, or are more favourable to some other simple gesture that similarly shows thought and appreciation.

Single sorrow drowning

Now this year I happen to be a token singleton, so unfortunately I don’t have the privilege of trying to dissuade someone from buying me chocolates (shame!).

If you know you’re likely to turn to sugar in terms of comfort, which is a common issue, then you need to go in search of some extra nourishing  other soul foods.

Look at ways to dial up your human connection, and maybe schedule some more time with friends and family. You could also try some extra endorphin- busting physical activity or just allow yourself a little extra self care where you do something that you really love for a few extra hours this week.

I’m actually heading out with some girlfriends on Friday for a few drinks to celebrate. For me I know, some laughs with good friends is the best soul food I can give myself, so bring it on!

What are your difficulties with Valentines Day? Do you find the sweet stuff in shops completely excessive? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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Sugar and self doubt: 3 doubts to banish

Sugar is annoying. Self doubt is annoying. We indulge in both and we don’t want to…blegh WHY?

I write this because sometimes, like everyone, I feel some self doubt about things in my life. This makes me remember some of the doubt that I felt with sugar not so long ago. These doubts have now evaporated from my life but I think it’s worth sharing what sugar-related self doubt can creep up on you at times. I’m living proof that you can push through this doubt and I’m hoping that writing this helps you, but also reminds me that the things I’m thinking now, I will push through in a similar way.

Common sugar self doubts

1. Am I SURE I really want to eat less sugar?

Life is too short. Sugar is nice. I don’t care as much about the long term health impact, I’d rather eat my cake now, enjoy it and live a happy life. Do you know how many times I thought this when I was in the throes of changing my habits?…A LOT. There were many times when I wasn’t completely sure if I did want to eat less sugar, but I kept going and I can honestly say I’m really really thankful that I did. Forget working out if you’re sure or not, and just do it. Give it a try for a sustained period of time and make a decision based on a longer timespan rather than a moment like this. Chances are you’ll come out on the other side smiling and very willing to carry on.

2. I can’t give up sugar like everyone can, it’s just too hard for me

You think your emotional attachment to [insert sweet food] is too strong to break right? You love that sweet food way more than the average Joe and could never give it up forever. I thought this too… about muesli bars… yes muesli bars! I know, I know, most people are addicted to drugs and alcohol but I couldn’t go a day without some dried fruit-sticky-puffed rice concoction, it was a bit sad. Anyway, I don’t eat them now….like ever! They aren’t part of my life. I did go through a period of sadness about this, but it passed. I wouldn’t want to eat a Special K now if someone paid me to. Let me tell you, if I can leave my muesli bars behind, you can leave anything you want to behind. It can be done.

Now you understand why I decided to use this as the main picture on my website!

Now you understand why I decided to use this as the main picture on my website!

3. What will people think of me?

Well I can tell you, they don’t actually care THAT much. I have possibly been on the side of caring what people think of me too much in the past. This played into making me question changing my sugar habits when no-one else was because I was worried what they’d think and how I’d come across at times. No-one really wants to be that awkward one at the dinner party do they?

However, it turned out my friends like me exactly the same if I eat sugar or not; people were in fact more interested in what I was doing and saying rather than dishing it; and without knowing it, I secretly inspired people to change but they never let me know. I really wish I had know all of this when I was worrying about what people thought.

So it isn’t easy at times, in fact it’s not easy a lot of the time. These thoughts will come and go and it’s important for you to know that most people feel them. Like sugar cravings, self doubt just pops up and is not easy to instantly shake, but persevere and you can come out the other side as a winner.

Have you got any self doubts that are limiting your healthy low sugar efforts?

Photo by Sarah Macmillan

Photo by Sarah Macmillan

 

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Sugar detoxing methods: Gradual vs. cold turkey

So hey ho, you’ve decided you want to cut down on the sweet stuff and you’re feeling uber motivated with all the articles you’ve been reading about why you should eat less sugar. You’re ready to give it a serious go but perhaps you’re not sure what the best approach is.

Do you go hard with a brutal cold turkey sugar detox or do you go for the more gradual option, where you gently prise yourself away from your beloved chocolate? To answer your sugar detox method woes, I thought I’d weigh up both approaches with the pro’s and con’s. Then you can make a decision that suits you and your personality the best. I know it’s mega annoyingly cliche, but like many things, there isn’t a one size fits all with this.

Going gradual – the good stuff:

  • A gradual approach allows you to change without a drastic overhaul of your lifestyle. You don’t have to worry so much about the social dilemmas. This is great if you have lot’s going on and a sugar detox is not at the top of your agenda – sometimes the rest of life can just get in the way!

  • You have a greater chance of changing habits long term because just changing 1-2 things at a time, you allow yourself to focus. For example, you can simply work on reducing the sugar in your tea for a month and nothing else, knowing you’re still moving forward and making progress.

  • Things don’t seem overwhelming and you don’t feel down at the complete lack and deprivation of everything sweet (a feeling that I definitely know I felt early on).

Going gradual – the drawbacks:

  • Because fructose will still be in your day to day diet in some form, you will still feel (& need to resist) sugar cravings, potentially daily. This will require regular amounts of ongoing willpower and can get somewhat exhausting mentally.

  • It takes longer and you don’t make marked progress as quickly.

  • It’s harder to determine the differences that are directly related to sugar – there could be other things you’re changing or that are impacting on your health.

  • It’s easier to slip backwards without really realising.

  • You can stay in the same place for a while and get a bit complacent.

Cold turkey – good because:

  • You can make a marked step change in your physical cravings and increase your sweet sensitivity (basically you re-calibrate your tastebuds to sugar).

  • You can attribute any noticed health improvements directly to what you’re doing e.g. clearer skin, increased energy. This can provide you with great motivation in the future.

  • There are clearer boundaries and this is sometimes easier to stick to.

  • You learn a lot in a short period of time and can use the knowledge longer term to help you.

Cold turkey – unfortunately:

  • You’re in the unhealthy ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mental state which is dangerous, especially if you have binge tendencies.

  • Cold turkey isn’t as sustainable because it’s hard to keep everything up longer term.

  • You have increased chances of experiencing unpleasant detox symptoms.

  • You can get caught up on finer details and lose sight of the bigger picture e.g. fussing over a few grams rather than addressing the root emotional causes for your cravings.

  • Can be anti-social (but you can get around this if you want to!).

What did I do?

Well, I did a bit of both. I started off with gradual changes – changing the topping on my porridge, swapping lower sugar products into my diet etc.(If you sign up to Happy Sugar Habits, I send you some gradual tips to focus on each week to help you with this).

When I reached a place where I was still craving sweet but I had made lots of healthy changes and substitutes, I started playing around with some experimental detox ‘cold turkey’ periods. I then went back to being more relaxed but at a new baseline. I now float around a bit. For some periods of time there’s barely any fructose passing my lips and others there’s probably a little too much (for me, anyway). The main marker of success for me is feeling like I’m 100% control of things. I think this is a nice thing to aim for, but you need to understand what that looks like and what it feels like for you.

There’s certainly a place for both of these approaches and a blend of them depending on where you’re at in your life, what other priorities you’ve got, what you’re commitment level is and of course, the level of sugar you’re currently consuming as your ‘baseline’. Your personality traits will also come into play. Just know there’s not one right way and you will have your own individual journey. Weight up the pros and cons in terms of what is more valuable to you and give things a go.
What approaches have you tried? Do you think there’s a ‘better’ one? What did you find worked/didn’t work?

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Sustain your healthy efforts: 3 quick tips

You may be doing well with your healthy ‘eat less sugar’ efforts so far, but you need to keep going for a sustained period of time to really benefit from reduced cravings and longer term changed habits.

If your resolve is wavering, here are some quick tips to keep you on the straight and narrow as you soldier on:

1. Take it day by day

Just pretend today is the last day. Wake up tomorrow and do the same. This little tip worked wonders for me when I was really struggling with initial cravings. Some of those I’ve worked with who are finding things really tough break it down even further. Take it half day by half day, or even hour by hour if you need.

2. Get inspired with quotes

Surround yourself with inspiring health or ‘keep going’ quotes. I’ve started playing around with Pintrest where I’m collecting up my own collage of inspiring thoughts. Find your motivating quotes of choice, print a few out and stick them on your fridge. Add one as your screen saver, write another on the first page of your diary or even set one as your alarm if you can! You’ll be quoting in your Here are a few motivating quotes to set you on your way…

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3. Affirm the positive out loud

Tell people about where things have gone well. Tell them about your bright spots (even the tiny ones) and highlight the things that have been working. Even if it’s not been plain sailing, make sure the out loud stories you’re telling are the more positive ones. This will help you firstly remember what you did that worked so well, and thus remind you to do it again.

So keep going, keep going, keep going my sugar fighting friends! Little baby steps. Small tweaks and improvements. Eating more (healthy food) rather than less, and of course, accepting it’s not meant to be a smooth straightforward ride. Embrace those bumps!

What other things are you doing to help you sustain and embed your new healthy habits?

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10 sugar-freindly goals to inspire you

It’s the time of year we all get reflective and resolve to a fresh start come midnight. People set goals, resolutions, intentions and decide how they’re going to direct the next 365 days. I love this time of year because of this. I draw great satisfaction from setting goals, looking back on my year and making bold plans for the next.

I’m not actually natural planner (I tend to want to dive straight in), however the enthusiasm of this time of year really gets into me. I’ve always set health and fitness goals and this year isn’t any different.

Some sugar-related goals

Now as anyone familiar with goal setting will know, saying you’re just going to eat ‘less sugar’ is incredibly vague and quite possibly the least SMART goal you could pick. SMART standing for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound. Therefore ‘eat less sugar’ is more of a daily resolution. To avoid confusion I shall differentiate between these terms..

Goals vs. resolutions

A resolution is something you strive to do everyday, whilst accepting that you might succeed or fail at times. So everyday is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity to live up to your resolution. e.g. at less sugar, eat more green vegetables, exercise daily. These are long term and ongoing. My daily meditation practice is more of a resolution at the moment, as is flossing my teeth (which to be fair, I now do most days). I’ve found both of these serve me better as a resolutions rather than goals.

A goal on the other hand is a specific something you’re working towards which has a timeframe. You grow in working towards it and feel a sense of achievement at the end. You then have to decide if you should set another. For example, running a marathon, eating no refined sugar for a whole week or going teetotal during Janurary.

Which to use?

I tend to prefer goals personally, but there is a place for resolutions as my meditation and flossing demonstrates. Setting goals for absolutely everything is difficult because measuring things takes time and effort. However with goals you can make a clear plan to achieve them and you’re also giving yourself a nice milestone to celebrate. For sugar-related adventures, I recommend you try to set some definitive goals. Remember you can turn any resolutions into goals, you just need to make them SMART.

Sugar-related goals

So you want to ‘eat less sugar’ in 2014 but you need some inspiration for your sugar related goals? Here are 10 ideas that you could adopt or slightly adapt based on your own personal situation:

  1. I will eat no refined sugar for a whole day/week/month

  2. I will replace all chocolate during January with a more natural source of sugar

  3. By the end of the month I will drink my tea with half the sugar I do now

  4. I will have one sugar-free day a week for the first 3 months of the year

  5. I will eat nuts instead of the office treats at least once a month for the whole year

  6. I will find three savoury post meal substitutes that I love by the end of next week

  7. I will bake my next cake with a healthier alternative

  8. I will practice saying no to dessert three times this month

  9. I will eat nothing that is more than 10% sugar for the first half of the year

  10. I will eat a savoury breakfast at least twice a week for a month

Note, some of these might seem totally impossible, ridiculous easy or completely irrelevant to you. Everyone is at a different place with sugar and thus why I can’t write a generic list of goals that will suit everyone. Take these as inspiration and create your own. Remember to write them down as this makes you even more likely to achieve your goal. Also remember that you will need to count or measure so that you can determine if you’ve succeeded or not. Making a tally on your calendar diary usually works for this.

Remember the R in SMART

Now I’m going to write this as a reminder to you and a reminder to myself because I know I’m prone to fall down here. Make your goals realistic. If you try and do too much, especially with sugar, you risk failing. Failure to achieve your goal could dishearten you and zap your confidence in being able to achieve more in the future. Sugar cravings are powerful, don’t I know it. It’s not easy to change and it’s certainly not an overnight job, so take little baby steps and celebrate each mini goal (not with a piece of cake though!).

So here’s me wishing you a very happy, healthy, fun, controlled, wonderful new year. Thanks for reading, it really does mean a lot to me and I hope 2014 brings exciting new things and successes to you, in all areas of your life.

Do you have any sugar-related goals going into 2014? Write down your goals here and you’ll instantly increase your chances of achieving them.

Laura xx