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The fat as fuel debate: Interview with Donal O’Neill

It seems there’s a movement in play. With the low sugar headlines taking storm and the recent research that concluded the low fat recommendations were based on weak evidence, the higher fat, lower carbohydrate way of eating certainly seems to be gaining more mainstream momentum.

What about if you’re exercising though? Things can get mega confusing when you try to fathom sugar in its various forms, carbohydrate intake and a decent amount of physical activity

Trust me, I’ve been pretty confused by it too!

Super fit but with a sweet tooth

Since coaching people to a healthier relationship with sugar, many of those I’ve worked with have been runners or others who are regularly active. They’re healthy and aware of what to eat but just can’t get a handle on the sweet stuff.

It seems it’s not a rare instance for those who exercise intensely to get a bit hooked on sugar (aka fructose). I know I was personally in this place and there’s all sorts of physical and emotional issues that come into play. Read are you a running sugar addict for more information.

It’s not fun…

I used to indulge heavily and then run off the sugar I ate; I used to panic a bit if I didn’t exercise and of course, I used to find myself with very powerful sweet cravings that drove me slightly crazy (well crazy enough to start this website!).

To help with the confusion, recently I started reaching out to interview some of the world’s experts on this topic and today I want to share some very interesting insight from a recent interview with Donal O’Neill – the man behind the Cereal Killers and Run on Fat films.

In the first film, Donal embarks on a high fat diet and shows you what it does to his athletic performance and most importantly his blood work. See the trailer below.

I’d strongly recommend you watch it – it’s only an hour but serves as serious food for thought. You can stream it for $4.99 here.

The second film, Run on Fat is more about athlete level performance but demonstrates some very interesting insight around ‘hitting the wall’. All of this does impact your sugar cravings because it influences the food choices you make when you fuel your physical efforts.

The full interview is here on You Tube, but in case you’re short on time, I’ve picked out some key points and quotes below:

On eating what you want when you’re young…

“It’s one thing for teenagers to eat a bucket load of carbohydrates (or sugar) but the danger is that you establish lifelong habits which over a sustained period of time lead to insulin resistance.”

Do this: Be aware it’s your lifelong habits around sugar (& refined carbohydrates) that can be more dangerous than the actual food in that moment. This is really important point.

On the dangers of being slim…

“40% of people who have develop metabolic disorders are naturally lean and thin so that’s not necessarily any guarantee of your health. It’s a reasonable barometer of health, but it’s certainly not the only one”

Do this: Consider what’s going on inside your body even more carefully if you exercise a lot and are naturally lean or a healthy weight

On not being able to find healthy food…

“People sometimes can have the tendency to reach for the excuse before the better food”

Do this: Take note of excuses. Finding healthier options is often just a habit. Often working around challenges comes down to your creativity and experimentation.

On breakfast…

“There’s a place in Cape Town that serves half an avocado, with cream cheese, pesto and bacon served with tomatoes rocket and olive oil!

Do this: Try it yourself at home one weekend! Donal also takes olive oil out with him to replace sugary dressings – I do this sometimes too!

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On using fat as fuel…

“What has been discovered with a higher fat lower carbohydrate diet is that you can reverse ‘hitting the wall’ or ‘bonking’ (as it’s known in America). This happens when the body’s glycogen stores run out – it’s when you see athletes collapsing during a marathon. When you are fat adapted i.e. you use your fat tank of fuel rather than your carbohydrate tank, you essentially eradicate the concept of hitting the wall.”

Do this: Watch the films and then again experiment if you wish. I personally don’t do enough exercise to ‘hit the wall’ but I know I can refuel a 5K run with a high protein, higher fat meal (like scrambled eggs and avocado) and feel great.

On where to start…

“The first thing to do really is just push sugar off the plate. Persevere with this and then make decisions and consider if you want to make other changes”

Do this: Happy Sugar Habits first!! You’re in the right place reading this (make sure you’re signed up to get all the other free help), so just keep going wherever you are until you feel like you’re calling the shots on sugar. Perseverance and commitment it takes but it’s worth it. Focus on this one thing first – I’ve written about this before in what to do when you feel confused by the best diet.

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My last words…

Do I eat extreme high fat, low carb? Not completely. Do I eat a lot more fat than I did when I was eating a lot of sugar. Oh yes – it was key in my transition and I definitely feel like I burn fat more effectively as fuel than sugar and carbohydrate now.

So I do embrace LCHF (even if to a less extreme extent) and understand why it all makes sense.

My body has shown me the merits of higher fat, lower (nutritionally weak) carbohydrates, but I also embrace a very non extreme way of eating these days because I believe it was this attitude that caused my sugar issues in the first place.

I still eat rye bread from time to time, enjoy my sweet potatoes and use wholemeal flour to bake with. Currently being in Bali as I write this I can’t really avoid white rice all the time so I do as best as I can.  I just work healthy eating to my own liking and lifestyle free from my former unhealthy habits with sugar and unhealthy attitudes to extreme eating. I think it’s important for me to share honestly where I am because I want you to know that you can find your own blend of things in all this confusion.

I know this has been a mega long post. It’s taken me a near age to craft so I hope it’s helpful!

Have fun watching the films, I’d say watch this space as I expect there’s going to be more on it coming out. At the end of the day listen to your own body and keep working on that healthy relationship with sugar before getting too overwhelmed or caught up in the detail of the rest of it.

What do you think about this topic? Have you any thoughts on experience on using fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates? I’m open to all your opinions and thoughts on this, even if you strongly disagree so please state your stance in a comment below. 

Laura x

 

 

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Avocado on toast: Your ultimate guide

So I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to avocado on toast. YUM!

Why? It’s a nifty, quick, super nutritious & tasty low sugar breakfast that appeals to many and is good breakfast if you’re weaning yourself off of sugary stuff.

A lot of people come to me saying they don’t have time for eggs in the morning or they are short on time.

Well, avocado on toast works around this problem because it is super quick. By the time your toast has toasted, you can peel and mash half an avocado. 5mins tops.

Benefits of avocado on toast

  • Healthy fats & something green in your breakfast
  • Source of fibre, potassium and antioxidants
  • Feels decadent & indulgent
  • Can flavour or fancy to taste (salt, chilli flakes, herbs, seeds etc.)
  • Filling because avocado is a source of protein & fat
  • Children & fussy adults generally like it too (I’ve found anyway)
  • Oh, nearly forgot this one…completely sugar and sugar substitute free!

On top of this, there are some recent studies that show avocado really is flipping good for you. Read about the 12 proven benefits of avocados on Authority Nutrition if you’re still not convinced (or feeling still a bit scared of the fat).

So how can you have it?

 

Chilli flakes & salt

 

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Cottage cheese & pumpkin seeds

 

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Ham

 

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You could also melt some cheese on top but I haven’t done this myself yet (I suspect it’s really good if you’ve had too many drinks the night before!)

I also found 7 other (more fancy) ways to do you avocado on toast on 700experience.com. Puts my pictures to shame and makes you hungry!

Don’t want to make? Eat out!

Of course you can make avocado on toast at home pretty easily, but you can also now get it out and about. Eggs will always be a brunch winner, but avocado on toast, now more widely available could be another winning savoury option.

I recently spoke to the lovely Natalie Glazee – author of The Nutritionista which is a nice little healthy website full of helpful interviews & reviews.

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Natalie knows the London avocado toast scene a lot better than I do so I picked her brains for list of places that could accommodate this sugar-free request.

Even if you don’t live in London, you could keep this list to hand in case you ever visited. I’ve certainly got some on my radar.

Note: Even if somewhere doesn’t do avocado on toast, you can always ask for it – I suspect quite a few places will oblige.

Do you like or have you tried avocado on toast? Is it something you’d consider? What is your favourite way? Comment below with any other suggestions!

 

 

Fruit, boredom eating and travelling: Plant Based Pixie talks sugar

I’m delighted this week to share with you some fabulous low sugar insight from the Instagram superstar Plant Based Pixie – a fabulous (& highly artistic) health blogger who has pioneered the #plantbased hashtag and popular plant basic picnic here in London.

I met Pixie at a health bloggers event in London a few weeks ago where she did a fantastic talk around sugar – I just knew I had to interview her to share with you. Pixie is a qualified biochemist who has both professionally and personally studied the metabolism of sugar. Her own health conditions have shaped the changes and stages she’s been through her own diet.

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In this interview, I ask Pixie about her thoughts on topical sugar subjects like fruits, dates and what to do when you’re travelling! After reading this you will be inspired for sure. Key messages are that every individual is different, you don’t have to do everything at once and there is no ‘right’ way when it comes to the amount of natural sugars in your diet. It’s a process of working it out and listening to your body, your cravings and assessing the amount of control you have.

Happy reading and enjoy!

Plant Based Pixie: Talking Sugar

How much sugar did you used to eat and how bad were your cravings? Worst sugar hit you ever had?

I used to eat a lot of sugar. Not always obvious sugar, but I ate so many frozen ready-meals and processed foods that my added sugar intake was definitely way too high. I used to not be able to go through an evening in front of the TV without some kind of chocolatey or sugary snack, that’s how bad my cravings were. I remember one day I bought an 8-pack of KitKats from the supermarket and ate one after the other because I just couldn’t stop. I felt terrible afterwards.

What were the hardest parts of going fructose free and detoxing off sugar for you? How did you address your habits or anything else like boredom/emotional eating?

For me the hardest part was overcoming the association I made between evenings in front of the TV and sugar. I had to completely re-wire my brain, and I would go through 2 packs of sugar free chewing gum a night just to be chewing on something. Obviously I decreased this over time, but it was tough. Boredom is also tricky, but as long as I was doing something with my hands it was a good distraction

Now you’re refined sugar, gluten and dairy ‘free’ – Were you both dairy and gluten when you detoxed off of sugar and if so, what were the main foods that really got you through that period of time?

I was dairy free almost at the same time as detoxing off sugar, but not gluten free. I still ate meat so that was really helpful, and also foods like quinoa, cous cous, sweet potato, and avocado. Avocado especially was a life saver.

How did you re-introduce fruit back into your diet? Were there any fruits you started with? A crucial question here…when did you have your first banana?!

I started with low-fructose fruits like berries. Luckily for me the summer berry season was just about getting going when I finished my detox so I definitely made the most of that! My first banana I had about a week after I finished my detox, which may seem quite soon, but I was so looking forward to it!

As we know, fruit amount is a completely personal thing but how much fruit do you tend to eat these days. Do you find the fructose in fruit affects your overall sugar cravings at all?

I tend to eat fruit only in the mornings, and at most I have the equivalent of 2 bananas. I love banana ice cream, and at least 3 times a week I will have something that includes banana ice cream (1 banana + 200g frozen berries). I don’t find it affects my sugar cravings at all now. If I have a higher amount of fruit than usual, I start to really crave savoury foods like almond butter and avocado.

Do you seek to keep a cap on total fructose or are all natural sugars completely fine in an unlimited sense for you? Do you ever feel like you could go overboard on fruit or is it just so healthy that you don’t see it as a problem?

I definitely try to keep a cap on total fructose. I very much consciously regulate fructose from non-fruit sources, and only have them on very special occasions. Fruit I tend to regulate unconsciously based on the fact that it makes me crave savoury foods. I definitely think it’s possible to go overboard on fruit. 10 bananas a day is going to give you a sugar high just the same as agave!

What do you do when you have a sweet craving these days? What is your current go to ‘treat’ that you’re loving? (We can link to a recipe?)

If I really badly crave something sweet I usually have half a banana dipped in almond butter. At the moment I tend to go for some homemade raw cashew ice cream or fructose-free fudge.

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I know you favour Brown Rice Syrup because of its extremely low fructose content. Again how often might you have this in a ‘sweet treat’? Do you think people can still eat too much of this?

Rice syrup is amazing! I don’t think I could live without it! I maybe have this once or twice a week at most in homemade desserts. I think it’s definitely possible to eat too much of this; it’s still basically empty calories and therefore doesn’t have much nutritional value. But obviously it’s infinitely preferable to agave!

I know lots of sugar-free recipes these days contain dates. I know for me these are a bit of a danger food for me so I’ve generally steered clear, what are your thoughts on dates in recipes?

I think dates are fine occasionally in desserts, but not in large amounts. As an example, if I make a raw vegan “cheesecake” I will make the crust out of dates and nuts, but use rice syrup in the filling. So while this does provide some fructose, it’s not enough to really be worrying for me. I wouldn’t really use dates as the primary source of sweetness though.

You’re off travelling in a month (so excited for you!!). Have you thought about how you’re going to manage your diet when away? I know many really struggle with holidays. What mindsets and intensions have you got in place to help you with this?

I’m so excited it’s unreal! I’m definitely going to try my best to stay healthy while I’m away. I’m looking forward to eating and drinking a lot of coconuts, eat freshly-picked local fruits, and have lots of vegetable curry! I will be travelling a lot in Asia where they don’t eat much dairy, so that shouldn’t be a problem for me, and Australia is so far ahead of the rest of the world regarding health food that I can’t see any difficulties arising there. I think it’s very important not to be afraid to ask restaurants for special requests and also to ask for ingredients lists. I did this a lot when I travelled to America earlier this year, as it’s a legal requirement for restaurants and cafes to provide this upon request. If you ask nicely most people are more than happy to help you, just don’t be shy! I also think it’s important to not get overly anxious or carried away; you still have to enjoy yourself!

Follow Pixie on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or of course spent a while browsing her recipes on www.plantbased-pixie.com.

And there’s more…

Thank you Pixie! I had so much to ask Pixie, we actually recorded two separate Skype interviews which will be part of the re-launching Mentor Me Off Sugar programme in Jan 2015. If you want to hear the rest, have a go at a detox and learn how to make low sugar fit for you in a happy sustainable way like Pixie has, then make sure you’re on the Mentor Me Off Sugar front of the queue waiting list to get first news!

Over to you

Did you find Pixie’s story inspiring? Do you have any other questions for her around sugar? Ask below quickly before she jet’s off on her travels or just let me know what you thought of the interview.

Since quitting alcohol, sugar was my only ‘vice’: Joey’s sugar detox adventure

Back in August I discovered the wonderful Joey and Persia of Addictive Daughter. With a mission to help you get addicted to the good stuff, these ladies are inspiring a generation to shift addictive energy towards more positive habits and self empowerment. I loved some of their videos and articles – our values seemed to align magnificently.

Joey addictive daugther

Sometimes the right things really do come into your life at the right time. For me, Addictive Daughter came at a time I was thinking about alcohol. These ladies, Stuart Ralph (& his 30 day challenge book) and some of my close friends cemented my decision to do Sober October this year, which I’m currently going strong with (& rather enjoying).

For Joey is was the right time because of sugar. I could tell Joey was a little nervous, but she fully committed and kicked off with her Mentor Me Off Sugar programme on Sept 1st thus taking part in #sugarfreeseptember. Below is her honest witty diary and adventure of the programme. Enjoy!

JOEY’S 6 WEEK DETOX OFF THE DEVIL’S DANDRUFF (AKA… SUGAR)

They say that ‘When the student is ready, the teacher appears’, and that was very much my experience this summer, when Laura Thomas of happysugarhabits.com appeared in my life, or in my inbox I should say.

 

Mixed pastries

I have spent the majority of this year being aware of my sugar intake and how it was negatively affecting my energy levels (soaring up and then crashing, leaving me feeling moody and always in need of more.) Increasingly often, I had found myself in the habit of reaching for a chocolate bar for a quick ‘boost’ before an important meeting to help with alertness – much like City Bankers use coke, I was using sugar.

Since I gave up drinking alcohol altogether 2.5 years ago, sugary drinks have become my rocket fuel on nights out and my enthusiasm for desserts has definitely grown too. So when Laura’s Mentor Me Off Sugar Programme popped up in my inbox, I thought, why not? I could really do with a helping hand on the sugar front.

After my introductory Skype consultation with Laura, we concluded that one of my main struggles (like lots of people) was that being the sugar fiend that I am, I don’t taste the sweetness in most foods anymore. The 6 week sugar detox was therefore an opportunity for me to actively try and increase my sensitivity to sugar – a retraining of the taste-buds if you like.

Below is a summary of my 6 Week Detox – inclusive of constipation, relapse & raisin shaming.

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No Sugar Week 1

Day 1. Had a headache from lunchtime. Low energy and unable to feel present all day. In bed by 8pm.

Day 2. Felt a little better today but I’m grappling with eating porridge for breakfast. It’s the quickest sugar-free brekkie to make so I’ve decided to make myself eat it as I am often short on time in the mornings (so realistically, eggs and avocado on toast ain’t gonna happen.) The problem is, I’ve disliked porridge for 26 years.

Day 3 – Ooops, Persia and I we’re up at the crack o’ dawn on a trip to Birmingham this morning and I ate a banana at 5am in the taxi completely by accident! I’d finished the whole thing before realising the error of my ways ☹

Every week, Laura provides a suggested meal plan with the most delicious sugar-free munch ideas. They really are inspiring, particularly if you have time & money on your side. Being a perfectionist, I initially found the meal plan overwhelming as I knew with my unpredictable schedule, it’d be near impossible to stick to it entirely. Laura assured me these are only suggestions and I was fine to do my own thing (as long as I’m eating sugar-free, of course and sticking to the key principles she outlines.

Day 4. Feeling much perkier today. I’m enjoying eating mindfully and having this new focus. Also, I’m saving loads of money by taking food out with me – I’ve been carrying hummus and rye bread to nibble on when I’m out and about.

The programme is packed with different downloadable PDF information sheets. The ‘Reading labels’ PDF is a shocker – I didn’t know sugar was described in so many sneaky ways on food labels. I’m finding I am having to put back the majority of foods I normally buy on the supermarket shelf. Some people (mainly my Mum) have questioned this sugar detox, arguing ‘everything in moderation’ but honestly, the amount of sugar I’m learning is in almost all food products… I don’t think we can describe the situation as ‘moderate’ at all!

Weekend: I had a friend’s birthday drinks and as a sober person, the only thing I was able to drink was tap-water, with ice. Not the one.

I finished Week 1 with an attempted 10 mile run that got aborted at mile 8. I am definitely feeling weaker than normal – possibly due to the fact I normally have caffeine + sugar and sugary cereals before a run! Although it’s most likely down to the fact that I’ve been carrying snack-type food around with me all week and have not been eating proper meals. I guess since I can’t eat what I’d normally eat, I’ve been opting for sugar-free snack foods rather than making myself hearty sugar-free full plates of goodness. Maaan. I need to step-up my game for week 2.

 


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No Sugar Week 2 

I ate proper meals and allocated time to prepare them this week. Breakfasts have been porridge galore (getting quite into it now – I’m using a generous sprinkling of cinnamon to help it down!)

I’ve created an omlettey mess recipe of rice/ egg/ feta cheese/ peppers and it’s delicious… Not so sure it’s making it’s way through my system very well though – I haven’t had a poo in days. My stomach is swollen and Mum keeps telling me I need to eat fruit but I’m not allowed to… I’m on a no sugar detox (not even refined sugar for the detox period!) I shouldn’t have gone quite so crazy on the heavy carbs – my body isn’t used to that sort of food on mass. Paying the price now.

Also, the ‘Eating Out’ worksheet says to avoid sushi (thankfully I’ve not had any in the past two weeks anyway) but I didn’t know that sushi rice is usually soaked and sweetened with sugar! Wasabi & Bento… I won’t be seeing you anytime soon. Boo.

I had a depressing meal out this weekend in a restaurant, where all I could eat on the menu was plain chicken, plain potatoes and green vegetables. Left feeling dissatisfied and my neck hurt from craning to look longingly at dessert board. Dining out sugar-free is harder than I anticipated.

No Sugar Week 3
So Week 3 was my Birthday week…. Although I avoided having birthday cake for breakfast (which honestly has been known to happen), I “relapsed” on my Birthday evening. I was actually given special permission to have a little something to celebrate by Laura, if I so chose. And I chose. This was a BAD move for me and I should’ve known. The key here is Know Thyself. I am an ‘all in or not at all’ kind of girl. I’ve stayed strong until now. But upon tasting the ice-cream and fruit at my birthday meal, my determination to see the 6 week detox through sort of… evaporated.

Everywhere I go this week, people seem to be wafting chocolate cake or the like under my nose. I am really struggling to keep going. A tip I was given in the Facebook Sugar Support Group (a private and very active group for everyone undertaking the Sugar Detox Programme) is to quash cravings by drinking water. Detox it out of you. Surprising, it does seem to do the trick!

Finally, about 4 days after said sugar relapse, I feel back on track and no longer feel so tempted.

Final day of week 3. A MUCH better run today. I felt strong and light and limber! Although I’ve been eating extraordinary amounts of carbs and stodge since the start of week two, I’ve definitely lost weight. And people have commented on how radiant my skin is looking too.

No Sugar Week 4 prawns
The sugar-free life is actually coming quite naturally to me now. The first couple of weeks it was a real faff reading labels and wondering what on earth to buy in the supermarket. But 4 weeks in, I feel like a seasoned sugar-detoxer and have been nipping to the shop and whipping up meals in half the time.

I really think, whilst I don’t want to give up sugar completely, that I could live like this 80% of the time – perhaps just having two treats a week. I’m really enjoying eating clean and my energy levels are GREAT. I’m no longer experiencing weird dips that make afternoon naps irresistibly tempting…

I found this weeks PDF worksheet on ‘Limiting Beliefs & Affirmations’ very useful. Throughout the detox, Laura encourages journaling – to explore the emotional triggers behind our consumption habits. This programme goes deeper than just giving up sugar as an external substance, it explores our interior goings-on too. Very Addictive Daughter indeed. Thumbs up!

No Sugar week 5 
Oh. I’ve been struck down with the double whammy of a bladder infection followed by the flu. Parents both think it has something to do with eliminating sugar from my diet (really..?) I find that ridiculous as I’ve been eating more healthily than ever and sleeping really well too.

I have to be honest, though, a chocolate bar wouldn’t go a-miss this week. Feeling blah.

The official sugar detox ended in week 4 and this week, fruit is allowed to be slowly and moderately re-introduced into my diet, so there’s something to be grateful for!

Bizarrely, I didn’t actually buy any fruit until Thursday! That’s 4 whole days that sailed by before I took fruity action. I bought two oranges for Vit C to conquer my fluey cold and a bag of raisins to sprinkle on my porridge with cinnamon for tomorrow. I honestly can’t believe how unbothered I feel about eating sugar. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ when it comes to sugar detoxing with the lovely Laura (…see what I did there).

Eeek. Laura describes introducing fruit back into the diet as a ‘critical point’ – I can see truth in this already. I got warned off eating raisins after I posted a ‘porridge with heaps of raisins’ photo to the Facebook support group. Seasonable berries are apparently a better option as raisins are so heavy in sugar content. I felt a bit naughty but the mild raisin-shaming I encountered via the Facebook group wasn’t enough to keep me from doing it again the next morning. A critical point indeed!

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No Sugar Week 6
What I really like about this programme is the gentle approach. Laura makes a point of saying this week, ‘However you’ve faired, you’ve done incredibly well.’ I can already feel the shame of my raisin indulgence fading away. I have actually done alright over the past 6 weeks, all things considered.

Week 6 offers a helpful ‘6 Month Roadmap’ PDF as well as writing your own Health Manifesto. All good for keeping me on track going forwards.

Some additional perks of the Mentor Me Off Sugar Programme that really worked for me…

– Daily texts – Pintrest inspiration boards
– Countless PDF downloads (more info than you can shake a stick at)
– 3 emails per week from Laura with actionables

To conclude, I feel I’ve learned a hell of a lot over the past 6 weeks and not only that, I’ve actually proved to myself that I can maintain a sugar-free lifestyle and I have experienced the clear benefits of it.

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You can purchase Mentor Me Off Sugar until the end of October only so don’t miss out if you’re feeling ready to really give this a go like Joey did.

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If you’ve had an experience of going sugar-free for a period, please do share your adventure or best tip below, or get in touch if you’d like to be interviewed more fully as I’m currently looking for some inspirational low sugar warriors.

Sugar and your teeth: Expert tips to stop the decay!

I write quite often about the various negatives of consuming too much sugar. The control it can have over you, the dangerous role it can have in dealing with your feelings and of course all the physical dangers that are associated with overconsumption (metabolic diseases, poor sleep, bad skin etc.).

One area I’ve not highlighted as much is the damage to your teeth; which is strange because trust me, I have suffered when it comes to my teeth thanks to my former love of all things sweet. It seems this is the one way sugar can continue to haunt you even after you’ve largely stopped eating it.

Dentist pain

Last time I was at the dentist I told her about my blog and business Happy Sugar Habits. I told her I help people eat less sugar and change their lifelong habits; and that I hardly eat ANY SUGAR now in comparison to what I used to. I was going for angel status. This was all in the desperate hope that somehow good karma was going to make her tell me I didn’t need anymore fillings (which didn’t work because I did – it turned out an old one needed replacing, damn).

Thanks to sugar, I have fillings, lots of them. I’ve had a root canal (I actually had to come home from travelling at 19 to have that one done) and now I’ve got one tooth that still needs something big and ugly doing to it this autumn (which I’m dreading).

I’ve wept in dentists chairs, spent a small fortune, been numb from injections countless times and am likely to be ever anxious when I have to have routine check ups. Yet for years I kept eating too much stick to the teeth style sugar, prioritising low fat and low calories over everything else. Why, I ask my younger self, WHY?!

This week, I’m pleased to introduce James Goolnik, one of the UK’s leading dental experts who has kindly written some hints and tips around sugar to help you minimise the damage and avoid unnecessary dentist drama. I hope it helps you avoid future costs and pain!

James Goolnik

What sugar does to your teeth (by James Goolnik)

What did you last put into your mouth? Not many of us stop and think of the possible effects foods and drinks have on our teeth. The enamel of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body but it can easily be worn away by drinks and foods. You only get one set of adult teeth and with some common sense, you can ensure they last your lifetime.

Everyone has bacteria in the mouth and some of these live off the sugary foods you give them, producing acid as a by product. It’s this acid that burns tiny holes in your teeth leading to cavities (tooth decay). It takes a healthy mouth about 30 minutes to neutralise this acid and during this time they’re having a party in your mouth. These bacteria love to be fed regularly, so if you sip a sugary drink or snack on sweets, the saliva in your mouth does not get a chance to neutralise this acid. It’s effectively the same thing as dipping your teeth in acid; they slowly dissolve.

With sugary or acidic snacks and drinks, it’s the frequency that’s the most important – strangely eating more over a short period is much better for your teeth than regular grazing or drinking. This isn’t an excuse to eat more, but it’s something to consider.

Acidic drinks are also a problem. The acid in these does not even need the bacteria and can cause direct ‘erosion’ of your teeth. Any carbonated drinks are a problem, even fizzy water. They can lead to your teeth getting transparent and becoming sensitive. To minimise the damage, drink them through a straw or have them with food.

How can I prevent tooth decay from sugar?

You need to become more aware of when and where you’re eating sugar, making an effort to reduce the amount and frequency you consume it (Laura’s Mentor Me Off Sugar programme is of course a way to do this!). Eating food and drink high in carbohydrates, particularly snacking between meals, will increase your risk of tooth decay. If you eat or drink something containing sugar, you can neutralise this acid by:

  • Having some sugar-free chewing gum
  • Using a fluoride mouthwash
  • Having a rinse out with water
  • Finishing on a savoury snack to neutralise the acid

If you want to brush your teeth, wait at least 30 minutes so you are not brushing in this acid.

About James

James is the principal dentist at the award winning Bow Lane Dental Group in London. You can download a FREE copy of the oral survival guide to make sure your teeth last a lifetime here. James recommends you see your dentist for an oral health assessment and work with them to help minimise the damage sugar can do.

A final note from me…

Reading James’s article, I recognise something that I used to do that probably didn’t help me. I used to eat a small portion of something sweet then I’d be ‘good’ and stop. However I wanted more and so 30 mins later I’d go back for a little bit more (that’s what sugar does doesn’t it!?). Maybe 2 hours later and I’d just have another few raisins or one more of those chocolates. This is the constant mental battle I often refer to around sugar, but as highlighted it’s also a killer in terms of sugar attacks on your teeth. Can anyone relate to this? Do you pop back for just a bit more? Do you swear everytime you go to the dentist that you’re going to eat less sugar?! Comment below and we can share war stories!

Sugar-free inspiration: meet Stephanie Fleming

It’s been an amazing experience in the last year finding something I believe in so strongly and being able to channel all my energy into it. When I meet others who share the same passions it’s really quite magical – all sorts of geeky sugar-free conversations ensue…

So I thought I’d introduce you to someone who’s behind the scenes at the moment, devising recipes and helping everything come together in time for January’s Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox. I couldn’t be without her; she’s an absolute star and a true inspiration.

Say hello to Stephanie Fleming…

Stephfleming

Steph believes in the sugar-free movement and journey as much as I do. So much so that she took the action to e-mail me. We met up, talked activated nuts and I’m now proud to say she’s part of things here at Happy Sugar Habits. Proof in the pudding that if you simply take positive action, great things happen. I feel blessed that Steph came along, I really do.

Anyway, over to Steph…

What was it that brought sugar to your attention and what has been your journey over the last few months

I didn’t wake up one day and think all of a sudden ooooo I’m addicted to sugar- I must give it up. Not at all! I didn’t even realise. I just heard of a friend doing it (actually via Facebook) and read more about it and various testimonials. I had been advised to go on ‘elimination diets’ by my GP to try and find the cause of my IBS but had never really done it as I didn’t really think it would work and couldn’t for one minute imagine not eating fruit! It has been a running joke in my family (much to my Mums horror – she is French and eating ketchup with a meal is an insult!) and friends how much ketchup I used to eat and that I used to eat it with ice cream (I didn’t, but that was my reputation!).

Having read the testimonials and feeling like I could relate to a lot of these people I thought I’d give quitting sugar a go as I realised that I was eating so much sugar without realising it (although they were ‘good sugars’ I kept telling myself). Things like honey, syrups, ketchup, dried fruit, fresh fruit (3 to 5 pieces daily), low fat fruit yoghurts….and all that jazz (and sweets galore!). So my boyfriend and I embarked on a self-directed sugar-free experiment…which we’re still on and loving!

Quitting sugar was not easy, the first 2 to 5 weeks were pretty tough, we felt so lethargic, no energy at all and hungry and thirsty all the time, but we actually realised most of the time we were thirsty.

Family and friends’ reactions have definitely been one of the most interesting aspects of the journey. A common one which makes me laugh every time…. ‘So what can you actually eat?’, said with a look of horror on their face. “Er, EVERYTHING other than sugar” I say and then proceed to list all the delicious food and meals I get to make and eat.

What did you find the hardest part of changing things more permanently?

Sourcing some of the products you need, and buying them regularly. I have found that buying in bulk (pantry products) is the best bet in terms of convenience and price.

Getting family and friends to accept and respect your choices. After all, we accept people nipping out for a cigarette after a meal in a social event, surely they can grow to accept us foregoing the supersize me bucket of popcorn or giant coke next time you go to the cinema?

What have some of the health benefits been since you changed your sugar habits?

  • IBS symptoms almost gone!
  • Much better controlled sugar levels. I no longer have hunger pangs or feelings of dizziness and light headedness if I haven’t eaten for a few hours.
  • Not feeling ravenous between my next snack or meal.
  • Feeling satisfied after eating and not wanting/needing to eat more than needed and not ‘craving.’
  • Much more energy and NO afternoon slumps!
  • Reignited my taste buds. Everything tastes soooo good now!

(My boyfriend has lost just under a stone in weight by cutting out sugar from his diet in two months!)

You’re favourite sugar-free snack?

  • Definitely definitely activated almonds.
  • A slice of courgette cake spread with a layer of tahini or cream cheese (Steph’s courgette cake and activated almonds are both recipes you’ll get your hands on during the MMOS programme.)

What would you say to anyone reading this who feels like they’re really struggling with sugar at the moment?

Keep going, keep going! The first 5 weeks are hard – they really are, but know that you are NOT alone feeling like this and that everyone that is ‘sugar free’ or ‘no longer addicted to sugar’ has (most likely) had to go through that tough patch too…you can do it!

It definitely helps to be doing it with support; you can share the ups and the downs, recipe ideas, funny comments made by friends and relatives and know that you are helping yourself and someone else overcome the sugar hurdle!

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I know Steph could talk as much as I do about this. If you’ve got a story to share or want to say hi then do get in touch with me. It makes my day hearing from some of you. Even if you just want to tell me you had one day where you halved the sugar in your tea. The other day I even had an e-mail from John Hicks, the station director at UK Health Radio. He felt an urge to tell me he slipped on a sugary slope and was self confessing his sins with a right little story! Sometimes it just feels good to acknowledge these things so that you can move on. Despite my sugar-free status, I’m really not judgemental, because I was well and truly there myself. I understand that everyone makes change when it’s right for them.

Any thoughts or confessions? What’s your sugar-free story to date? What do you think of Steph’s journey?

Mentor Me Off Sugar: Early bird ending THIS WEEK!

So you can take positive action today by letting myself, Steph and the others who’ve already enrolled support you!

The next Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox kicks off on the 6th Jan 2014. The Early Bird discount ends midnight on the 9th December (this Sunday!) so make sure you sign up before then and save some pennies for the new healthy ingredients we’ve carefully sourced for you as part of the plan. You’ll be munching your courgette cake and feeling part of the low sugar movement, just like Steph and I, before the Easter bunny arrives. Whoop whoop! Come join today!

Interview with Madeleine Shaw Part II

Ok, here’s Part II of my interview with Madeleine Shaw. We’re talking carbohydrates and the whole emotional and social side of sugar.

The big takeaway? Have confidence in yourself and your decisions to lead the healthy life you want! I think that’s rather fitting as we head off for the Easter break. Hope you enjoy watching….

Interview with Madeleine Shaw

My post for you today is another video interview with Madeleine Shaw. We talk her low sugar journey, the fat fear, her views on fruit and swapping sweet crunchy granola for a raw egg shake breakfast (I’m not even quite there yet).

Hope you find it as useful, inspiring and as interesting as I did!