How to tame the sugar beast

I’m now pretty easily maintaining a weight that used to be my low in my yo-yo dieting routine, and I put that down in part to the lack of baking habit and the conscious avoidance of cakes and biscuits. I stick to the sugar in my coffee in the morning and the occasional dark hot cocoa in the evening as well as fruits during the day but other than that these days it’s rare that I eat anything with a lot of processed sugar. Sadly I can see and feel the benefit of this prohibition quite easily.

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I maintain this weight even though I eat take out once, sometimes twice in a week. I maintain this weight even though we rely on the fryer in this house far too often. I maintain this weight even though I enjoy a good fresh ciabatta from the market sometimes and a glass or two of red wine sometimes too many days in the week. On the one hand I kind of miss my chocolate brownies or at least the freedom to eat them, on the other hand because I’m not eating them I’m not craving them which is such a bonus.

When I get my coffee at the local coffee shop in the mornings I no longer salivate at the cakes and croissants on display like I used to. That pile of chocolate in my fridge doesn’t tempt me and neither do the chocolate digestives on the door. I’m no longer constantly dreaming of the treats I can bake and take to work with me. Having a tray of chocolate chip cookies at your desk while you sit at a computer all day is one of the worst things in the world when you have a hard time maintaining a reasonable weight. It is for me anyway.

Beast Within Me by Piedra

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When I eat one cookie, or brownie or cupcake an evil demon arrives to convince me that there is no good reason not to have another. Its not that bad for you, it’s not that calorific, there’s no reason you can’t just have one more. Over and over again. I can remember a time, at work, when I ate 400 calorie brownies all day until they were gone. Another time at home I ate tiny slices of this delicious cinnamon swirl pumpkin cake all day until it was gone, each slice was intended to be the last. That must have been 1500 calories! The beast is addiction and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past six years of paying attention to diet and how my body reacts it’s that I am highly susceptible to sugar addiction.

In the past year and a half or so I’ve been stricter with myself and I hold to one in a day, occasionally I’ll have a second, but not every day. In the past two or three months, I’ve been abstaining completely except on special occasions. Last week I made cupcakes for dinner guests and I had one, was unhappy with how it made me feel and didn’t have another even though they sat in my kitchen for a week. My poor husband had to eat them all himself.

I’ve done it many times so here’s how I tame the beast and cut out sugar.

  1. Don’t worry about calories right now just cut the big culprits like cakes, chocolate bars and sweets.
  2. Eat as much fruit as you need at first to satisfy those cravings. Its doesn’t but it helps.
  3. Do eat lean protein and veg heavy meals
  4. Stay away from energy bars, cereal bars and other candy masquerading as health food.
  5. Drink lots of water.
  6. Get lots of sleep.

I find it takes me about three to five days but everyone is different. I’ve heard for some people it can take significantly longer than that, others just a day or two. And of course some people never get addicted to sugar at all. I don’t know, takes all kinds I guess.

Are you a sugar addict too? Have you been through the detox process or do you want to? Let me know about it.

 

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Half way to my nutrition diploma!

I am now half way through my diploma course in Nutrition, which is awesome. I happened to see a Groupon for this course with Shaw Academy and jumped at the chance for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been self-studying this stuff for years and I kind of want to prove that I know what I’m talking about. Two, I have for a long time wanted to help people in their weight loss efforts. I’ve had a hard time myself so I totally understand the epic struggle it can be but I see people making so many mistakes and never really feel like it’s up to me to tell them. I still won’t interject where my opinion is unwanted, but I will be able to tell people that I can help; I’m not just another girl with an opinion based on an article I read in a magazine.

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So far, not much has surprised me in this course, except for just how bad for you alcohol is. But that must be very large amounts right? Right. As I said I’m half way through and it’s no big deal because it’s mostly all just a memory refresh. I will revise for the exam at the end, just to make sure I pass as well as possible, but I’m not at all worried or nervous about it. I’ve definitely had a good refresh though and I thought I’d go through where I see I can make improvements in my diet. You may have similar issues.

  1. I could eat more fish. I’ve known this for years. The guidelines state that you should have fish twice a week and one of those should be oily fish for it’s heart protective effects. Ick. Trout, mackerel sardines, and salmon are all examples of shit I don’t want to eat. I’ve been taking fish oil pills for years for this reason.
  2. Eat more fibre. I used to track this but haven’t for years now. I don’t think I do too badly really but I should remember to choose my black bean stews and lentil soups more often. I love these but extra cooking is such a chore at the moment with the two little ones.
  3. Increase my iron intake. I’m pretty sure that I’m iron deficient most of the time. I should go out and grab a supplement to take daily. Maybe I’ll stop craving beef all time.
  4. Water. I’m quite good at drinking enough water when I’m at my desk at work but at home chasing kids around I just forget. This is not an excuse; it’s so so important to get enough water, for everything from feeling fuller longer to higher energy levels. Oh yeah and proper body functioning too.
  5. Fruit and veg. I’m pretty good about eating my 5 a day actually but there is always room for improvement on this one, unless you are literally a rabbit
  6. Sugar. I’ve gotten into a bad habit recently putting sugar in my coffee in the morning. It’s so hard to get away from because it’s so much tastier! Besides that I’ve been mega good about avoiding unnecessary sweet treats like brownies, cakes and sweets.

All these are in addition to the very obvious things like I eat too much processed ready meals, probably too many processed carbs, and rely on the fryer too much. This is all for convenience sake, and will change once both my kids are out of the toddler and preschool phases and everyday is less like an assault course.  The current daily priority is just getting through the day!

What kind of changes do you think you should make to your diet?

 

How I came to accept my body for what it is

A bit of “Love Yourself” motivation today. I set out to find these inspiring quotes because I know a lot of people who feel almost desperate to look more like the media messages tell us to. I remember this feeling, sometimes it creeps in a bit even now, but I do make an effort to look for the inspiring messages, which tell you that you are good enough, instead of the disparaging ones, which tell you that you are not, but you could be if only you lost a bit of weight or straightened your hair or used this foundation or that mascara.

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Getting pregnant with my first daughter in 2010 was the best thing that happened to me body image-wise. You see in 2006, still with my first husband, my marriage was falling apart, we had just sold a business that wasn’t working and were losing our house. I became quite anxious and just couldn’t eat most of the time. There were points I didn’t eat anything at all until 8:00 at night and then ate a bit of pasta and went to bed. Unsurprisingly I dropped about 30 pounds in a few months. It was not healthy, however I was now the “hottest” I’d ever looked in my life, I was model thin – you could see the ribs in my chest and everything. Well I obviously loved it and vowed to stay that way, which ushered in my disordered eating phase, where I would try to eat only 1000 calories a day. It didn’t always work and I didn’t know what I was doing so I was probably eating closer to 1500 a day but still, I did a lot of starving myself.

That was until I started to date my current husband; we went out to dinner a lot, I was happy a lot and I didn’t do as much walking. Obviously I gained some weight back. Then I moved here and stayed happy and added baking to my list of favorite hobbies. That did nothing good for my waistline at all let me tell you. I’m not one of those bakers who can eat one and give the rest away, I’m a bit lot greedier than that. All this time though I was trying to lose weight again. I would try crash diets (750 calories a day only protein for five weeks!) and more reasoned diets (lost 4 pounds in 6 weeks, WTF!), I ran and I lifted weights. I never got anywhere. I mean I would lose 10 or 15 pounds and then just as quickly it would come right back again. I remember feeling like I was actually going nuts because while I was trying to eat sensibly I had 4 or 5 insanely fattening and intricately delicious dinner ideas going on in my head. I was about to eat chicken breast and cottage cheese but I was imagining in great detail sausage lasagna and lobster pies! I’d created a feeling in my head and my body of complete deprivation even though I was unable to actually lose any weight (and keep it off). I remember lying there sobbing to my husband that it was just impossible for me to do and I would never be attractive again.

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Then, I got pregnant and had to just eat and not worry about how my body looked, because that was not important anymore. Eating wasn’t about me anymore, it was about my baby. Not only that, I was so sick I didn’t care and had to eat in order to feel a little less sick. It was lovely to eat again guilt free. I tried not to go overboard but also tried not to worry about it. It may have sometimes looked like me going overboard but I did the best I could.

Then I had my daughter and a lot of time and effort went into getting used to this new life we had. It took some time to even get to the point where I could notice but I recognised some time after I’d had my daughter that I didn’t feel deprived anymore. The insatiable, ravenous feeling was just gone. Even when I ate less, actually dieted to lose some baby weight, I didn’t feel it. To this day I get extremely creative when I’m on a diet, I texted my husband the other day to tell him I wanted mac & cheese burgers someday, but it’s not the same as the absolute hysteria I felt back then.

I just needed to eat.

No, I wasn’t managing weight loss but I was managing to make my body feel as though it was in a time of real stress and deprivation and like at any point the food would disappear and I’d just starve to death. I’m sure that’s how it would work in the jungle and my body doesn’t know it doesn’t live there.

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These days I don’t feel so desperate. I’d like to lose those 20 pounds but equally, it’s not worth my mental health or any extra stress on the family. If I can’t manage it right now, maybe later. If not later, that’s ok; I’m busy with some other things anyway. Health is important, but we are already healthy. I want to teach my kids to value intelligence and compassion more than beauty and vanity, so I try hard not to let them hear us talk much about calories and weight loss.

I would like for you to know that if you’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time and you’re feeling desperate and hopeless, maybe the most important thing that you could do for your long term happiness is to take a break from it all. Find the book Overcome Overeating and read it and then take a break. Skinniness is not worth your happiness, your sanity or even very much of your time.

But hey, some more high profile people have something to say as well:

‘I have a crumble baby belly, boobs are worse for wear after two kids…I’m doing all right. I’m 33. I don’t look in the mirror and go, “Oh, I look fantastic!” Of course I don’t. Nobody is perfect. I just don’t believe in perfection. But I do believe in saying, “This is who I am and look at me not being perfect!”. I’m proud of that.’ Kate Winslet katewinslet2

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“How much time have I wasted on diets and what I look like? Take your time and your talent and figure out what you have to contribute to this world. And get over what the hell your butt looks like in those jeans!” America Ferreira americaferr

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‘I’m never going to starve myself for a part. I don’t want little girls to be like, “Oh, I want to look like Katniss” (her character in The Hunger Games), so I’m going to skip dinner. That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed.’ Jennifer Lawrence jenlaw

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‘As a child, I never heard one woman say to me, “I love my body”. Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. No one woman has ever said, “I am so proud of my body.” So I make sure to say it to Mia [her daughter], because a positive physical outlook has to start at an early age.’ Kate Winslet katewinslet

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“I am allowed to look sexy, feel sexy, and be in love. I am worthy of all of those things, and so are you. Own your good and bad, and all the scary parts that you’ve been covering up because it is yours and no amount of judgement can tell you how to love your body.  You are magic.” Mary Lambert mary-lambert-630-80

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You are magic, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel less than that. Least of all media and marketing people.

xox

30 Day Body weight Challenge; Day 3

Obviously I missed day one because it was Fathers Day, but I thought you might want to know how I’ve done since then. I started Monday with both going hungry eating more reasonably and the exercise routine.

I did this series twice:

20 squats
10 push ups – from my knees
20 lunges, each leg – but I didn’t manage all 20 the second time around
10 dumb bell rows – the weight I used was too light
Plank – I managed 45 seconds the first round and 30 the second time
30 star jumps

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It was more difficult than it looks so I’m hoping that I will improve quickly as usually happens when you begin after some time off. I needed a 60 second break between and at the end I was actually out of breath; so that’s good at least I’m getting a challenge!

The next day I was quite achy in my legs and glutes, a little in my core and very slightly in my arms and back. Very very slightly. So the plan for today is to try to do push ups normally or if I can’t and have to do them from my knees I’ll go slower and more deliberately and make sure to go down as low as possible. I’ll use a full milk jug for the dumb bell rows and try to do the  plank for 60 seconds both times.

Edit: I just did it and it was hard! I didn’t manage the lunges the second time around at all. Calorie deficit does indeedy affect your energy and stamina guys! Friday I will be hoping to accomplish a bit better than today and if not I’ll have to think about an extra snack on exercise days!

As far as food, I’ve managed to go without a sandwich so I’ll have one tomorrow. Here’s what I’ve eaten:

Day 1

Breakfast : Greek yogurt with strawberries and blueberries

lunch: a can of soup and an apple

Dinner: left over beef with mac & cheese (can’t let that go to waste!)

Hot cocoa for late night early evening snack

Day 2

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries & blueberries

lunch: falafel salad and can of soup

Dinner: chicken curry and two mini naans

Hot cocoa for early evening snack

Day 3

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with strawberries & blueberries

Lunch: raw veg with low fat hummous

Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognaise

Hot cocoa for early evening snack

So I’ve actually done really well so far and will reward myself with a slice of pizza for lunch tomorrow! Yum yum! I shall post a nice pic for you all.

Are you surprised? I can easily eat a slice of pizza and stay on target, even if only occasionally. Do you treat yourself when you’re on a diet?

What I learned about body image is crazy

If you’re going to talk about fashion, I think it’s only right to talk about body image as well. When I started a bit of research about body image for this post, I didn’t know that I’d find such amazing information not only about body size and health but what can be done about all the unreasonable expectations.

I wish everyone was on board to replace women’s unhealthy expectations and social norms. Sadly, not everyone is yet. There is a lot of support out there and it’s growing every day, but its just not enough. Personally just by being fans of Upworthy and Toward the Stars on Facebook I’ve noticed my own internal dialog becoming a bit healthier, sometimes. Or is that because I have two small kids and no time to obsess about my abs anymore? I don’t know, a little of both I guess. (But it’s probably not true that I never obsess about my abs. Shhhh.)

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There are 1.1 million young people with eating disorders in the UK and two thirds of girls 13-14 are apparently unhappy with their bodies. The incidence of obesity is growing, but also perfectly normal sized and shaped young women are devastatingly unhappy with their bodies. I was, and sometimes – sometimes often – still am one of them. I have done all sorts of reading about weight loss and body image and even though I know intellectually it doesn’t matter, that doesn’t change how I feel. Which is why we need to change things!

Did you know that studies have shown people are healthier in the overweight bmi category than the normal or underweight ones? Seriously! This is not intended to shame anyone who is underweight, we all do the best we can, but this is how skewed our perceptions, values and self-worth are. Most women would rather be underweight than over weight even though it is far more unhealthy. And it’s not about just knowing the truth, though that can help in the long run. It’s about the whispers in our heads.

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Everyone knows this is the medias fault, and that “the media” just says they are just showing us what we want to see! It’s an awful self propelling feedback loop and it will take some serious conscious effort to push ourselves out of it. But it can be done. I’ll tell you how in a minute.

This Psychology today article, Media exposure and the perfect body talks about how in the 1950’s a psychologist theorized that we “rely on external models to form our self perceptions,” so it’s not exactly new. We decide what we like based on what everyone else likes. Beauty is cultural. We’ve all heard of the places where they prefer abnormally long necks or foot binding or any number of different kinds of fashion adornments. 

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I say, we can decide to like something different.

Interestingly, this new study agrees because it shows that our perception of beauty is fluid. Researchers showed very skinny models to one group and bigger models to a second group and in a second part of the test, as you would guess the group who saw the smaller models judged a smaller bmi as beautiful while those who looked at slightly larger models judged a slightly higher bmi as more attractive. Sadly everyone still chose underweight bodies to represent beauty but the fact remains just being exposed to different models for one minute affected their judgement. So if we can convince more and more companies to show us more diverse body types we can affect the cultural perception of beauty.

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 If we can stay aware of the messages we are receiving and try to choose the messages we buy from carefully then slowly we can change the cultural messages toward and about women. Clothing companies that show different sized and shaped models are the first thing to look for. Then look for magazines supporting the cause. Hollywood will follow suit, eventually. And over time, we can change things.

If you care to.

*Further reading: Ourbodiesourselves.org has a list of websites and organisations trying to create positive change for women (and men) and body image. Have a look.