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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Flying the sugar free coop

Tomorrow, I'm lucky enough to be heading away, child-free, for a few days to visit a friend interstate. 

Of course, I'm looking forward to it.

But I'm also a wee bit terrified

I'll be flying the coop of my sugar free safety net.

For the last 7 weeks I've been able to keep on the straight and narrow by surrounding myself with foods that I "can" eat. I've been able to whip to the health food store or the supermarket when I feel like experimenting with something new. I've had all my "craving busters" right within reach.

Image courtesy of KM&G-Morris
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For the next 4 days, my pantry,  my shops, my teapot (!!!) and my sugar free comfort zone will all be out of my reach. And the challenges will be aplenty.  Think shopping, road trips, markets and trendy sidewalk cafes. You can almost smell the culinary delights right? (Or I am just in holiday mode?) I'll have to survive this sugarfree journey with much wider, more pliable boundaries.

When holidaying, "grab-and-gobble" foods are rife. Normally on my little getaways (yes, I have a loving husband who affords me these little trips fairly regularly) I start with a chai latte or a hot chocolate at the airport, I'll have a bag of lollies in my handbag to keep me company,  I'll browse and more than likely choose a bar or something from the in-flight menu and I'll arrive with an air of enthusiasm for a cafe lunch and a side of soft drink. I'll always encourage some evening chocolate fix and I'll welcome a bowl of muesli, fresh fruit and yoghurt the following morning.

Somehow I have to manage the next four days (11 meals + various snacks) on as little sugar as possible. Without seeming rude, difficult or unsocial.  

I don't quite have a plan, except the possibility of stocking my only bag with coconut oil, rice cakes, almond spread, oats, cocao nibs and a variety of herbal teas. I guess I can only do my best - seek out sugar free options wherever possible and forgive myself if there's moments when I have to lapse purely due to circumstances.

Hopefully, when I return I'll have a bucket load of tips on how to enjoy sweet travel sugar free.

Bon voyage!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Addicted to addictions

A few weeks ago, our local paper reported about a man who was caught "exposing" himself to women in public. As the matter went to court, it unfolded that this individual was in the midst of dealing with a gambling addiction. For some bizarre reason, restraining himself from gambling had apparently resulted in the emergence of another form of addiction.

I can't wrap my head around that particular man's actions, however, a few weeks ago I did notice that I had a very apparent need to shop. Like most females, I love to shop. But on 1.25 wage and 2 young children it's a desire I need to keep under control. But on this particular weekend I really struggled. I left the house, told my husband I'd be back and just hit the shops. I wandered around fairly aimlessly, but desperate to buy something. I didn't care what I bought, I just know I wanted to shop! I was conscious of the fact that as I was breaking my addiction to sugar, I was seeking out something else to fill the void.

Photo by Romana Correale
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I don't want to lose you at this point, but Dr. Phil (please, stay with me...), has the most concise list that I could find of steps to take when breaking an addiction. Check them out here. One of those steps acknowledges that people do tend to replace bad habits with new ones.

He explains that when you take something away - something that makes you feel comfortable, pain free and happy (for me, this has been sugar) you're pretty much left hanging with whatever made you take on that addiction in the first place (eg: stress, boredom, low self esteem...). It's important to replace the addiction with something else that shifts the way you deal with stressful situations. He suggests relaxation, breathing techniques and the like. Funnily enough, he doesn't mention shopping. Bugger.

For me, with two children scooting around my heels the only breathing I do is 3 deep breaths before I bust up a an argument over one green crayon. But the process of making a cup of tea or preparing my food lovingly (and I've been very vigilant with the children about giving me time to enjoy my meals) is a form of relaxation.

This sugar free journey is certainly clearing some fog away, and making me learn a hell of a lot about myself and how I respond to things. I know now to be aware when other potential addictions start rearing their heads.

However, I did hit the shops again on the weekend and bought a pair of skinny jeans in one size smaller than usual - now how sweet is that!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Super slow and sugar free

Sometime ago I read about an Slow-Food Dinner event happening in my local town of Ballarat. It sounded like a chic and swanky event and so sparked my interest in the notion of "slow-food".

Slow food, as the name suggests is the opposite of fast food. It is embracing that good food takes time to grow, nurture and prepare. The slow food movement strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages the farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristic to the local Eco-system. You can read more about it here 

Until now, my interest in slow food hasn't progressed any further than the desire to attend that event (which I didn't). However, as a result of giving up sugar, I realise that I have quite organically moved into a semi-slow-food kind of lifestyle.

Photo by Cookiemouse
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For breakfast, I no longer grab a cereal box, I cook my oats on the stove, adding spices and nuts for flavour.

For lunch, I usually prepare a salad of fresh vegetables (usually organic and from Aussie Farmers Direct, who deliver seasonal produce from local growers). Today, I had garlic mushrooms on mutligrain sourdough (also from the folks at Aussie Farmers Direct).

For dinner, instead of opting for meals that use prepackaged sauces, I am experimenting at creating flavours using herbs, juices (eg lemon) and oils. 

Last night I spent in excess of an hour peeling almonds that had been soaking overnight, in order to create my own almond milk.

My snacks are no longer the grab and gobble varieties. I have to spread almond paste on my rice cakes, or toast my multigrain sourdough before smearing it with coconut oil (BTW - delish!). 

I admit I am a long way from the "kill it, cook it, eat it" way of life. But I am certainly stepping away from the prepared, preserved and prepackaged foods we've all grown accustomed to over the last century.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shaking the sugar shackles

Who would ever associate the word "freedom" with a diet? I'd usually toss around the words like restriction, control and agony. 

I've embarked on week 4 and I feel fabulous. I feel a sense of freedom. As per my last post, I've been faced with my fair share of temptation over the last 3 weeks. But I really feel like the sugar shackles are starting to break.

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Last night for instance, at my debut kinder meeting, a few plates of food were brought out after the formalities (trying to elect Presidents and treasurers among already insanely busy parents is bound to drive us all to needing some sugar hit! I'm surprised they didn't pop a few corks... hmm note to self for next committee meeting, which I am now a part of... couldn't hide).

Anyway, from my quick glance I could see that on offer there were some brownies (seriously these brownie things are hunting me down), some slice and some biscuits. I think. I stuck to my avoid eye contact rule. You know, I wasn't even marginally tempted. In fact, I looked at the options on offer for a brief moment and couldn't even imagine what they tasted like. How bizarre. But it's almost as if my relative memory of the taste of sugar is starting to fade.

Today, I voluntarily - VOLUNTARILY -  took my children to the sweet Cake Bakeshop  (As per last post I was anticipating a trip there soon with my sister in law. But today - no outside pressure, I just wanted to treat my adorable cherubs to a classy morning tea.) I brought them each one of Jennifer's delightful little cupcakes (Red Velvet for Miss 2 and Choc Strawberry for Master 4) and shouted myself a pot T2 Choc Chip Chai tea.

In Sarah's ebook she refers to her addiction to sugar as "uncool and undignified". Today, sipping on tea, I felt extremely dignified.

Sarah also encourages "I Quit Sugarers" to find other forms of sweetness. Now, I've been in that Cake shop before but have never really sat back and soaked up the fabulous atmosphere that Jennifer has created. No, no. I'm usually too busy devouring a cookies and cream cupcake, sipping (sculling) my chai latte and trying to convince myself to say no to a macaroon chaser.

Today I delighted in the decor, flipped through Frankie magazine and reminded myself how much I love my children (who BTW were hip and shouldering one another to have the next sip of my tea.)

Sweet, sweet days. Without a cupcake crumb in site.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seriously, more sugar?!

Trying to quit sugar as a mum of young children is like trying to convince an alcoholic to give up the grog while standing in a pub. Or a gambler at a race track. A kleptomaniac in an unmanned department store. 

As a mum of two young children at home, I feel more exposed to temptation than ever before.

I know I should be trying to quit the sugar from my kids' diet too, but in all honesty I don't know how wholeheartedly I support that idea (don't give kids fruit...?!?) and to be honest, it would be just way too hard. I'm opting for leading by example.
 With a pat myself on the back kind of attitude, I've reflected over some of the sticky (excuse the pun) situations I have been in over the past 3 weeks:
  • Breakfast time - although I am slowly and subtly progressing the kids onto Weetbix (continuously considered by experts as one of the best breakfast cereals going around), I still put a tad (about 1/8 tsp) on their Weetbix for them. More often than not, they don't finish their whole serving. I have to consciously tell myself not to lick their spoon, or finish their leftovers.
  • The kids eat a lot of fruit - fresh and dried. When making their morning tea or lunch, it's a challenge to not just pop a sultana or two in my mouth. (Sultana's hey? - I know I live on the edge - but fair dinkum, you give up on all sweetness and all of a sudden a container of sultanas will smell as sweet as a lolly shop).
  • I often whip whip the kids up a smoothie for afternoon tea - I make them up with any sort of fruit, berries, milk and flavoured yoghurt. I haven't even licked the drips from the yoghurt container. (I just tried them on my new version - milk, coconut oil and cacao. They were not impressed. I was in heaven.)
  • Then the social side of mothering is an occupational hazard when trying to quit sugar: as mentioned in my last post at my mum's group last week my fellow mum served up a plate of brownies and biscuits. I did not yield. Go me.
  • I've got a loose play date scheduled with my sister in law and my delightful little niece. She wants me to meet me the chic little Cake Bakeshop.  That'll be fab. Talk about putting my willpower to the test! (Lucky our girls playing together is all the sweetness I need!)
  • Today I took the kids to a music class. It's run by volunteers at a little church and after all the singing and dancing they provide us with morning tea. On offer for the parents today was chocolate biscuits and little cakes with jam and whipped cream. (I'm actually not even sure if they were little cakes - I didn't make eye contact with those little suckers long enough to decipher exactly what they were, but I could tell they certainly were not sugar free!)
  • Ditto at the music class - they provide tea, coffee and milo. I just can't grasp the idea of a black tea no without sugar so I unashamedly took my peppermint tea bag and asked them to make it up for me.
  • Sauce! Kids being kids have sauce on a lot of meals. Often whatever they have left over I pick at. A big dollop of sauce puts the kibosh on that plan!  (If I don't lose weight cutting out the sugar, I'm bound to lose weight as a result of less picking at their meals).
The idea that I can avoid temptation under such constant sugary conditions really is a positive thing. 

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger after all! 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sugarfree focus

In my last post, I promised some discussion on the emotional changes I have experienced over the past fortnight. It sounds dramatic I guess, but when food, in particular sugar, holds such a prevalence in  your life, there's going to be some emotional upheaval when quitting it.

Here's the thing. I am missing sugar. I'm mourning for it. I see people eating delicious foods and I'm jealous. I'm almost dreaming of soft drink.I go to the cupboard for a snack and feel disappointed that I can't chomp into some dried apricots, or pour myself a bowl of cereal. I hate anyone drinking Pepsi and chai lattes. 

But they are all very very brief moments. Brief moments.

In general, I'm feeling empowered. I feel incredibly in control of my foods. Foods are not controlling me. I think about what I eat, I think about why I am eating it.

I feel less anxious. A lot less anxious. With food as my master I was constantly seeking out my next "hit". Food is much less of a focus. So I'm free to focus on other things. Myself, household chores, the kids...

I'm a better mum. In so many ways.  I feel like I have so much more patience for the kids. My addiction to sugar was creating a hidden agenda and hence putting strain on the relationship with my children. I'd be anxious to get to the supermarket or cafe - so I could buy myself some sort of sugary treat. I'd be anxious to get Master 4 and Miss 2 occupied so I could eat said sugar treat. If a supermarket or cafe trip was inconvenient, I'd be anxious to bake something, and baking with two little ones creates a whole lot of anxiousness in itself, especially for a wee-bit-of-a control freak like myself.

I'm a better mum because I am setting a better example. At our mothers group earlier this week, my fellow mum and host for the morning baked brownies (are you friggen kidding me?!? She knows I'm off sugar, so I can only presume she was trying to boycott me. Top stuff.). My kids are renowned for being stationed permanently at the kids morning tea table and then sniffing around the "mums" morning tea plate. My kids didn't pester me for a brownie once. I can presume that because they hadn't seen me eating, it didn't set of their little "I want some too" alarm bells. 

(On a side note, I can't even begin to tell you how hard it was to stop myself from having a deliciously decadent chocolatey brownie. I literally turned on a little voice in my head that said "do not make eye contact with the brownie"!!)

I'd be lying if I said this has been all smooth sailing. In fact, part way through week 3 I feel like this is a fairly monumental time. The novelty of quitting sugar has worn off, the new sugar free foods are starting to become boring. Now it's just me. And 5 weeks ahead. But those tough times are again, just moments. Just tough little moments. 

Over all, I will continue to feel empowered. In control. Relaxed. Proud. Healthy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Sugarfree savings

Today I entered week 3 of my sugarfree journey. I'm feeling proud, I'm feeling fresh and I'm feeling confident that this is the right thing for me. I'm also feeling about half a kilo lighter - booyeh!

Over this past week I've had two "lapses" but as I outlined in my first post - I scheduled a couple of these each week: chocolate with my DH on Friday night and dessert at my parents' on Monday. 

While these sweet treats aren't tasting quite as good as they used to (strange hey?, You'd think they'd be heaven!), I'm enjoying the taste of so many other foods. I think sugar overload has either been killing my tastebuds or thwarting my enthusiasm for different flavours. This week I've adored broccoli soup, zucchini slice and chilli chicken pasta. I'll get these onto my recipe page ASAP. 

I continue to enjoy my sugar free breakfast and really believe that starting the day with a zero sugar intake sets me up to have a successful sugarfree day - because all in all I'm finding this journey relatively "easy". (Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments where I stare down anyone holding onto a takeaway coffee cup and dream, almost smell and taste a sweet vanilla chai latte. I think I'm having the odd mirage visions too - seeing someone carrying a packet of chocolate bars, only to discover on second look it is a pencil case?!?). 

Toward the end of my first week - when doubts started to arise - I started to think about the cost this lifestyle change might incur.  A trip to the health food store to buy some licorice root tea (savior!), come cacao powder (which has since been shelved until at least week 6) and some Tahini, set me back almost $30. Raising two kids on a 1.25 wage, I started to wonder about the financial viability of this lifestyle.

However, I've since rethought it. 

  • Natural muesli ($4.50 for 750g) traded for homebrand rolled oats ($1.20  for 900g)
  • Weetbix bites for the kids ($5.60) traded for Weetbix ($4.50+last much longer)
  • Pepsi once a week ($2.50) traded for water - free!
  • Sweet treat on each trip to supermarket ($3.00 give or take!) - ching ching - put me in credit! That can go towards my beloved almond spread on rice cakes. :) :) :)
  • Chai latte 2x a week ($4.00 a pop) traded for copious amounts of aforementioned licorice tea, peppermint tea or green tea. Probably equal cost but for about 100 cups. 
  • Sweet meringue pavlova nests (common addition for the family with yoghurt - $4.00) trade for some good quality natural yoghurt for me!
So, with those very rough mental calculations I have successfully banished cost saving as a potential excuse for giving up on this thang.

Here's to less weight, more energy and more cash!

(I've got so much more to tell!!! But I get that blogs should be short and sweet - or not sweet as this case may be. My next post is going to be about some of the emotional changes I've started to notice). Stay tuned.