Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolution Schmesolution

Have you made a New Years Resolution? 


I think there is a danger to committing to start something on a particular day of the year. A particular day of the year that will come around again in 12 months time. You resolve to do/change/stop something today, you may lapse within a week and then you resolve to try again next year.

Even Quit (...Smoking Victoria) suggests holding off from quitting the fags until mid January. They say that quitting on New Years Day is one of the hardest times to do so because of the events that surround the season and that if one fails they will lack motivation to try again. They emphasise the importance of planning how to make the change, how to manage with cravings and how to cope with lapses.

Likewise I advise against having an "end date" for your resolution.

Working in the fitness industry, I see a lot of people aiming to lose weight for a particular occasion. I once had a client who said to me "I'm getting married in 6 months and I DON'T want to look like this." I nodded my head politely and told her I would help, but in my mind  (as harsh as it sounds) I was thinking  you shouldn't want to look like this at all. She was unhealthy and unfit. Her wedding shouldn't have been the catalyst for her losing weight. Her quality of life should be. And as it happened she dropped a few kilograms for the wedding and within weeks it was back on.

So if quitting sugar is on your agenda for 2012. Go for it! (I can't recommend it highly enough). But don't quit it today.  Instead, just start thinking about doing it. Start looking in your pantry at the things that you may need to eliminate. Start thinking about the times that you will find the most challenging and how you might handle them. Start investing in some cookbooks, recipes or seeking out some helpful websites that suggest alternative foods. And then when you feel ready, start.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

I was cured for Christmas

At Christmas tables all around the world many a folk, lean back, maybe unbutton their strides, rub their bloated bellies and exclaim how full they are. In the past that has been me too - but I was always lying. 

I very rarely get that feeling of fullness, of extreme over-indulgence. It's possible that after years of conditioning myself, I'd successfully reached a point where I could always eat  "just a little bit more". And a little bit more. Usually after Christmas lunch, I continue picking at the nibblies still on the table, I have another cup of punch, I contemplate opening the box of chocolates that "Santa" gave me.

But Christmas 2011 was different. After our delightful and traditional Christmas lunch I was genuinely full. Even erring on the side of nauseous. 

I'd relaxed, maybe a little too much, on the sugar free stakes. As I mentioned in my previous post I intended to allow in some sugar filled treats for the festive season. I avoided (easily) soft drinks and sauces, but couldn't hold back when the plum pudding and struesel cake came out. And that is what I paid for. I was bloated, I felt ill. I was craving some herbal tea to settle it all down.

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And that's the point of difference. That is how I know I was cured for Christmas, because rather than going on to crave desserts, lollies and fizzy drinks, it was my sugar free foods that I longed for. I was craving my lunch time salads, chia seeds and coconut oil.  It's ironic that these have become my comfort foods. 

So, in sugar-free terms, I wasn't great at Christmas. But I wasn't nearly as bad as I have been in the past. But I've left it behind. It was Christmas. It was indulgent. It was abundant. And I have a healthy 2012 to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A sugar quitters Christmas

So it's Christmas time. And what do we all associate with Christmas? Aside from the presents and the delight of children's wondrous eyes, the day season is usually filled with lollies, puddings, desserts, dressings, sweet drinks, champagne.... the list goes on. It's a sugar quitters worst nightmare.

My family and I have hired a house down the coast and will enjoy Christmas Day together, plus a few extra days to relax and enjoy each others company. We've divvied up the culinary tasks, so two thirds of what will be served up will be out of my control. And I'm cool with that. In fact I can't even deem my third of the foods sugar free because I don't want to be the Grinch who stole the sugar filled Christmas, so the foods I will be taking will be just the same as another other year - a Raspberry Streusel Cake, some marshmellow imitation  puddings, soft drinks and ciders, a pasta salad drenched in thousand island and mayo dressing and bonbons filled with Lindt choccies.

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So how am I planning to navigate through this sugar filled Christmas maze? It's a question I've been asking myself for a few weeks now. But I'm settled with it. I'm not going to let it freak me out. There will be an abundance of food. Very little of it will be sugar free. However,  I have gone without sugar (or significantly reduced my sugar intake) now for 9 weeks. I've noticed huge changes in my emotional response to things, I'm feeling cleaner, I've lost 3kgs and any sugary foods that I have had hasn't been as enjoyable as it seemed in the past. I feel strong enough to be able to enjoy some sugar filled foods, accept that the days following will be an onslaught of cravings, and be prepared to move on.

I've got a mental list of a few things that I will not touch (eg: soft drink, but I have packed some soda water and Bickford's lime cordial as my treat) and a few things that I'm looking forward to indulging in (aforementioned Lindt balls). 

I've also got myself a copy of Lee Holmes' SuperCharged Foods wrapped up and ready to be opened Christmas morning, as my inspiration for keeping on getting back on the sugar free track. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wholesome foods Pt 2: coconut oil

Last post I talked about the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar. Whilst that makes it's way to my salad every lunch time, there's something that's new to my palate that pops up at almost every meal: Coconut Oil! I'd never tried (in fact, never even heard of) this little pot of wonder until a few weeks ago.

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Coconut makes an appearance in many forms in my diet now. So much so, I am beginning to understand why in Sanskrit the coconut palm (kalpa vriksha) means "tree which gives all that is necessary for living".

I sprinkle coconut flakes* on my yoghurt, shredded coconut* on my oats, I treat myself to coconut water once or twice a week and I use coconut oil for everything from buttering my toast, roasting my vegetables, coating my fish and even moisturising my face.

(*Organic if possible and check ingredients for sugar - I've found many that are loaded with additional sugar.)

The coconut oil is the oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts. It's true it has a high level of saturated fat. But it's a naturally occurring fat, not a trans fat. It's actually been suggested that due to the medium-chain fatty acids, coconut oil may assist in losing weight. These MCFA's are easily digested, go directly to your liver for energy conversion (rather than being stored as fat) and can stimulate the body's metabolism. My online mentor (unbeknowns to her) Sarah Wilson talks more about coconut oil  here.

Aside from the magic of helping with weight loss, coconut oil has a stack of other benefits:
  • Coconut oil is a rich source of fibre, vitamins and minerals
  • It boosts energy
  • It's an antioxidant, therefore boosts the immune system
  • Aids digestion (beneficial for Crohn's and IBS sufferers) 
  • Can provide relief from yeast infections
  • Great moisturiser (time saver... I moisturise, whilst spreading it on my toast!)
  • Helps alleviate skin conditions such as eczema  
  • Conditions hair/controls dandruff
  • Supports and regulate thyroid function (my thyroid is a lazy underactive sort)
  • Helps reduce sign of aging (whoop whoop)
  • Lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Helps regulate blood sugars
  • Put on cuts and wounds to prevent infection
  • Relieves symptoms of urinary tract infections
  • Helps in absorption of calcium and magnesium = stronger bones!
My brand of choice thus far is NuiLife Coconut Oil. It's unrefined (meaning it hasn't undergone any processing, bleaching or deoderising and so it still contains the favourable fatty acid balance - which is the big health benefit of the stuff in the first place). Yep it tastes like coconut, but it's delicious on some multigrain sourdough, it tastes like coconut ice straight up, but when I've cooked with it, the flavour isn't overpowering. 

So here's to the tree that gives all that is necessary for living!

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Wholesome foods Pt 1: Apple Cider Vinegar

    Substantially reducing the amount of sugar in my diet has given me more time and motivation to try new foods. Not to mention my tastebuds seem on high alert and things that may have tasted bland or bitter in the past, now taste KaBoom!

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    Having less sugar does of course make me feel much healthier. But the foods that I am replacing sugar with, also feel much kinder to my body. They're foods that pop up a lot amongst naturopaths and those interested in more wholesome food choices. And these foods really do feel much more wholesome. Certainly, much better than the packaged up stuff we're being engulfed with on our TV's, in our newspapers and on larger than life billboards.  

    Apple Cider Vinegar - although not new to my eating repertoire - is one such food. ACV is made by fermenting apple cider.  During the fermentation process the sugar is broken down by bacteria and yeast into alcohol and then into vinegar. Sounds delicious doesn't it? Well it's not. Not on it's own anyway....

    The benefits of ACV are huge. Home Remedies Web lists the following as some of the positives of adding a little ACV to your diet: 
    • Reduce sinus infections and sore throats
    • Balance high cholesterol
    • Cure skin conditions such as acne
    • Protect against food poisoning
    • Fight allergies in both humans and animals
    • Prevent muscle fatigue after exercise
    • Strengthen the immune system
    • Increase stamina
    • Increase metabolism which promotes weight loss
    • Improve digestion and cure constipation
    • Alleviate symptoms of arthritis and gout
    • Prevents bladder stones and urinary tract infections
    My father in law swigs a little ACV each day. How on earth, I'll never know. My husband and I try to gargle it with the onset of a sore throat. It starts off ok, but the after taste renders you with  tourette type spasms.

    However, served over a garden salad the taste of ACV is somewhat sweet and refreshing (It's a bit like vanilla essence - oh so bad on it's own, but oh so tasty in a cake). I add a tablespoon or so to my lunch time salad each day and love it!

    There's also a recipe on the bottle (I just use Cornwells at the moment, but there is a huge variety of organic brands available too) for a Ginger, Chilli and Cider Chicken which I'll give a whirl one night soon. 

    With all the benefits above, it's worth experimenting with, wouldn't you say?

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Healthy Holidays

    Well, I'm back from my mini break and overall I would call it a sugar free success. I'll admit, it wasn't easy. The combination of being somewhere different, exposed to new foods, having plenty of time on my hands and the freedom of being away from my little ones, made temptation pretty strong. But I did not cave.

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     I can't guarantee however, that it was an entirely sugar free weekend - my friends and I enjoyed some delectable almond dumplings (not a dessert) on my final night there. If those dumplings didn't have sugar in them, then I must get hold of the recipe and dine on them for every meal for the rest of my being. 

    Aside from the Indian, here's how I got by:
    • At the airport, where I'd normally pass my time waiting at the gate with a hot chocolate and a muffin, I opted for a lemongrass and ginger tea. The sense of freedom and rebellion still gripped me and I added a mini-tube of Pringles to my order. The privilege cost me $8.00 and the Pringles weren't that great. I'll just stick with tea next time.
    • On the plane, I used gulps of water to shut up that devilish voice that reminds me I'm tens of thousands of metres above civilisation and I should eat. It should be noted that my neighbouring passenger order a can of Coke and I loathed him instantly.
    • I came clean about sugarfreeness to my hosts. I wasn't going to, in fear it might put undue pressure on them to clean out their pantry and rethink their potential meals plans. But thankfully for me they aren't that organised and I had fair say in what we ate each evening, so I'm glad that I spilled my sugarfree beans. They did however, also enjoy a glass of Coke over dinner. Thankfully I'm in love with them, so I didn't have cause to loathe them as much as my plane-man. (I also justified it to myself that if I had any coke, I'd likely be likely to be zipping around like fly avoid the swatter for 24 hours).
    • Being honest about my sugarfree state also came in handy when, after the aforementioned Indian meal, I halfheartedly suggested we get ice cream. Knowing my new found stance on sugar, they took it as a no-heartedly suggestion and laughed it off.  I was both pleased and disappointed.  
    • I was left to my own devices for breakfasts and lunches. Not wanting to overflow their pantry with leftover sugarfree goodies I generally used what they had in stock. Rye bread toasted with swiss cheese (Who knew swiss cheese was so sweet!) was my breakfast stable and lunch was almost a replica but untoasted and with the addition of turkey.
    • There was one day, sun was shining, I was wandering amongst trendy cafes and outdoor markets. It was mid afternoon and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I was severely craving a milkshake. It was a close call. I grabbed myself a spinach and feta roll for lunch and then went to a swimsuit store and tried on bikinis. Funnily enough, all cravings for milkshake soon dissipated.
    My only other close call was the plane ride home. My ears were killing me, thanks to the flu I'm now in the midst of (and wondering if the change in diet, lack of usual salad and vegies and/or possible sugar intake is to blame?) and a sweet little lass (maybe 8 years old?) next to me offered me a chewy (collective "awww"). I was so tempted since she taken the time to offer. But I politely declined, but was appreciative all the same. 

    This week I move into week 8.

    This week I move into the rest of my life.