I have recently been very drawn towards this sweet subject and have felt compelled to share my sugar secrets with you. For years I haven’t been comfortable with my relationship with sugar as I felt it had a controlling hold over me. I also felt that I was the only one in the world that felt like this and it was completely unacceptable that someone who was working in the health industry could have an issue with it! So today I thought I would share my sugar story with you and the fact that I can comfortably be in the company of a large piece of chocolate cake without the need to demolish it in less than 60 seconds!
When I first started to learn/obsess about healthy eating I had just moved country from the UK to France and I was inspired to educate myself on health as my son (aged 1 at the time) stopped eating EVERYTHING (he had a white junk food vegetarian diet of just 5 foods!). After a few months of tears and tantrums (all mine) I discovered he would drink fresh juices which were loaded with ginger – so clearly not a taste issue with him. I rolled with this breakthrough and purchased a juicer, vitamix and heaps of books on healthy eating, clean eating, plant based eating etc. I also began to study nutrition from home as I felt motivated and inspired to make a change for myself and family and soon began creating delicious recipes which were super healthy and incorporated a wealth of organic, fresh and local foods boosted with superfoods. It was really fun and I felt I found my passion and path for something I could mould into a career.
Sounds like the perfect story doesn’t it? However all this knowledge I was absorbing was actually having a negative effect on my health as I started to develop fears of food groups and began eliminating them which included: gluten, refined sugar, diary, and meat. The books I was reading were really advocating a plant based diet which promised boundless energy, radiant glowing skin and of course a gorgeous bikini body, but to gain this all the “bad” food groups had to go. I was not a very fun dinner date!
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against a plant based diet I can see obviously see all of the benefits BUT I think it has to be approached mindfully with body awareness and a good understanding about macronutrient balance in order for it to work for you. Also a plant based diet doesn’t work for everyone, for example if you are an O blood type the likely hood is that you won’t do well on a plant based diet (O is the oldest and first evolved blood type when we ate a meat based hunter gather diet) whereas when we evolved to the A blood type we were eating an agricultural based diet off the land and these people will generally tolerate and thrive on a plant based diet.
The approach I took was completely obsessive and not at all healthy. Going out for dinner was a nightmare as I would feel limited by the menu and order a salad or fish with vegetables. At home I was eating a vegan and nearly raw diet, I was drinking lots of fresh juices and smoothies and making “healthy” sweet treats to compensate for all the other food groups I had eliminated. I honestly thought I had a health diet as I was living by the books I had read, however I felt dreadful ALL the time, I had acne, mood swings, constant sugar cravings, constant brain fog, low energy and my digestion was awful. I soon felt cheated by all the claims these books had promised.
One of the worst thing I remember about this time was the sugar cravings as they would sweep over me in the afternoon and pull me into a downwards spiral where I would feel completely trapped. I would (in my opinion) eat healthily all day, (I realise I was completely nutrient depleted so there was no wonder I was reaching for sugar later in the day) and by 4 o’clock I would crack and the sugar demons would take over. I would binge on sugar which at best could be dried fruit, dates, homemade granola or at worst any left over party bag sweets, I would feel like it would never stop and there was no satisfying it. I would then exercise fanatically to make up for the sugar binge – surely if I could sweat out the toxins or run fast enough I would be able to run away from the problem. I felt as if I was on a hamster wheel and couldn’t get off and was tormenting myself with guilt and failure on a daily basis.
Eventually I burnt out from Adrenal Fatigue as the lifestyle I was leading was not sustainable or healthy. Thankfully I found a more holistic approach whereby I re-educated myself and developed a healthier relationship to food, slowly introduced all the restricted food groups and change the core belief systems I was living by. I studied with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach, which taught that health extends beyond the plate, I learnt about over 100 new diets and that one mans food is another mans poison, I learnt to tune into myself more, be kinder to myself and to find my individual blueprint of what is right for ME. I then wanted to go deeper as felt that I still had more to learn so I studied with Institute of Eating Psychology to really go beneath the issues I had, I learnt how to nourishing myself on all levels, listen to myself and soon enough the void I was trying to fill with sugar slowly started to fade away.
I kept this dirty secret to myself for years as well as I felt that I would be a failure if I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching 100% and portray the model diet (perfectionist issues). I also felt very pressured when I was out and would eat a cup cake at a kids party or pinch a piece of pizza at the beach people would approach me and say “is that healthy?” or “is that a real sugar cup cake” and of course this would trigger the perfectionist in me and make me feel guilty and like I had failed again (our sensitivities to what others say aren’t necessarily a criticism but more of a mirror which highlight our issues)
Here are some tips today to start letting go of your sugar demons:
- Identify the problem
Be brutally honest with yourself and start to really notice the amount of sugar you are eating. Take note of all the hidden sugar you are eating too such as the ketchup and ready made sauces or yoghurts or maybe you are making “healthy” foods such as delicious date balls but eating half the batch. Get comfortable with whatever you have got going on in your life. If you feel lonely, stressed, tired, depressed then maybe sugar is your escape or your friend. Again – get honest here.
2) Be kind to yourself
This is actually harder than it seems, but you need to start to notice your thoughts of self attack (the voice that scolds you if you ate something you shouldn’t have done or that you will get fat for eating forbidden foods, or that you are a failure), then start to turn them around with love and compassion. When you notice yourself in a moment of attack, stop the thought and replace it with something loving and kind, it can take some practice but is hugely beneficial. If you allow it, your worst enemy will be yourself.
3) Eat properly
Eat a balanced diet, eat at regular meals times, eat slowly and most importantly allow ALL foods to be part of your diet. When you live without restrictions you will not crave foods that you are not allowed, you will regain control over yourself and the food you eat. Can you imagine how freeing it would feel if you were allowed to eat anything you wanted?
4) Mindfulness finds the source
Notice yourself around sugar and how your life situations and feelings are feeding into your cravings. I realised if I skipped a meal then I would crave sugar or if I was over emotional/hormonal then again I would crave it more and if I was over tired then yep, I would want it more. Being mindful and tuning into yourself allows you to see the bigger picture which opens you to more self-compassion and kindness.
5) Let go of the perfectionist
The perfectionist within us all will always try to drag us down so learn how to beat it by being OK with not being perfect and allowing yourself to have a bad day or two.
Low level stress triggers your body to store fat so by constantly worrying about the food you are eating you are keeping your body in a permanent state of low level stress which is diminishing your calorie burning and nutrient absorption and shutting down your digestive system so give yourself a break, enjoy life, enjoy food.
It has taken time and patience to rewire my belief systems but we are not born with our in-perfections, we learn them and anything that is learnt can equally be unlearnt, how empowering is that?
About 2 years into my healing journey I created my I AM Lean blend which was aimed at weight loss however actually exceeded my expectations as the magic bag of greens has a number of sugar stabilising and balancing superfoods and adaptogens which successfully stop sugar cravings, this has really helped me to break the physical addiction that sugar has had over me. I used to eat sugar every day but now days go past when I don’t eat it at all or even think about it, it has changed my taste buds too as I can’t tolerate much sugar these days and most of the time can’t finish a cup cake. But don’t get me wrong I still have bad days or even weeks but in comparisons to where I was I am still very much in control and I am OK with the bad days as I can relate them to something that is going on in my life and reflect with loving kindness and compassion.
There are no magic pills or quick fixes and no-one else has the answers (and they certainly aren’t in the bottom of the bag of m&m’s), I learnt the hard way that I had to take responsibility, show up, get honest and do the work.
I don’t have a perfect diet, far from it but I am well on my way to feeling much better than I did before. I have the best diet now which works for me and includes pizza and ice-cream if I want it. My acne has cleared up, my mood is better (most of the time!) and my digestion is 90% improved, my energy levels are still low but I have a lot going on in my life so that is to be expected and still work in progress!!
Whatever you have got going on in your life, you are not alone. If you feel you need some guidance or support you can contact me to find out how I can help you.