One thing I’ve learned on my healthy living journey is that everyone has their own demons – bad habits that take more effort to iron out – and that’s okay. These habits tend to make an appearance during busy periods and times of stress, when it’s more difficult to make mindful choices consistently.
I’ve had a sweet tooth forever… We were almost rationed on sugar as children, I remember going to the Post Office on a Monday after school with my Mum and brother to go and get some penny sweets. And there was never any squash or fizzy drinks in the house, only water, with juice at the weekend.
But somehow that hasn’t stopped me developing a fairly unhealthy relationship with sugary food as an adult. I think nothing of devouring a whole sharing bar of dairy milk, or sneakily munching my way through a sharing bag of Haribo… And my love of baking has a lot to answer for! But enough is enough and I know I have to ditch sugar if I want to take control and get my health back on track, reach a healthy weight and finally feel happy in my own skin.
So now that the craziness of Ironman is over, I’m going to limit the amount of sugar in my diet, not cut it out completely because I’ve tried that before and it’s never worked, but instead I am going to make mindful choices when it comes to treats and convenience.
Unfortunately for me, balance is much easier to write about than it is to achieve!
Sugar is one of my demons. On a day-to-day basis, I’m pretty good at keeping my sweet tooth in check simply by making conscious choices about the food I’m eating. Although these good intentions only seem to last whilst I’m at work, as soon as I get home it’s as if every rule and bit of willpower goes out of the window! As a result, my blood sugar and cravings are all over the place!
So I’ve come to the conclusion that September is all about getting back to basics with my nutrition, as well as my exercise routine and variety.
A huge part of that is going to be controlling my sweet tooth. And to do that, I’m going to try and use some of the following ideas…
1. GO NATURAL
When I first started thinking more seriously about my sugar intake back in May I went 10 days completely sugar free, including fruit… Which in hindsight isn’t very sensible as fruit is packed full of amazing nutrients you’ll lose out on if you cut sugar out altogether. Plus, it is absolutely delicious – so you’ll feel like you’re having a treat, whilst still putting loads of good stuff into your body. I just need to train my brain to acknowledge that fruit is as good as a bar of chocolate in satisfying my cravings!
I’ve invested in a couple of recipe books, including ‘Deliciously Ella’ and ‘Love, Bake, Nourish’ which both have slightly healthier baking recipes… Although with these ‘healthy’ alternatives they often use honey or maple syrup in place of refined sugar… Fine, but in small quantities!
2. FILL IT OUT
Instead of eliminating certain items from my diet (apart from gluten obviously), I’m going to focus on packing it full of good stuff. In doing this, I’m going to focus on making space for even more healthy food.
Preparing snacks is essential for me for when the 11am sugar cravings hit.
3. SET REALISTIC GOALS
My physio training, and endurance sport background has taught me that realistic goals are so important. And why should it be any different when it comes to diet? And I also need to remember that a change isn’t going to happen overnight, I put alot of pressure on myself and I’m extremely impatient, always wanting to see results straight away which will only really lead to disappointment.
Instead, I am going to aim to make smaller changes over the course of a few weeks.
4. CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
Mindset is everything, and subtle shifts make a huge difference. I really need to move away from my “reward mindset” – I’m a huge emotional eater, and I often find myself justifying a sugar binge with thoughts like, “I deserve it” or “I’ve been so good with my diet lately, this is my reward“, especially on a day when I’ve done alot of training.
Although let’s be honest, everyone deserves cake – as far as I’m concerned, that’s a fact of life 🙂 However, we’re people – not dogs, so we shouldn’t need to reward ourselves with food. I need to find something else to find to replace the ‘reward’, like a nice bath or taking the time to read a chapter of a book… Something that’s not food related that I don’t really get the chance to do very often.
5. DRINK MORE WATER
I already drink looooads of water, but the body tends to misinterpret dehydration for sugar cravings, so it’s really important to be drinking plenty of water while trying to ditch the sugar. I’m never without a sports bottle filled with water 🙂 and I’m lucky I guess in that I don’t like squash so am happy to drink plain water straight out the tap!
6. EAT MORE PROTEIN
I’ve been using MyFitnessPal on and off for the last couple of months and it always amazes me how far off my macros I am, especially protein. Which is silly when you consider how much training I do… Protein is so essential for muscle repair and recovery.
I don’t really like protein shakes which doesn’t help, and I’m not hugely keen on milk either so I really need to work hard to get my protein fill. We always eat meat or fish for dinner, but I’ll more often that not just have a salad or something veggie for lunch and rarely have eggs for breakfast in the week.
One really important thing I need to remember is that when your blood sugar levels aren’t stable, you’re more likely to crave sweet food and protein has been found to stabilise blood sugar levels, so is essential if you want to ditch sugar cravings for good. It also regulates hormones associated with hunger and satiety (feeling full).
In other words, including more protein can help you eat less sugar – without really trying! I really need to make sure I include a serving with each meal, as well as working protein sources into your snacks. And I might need to experiment with a few different brands of protein shake for a quick protein replacement after a training session!
7. TREAT YOURSELF
It doesn’t matter what your goals are, going cold turkey has little benefit to your health, weight-loss, or fitness. In fact, if you attempt to cut out all sources of sugar, you’re more likely to binge, which will put you back where you started physiologically, and make you feel pretty rubbish too.
This has happened to me oh so many times, I’m totally one of those ‘I’m going on a diet’ girls, only for it to last less than a week (at a push!) and then be back at square one, disappointed and still feeling fat!
I think I am going to stick to the 80:20 concept… Being good 80% of the time and making sensible and healthy choices, but 20% of the time allow myself some ‘naughty’ foods… Be it some pizza or a burger etc. I’m no angel, I know trying to be super healthy all the time just won’t work!
8. KEEP A FOOD DIARY
I have been using MyFitnessPal on and off for the last few months and it is really interesting as it makes you think a lot more about what you are putting in your body. My only problem is I tend to be really good during the day at work and then as soon as I get home I give up, and once I’ve had a bit of a binge I don’t feel like putting it in the diary as I don’t want to know the damage! It’s a bit what I’m like with checking my bank account haha.
I am going to stick to using MFP, it’s a great tool and I definitely saw a change in my weight and body while I was using it religiously.
9. BE PREPARED
It’s such a cliché, but it’s true: fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
I’m going to aim to try and plan a week’s worth of meals each weekend and do a food shop accordingly. This should help save money on food, as well as letting me be a little more adventurous with my food and recipes!
10. GET LABEL SAVVY
I’m so used to looking at a label and just reading the calorie content… I need to be a little more thorough especially if I’m buying pre-packaged foods and need to try and follow these points:
- Check ingredients AND quantities. As well as checking the list of ingredients, check the quantities too – some items may contain added sugar, but in minuscule amounts. Anything less than 5g per 100g is considered low in sugar.
- Reduced sugar versions aren’t always healthier. Many contain artificial sweeteners or chemical additives to make food taste better in the absence of sugar. Be wary of anything that contains ingredients like sucralose, acesulfame potassium or aspartame.
- Get familiar with the terminology. On food packaging, all of these words (and more!) mean sugar: fructose, sucrose, glucose, glucose syrup, maple syrup, inverted sugar, dextrose, maltose, corn syrup, maltodextrin, saccharose, xylose.
So hopefully these rules and guidelines will help me to try and reduce my sugar intake and find a healthier, slimmer, lighter me!
Starting on Tuesday 1st September I am going to weigh in daily, take some progress photos and start my journey to Ironman number two. As well as swim, bike, run training I am going to endeavor to do at least two 30 minute sessions of yoga and stretching, as well as starting Kayla Itsines BBG high intensity circuit… Six pack abs I’m coming for ya!
There’s a bit of a way to go…
I’m aiming to lose at least 5kg, ideally by Christmas and hopefully this should help my run speed, so if that’s not encouragement then I don’t know what is! Thanks for reading,
A determined triathlete x