If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you may have noticed that I’ve recently started The Fresh Life January Challenge facilitated by Alexa Freeman. 31 days to kick start a healthier lifestyle and reduce sugar and caffeine cravings. 7 days in and I already feel different.
I thought as a 8-10 cup a day coffee addict, I’d find the caffeine withdrawal unbearable. So I decided to cut down gradually in December, but I’m now happily functioning on one cup a day and lots of herbal teas. In all honesty, I’m not missing it. Sugar though is another matter.
I don’t miss sugar because of some crazy Haribo habit or chocolate cravings, but rather because it’s in everything. Like 80% of packaged foods contain sugar. And labels are sneaky. It might not say ‘sugar’ but when it finally clicks that anything ending in ‘ose’ actually means sugar… it’s slightly insane. I know there’s natural sugars in fruit etc – I’m not at war with that – I’m talking about that white processed stuff in cakes, ice-creams, jams, pasta sauces, cereals (you get the idea!).
Although the recommended intake for any adult is 7 teaspoons, even when I just added up the sugar in my tea – I knew I was way over the that amount. I also knew how dependent I had become on sugar for ‘energy’; any time I felt slumped my instinct was just to drink more tea or to grab a chocolate bar. In short, it really was becoming unhealthy.
After some health problems over the last couple of months – particularly relating to my liver function I’ve been reading a lot about the effects of different foods on our bodies. We’re so keen to count calories but don’t really take into account how our body deals with the different types of calories we consume. The prime example was my Dad – when introduced to the old Weight Watchers Points system he was delighted to find that a glass of wine was worth the same amount of points as a pot of yoghurt. Wine was soon nicknamed ‘Australian Yoghurt’ as he worked out how to include as much as he could in his allowance. He utterly failed to take into account the different in nutrition.
Sugar is perfectly designed to hook us in, looks pretty and let’s be honest, tastes delicious. But in reality, there really is nothing to love about refined sugar. It makes us put on weight, increases the size of our liver, ages us inside and out and is as addictive as heroin!
That’s all good and well but you wouldn’t expect a drug user to just quit without support and help. Which is why I’m delighted to have the support of Alexa and the other participants in The Fresh Life Challenge. As part of the challenge, Alexa has shared a load of recipes but is also there encouraging us and answering any questions that arise in a private Facebook Group. I’m delighted that the other participants are sharing their own thoughts and experiences too – with lots of tasty looking photos on the go!
So, I’m delighted to share her top three tips to quitting the white stuff:
The Kitchen Detox
The first step that I would always encourage people to do is ‘The Kitchen Detox’. If it’s not there, you simply can’t have it! And to avoid food waste, you could always donate unopened items to a food bank.
So where are the biggest offenders?
White refined sugar
Bad Carbs (white pasta, bread, rice, cereal bars etc)
Cakes, sweets, biscuits, ice-cream
So-called ‘low fat foods’
Any ingredient ending in ‘ose’ (sucrose, glucose, dextrose etc)
So many times I hear ‘But what will my husband or children eat?’ As a mother of three, I originally felt the same but trust me, you are doing them all a favour as what will be left is healthy, nutritious snacks and alternatives that are just as tasty!
Now, I’m not one for spending my Sunday in the kitchen preparing Tupperware boxes for the week. But, I do advise having a plan of what you’re going to eat and have your snacks ready. The time that we are most vulnerable to reach for the cake in your work canteen or grab a bar of chocolate on your way home is when you have not fuelled yourself properly throughout the day. We look for sugar for ‘energy’ but this is not the type of energy that will last or fuel you in any way. It will simply give you a short burst after eating a chocolate bar but about 10 minutes later you will feel even more tired than you were before.
So instead, have some pre-prepared snacks with you such as:
Sliced apple with almond butter
Oatcakes with Hummus
Nuts and berries
Toasted seeds in tamari (toast some seeds in a dry pan and add a splash or 2 of tamari)
Popcorn with cinnamon and coconut sugar
Oat cakes with homemade pesto
Dates with either tahini or almond butter in the middle.
Halloumi and apple (grill some halloumi in a pan and add some chopped apple till the apple softens a bit and then sprinkle some cinnamon on top- it has a wonderful salted caramel flavour!)
Homemade veg crisps (beetroot is great for this as are sweet potatoes)
Power Balls (I share a great recipe in the January Challenge Food Plan)
Good quality sliced chicken (or other meat)
Having a couple of these with you will make such a difference!
Have an alternative ‘treat’!
Now, I’m a little child like in the sense that I work well on rewards so when I first started out I used to mark the days on my diary that I had made positive changes and gone sugar free and I would treat myself every 10 days or so. This might’ve been a new health book, getting my hair done etc, a new pair of jeans (hopefully a size smaller!) But now, I treat myself to some ‘me time’ in the times where I might feel a bit of a slump, where I previously would’ve reached for a sugary treat, I now take 10 minutes to meditate or simply to have a shower, or to write in a journal just to reevaluate my thoughts again.
One final note- There is no pass or fail here! If you do eat something that is perhaps off plan, don’t worry- you have not failed but just pick yourself back up and get straight back to where you were. Do not let this be a chance for you to say ‘Oh well, I’ve failed i’ll just start again tomorrow or on Monday’ This is a ‘diet’ mentality and not one that we use with T H E F R E S H L I F E!
If you’d like to join us on the January challenge – then it’s not too late! Just check out The Fresh Life Facebook page and message Alexa. Challenge’s run monthly so there’s always one you can join – ask yourself a simple question, is there any harm in giving it a go?
P.S. Credit for the photos in the main body of the text goes to Brooke Lark