Results may vary

Results may vary

 

Do you ever see those short little click-baity blogs that are like “What I experienced after quitting sugar will surprise you…”

I do… and I click. I always want to know if I’m experiencing what I should be, if my results are typical. If I summed up a year of no sugar into a five minute article, I’m sure it would end up being quite similar to those that I’ve read.

However, what you tend not to read about are the struggles. I mean, when I’m trying to tell someone what it is like to not eat sugar, I definitely don’t go into a tirade about how horrible it is, I’m sure I’d start losing friends fast.

And it’s not always horrible, I mean it’s not always rose-coloured fairies and unicorn rainbow farts either, but it’s good to push our limits and ourselves.

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about why I haven’t been blogging as much as I wanted to this year. Honestly, it’s because some days are really hard. I don’t want to be a nutritionist, blogging about why everyone should give up sugar so they can be healthy just like me – when actually I’ve been feeling like crap. She told me, that when I’m not feeling great is when I should definitely be blogging, so people can relate. This is a real journey and if I’m honest about what I’m going through, more people will, hopefully, feel empowered to push through and make positive changes in their lives. Even though it’s hard it is definitely worth it to live a healthier life.

It’s not easy changing the way you eat, you’re normal for feeling crazy sometimes, you’re normal for falling back on other bad habits, you’re normal for wanting to sneak into a dark alley with a peanut butter cup, orrr is that one just me?

You just have to remember that even if you give in to temptation, you’re normal and you don’t have to give up. Each new meal is an opportunity to do better. I know that sounds super lame and cliché, but whatfoodiesfeed-com_choosing-from-menu1ever, it’s totally true.

Just because you tossed your sad-sack lunch and went out with your co-workers for dirty burgers, doesn’t mean you are a bad person. It also doesn’t mean the day, week, month, year, or lifetime is ruined. You can go home and make yourself a sexy fresh salad at home, or take an extra scoop of veggies at supper. Life goes on and it’s too friggen short to worry about being perfect.

 

I still feel little crazy, okay a lot crazy some days. But other days I feel like I got this. That might not be the sugar, that might just be life. Results may or may not be typical, but they are definitely outside my comfort zone and that is where we grow.

My 100% favourite and the best thing about giving up sugar, is being an inspiration to those around me to give up their bad habits too. I love when my mom tells me she’s been reading labels at the grocery store. I am my sister’s number one cheerleader when she told me she is giving up sugar too. I beam with pride when my hubby tells me he was going to sneak some donuts on his way home from work, but he decided he’d feel better if he didn’t. Probably one of the best ways to help someone you love change their eating habits, is to be an example for them to follow.

#Mealprepmondays: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

#Mealprepmondays: Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Make life a little easier for yourself with some #mealprep

img_20170130_174117_503To stay on top of my no sugar game, I need to be more diligent in my planning and meal preppin’. Every Monday my Mom and I get together and make meals for the week. I’ve been noticing that my meal prep photos get the most social media love, so I figured I would explain my process a bit in hopes to inspire you to do a little (or a lot) of prep at home.

I always see those people that make themselves a week worth of chicken and broccoli, salmon and broccoli, broccoli and broccoli – kudos to them! However, I would go crazy eating the same thing nearly every day for a week. If you hadn’t noticed already, I love food. I love trying new things and experimenting with recipes. So my meal prep might be a little more involved than others, but I think the little extra planning involved is worth it, so I’m not dreading my meals or choking down dry chicken breast and broccoli every night (sorry broccoli, I have nothing against you).

Meal Preppin’

Throughout the week I pick up inspiration from my favourite foodies on Instagram and take mental notes and screenshots of recipes I want to try. By the weekend I make a quick list of what I want to eat that week, typically with one new recipe to try out or a favourite20170130_162634 meal we haven’t had in a while. This week I went for an old favourite: unstuffed cabbage rolls. I don’t really have the patience to make cabbage rolls, so this one is more of a – throw it all in the pot and enjoy the magic that comes out at the end – kind of recipe.

This week we also made a mixed veggie stir fry, with cauliflower rice for me and quinoa for my parents. I’ve been adding more spices as the stir fry meat cooks or adding coconut oil to the rice. It gives enough flavour that I don’t have to add any sauces, most of which are full of sugar anyways! We also did a paleo sloppy joe mix with turkey and sweet potatoes; kale, roasted beets and broccoli sprout salad; and I made my mom and brother some protein granola bars. We always portion out the meals so we can quickly grab suppers and lunches throughout the week!

Super Simple Recipe

I’ve had a few people ask me for the unstuffed cabbage roll recipe. If you google it you can find tons of different recipes with slight variations, some a little more stew-like and some a little thicker. This dish is great because you can go super simple or add in spices and herbs to suit your taste buds.20170201_192048

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can of tomato sauce 8oz (be sure to double check the ingredients for sugar)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes 16 oz
  • ½ – 1 whole cabbage depending on size
    Optional Ingredients
  • Bay leaf
  • Wakame (it’s seaweed, you don’t taste it, but it adds a healthy burst of awesomeness to any soup)
  • Mushrooms
  • Any other spices you like – I’m not the boss

Cook the beef in a large pot over medium heat along with the onion and garlic. Chop up your cabbage and throw it in along with the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and any spices/extras you want to add. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a bit, stirring occasionally. Simple stuff.

I like to serve it on a bed of rice or cauliflower rice. This week I cooked up some cauliflower rice (which is actually just shredded cauliflower) in a frying pan with a lot of coconut oil, turmeric, and black ground pepper. The oil and pepper help our bodies use the turmeric to its full anti-inflammatory potential, and it tastes super yummy.

This is such a warm and filling meal, perfect for these cold winter days!

Taking these few hours a week to prepare some meals helps me to hold it together during the week. I’m not even cooking a whole weeks worth of meals. Just a few to get me through those busy nights. If you can’t spare a few hours in one day, you can always pick out a few things to prepare the night before: c20170130_163427hop up extra veggies to keep in the fridge; roast up a big batch of potatoes and veggies;
make the sauce for your pasta the night before. Every little bit helps. Even if your meal prep is just making lunch for work the next day, you are ahead of the game! Be sure to pat yourself on the back as you enjoy your healthy lunch instead of scrambling to beat the line-ups at the closest fast food joint!

Stay awesome friends!

2016 Wrap-up

How’s the ‘no sugar thing’ going?

Over the holidays I was asked a million times how the ‘no sugar thing’ was going – which was actually a nice break from the usual ‘when are you having kids’ interrogation. However, I found it a hard question to answer. Maybe because the last month I’ve just been taking it meal by meal and not really stopping to think about things. I haven’t even written you guys a good blog in a while!

My typical answer is “good – hard, but good.” Which is true. It has been good and I’ve been learning a lot about my food choices and how they affect my body. For example, my recent reliance on plain kettle potato chips as a comfort food has been wreaking havoc on my skin. On days that I eat as many vegetables as possible, I have crazy awesome energy and my mood improves greatly! After stringing together a few days of eating as many vegetables as I can, I start dropping weight effortlessly. When I have a bad day – or week and decide that nachos for supper is about all I can muster, I bloat up like crazy and well, they say everybody poops… but I don’t after all that cheese.

I’ve actually been a little shocked about how much my mood influences my food choices. The nights when I would love to just order a pizza and eat my feelings have probably been the hardest. What the heck do I do with all these feelings if I can’t just eat them into submission?? Sometimes I just sulk or live in a moody fog of anger for a couple of days until I get over myself. Other days I reach out to friends, family and my husband and actually let them know how I’m feeling. This has been incredible, seriously. I am not an overly open person and this whole ‘no sugar thing’ is forcing me to be more open and turn to those that I love for advice and to be my sounding board. I can’t even tell you how much pressure it takes off hearing someone say, “I understand.” My other go-to for those rough days is to hit the gym. It’s definitely harder to get there on bad days, but the payoff is totally worth the effort. Working out boosts those feel good hormones and makes me want to eat more veggies – it’s a win-win!

So do you feel better?

Yes and no. I feel absolutely amazing that I can turn down chocolate or dessert and not feel sad about it anymore. The first month or two were really hard for this and to be honest Christmas was little bit harder than the regular day to day. But it feels so empowering to say no and actually mean it.

Quitting sugar didn’t magically change my life and everything is not suddenly perfect. To be honest, a little part of me hoped that would happen. After learning about how ‘evil’ sugar is, I created a bit of an illusion for myself that giving it up would be the solution to all my problems. I would lose tons of weight, become super happy all the time and skip around merrily all day long. There are good days, but there are still bad days. Skipping the sugar has definitely made it easier to eat healthy, but there are ways to eat around sugar and still not fuel my body in good ways. It reminds me of someone I once knew that was a vegetarian who seemed to only eat cheese pizza and candy. Eliminating a food, whether it’s sugar, meat, carbs, dairy, or whatever else people are avoiding these days, doesn’t automatically make you healthy. You have to replace what you’ve taken out with nutrient dense healthy foods. And just as importantly, you have to work on the mental and emotional aspects that drive your behaviour.

‘No sugar 2016’ has been full of surprises and life lessons so far and I’m anticipating many more in 2017.

Yours in awesomeness,
Susan

Sugar-free Halloween!

Sugar-free Halloween!

Spooky pumpkins

Happy Halloween to those of you that take part in Halloween and Happy Monday to those of you that don’t!

There is nothing spookier than spending Halloween without my good ol’ pal sugar. I seriously feel like I am being haunted by sugar! Every store I go into has a bucket of free candy by the till – including the city building when I paid my taxes, grocery stores are full of candy displays, even on the radio – hosts have been discussing the best candy for the past two weeks, this morning on my way home from the gym, the radio hosts were eating candy while doing the morning show. Maybe it’s a good thing listening to people eat grosses me out, although I did still feel that little pinch of sadness that comes when I remember I’m not eating sugar.

Today I want to share with you today a little recipe for sugar free “turtles” that are helping me through this day! As of today I have been  sugar free for two months and although there have been some really difficult moments, overall it’s going quite well! I’ve managed to get through camping, thanksgiving, and my birthday without sugar – but come on – Halloween? It’s practically a day made for sugar!

A few tactics that have been helping me forget about the white beast:

Not having it in the house.

We are actually not handing out candy this year, partially because I don’t want a box of the most tempting chocolates ever laying around the house, but also because I think kids will be getting enough sweet treats tonight. Instead we are giving out play dough! We were able to find a pack of mini play dough at costco which was similar in price to all the candy treats. Last year we handed out chocolates and play dough and the kids were just as happy, so hopefully this year the play dough alone goes over well!

Just say no.20161030_190617

My husband and I opted to have a quiet night in instead of partaking in the costume parties this weekend. I had a busy week leading up to the weekend, so it was a very welcome, relaxing weekend of scary movies, carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds! I’m not saying to give up sugar you have to forgo fun social events, but at this particular time – for me – it felt like the right thing to do. I get the most cravings when I am stressed and I often have a hard time saying no to anyone or anything, so I’ve been practicing my no’s and letting myself enjoy a bit of downtime. This is helping to lower my stress as well as avoiding sugary drinks and party treats!

Making my own treats!

I want to share this little recipe with you, it’s super yummy and will help me to feel not so left out when my hubby indulges a little tonight on his Halloween goodies. You may have seen my Instagram post recently of my snack of dates and pecans. This is taking it one step up and drizzling it with chocolate!20161031_103815

You’ll need:
6 Cupcake liners
6 Medjool dates
12-18 Pecan halves
3-4 Tablespoons of coconut oil
1 Tablespoon of vanilla
Raw cocao powder
Sprinkle of salt

To make:
Cut the dates in half and remove the pits. Place them sticky side up in the cupcake liners, one date per liner. Put two or three pecan halves on top of the dates.

To prepare the chocolate, scoop the coconut into a saucepan on medium-low heat and add in the vanilla. Stir until the oil has melted completely and is just liquid. The amount of cocao you use is up to you, start with a tablespoon of and stir in until smooth. You can taste test here and add until it suits your taste buds. Cocao has a very strong taste, since I love it, I put in a little more than you might if you are new to it. Note: if you add too much cocao, just add in a little more oil to dilute.

Once you have found a happy balance for your chocolate sauce and it is smooth, pour the sauce over the dates and pecans. Sprinkle with a touch of salt on each one as you go. Pop them in the freezer until they have firmed up and they are good to go!

I recommend keeping them in the freezer as the chocolate will tend to want to go back to a more liquid state if left out too long at room temperature (depending of course on how cold you keep your house).

These bad boys are a perfect combination of crunchy, chewy, chocolatey and salty. They are doing a great job of keeping me distracted from the ghost of Halloween sugar!

Yours in health,
Susan

Stress 101

Stress 101

I always knew I was an emotional eater, but it wasn’t until I gave up sugar did I understand the full extent of it:

Had a bad day at work – come home eat chips, drink wine
Feeling moody – eat chocolate
Wanting a night in – eat chips and ice cream
Having a good day – buy treats from the bulk barn
It’s Tuesday – margaritas
It’s Wednesday – latte and a cookie
Tired from a long day – order a pizza
Grass is green…. You get the idea.

As you can see, sugar played a large role in how I dealt with stress. I was allowing myself to use my feelings as an excuse to eat foods that I KNOW would make me feel worse. I’ve hadfoodiesfeed-com_gelato-al-pistacchio to kick a lot of old habits to the curb and focus on dealing with my emotions more responsibly this last month and a half.

I actually hate admitting all this, which is why I was putting off writing this blog. I would rather believe and have you believe that I eat what I should eat, when I should eat it, and that I love and dream about kale every night – isn’t that what nutritionists do? I’ll let you all in on a little secret though, I am still a work in progress. I’m not perfect and that is okay – nobody is.

I do however,  commit myself to constant improvement. This year of no sugar is all about finding ways that I can improve my life. As a holistic nutritionist, I am aware that we are complex creatures and there is more to optimal health than what’s on our plates. Part of this complexity is our body’s reaction to stress. I have trained myself throughout my life, to react to stress by shutting down and turning to food for comfort. I tend to isolate myself and let the worry and anxiety build up inside, setting myself up for a losing battle. After a quick look at the mechanics of stress, I’ll talk about some of the methods I’ve been using to deal with my stress since quitting sugar.

First off let’s take a quick look at the actual physiological changes in our bodies that occur when we are feeling stressed. You may have heard of the “flight or fight” response. We evolved this response as a survival mechanism so we can react quickly to any threatening situations.

When we encounter a stressful event, our brain sends out a distress signal which activates our sympathetic nervous system by sending signals to our adrenal glands. These glands that sit atop our kidneys jump into gear and send out epinephrine, better known as adrenaline, into the bloodstream. This surge of adrenaline causes our heart to beat faster to get more blood to the muscles, our pulse and blood pressure goes up. We start to breathe faster and airways in our lungs open up a little more so we can take in more oxygen, which then gets sent to our brain to increase alertness. Adrenaline also triggers the release of blood sugar and fats from storage in our body, this supplies extra energy to all parts of our body. All of this happens before our brain can even fully process what is going on. If we continue to perceive stress, a second system jumps into place to help us maintain. Our brains, pituitary gland and adrenal glands communicate to release cortisol. This keeps us on high alert. When the stress has finally passed, our parasympathic nervous system will dampen the stress response and get us back into a state of “rest and digest.”

This all sounds really cool, why wouldn’t we want to remain at this super human level of alertness at all times? Unfortunately, prolonged levels of stress and elevated adrenaline can damage our blood vessels and arteries and elevated cortisol contributes to the buildup of fat tissue and leads to weight gain.

Think of it this way – our fight or flight response disrupts any non-essential body functions. Digesting your lunch becomes unimportant if you trying to outrun a bull. However, our bodies can’t really distinguish between running from a bull and running from deadlines, traffic, or your boss. Many of us these days find ourselves in a constant state of low grade stress and because of this we are put ourselves at risk of health problems: depression, anxiety, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain, and of course problems with digestion.

With all of this in mind, I have committed myself to deal with stress in a more appropriate way. What does this mean? First off, prevention is key. So avoiding any unnecessary stressful situations and finding activities that help to build me up. Apologies to anyone whose parties I’ve been missing so far this year, but I’ve been trying to fill my time with things like book club, a new bootcamp at the gym, swimming, hikes with my family, reconnecting with friends at cool new restaurants and even just keeping on top of chores and renovations going on at the house. These things help to ease stress instead of adding to it.

I’ve been working on a bit of momentum of “just do it” since September and it has actually been helping! If there is something looming in the back of my mind, I tend to worry about it and if I don’t really want to do it, I put it off and continue to worry about it. The first thing I’ve been doing when I get to work in the morning, or sometimes before I leave at night, is to make a quick to do list of all the things I want or need to get done that day. I can then do a quick scan and see what is most important and work on those tasks first. Also crossing things off on that list makes me feel awesome!

Physical activity is an amazing way to deal with stress. I posted a question on my Facebook page about how you all deal with stress and most, if not all the responses, related to moving! Going for walks, hitting the gym, yoga or stretching, these are all amazing ways to help our bodies calm down. There is always something about going for a nice long walk that makes you forget about your problems and breath a little deeper.

Meditation is another way I’ve been trying to quiet my anxious thoughts. I’ve been going through the free first 10 series on the Headspace app and I’ve been loving it. It’s only 10 minutes per session, but it helps me to chill out and focus on the present.

Being prepared. When I take the extra time to plan out meals for the week and pre-make someDeath_to_stock_photography_farm_8 side dishes or even a few meals on a Sunday, supper becomes much more enjoyable and gives me more time at night to go for a walk or do some yoga. Also packing up my gym bag and making sure lunches are packed before bed allows me to have a much calmer morning. Nothing is worse than starting off the day rushing around like a giant stressball.

Just doing things you like. It seems like we deprive ourselves of enjoyable hobbies, like painting, reading, knitting, woodworking, birdwatching, drawing, etc. Whatever it is that floats your boat, allow yourself to work on it a few times a week.

Watch what you eat. Some foods can aggravate your stress and some can help to alleviate it. I’ve had to cut back my coffee intake to one a day at the most and try to go without a few times a week. Although I love it, it is far too stimulating for me and I can warm myself up with a nice cup of tea instead. Foods like: dark chocolate (yay), leafy greens, turkey, organ meats, asparagus, and chamomile can help our bodies deal with stress. To avoid this post becoming more of a novel. I will leave you with this link which talks about more foods that can help ease anxiety: Mindbodygreen

Thanks for reading, stay awesome!
Susan