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

FAQ

FAQ

FAQ. No, that is not a creative spelling of an expletive that describes exactly how I feel when I remember I can’t have pizza… It’s Frequently Asked Questions time! Since I started I’ve been getting tons of questions from friends, family and people interested in cutting back on their own sugar intake. I haven’t spelled out much on the details of my challenge yet, because I jumped right in without overthinking things #justdoit. So here we go!

Are you insane?

Okay, so maybe this is my most FAQ to myself and yes I am a bit of a crazy cat lady, so there is a chance that I’m not right in the head. But – the older I get the more I am noticing the effects of what I eat on my health. Being diagnosed with PCOS was a big kick in the lady balls and I have also been waking up with stiff joints and constantly dealing with injuries at the gym. Despite warnings from other 30-somethings, I didn’t think it would happen to me. I’m a nutritionist, I know better!

Why give up sugar?

Sugar used to be a treat that only the very rich could afford in small quantities, now it has become a staple in nearly everyone’s diet. What effects has this massive influx of sugar had on our society?

In the short term sugar can cause: acne, mood swings, unrestful sleeps, fatigue and susceptibility to colds and flus. In the long term in can cause: cavities and dental disfigurement, depression, cystic acne, PCOS and infertility, insomnia, adrenal fatigue, insulin resistance and diabetes, and studies are even showing that it could lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Sugar causes inflammation (oh, hello stiff joints). Long term inflammation in our bodies can lead to: arthritis, asthma, heart disease, strokes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Sugar is not the only contributor to inflammation, but watching what we eat and drink can go a LONG way in reducing our inflammation and improving our health.

How can some innocent little white powder lead to so much evil in our bodies? Consider an egg which gives your body a variety of nutrients; choline, selenium, biotin, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, molybdenum, iodine, vitamin B5, protein, phosphorus, vitamin D and vitamin A. Now consider white sugar, it has been refined and stripped of the vitamins and minerals that we need to process it properly. In order for our bodies to metabolize the stuff, it must take nutrients out of our body, meaning sugar can rob us from chromium, magnesium, and calcium (please keep this in mind with ALL refined foods – always choose whole foods first).

So which sounds like the healthier breakfast choice? Scrambled eggs or a bowl of Sugar Loops…I mean Fruit Loops?

I promise to give you more details about sugar metabolism throughout the year. For those of you that can’t wait please check out some of these resources:

http://www.mercola.com/article/sugar/dangers_of_sugar.htm
http://thatsugarfilm.com/blog/2016/03/27/diet-and-inflammation/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

Are you eating natural sugars?

As far as fruits – yes! Mother Nature made fruit in a perfect package, wrapped in fibre, so our bodies can eliminate the fructose safely without congesting our livers.

As far as maple syrup and honey, no, I am avoiding those for the year too, unfortunately. As delicious as they are, they contain fructose without fibre. Don’t get me wrong, there are many health benefits in maple syrup and honey, but for this year I can live without their sweet deliciousness.

Are you eating sugar alternatives?

For the most part I am cutting out anything sweet, including alternatives. Occasionally I will have some stevia or xylitol in my smoothies as my favourite protein powers are sweetened using those.

Are you drinking alcohol?

I wasn’t too sure when I started the no sugar year about drinking. Alcohol is very hard for our bodies to process, so for the most part I’m going to avoid alcohol. When I do indulge on special occasions (I’m only human), I will be sticking to drinks with minimal fructose levels, such as red wine and clear spirits mixed with water. Feel free to check out this link for a breakdown of the sugar levels in your favourite adult beverages: https://iquitsugar.com/faqs/can-i-drink-wine/

What does a typical week of meals look like for you?

Homemade, homemade, homemade! Food producers often hide sugar in processed food to make it more palatable, so although it’s a little more effort cooking from scratch, it is totally worth it!

Let’s take a look at my meal plan for next week:

My breakfasts depfoodiesfeed.com_eggs-in-shadowend on the day. Mornings that I go to the gym for a swim before work I typically have a bulletproof coffee at home and then a smoothie when I get to work. At home breakfasts vary from nuts-and-seeds homemade granola with almond milk or different kinds of eggs with veggies.I may or may not have an obsession with eggs as you may have noticed from my Instagram.

 

Lunches are always leftovers from the night before or sometimes leftovers turned into a salad.

Suppers:

Sunday

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Saturday

Roast beef, potatoes and veggies Veggie lasagna (with zucchini noodles) Homemade chicken soup and tuna wrap on a flax wrap (avocado instead of mayo) Chicken legs  and a green salad Baked fish with green salad and sweet potato fries Burgers (no buns) with roasted zucchini/ peppers and onion. Out for supper to Plant Matters Kitchen

 

What is your goal weight at the end of the year?

I don’t have one. To me this year is about getting as healthy as possible. I have always struggled with my weight, so I do not want to put a number on it. I know weight loss will happen throughout the year so I’m considering that as a happy bonus!

I’ve had blood work done to show my “before.” I’ve measured my glucose and insulin, cardiovascular markers (cholesterol and triglycerides), as well as my inflammation markers. I also had some of my lady hormones measured so I can see how no sugar impacts my PCOS over the course of the year. I have definitely learned that I cannot rely on the scale to tell me how well I’m doing day in and day out!

How can I cut out sugar?

You know you best. Personally, I felt like I had to just cut sugar out entirely instead of just cutting back here and there – I definitely sound like an addict eh?? Programs like 21 Day Sugar Detox or I Quit Sugar are great places to start for those of you that are thinking ‘enough is enough’ and want to jump in with both feet.

For some people an all or nothing approach would be too stressful and counterproductive in the long run. For those people I would definitely recommend  cutting back on things that are manageable. If the thought of giving up your box of timbits a day causes you anxiety, start somewhere else and work your way up to that.

The first thing I would suggest is to look at what you are drinking. Are you drinking sugar on a regular basis, in your coffee, lattes, pop, fruit juices, sports drinks, tea, etc? Start switching out these sugary drinks for water. You can add in lemons or other fruits to help you make the transition if you are water-adverse. Increasing your aqua intake will help you to start feeling awesome – after all we are mostly water!

Through activities of daily living, the average person loses about 3- 4 liters (about 10-15 cups) of fluid a day in sweat, urine, exhaled air and bowel movement. What is lost must be replaced by the water/ fluid we drink and the food we eat.

 We lose approximately 1-2 liters of water just from breathing. The evaporation of sweat from the skin accounts for 90% of our cooling ability.”  – Dr. Batmanghelidj

The next place to start cutting sugar, if you are anything like me, is your snacks. What are you snacking on throughout the day or at night in front of the TV? Some great alternatives are nuts and fruits, chopped veggies with hummus, popcorn (from whole kernels not microwave popcorn). I’ve been having a cup of night time tea after dinner and this not only stops me from making trips to the kitchen, it helps me to relax before bedtime so I can get a sound sleep.

Please feel free to contact me for more tips and to sit down and discuss how sugar might be getting in the way of you achieving your inner awesome!

Yours in health,
Susan

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