Spiralling Out Of Control

This week has mostly been a foggy jumble of sinus-related illness, tissues too many to recall, and a fortieth birthday which somehow slid by barely noticed due to the aforementioned illness. BUT! Throughout it all I have stuck stoically to my commitment to staying sugar-free, and as a nice side effect I have lost two pounds.

Over the last seven days I have been increasingly more mindful of what I’ve been eating. It’s so easy to slip into overeating (especially junk food) and I confess to being the queen of chocolate frenzies; I have regularly scoffed entire giant bars of the stuff within a matter of minutes, barely registering what is going on until the empty wrapper lies before me and I’m filled with disgust at such a potent lack of self-control.

Beautiful Staircase Designs (5)

However, during the past week I’ve noticed a gradual but obvious reduction of cravings for sugar, a very significant lack of interest in sugary foods, and a small sense of pride in starting to overcome my addiction. It’s nice to know that I’m not a complete slave to the white stuff.

Another positive is that I have finally reached a point in my life where I feel safely able to ‘watch my diet’ without launching into obsessive and dangerous eating patterns, as was the case in my younger years. I’m not denying myself crucial calories in a bid to lose vast amounts of weight; I’m addressing an addiction to sugar which, when consumed in excess, causes us problems both physically and mentally. I read on Soberistas.com all the time about an inability to control food intake and especially so in the early stages of becoming alcohol-free. This is a common problem, and one which many people beat themselves up about.

I was incapable, once-upon-a-time, of eating ‘sensibly’ without spiralling into a dangerous game of excessive control which resulted in losing way too much weight and becoming obsessed with food and how best to avoid it. I hated my body and used my restrictive calorie controlling as a means of exercising discipline in the rest of my life – where I clearly felt as though there was none.

This whole business of ‘getting better’ following a dependency upon alcohol is a very complex one. Personally speaking, my ‘issues’ manifested themselves in drug use, an eating disorder and heavy drinking, and I merely swapped between these three things (or engaged in all three simultaneously) for several years in an effort to channel my discontentment away from actually facing up to them. Anything but resolve my deep dislike of myself.

The thing that really began the ball rolling towards happiness and acceptance of who I am was stopping drinking. That act alone was enough to initiate a steady process of beginning to like myself. It provided the foundations for being able to deal with all of the negativity, and injected me with the inner strength to get to grips with everything that I was scared of facing for all those years.

Cutting out sugar may sound like a fairly insignificant lifestyle change. But for those of us who’ve found our demons emerging in so many guises including a warped relationship with food, being able to eat nutritionally well and to enjoy healthy eating in a normal manner without fearing food, is a massive achievement.

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Sugar Junkie Makes It Through The Weekend! (Here are the 3 things that helped me beat my cravings)

Writing as a MASSIVE chocolate addict/sugar junkie, I am delighted to announce that I’ve made it through the weekend without any sweet stuff whatsoever. I know not everyone who follows my blog will care whether I’m eating sugary food or not (this is a blog about sobriety, after all) but I am noticing some definite parallels with quitting alcohol and sugar, so bear with me – it might help you deal with addiction, regardless of what the object of your addiction is.

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I blogged about my desire to cut out sugar because of a suspicion I had that making myself accountable would work wonders as a means of motivation when temptation struck. And, I have to say; this was the single most effective tool over the course of the last three days in me staying sugar-free. There were a couple of wobbly moments (buying my daughter and sister a piece of marshmallow brownie each, and Sunday evening after dinner which, I realised, is a major trigger point for me in terms of gorging on biscuits) when I very nearly caved in, but because I’d blogged about my month off the sugar, I couldn’t do it. I would have felt terrible for going back on my word so soon after announcing publicly that this is what I was planning on doing until November 8th. I even had a friend suggest to me that it would be fine to have a few chocolate biscuits and nobody would know (I know! Naughty, naughty) but I still stuck to my promise – because even if nobody else would have found out, I’d have known, and I couldn’t be duplicitous in that way.

Second big help: being prepared. On Friday I bought loads of fruit and vegetables with which to make delicious smoothies, and also nuts and medjool dates to snack on when I felt peckish. Because there was always something close to hand that did not include sugar (I know fruit contains fructose but I’m not giving that up – just the refined stuff) I never felt as if I was denying myself. I didn’t go hungry or put myself in a position where the cravings would become too much to handle.

Thirdly, I adopted a mantra, which I repeated in my head every time I felt the sweet tooth sensation creeping up on me: ‘You will feel worse afterwards, if you give in and eat this biscuit/cake/sweet, than you do now’. Somehow, this simplistic message worked. I was able to see the pointlessness of giving into my sugar addiction – all I would be doing is perpetuating the habit, providing relief for a craving that would eventually disappear altogether if I ignored it for a sufficient length of time.

Today I don’t feel remarkably different to how I did on Friday, as I am still suffering from a horrible cold. I don’t think I’ve lost any weight either (it has only been three days!). But I do feel light and free mentally, as that regret over losing control of my food intake is noticeably absent. I feel as though I’m making progress. It’s nice to be back in the driving seat of my body, as opposed to letting a sugar addiction take hold.

To summarise, the three biggies that have helped me to achieve the HUGE goal of not eating refined sugar this weekend are as follows: accountability (blogging in my case, but telling people verbally would work just as well), preparation, and a mantra that I repeated in my head every time a craving hit. If you are joining me in this sugar-free challenge, please let me know what is working for you and how you are feeling. Thanks, Lucy x

Sugar No More!

I write this feeling slightly below par. Not mentally, I feel pretty good about things in that respect, but physically, I am somewhat run down. I’ve had a manic schedule this week plus my toddler has been ill, neither of which has helped. But this is me and I am, as ever, on the search for a solution. I don’t like accepting less than perfect and if I know I can change my situation for the better then I usually do – or at least try to.

Yesterday I loaded up on Strepsils and Soothers and snuffled my way through the day as best I could with tissues sprouting from every pocket. Today I am desperate to be back to normal, and have decided to embark on a month of super healthy eating to try and boost my energy levels and natural defences. So, here I am with a juice and smoothie recipe book at my side, and a lengthy shopping list consisting mostly of fruit, nuts and vegetables.

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I know that accountability works fantastically with anything like this, so I’m planning on blogging my way through this journey – if you are in the same boat as me (wanting to lose a few pounds, feeling a bit rubbish as the seasons change, and looking for more energy), you might want to join me. It’s nicer with company!

As well as the aforementioned ban on processed food and (not the technical term I know) general crap, I am also going to make a specific effort to eliminate sugar. I hate being reliant on something and I know I’ve got a bit of a dependency for the sweet stuff. Sugar is ridiculously addictive, and concrete proof of this can be found in my delving into the biscuit tin every night whereupon I plough my way through multiple Kit-Kats and/or chocolate Hobnobs (ostensibly bought for the children). This uncontrollable urge to gorge on sugar creeps up on me; what starts out as the odd treat gradually becomes a fully-fledged sugar habit, and I hate it. I hate how rubbish I feel after eating the stuff. I hate knowing that I’m not in control of what goes into my body.

Does this sound at all familiar? Yes, I know, I could be writing about booze here. And it’s the same process at work – so I’m going to address it with the same remedy that I used for alcohol.

Starting out, I am 9 stone and 4 pounds. And most days I’m generally scoffing (in terms of sugary stuff) a piece of cake plus a few biscuits. I exercise a decent amount, running and yoga being the main activities. Not a problem there. But sugar…cold turkey starts here.

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This desire to improve my diet may well be heightened by the fact that I’ll be forty years old next week. As we age, weight becomes easier to gain and harder to shift, and I suppose I am motivated by a desire to hang on to my youth for just a little bit longer…will all this help in my efforts to look and feel rejuvenated? We shall see. If you are going to join me in this, please add your comments below and let’s support each other. I’m expecting to feel grumpy without sugar in the first few days, and hungry initially, as my body adjusts to a greener diet.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Enjoying a Better Way

After posting last week about the Eureka moment I recently experienced regarding getting fit, toning up and losing a bit of weight, I have thrown myself into my new lifestyle with gusto. Body Pump classes, running in the sun (sadly, yesterday marked the last occasion when my ageing Jack Russell terrier will accompany me on one of my runs as she can’t keep up anymore), drinking loads more water, snacking on Medjool dates as opposed to chocolate (surprising how readily these have satisfied the old sugar cravings) and cutting right back on the lattes, have all helped me to achieve a three-pound weight loss and feel a million times more alive.

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The overhaul of my life began about ten days ago. The initial period posed a few difficulties in terms of becoming accustomed to the various changes – most notably the reduction in caffeinated drinks and complete ban on junk food – but everything has settled down now and the cravings, headaches and general feeling of being slightly out of sorts have all but vanished.

I’ve been enjoying challenging myself physically and the aching muscles are evidence that my body is being really pushed for the first time in ages. The improvements to my physicality have positively impacted on my mental health, and consequently I feel less agitated, have slept better, and have especially relished in the complete lack of any guilt, once experienced on a regular basis whenever I had an attack of the junk food munchies and gorged on pizza, biscuits or chocolate.

I’m not sure why I persistently refrained from adopting this comprehensively healthy life for so long. I guess I felt frightened of letting go of my little crutches – lattes, Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, Domino’s Pizzas – as if they were actually bringing me discernable benefits. Even though I knew I hated myself for indulging in these unhealthy foods, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the idea of living without them. What would happen on a Friday night if I was watching a good film, snuggled up in my PJ’s, and there was no supersize bar of chocolate to devour in ten minutes flat? How would I bear it if I was suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to consume a deep-pan pepperoni pizza with a stuffed crust, and had to settle instead for a plate of lettuce leaves and an apple?

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Well, you know what? Nothing bad has happened. Without the junk food, the world hasn’t collapsed around my ears, I haven’t sprouted a second head, and I haven’t gone stark raving bonkers either. I feel better, healthier, and more in control. I feel more motivated to exercise, and have noticed an increase in my energy levels. Other than that, life has remained unchanged.

The further I distance myself from my drinking days, the more I’m convinced that the closer we live to how nature intended – i.e. regular exercise, eating well and minus the junk/toxic substances – the happier we feel inside. My new code to live by is one that seems so blindingly clear, but is something I just couldn’t accept fully for years; avoid the stuff that brings about negative emotions, and indulge only in that which results in happiness and satisfaction. With this maxim in my mind, making the right choices has never been easier.

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Letting Go of the Fight

I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to put my body first, to prioritise it over my mind. I realised recently that I’ve never done this, not consistently. Everything I have ever desired I’ve generally succumbed to, and over the years I’ve not taken especially good care over my body.

Me graduating, amidst an ocean of booze.

Me on my graduation day in 2010 – the beginning of a massive drinking session.

The light bulb moment happened the other morning when it dawned on me that I’m not (oh God!) 38 years old, but am actually ONLY 38 years old! Wow, I’ve still got a lot of living to do and I’m not about to receive my bus pass any day soon. With this happy moment of clarity came the recognition that it is not yet too late to get fit, really fit; to push myself to see just how far I can go in the realm of physical fitness and optimum health.

In the last few days I’ve been aware of the flicking of a switch – I feel completely in control of my life; of what I eat, of achieving my goals, and of staying positive and focused. Everything seems to have fallen into place after years of trying (and failing) to really tone up, to really get fit and to reach the weight I have really wanted to be (but have nevertheless always remained just a few pounds above).

How did this happen?

First off, I read this article on MindBodyGreen – http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14554/why-trying-to-burn-calories-is-a-waste-of-your-time.html

This made so much sense to me. How many times have I been running with the mind-set that it will get rid of the calories obtained via a bar of chocolate I ate earlier? How long have I held the belief that I can eat whatever I want because I run four times a week? And how many times have I been really cross that, no matter how much I run, I never seem to be able to get rid of those last few pounds? The MBG article really got me thinking – the food I’m going to eat from now on will be fuel; tasty fuel, but fuel nonetheless.

I've always loved my running, even when I equally loved the booze, fags and sugar

I’ve always loved my running, even when I equally loved the booze, fags and sugar

Then came the grasping of a very important concept (which incidentally I managed to get my head around eventually with alcohol but which has taken a little while longer re food); junk food, chocolate, white bread and other products which serve no nutritional purpose at all and contain high amounts of sugar (very addictive), never grant us the outcome we are hoping for when we select them for a meal or snack. They are emotional foods, and we crave them because we are striving to feel a certain way. Except these foods never deliver – that feeling we lust after is a delusion. Chocolate doesn’t make us feel luxurious and satisfied; it makes us want more and more, and then we feel a bit sick and gluttonous, wishing we hadn’t eaten any of it. Alcohol (at least, for all those of us who are devoid of the infamous off-switch) is exactly the same. The sexy, carefree and exciting social occasions I was seeking when I took a sip from the first glass of the night, very rarely materialised. All I usually got was the transformation from me to a wine-crazed idiot, followed by regrettable decisions and an almighty hangover the morning after.

Another massive realisation; all those good foods we are told we should eat, we can’t really fit them in ON TOP of all the crap. It’s not alright to munch through a pizza and garlic bread for dinner simply because we attempt to mitigate the situation by eating a handful of grapes afterwards. The thick-cut white bread cheese sandwich is not made less fattening because we have an avocado mid-afternoon. That just means we are eating MORE! We need to eat the healthy stuff INSTEAD of the rubbish.

Finally, and the most important, ‘OK, I get it’, moment that I have experienced in the last few days; if we perceive our changed behaviour as being positive, then it becomes EASY to maintain. I have spent decades fighting the booze, wrestling the bad foods, attempting to moderate this and that, squeezing in a bit of the good stuff to outweigh the bad, believing that ultimately, I can gain control over these addictive substances; that somehow I will emerge as the winner even though I am STILL smoking, drinking and eating a load of junk.

Here’s how I see it now – I have let go of the fight. I’ve put down my gloves and I’m not entering into the ring with addictive substances anymore. I get it; they are not controllable.

Alongside this understanding has come blessed relief – the same sense of freedom that I gained out of choosing to completely bypass alcohol has arisen out of this new decision to favour my body over my mind in terms of exercise and food. I think I did need some guidance, and I’ve found a degree of it in a brilliant running book (Runner’s World Guide to Road Racing by Katie McDonald Neitz) which includes information on the right foods to eat, and exercises to do with weights and a stability ball. I’ve also begun attending regular classes at the gym (something I have frequently avoided because ‘I haven’t got time’).

Me now, minus the internal struggles

Me now, minus the internal struggles

I know why I used to seek comfort in things that were bad for me, and it’s taken virtually my entire adult life to work it all out, but it feels amazing to know that I have finally gained a sense of control. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, just that now I can stop fretting about how naughty I’ve been for eating a piece of cake. For me this is definitely an all or nothing game – with everything that is addictive. But it’s also about being able to perceive my new lifestyle choices as positive, as opposed to them equating to the denial of treats.

What I have realised (finally) is that eating well, exercising regularly, and not drinking or taking other drugs, is NOT about being some image-obsessed gym nut with an urge to transform herself into the body beautiful – it is about letting go of the fight. Plain and simple. Attempting to control addictive substances, whether alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or sugar is just crazy – it isn’t doable. At best we can impose a strict code of conduct which we then strive to abide by (only drink at the weekends, never more than one bottle at a time, only smoke when we go out, no cakes unless it’s a special occasion), but all this does is take up valuable and irreplaceable time, overthinking and worrying about whether we can live up to our own exacting standards (then beating ourselves up when we fail).

In letting it go, walking away, refusing to take part in this game, we are granted with our own freedom. Why fight against ourselves? Our bodies are designed to work brilliantly if only we steer away from the crap that messes us up. After 38 years on this earth, I do now get it. Everything that makes us feel bad, regretful, unhappy and guilty should be avoided completely. And the stuff that makes us feel the opposite, we should partake in – in abundance.