This year I set myself the challenge of learning a new habit or adopting a new mindset each month. January — I gave up alcohol. February — I tried to be a minimalist. March — I tried to do the keto diet. Read on to find out what habit I attempted in April…
This month, I tried to tackle my eating habits again by cutting out the majority of refined sugars. It’s pretty common knowledge these days sugar is bad for you; here’s an article that explains it better than I can. For me, the biggest thing I wanted to control is my energy slumps at work.
So what did cutting out refined sugars in practice mean exactly? I didn’t want to restrict myself tooooo much (keep ya goals realistic and all that) and made it simple enough to follow for myself (keeping the minimalist thing up too).
Avoid the usual culprits such as sugary snacks, sugar-loaded juices and soft drinks, deceptively sugary sauces and condiments, while focusing on having healthy meals packed with proteins, fats and slow-releasing carbs.
So, how did it go?
To begin with, it couldn’t have gone worse. As far as sticking to habits go, I was really just a bit shit at it. I don’t think I managed many days without tucking into a slab/mountain/family pack of chocolate. I’m such a sucker for a snack at work. It doesn’t matter what it is, you name it, I’ll have munched through the whole packet mid-morning/mid-afternoon. The more I thought about it, the harder I found to resist it.
It wasn’t until I had two weeks off at the end of April where I wasn’t in the office that I think I cracked it... I wasn’t around the office snacks. It’s quite simple… I need to quit work. Forever.
Joking aside, the problem is — if sugary stuff is around me, I’ll eat it. But I’ve had very few cravings for sweet stuff while I’ve been away from the office. This has given me the chance to exercise restraint and I’m hoping this continues with what I learnt while doing it…
What I learnt in the process:
- The more you restrict something, the more you want it
There’s nothing groundbreaking about this, soz. It sounds really obvious, but most diets are built on the idea that something in your diet isn’t good for you. Keto demonises carbs. GI demonises glucose levels in foods. Whole30 demonises sugar, grains, dairy and legumes.
Demonising food is the devil in itself. It creates an unhealthy relationship with food. It’s like when you tell a child not to put a knife in the toaster and the first thing they want to do is shove a knife in the toaster. You tell an adult not to eat sugar and the first thing they want to do is demolish a family pack of Maltesers, a tub or several of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough, 6 x apple crumbles and all the red velvet cupcakes. Inhaled in the same sitting.
We’re not really taught self-restraint at school, it’s something we have to learn as adults. A lot of the time, I feel like a child trapped in an adult body still learning that you shouldn’t put knives in toasters. Which leads me onto the next point is that when you know why you shouldn’t put a knife in the toaster, you’re equipped with information that makes you more likely to commit to a decision or action.
2. When it comes to nutritional changes, understanding the science is key
For ages, we’ve been fed lies by the media and food packaging claiming that fats are bad for us and encouraging us to opt for the low-fat option, when in fact, the real culprit is sugar. Sugar causes those 11am and 3pm energy slumps. It’s addictive and it’s ultimately unfulfilling. When we eat sugar, our bodies produce too much insulin and so this causes our energy to go up, which is why we will often crave a chocolate bar over a savoury snack. We want that energy fix. But what goes up also has to come down. Reducing your sugar intake helps control the amount of insulin your body produces.
There’s lots of stuff about this online so I won’t do a disservice to your Google skills. My main point is that before starting you change your diet, it’s best to do your research and understand WHY you’re cutting something out and what the effect is on your body.
3. Focus your energy on other stuff that’s important to you
It’s been two weeks since I stopped focusing on this habit and I’ve probably eaten less sugar than when I was focusing more on it. While I was off work though, I had two things on my staycation to-do list— finish the book A Little Life and catch up on all Game of Thrones from Season 1 Episode 1.
Focusing on something else gave me less brain capacity to think about the sugar-content in the foods I was eating. I generally don’t eat too unhealthily and so the less I was thinking about it, the less I got hung up and disappointed in myself when I consumed something sugary. It wasn’t such a big deal and so naturally, I didn’t care as much about sugar.
I’m not sure if there’s any science to back this up at all and I wouldn’t say it applies to every habit you try to introduce. For example, if you’re trying to start a habit of running daily, putting your energy into watching Netflix is probably not going to help you out. Or it might do, I don’t know. I just know that something switched when there were changes to my environment (stopped being around office snacks) and I focused on something else (not food).
4. Keep healthy snacks you genuinely enjoy within reach at work
I think a large part of being able to eventually crack this habit is not being around the snacks our team has at work, so going back to work is causing me a slight bit of anxiety. My plan is to drink all the fruit teas (lots of stuff online says this helps), and keep some healthy snacks I genuinely enjoy within reach . I tried this once with some keto peanut butter cups, but they tasted fucking terrible and I think they still live at the bottom of my freezer months later. I’m going to do some food experiments with this and figure out what works.
So, what’s in store for May? I was stuck for what habit to do, until I came across the fact May is National Walking Month. I often tend to sit at my desk to eat lunch, so the plan is to take a walk every lunch time. Find out how I get on in next month’s post…