Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The wood, and the trees

I wrote an epic post a couple of weeks back about how to know if the sugar free diet is working. Apologies and thanks to any of you who trawled through my stream of consciousness! But it was quite cathartic, and to be honest. Rally was a ramble through my thinking on the matter.

But then, suddenly, it clicked in my head. Ignoring weight loss / measurements, the thing that has changed so monumentally is my relationship with food.

I am a baker. Mrs Baker knows her way around a Kenwood mixer. I love making cakes, and experimenting with recipes. I love creating a really dense chocolate ganache, or simmering a pan of lavender infused milk to make delicate scented cupcakes.

Since quitting sugar, the only baking I have done is sugar free, and have developed a few nice recipes for cookies and crackers, but I haven't baked the old favourites. Partly this is because I couldn't see the need if I wasn't going to eat them, and partly because I wasn't certain whether I would manage not to lick the bowl clean!

Then, last week was my mum's 60th birthday. She asked me to make a few cupcakes, so in true Mrs Baker style, I made coffee and walnut cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, vanilla buttercream cupcakes, jam and custard cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, an old fashioned ginger bread, and a decadent chocolate layer cake frosted with ganache.

It was an interesting test. Obviously a certain amount of tasting is necessary to adjust flavour and consistency, so I did have to have a few teaspoons of batter and icing throughout the process, but for the first time in my entire baking life, I didn't feel compelled to nurse the bowl of every scraping of chocolate ganache. It was slightly tricky to taste test the mixtures, because my tastes are so differently tuned now that actually everything was far too sweet. The gingerbread mixture, equal parts of butter, flour, treacle, syrup and sugar was tooth be singly sweet, but familiar and comforting to have a tiny taste. But the reassuring development is I had no urge to have any more.

My dad has also given up sugar, and I did feel that perhaps he and I would feel a bit denied without a sugar free sweet treat at the party, so I decided to have a crack at a sugar free cheesecake. I made a crust with ground almonds, butter, coconut flour and desiccated coconut, and a creamy filling with avocado, raw cacao, peanut butter and double cream. It was nice enough, served straight from the fridge it had a dense chewy crust and the chocolate and peanut filling was rich without being sweet. But the problem was, it wasn't actually what I fancied. What I really fancied when everyone else was tucking into the cakes was a piece of cheese.

It is very freeing to know that the sugar cravings I have been dogged with my entire life have now gone for good. To finally shake of the mantra "if you are good you can have some sweets" which has ring in my ears for my entire life is fantastic, and I can't recommend it enough.

My dad is a bit evangelical about giving up sugar at the moment, and is encouraging my mum to quit too. She is tempted, but thinks it will be too difficult, or that she will miss sugar. She said, I don't want to go through life never having a piece of birthday cake ever again. I do understand the fear, but the thing that keeps resonating with me is that actually, you won't miss it. You won't want it, but you won't have to keep reminding yourself not to have it like you would on a diet. And if ever there was a social expectation to have a piece of cake, you know, granddaughter's birthday or such, you can have a little piece, but you probably won't want any more than a taste anyway.

I wish I had known this 20 years ago!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A very dangerous disease...

This graphic is very interesting.


How do you know if it's working?

The thing is, because I never planned to quit sugar, I never really had a plan for what I was hoping to achieve. It was more a kind of 'see how it pans out' type experiment, so I hadn't really devised any success criteria or objectives. I didn't even think to weigh and measure myself at the start, because I didn't realise I was doing anything to record.

So, if you don't have an obvious benchmark to measure against, how do you know if it's working?

I did know roughly how much I weighed at the start, and I have lost some weight, although not very much - about half a stone only. I think this is actually a bit unusual, because lots of other people's experiences have been that weight seemingly dropped off, either as a massive quick weightloss, or otherwise as a slow and steady reduction. I think the difference there is how much sugar you had anyway - it would make sense that people who eat loads of sweets and drink sugary coke would see a more marked drop when they first stop. It's a bit depressing though. My dad lost 18lb in a couple of months, whereas I have been unwaveringly dedicated for six months now, and have not even dropped a dress size.

It raises the question, am I doing something wrong?

For six months I have followed Sarah Wilson's guidelines religiously, and have never wavered once. Aside from the time I had cough medicine (5 day headache!) I have not had any added sugar, anything with more than about 6% sugar, or more than about 20g sugar per day, for six months.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have seen some results. Last weekend I watched a short film a friend had made of me just after Christmas, and I could definitely see a difference in the shape of my face. I look much less puffy, less rounded, and my skin looks clearer and less wrinkled. I did take measurements about a month into the quit, and I have lost centimetres from every measurement all over my body. I have lost 5cm from my waist, and 3 from each thigh.

I am also fitter than I have ever been, and whilst I do still have weight to lose, can definitely see muscle tone and definition hiding underneath. I can swim non stop for and hour and a half, covering a distance of 2.5 km and can lift my body from lying face down to a forearm plank. I couldn't do this 20 years ago.

But - and I wish this didn't bother me so, but it does - why haven't I lost more weight?

Perhaps it isn't about the weight loss. Perhaps actually, I am losing weight, just very slowly, and need to focus on the other things that are happening. As well as the physical issues, I can't argue with the fact that I have a healthier relationship with food than I have ever had. I am no longer addicted to sugar, I don't comfort eat, don't crave dessert or find myself buying a chocolate bar after a hard day because I deserve it.

I make all my own bread, since I discovered that sourdough is much easier to digest than the typical shop bought loaves. I eat homemade burgers on a bed of salad, not a bun. I add fermented veggies to meals wherever possible, and make my own recipe sugar free oat and seed cookies.

I wonder sometimes if I am being impatient; if perhaps the process of recalibration will mean that weight gradually ebbs away over a year or two. However, six months in, most dieters would have jumped ship of they weren't seeing some impressive results by now. To be fair, most dieters would quit 6 weeks in if they saw no results.

I did have the idea to visit the GP, talk through what I have been doing and ask to be weighed and measured, then leave it three months before going back. Then I wonder whether there could be any underlying cause for not seeing results... Would the GP be able to run tests to check everything is working properly? Or, would they just tell me to try the slimming clubs, and choose low fat again?

It has occurred to me that there are a few differences between what I have been following and what the big diet clubs recommend, but I need to keep listening to the plan, and not get sucked back to the bad ways. That sounds like I'm saying I'm not prepared to listen to advice, but actually what I mean is that no other diet plan has ever helped my relationship with food, nor have I ever stuck to food rules for this long. I do feel better, fitter, healthier... Just not slimmer. But it wasn't originally about slim, was it?

Thinking back a few years to when I successfully lost weight with a big weight loss group, the mantra was so different. Yes it was low sugar, but the main issue was about fat. Points were calculated factoring in calories per portion and grams of saturated fat, which I now understand means that 100 calories of sugar was deemed better for you than 100 calories of avocado. The way to success was to consume as little fat as possible, replacing fat with low fat, and often sweetened alternatives, diet chocolate bars, and fat free light yogurts laced with aspartame.

The fact of the matter is, yes if I were to go to a slimming club, the rules would change. I could still stay sugar free, but they would also suggest fat free, or low fat at best. But fat helps you stop eating when you have had enough - would his affect my ability to push the plate away? They would suggest that a glass of red wine is worse for you than a double gin and tonic, despite the known health benefits of a glass of red, and despite the insulin spiking tonic full of sugar or artificial sweeteners. They would measure bread by the ounce, and not identify any difference between a slow acting wild yeast and a squishy supermarket square loaf. Logic tells me that I would lose weight if I were to follow a slimming club plan, but my fear is, would I fall back into that horrible cycle of constantly having talk myself out of eating foods I 'shouldn't have' and undo all of the wonderful liberating work I have done. I don't want to go back to the idea that fat is the enemy and calorie free sweeteners are the way to happiness.

I have learned a lot about fat during this process. Firstly, that fat doesn't make you fat. Sugar does. Secondly, that fat is essential to your body to unlock vitamins and minerals from vegetables. Thirdly, that whilst saturated fat has had a terrible press over the last 40 years, it is known actually now to have a positive impact on health. Fourthly, fats and oils that destabilise at high temperatures are far worse for us than stable ones, so we should be cooking with butter, ghee and coconut oil, pouring extra virgin olive oil, and keeping well clear of vegetable and seed oils. It doesn't make sense to now go back to restricting good fats in favour of fats that are known to be harmful, or worse still, pseudo fats like spray emulsions, no calories, just pure chemical nastiness.

So what should I do then?

1) keep on keeping on, and see how it all feels in another 3 months or so?
2) count 'points' but still eat the good fats and try not to swallow to nonsense?
3) ask the doctor to run some tests?
4) try and cut down on the known naughties, such as wine and cheese, and see if that is the problem?

I think I will start with 1 and 4, and maybe consider 2 and 3 if I'm not getting somewhere in another few months. It's weird because aside from the lack of any real weight loss, this is the healthiest, easiest, most nutrition-dense diet I have ever followed.

I guess I will keep you posted on this one. If you have any pearls of wisdom to share with me, please do leave a comment. Cheers all xx

Monday, 28 July 2014

I have this conversation at least once a week...

"Oh, wow, so you've completely quit sugar?"

Yes, for five months now.

"I don't have much sugar"

[Cue lengthy and often frustrating discussion about their diet, which is usually high in artificial sweeteners, low fat sweetened options, and fruit.]

"I shouldn't eat this [double chocolate cookie ice cream thingy laced with caramel] in front of you then... So sorry"

Actually, I really have no desire to eat it, or anything sweet really. And I know that if I did, I would have such a paralysing headache for days afterwards that it wouldn't be worth it. So it's fine, you can eat it in front of me. I promise I won't snatch it out of your hand and gobble it up.

"But what about NATURAL sugars, they must be ok? Surely you can have honey / agave / bananas?"

No. Sugar is just sugar. Natural sugar does have some benefits, but no, I haven't replaced sugar with honey. I really really have quit sugar.

"But you MUST have SOME sugar??"

Well, now that I have a couple of pieces of fresh fruit a day, I average about 3 or 4 teaspoons of sugar a day.

"Oh that's ok, that's quite a lot. I don't have sugar in coffee..."

Well, when you consider that when I first quit I shaved 12 teaspoons of sugar off my school lunch by not having a low fat yoghurt (7tsp) and a juice carton (5tsp), actually 4 teaspoons all day is very low.

"Ooh, it must take loads of willpower!"

I have precisely no willpower. I never have, and never will. If I want something, I have to have it eventually, and if I can't have it straight away, I will quietly obsess, dream, yearn, and ache for it until I finally give in and have it. So diets requiring willpower fundamentally don't work for me, if anyone. I believe that if we could say, righto, from now on I am only going to eat small portions of super healthy food, we probably wouldn't be the middle of an obesity epidemic, in my humble opinion!

But quitting sugar wasn't about willpower. After the first five days when I was clucking like any other addict, and had the mega hangover headache from hell, then suddenly it was fine. Easy in fact. And if ever there was a day when I thought "I'd like that... Oh I can't" there are plenty other things, not diety things but actual nice food that you would want, that you can have instead. A cheese plate instead of dessert, or a latte, or a glass of red wine. Not too shabby.

"Well, if you're managing to stick to it, fair play to you. Do you think you will do it forever?"

To be honest, yes. I just wish I had known about this 15 years ago. It would have fixed everything. Do I think I will ever go back to eating loads of sugar? No, absolutely not for the same reason as I never envisage going back to smoking cigarettes, or living in student houseshares.

Life is better without it.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


I've been thinking again (sorry) since my last post, the mega post. Perhaps the missing link is recalibration. So, I have taken a few days off, and spent some very valuable and enjoyable time doing things that healthy happy people seem to find time to do, namely exercising, focusing on food, and talking to friends.

The main thing I have done is swim. Miles and miles and miles. It cleanses the head whilst cleansing the body, it makes me challenge myself and feel how my body works, and I can do it, far more than I would ever imagine.

The other thing I have been doing a lot of is tinkering around with sourdough, and I know have 2 viable starters, a lovely bowl of sponge bubbling away under a cloth in the garden, and 2 loaves ready to bake. It has been an interesting process, requiring endless patience and care, openmindedness and dedication. It is a tremendously therapeutic process.

Therapy. It's peculiar how in a world so obsessed with therapy, there seems to be so very little of it. Small therapies such as keeping yeast alive, and baking, swimming and thinking are so incredibly soothing and powerfully recalibrating. We should all do it, much much more often.

Being out of work for a few days has also given me a bit of long overdue clarity. Time to write down what it is that's wrong, what needs to change, and most importantly what I like and want to keep doing. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is about making a difference, and my area of interest is still so firmly emotional health and well being, or lack thereof.

And then, while I'm thinking about what kind of thing I would really love to do, an opportunity to do just that presents itself. Not an open door yet, per se, but certainly a shiny letterbox to be peeked through. And peek I will.

It's a shame I'm not religious. No, I say shame, that's the wrong word. I mean religious people would have lots to say about these kinds of epiphany. As a person who knows she stands on a big rock within a vast blue sky, it makes me very conscious that sometimes, you have to stop, consult the map, figure out where you're trying to get to, maybe have a bit of lunch, take a deep breath, and see where it takes you.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Figuring a lot of stuff out.

I haven't written for ages. I hadn't realised it was quite that long. I haven't defected, I have just been busy trying to figure some stuff out.

In a way it would be easier to explain all this in a sort of spider diagram than as a written account, because it all links together really, but hey ho, I'll do my best.

I'm still sugar free, for over 4 months now. I am now eating 2 or 3 portions of fresh fruit a day, usually berries or grapefruit. My body seems to have got over its readjustment problems though and now I have no sugar headaches but neither am I struggling to manage how much sweet stuff I need or want.

I am still struggling with lunch. I teach at a vegetarian school, and for someone like me who predominantly fuels on protein, I find I have to rely very heavily on cheese. Now, don't get me wrong - I love cheese. Perhaps a little too much - but it is annoying to have to have it when you don't want it and then stop yourself from having it when you do. But not for much longer. 4 weeks and counting.

The problem with the cheese is that it naturally increases the fat intake. Now, I appreciate that the IQS programme does purport swapping sugars for fats so that you can get off the sugar without feeling denied or not satiated, but it doesn't fit right with me to be eating cheese more than say once every day or two. A bit of cheese as a mainstay, and occasional full on cheese treat seems more realistic, although I have to confess that this logic does stem from 10 years dabbling with "normal" diets where low fat is the way forwards.

I am hoping that once I leave the vege school, and can have a tuna salad, chicken, or a boiled egg, and therefore don't have to reach for the cheese quite so frequently, it can slip back into the role it used to play, much like chocolate, wine and chippy chips - a nice treat every now and then, to be enjoyed for its flavours but not for its nutrition.

See, that spider diagram thing is happening again. I am now trying to write about wine and chocolate at the same time. I'll come back to both.

Then there is the issue of bread... eating bread doesn't seem to make sense in the context of sugar free, but I do like bread, and my husband certainly does (Mr Baker - must be genetic!), plus I don't want this to be about denial and restriction. Instead it must be a diet of abundant nutrition. To which end I generally buy multigrain wholemeal, although I was slightly unhinged when I realised a forgotten loaf left in the cupboard had not developed any mould in 2 weeks. That can't be right!

Sarah Wilson suggests sourdough, as it is better for the digestive system than the shop bought ones with the fast acting yeasts. I set about trying to start my own sourdough starter, but 3 weeks in, I have a jar of flour and water goop which whilst emitting a few yeasty belches, is not the frothing doubling-in-a-day wonder yeast that Hugh Fernley Whittingstall manages to produce. I had a go at baking a loaf, in spite of the seeming lack of action, and whilst it certainly looked the part, it was so solid it could be marketed as a green alternative to concrete. I am still nurturing the yeasty beastie, so will keep you posted.

I am surprised to say that I don't really miss chocolate. I thought I would, but actually it hasn't featured much on my radar. I haven't eaten any chocolate, and I have been around it. it seems that the reprogramming has had the effect I hoped for, that being that it has dropped out of my conscious. On the couple of occasions that I have fancied chocolate, I have either had a spoonful of cocoa in some Greek yogurt, or have mixed a teaspoon of cocoa with a teaspoon of coconut oil. The coconut oil works really well - the darkness of the cocoa is preserved, and the oil makes for quite a convincing smooth chocolate. Any more than a teaspoon and you would be scunnered, because it is so very rich, and the coconut oil quashes your hunger completely so there's no woofing down a whole bar, like frequently happened in the past if I was left unsupervised with a big bar of Dairy Milk.

And now to wine. This a source of concern. I don't want to sound like one of those women who I encountered at that fateful slimming club, who were desperately trying to negotiate a diet that would make them lose weight whilst still being full all the time, and drinking a bottle of wine a day, but I confess I was relieved when Sarah's book said that a bit of red wine a few days a week is ok on the plan. The issue arises though when a combination of factors all combine in that glass.

There is the "I deserve a treat" factor - and in a world without Tobelerones and ice-creams, the treat of wine is somewhat amplified, as it is a treat that is allowed. Then there is the "crap day at work" factor, which would perhaps lead most of us to have more days on than less. The "sunny summer evenings" factor fits very snugly with the "social yes-man" factor - I love a good drink and laugh with friends, but it is easy with wine to rack up quite a few glasses over a long evening. In the past I would have opted for a fruity cider over ice, about 1/3 as strong, and just simply lasts longer. And finally the "empty calories" factor - sugar aside, even a few glasses a week does contain a lot of calories, and calories that don't bring anything useful with them.

Weirdly, and loosely related, I now longer get hangovers.

I'm not sure how to play it. stress wise, I do think that leaving my crazy job will help, although then I will have more sunny summer evenings through the school holiday, so mustn't get complacent. Ultimately, there is a balance to be struck between enjoyed a few glasses but finding treats elsewhere, and remembering the mantra to eat dense, and a bit like the fruit, and the cheese, only have it at levels that mean you identify the novelty and the special occasion. Sarah manages to have a couple of glasses most days with dinner, but I think I am going to try a couple of weeks off, then maybe a glass or two once or twice a week.

In the first IQS book, there wasn't much instruction on exercise, aside from "do some you like". The new book has a whole section on Ayurveda. I am so clearly a Vata - flighty, stressy, enthusiastic and lively, and prefer calm sports such as yoga and swimming. In fact the only Vata characteristics I don't have are being tall and thin! I drive myself mad with pressure to go to the gym and use the machines for a hour. Often when I go, I do actually enjoy it and find the hour whizzes by, but more often than not, I talk myself out of going. I feel quite rejuvenated figuring this out, and have taken myself back to the swimming pool. The funny thing is, my husband is a perfect Kapha, basically the opposite from me. He is grounded and solid, enjoys stamina activities like long walks and could sleep for England. Sarah writes that a Vata and a Kapha can balance each other out, with Kapha bringing Vata back down to earth, and Vata giving Kapha a boost of energy. Opposites do attract!

This leads me to the crunch really, the weight issue. I had hoped for weight loss, but apart from a couple of kilos in the first week or two I haven't lost much at all. I have lost centimetres, but not enough to drop a dress size and get back in my pile of maƱana clothes.

I keep thinking it has to happen sooner or later, because I do not snack, I do not eat sugar or sweets, I have never really been a crisp person, and I don't drink pop, so the magic must therefore be in the balance of increasing exercise and decreasing unneeded calories. I hope so.

Its strange because I don't feel like I am on a diet, so perhaps it isn't wrong not actually to be losing weight. I had envisaged a slow recalibrating rather than a dramatic 3 lb a week drop, but it would be reassuring to see it going in the right direction. I am hoping that the combination of reducing empty calories, continuing to enjoy exercise, swapping salty fatty proteins for leaner choices when I don't have to be vege at school, and hopefully getting this long awaited sourdough off the ground will all help.

So that's it - that's what I have been thinking about for the last 6 weeks. I promise I wont leave it so long next time.

* I should just clarify that you can go sugar free and be veggie / vegan, and that I'm sure it's a perfectly healthy option for many, but it just doesn't work for me. It's a bit like diesel vs unleaded - merits to both but make use you use the right one for your engine!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Happy no diet day!


Interesting reading.

No surprises really, for anyone who has seriel-dieted, especially the concept of putting the whole lot back on on five years!

I'm not losing weight, at least I don't think so, but I do have a far healthier relationship with food than I have had in years, well ever really. I don't have to consciously say no, I just have no desire to say yes.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Headache part 2

I've been reflecting on the headache, and like every good student, went back to the book for a bit of reassurance.

Chapter 7 is about lapses, and how to cope with them. Now, my lapse was not unconscious - I did know what I was doing - but somehow was also unconscious, in so much as I didn't suffer cravings or  fail as such. Basically I had a horrible sore throat and needed some cough mixture.

I felt ok last night. Yes it was sweet, but not torturously so, and although I didn't sleep very well, that could be attributed to a variety of other things, namely Mother Nature, snoring husband, and very heavy rain. And the sore throat, of course.

But today, oh my word, the headache! Like a hangover, but not quite so all-over body, just head.

It has also made me take stock of how I feel in general, and identify a few cons as well as pros. To be honest, for the last couple of weeks I have felt exhausted. It has been Easter holidays though, and it's back to school on Monday, so my two weeks of revivers is almost up. We have also had quite a lot of social stuff, including a wedding and quite a few nights out, so there has been a good slug of booze drunk. And I'm obviously sickening for something, so maybe that's why I'm shattered.

Still, it interested me that when I felt sugar-hanging today, Sarah's book yet again offered a weirdly psychically on point response.

Today I woke up all about eggs, but no spinach scrambled beauty on granary was going to cut it. No, no, I needed a fried egg bap. Oh yes.

Then a bit of running around, fuelled by an oatmeal and sunflower cookie, them home for a couple of large cherry and cinnamon herbal teas, then a lunch of sardines, salad, and buttered granary toast, followed by a lovely chai and a piece of my slant on raspberry ripple, seed laden and dotted with red rasps.

So, what does the guru say? Contemplate, hydrate, and eat right - protein, minimal carbs and no caffeine. Which is odd, because this is what I had done without instruction. Good, eh?

The exhaustion interests me, the more I read about it. Figures for how long it takes to come off sugar seem to range from 2 weeks to 4 months. I genuinely felt I'd kicked it in the first couple of weeks, and craving wise, I have, but perhaps the cellular clear out takes longer. Maybe I'm still detoxing.

It surprised me, although perhaps it shouldn't have, that so often my experiences married so closely with the book. I have followed it to the letter, which I realise in reading other people 's blogs, not everyone else does, e.g. Sugar free recipes that include honey, or sugar free sodas laced with chemical sweeteners. It is comforting to realise that the slumps and struggles I have incurred are normal and to be expected. It does raise a few questions though :

- really, how long will it take to really get off sugar? I mean, no tiredness or anything. It's been 8 weeks and I thought I was out of the woods, but perhaps I'm not quite there yet. Craving wise, yes, but physical "comedown" still in progress.

- what about times where sugar just cannot be avoided, like the cough mixture? Do I just have to make the choice to deal with the hangover? Or is there another option?

- am I eating the right balance of fats, proteins and carbs to eventually (however slowly) lose weigh and stay at the natural weight for me. The book is very "go for good fats" but I worry that this may not have the desired effect.

Another piece of advice from the book was not to get complacent. I realise I haven't read the book for a couple of weeks.

So challenge for this week is to read the book more closely, and use it as the manual it is intended to be, keep an eye on the tiredness, and what I've eaten to help explain it, and keep reading up on the balance.

What is with this horrendous headache?

Oh that's right... Yesterday I had 6 teaspoons of cough mixture.

Oh my god!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

As if I forgot about Easter!!

I was aware of Easter as being a bit of a challenge to overcome, but actually it came and went without drama.

We were at a wedding on Easter Sunday, so that did sort of detract from the usual routine, but even then, there was no major hoop jumping to be had. I had mentioned to the bride that I was sugar free, and the menu was fairly compatible anyway, with a goats cheese and red onion tarte, and roast lamb (gravy was a special sugar free one, and in a jug - nice touch). The only part I couldn't have was the rum and raisin cheesecake, and a tiny taste of my husbands made me squirm - it was soooo sweet, basically just cream cheese and sugar! The alternative was a fresh fruit salad, which I could perhaps have chanced, but it had bananas and melon in, and weirdly, was dusted with icing sugar, so instead I took solace in my wine. The evening buffet was what can only be described as a tower of cheese (they had a many tiered cheese truckle wedding cake!) with bread, and also bacon and sausage cobs, so sugar free all the way.

It was only yesterday that I realised that Easter had completely passed me by - no egg, no chocolate of any description, no kicking and screaming. It's a strange, slightly flat little victory, because it wasn't hard and I didn't realise I was doing it. It just goes to show it's worked, and is working.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

My theory about cholesterol.

I realise I don't write as much as I used to. I think this is because in general I am thinking a lot less about my own personal quit, but I am reading a lot about the science behind the movement, and thought I'd share some of this today.

A friend of mine rang and told me she has been told she has high cholesterol, and ordered to give up dry white wine and start eating only low fat, and completely bypass saturated fat. It just doesn't sit well with me... Here's why.

(Disclaimer... I am NOT a medical professional. I am a food teacher, but my standpoint is entirely based on my own experiences and my logical interpretation of the texts of other writers. This is not advice, just observation.)

1) Cholesterol is produced by the liver. It is a fatty substance, or lipid. Fructose gets converted into fat by the liver instead of being converted into glucose by the cells. Maybe if the sugar wasn't in the liver in the first place, the liver wouldn't be able to do this. Maybe?

2) Low fat stuff generally has lots more sugar in it that normal fat products. If it didn't it would taste like wellingtons. Cardboard wellingtons.

3) Dry white wine has very little sugar in it, because the yeast gobbles it all up in the alcohol making process. Even better choice is red wine, and steer well clear from port, liqueurs or mixers.

4) Coconut oil is a saturated fat. It contains a large percentage of lauric acid and stays by stable at high temperatures because it is a short chain fatty acid. Also, communities that eat primarily just coconut oil have low rates of heart disease. Unlike vegetable oil, which does crazy things at high temperatures. Not good.

I don't mean to get really evangelical about it all, but you have to agree that  a lot of the advice on matters like cholesterol, and diet lately don't quite seem to add up. I found these 2 articles in the Telegraph to support my rantings:




Plus, one can't argue with the evidence that in the last 2 months, and without dieting or exercising more than usual I have lost 5cm from around my middle, and half a stone. I also no longer compulsively clear my plate, don't crave sweet treats, and haven't at any point had to talk myself down from the ledge because of not being allowed to eat something I wanted.

My gut feeling is, take the pressure off your liver by not feeding it loads of sweet nasties, and it will be able to concentrate better and not produce the bad stuff itself. It's only a theory. I might ask for a cholesterol test at the doctor. Some evidence would be pretty cool.

In other news, I had an orange. It was very sweet. I only ate half. This is new.

Bon appetite xx

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Tentatively, I may be cured.

I have been absent for a while, too many other things going on I'm afraid, but I'm back and I have news.

So, weigh in this week was not so good. But before I got too antsy, I did have a good thorough look at the week's activities and to be fair. I deserved to have put on a pound. I deserved ten, if I'm honest. There was the Night of the Three Parties... Guinness, lager, gin martinis, and several gin and it (nothing if not creative) hotly followed by the Day of The Unholy Hangover when I think I ate everything in the kitchen. No sugar was in the kitchen, however my own body weight in bread and cheese was, and is no longer. That day ended with the Feast of the Hen Party When the Hen Didn't Show, otherwise known as the Feast at the French Cafe, where cheese (again with the cheese, fatty!) was washed down with a bottle of Merlot... No, I deserve everything I got.

But, a few interesting things have happened.

1) the Night of the Three Parties saw me try a gin and slimline tonic for he first time since the big quit, and I couldn't drink it because it was so unbearably sweet. Tooth-achingly sweet in fact. I knew my tastes had changed, but I hadn't realised quite this much. Interesting. 

2) the Feast at the French Cafe ended with dessert. Well, I say dessert. My friend who is currently on a diet with one of the big slimming clubs had a mango sorbet, which she left half of on account it was too sweet. I had the baked Camembert starter for dessert. It came with bread and apple slices, and a couple of which were plenty. A nice treat, but no need to eat the lot. Hmmmmm. 

3) the aforementioned Hen asked me to make wedding favours for her, little nets of Cadbury mini eggs tied with a ribbon. In short, I handled 900 mini eggs yesterday. NINE HUNDRED!! And not a single solitary egg passed my lips. And not, I swear, because of any extraordinary willpower or self control. I actually just didn't want one. They smelled so incredibly sweet, far far too sweet, and the sugary dust on my hands was almost mindbending. That is new. Previously I would have eaten as many as I wrapped! 

So the sugar quitting has definitely worked. Happy days. Perhaps I need to increase my veggie intake. I probably ought to decrease my booze and cheese intake. But hot diggity, I think I'm cured.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Good news

Keeping it brief, but hear this...

5cm lost from my waist in 3 weeks.


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Oatmeal and sunflower cookies...oh my!

Right, cracked it. Here goes:

Mrs Baker's sugar free oatmeal and sunflower seed cookies

100g butter
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups porrage oats
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup sunflower seeds, hulled
2tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 150oC and prepare 2 trays with baking parchment.

Melt the butter and coconut milk together in a large saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil for a minute, then remove from the heat.

Stir in the oats, rice flour, seeds and vanilla and mix until it becomes doughy. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Take small handfuls, say 2 teaspoons, and roll into a ball. Flatten into the tray with your fingers. I made 18.

Bake for 35 - 45 minutes until lightly browned and crisped.

Try to avoid burning your fingers and lips whilst shovelling the tester into your mouth... Enjoy!

Good grief, I could really go for a biscuit...

So, week 5 draws on, and it is weigh day again today. Let me just underline though, this is not just about weight, but about health and food addiction, so it is ok if I don't lose weight every week.

I have stuck to my objectives for this week so far - trying to add more fresh veg to make up for the lack of fruit, generally trying to add a bit more variety, and trying to incorporate a bit more exercise. I am still having the wee niggling voices question whether this is all correct (20 years of "don't eat fat" is tough to shake!) and right on time as per Sarah's wise book, this week has been entirely sponsored by the sugar pangs. Eeshk.

Starting to snack on veg more, in the way that I would normally snack on fruit is helping, and actually biting into a half a pepper is a good substitute for apples. I have enjoyed avocados, cucumber and tomatoes in this way, and it has helped add variety, colour and crunch.

I have also tried my hand at baking some sugar free baked treats, although this is proving to be a little experimental and so far not entirely successful! My oat cookies were a little slippery on day one, marginally more crunchy by day two, but still lacking something. Not sugar as such, although that would help bind and combine, but actually I think a cup of wholemeal flour would help. I will try another batch later and come back to you on that one.

The cheese question is interesting me as well. As someone who has basically been on a diet for 20 years, and interesting is quite a lot heavier than I was at the beginning, I have always been told that cheese is the Salty Dairy Devil, perched on your shoulder ready to sabotage your efforts at the slightest whiff. Indeed, if you diet with the big clubs, a day's allocation of the delicious devil is a mere 30g, about the size of a matchbox, and in my experience, just enough to remind you of what you have been missing, thus leading you into a cheese fuelled mindwarp where you would cheerfully give up your job purely to stand with the fridge light on your face inhaling its forbidden fumes.

And yet, now I find myself in this strange new world where oranges are off and snacking on a piece of cheese is on. It is true that a cheese snack curbs my mid afternoon appetite far better than fruit ever would, but the doubting voice does still question whether this will have the right effect on the scales, the measurements and the overall fitness. I guess I need to keep believing and trying, and reflect as the weeks proceed. I'm not a religious person, in fact I am so inside my head that I drive myself sick with confusion when faced with thinking a philosophical issue through, so I do find it rather difficult to stomach the concept of blind faith. But this is cheese not creationism, so perhaps I should relax.

Back to the cookies. It is interesting, veering on evangelical in fact, that every week's chapter of Sarah's book is so right on the money with how I feel. I said to Mr B on Sunday, I'm struggling with the cravings today, and flipped open the chapter to read the words, "Cravings - they're ugly and dispiriting. But they're normal so its important to keep going." It's like she's watching from the corner of the kitchen...

So, the current mission:
- suss out these cookie recipes
- in fact suss out sugar free treats in general. Woman cannot live on yogurt alone.
- keep eating veggies as fruit. Substifruit if you will.
- keep seeking out new ideas to add variety
- keep reading the book

I don't really care about the weight loss issue, if I'm honest. Its more that it is the only gauge of food and diet I have ever known. I suppose, if the plan works and I am not addicted to sugar, and ultimately gain a better control of my appetite, nutrition and food urges, then weight will hopefully fall into place anyway. Also, provided the addition of fat into my diet doesn't result in weight going on, it doesn't really matter if I don't lose any weight, because in a couple of months when the addiction is curbed, I can then systematically reduce fat intake too.

If I ever crack this cookie recipe I will post it on here. Until then, may the cheese be with you xx

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Week 4

A bit tardy on the update, but hey, it's been sunny and I've been busy...

So, weigh in - 1/2lb off. Not bad. Extraordinary considering that I have been snacking in cheese, nuts and ful fat yogurt.

Standing in the queue and listening to the other members did give me food for thought, in particular the "eat as much free food as you can" mentalitity. I have not had any sugar, but I probably haven't had as much fresh veg this week as last week. I also haven't done as much exercise as a person trying to lose weight perhaps should.

So, target for this week - more of that super fresh stuff, and in the absence of fruit, cucumbers and peppers can fill that gap. And exercise - as well as twice weekly yoga, aim to increase to four exercise sessions by adding a couple of gym visits.

See how it goes - still smiling.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Do you want to know a secret?

I feel like I have discovered a secret.

I hope I'm not turning into one of Those Women, but I feel compelled to tell people, to pass the message on.

It's a strange experience, to find a solution to a problem I've had all my life, and it still is rather early days to draw any radical conclusions, but nearly 4 weeks in, I love it.

I thought I'd miss the sugar more than I do. In actual fact, I've hardly even thought about it. Yes, a quick flash of remorse crossed my mind when I realised there would be no Easter egg, and when I encountered a piece of Dairy Milk earlier, for a second I forgot I don't eat it, and there was a twinkle of disappointment when I remembered. But, on the whole, it's been plain sailing on calm seas.

Where I used to run in from work, and attack everything I could get my hands on, now I generally just want a drink. (Tea, cheeky.) If I want a snack I have a little piece of cheese, some olives or nuts, or maybe a piece of toast with butter.

Breakfast is no longer a bowl of cereal at school, and is instead usually an egg, poached, gently fried in a little butter or maybe scrambled with some spinach. Oh, and it is now served at home, with a proper coffee and a side order of cats, rather than wolfed down in five minutes in the company of squawking children. Lunch is a cous cous salad with halloumi, quinoa with chickpeas and spinach, maybe rice with vegatables. I have shunned the school stodge - no more pizza and garlic bread, no lasagne or fajitas. I do still enjoy the proper Indian dishes though - palek paneer, aloo saag with chickpea dahl - which rather goes to show that this sugar problem is new.

It's weigh day again tomorrow, and I really hope that I have lost some weight. If I have, it means it's working. If I have, it's worth keeping on with it, which I hope is the case because I feel brilliant. I'm less tired at the end of the day, more ready to sleep at bed time, more able to read in bed without nodding off. I do still struggle to get up, but I think that's a work thing - I work 70 hours a week so the time between finishing and sleeping is too short to really relax (maybe there's another blog in that!) but even so, I'm not as hungry by break time nor as tired by afternoon.

What I'm really looking forward to is taking measurements, but I think it's too soon - weight update tomorrow.

Nighty night xx

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Weigh Day

I can't argue with the fact I feel much healthier, and I certainly feel energised and less tired at the end of the day, but remember the reason I started all was in a bid to lose weight. Well, no not exactly, but I started going to a slimming club to lose weight, realised it was a psychotic form of torture, and found myself in the book aisle of my local supermarket.

I went to slimming last night to get weighed. I was slightly anxious, because despite all the positives, I'd have been plenty peeved if I had gained weight. I stood in the queue, thumbing through the book trying to look like I'd read it, secretly checking the naughty-values of all the things I've been eating for the last 3 weeks.

Without wanting to give away which club, it transpires that an ounce of cheese is 4 times as naughty as an ounce of canned black cherry pie filling, a tablespoon of butter is considered 11 times as bad for you as the fat free yogurts that contain 7 teaspoons of sugar, and an avocado is equal to 5 rich tea biscuits. I stood in the queue, listening to the other members... "I was doing alright  until the weekend", someone put on 3lb in a week, all the while listening to the leader give the introductory talk to the new members.

So, onto the scales, and thank goodness, 3.5lbs off. Good.

It doesn't matter, because I'm not following the plan, and if I hadn't lost weight I could still have cut back some fat to help that along, but I'm so pleased I had. It validates the whole process, and I know that it works. Basically, it means it's ok to carry on, and if I stick to it, my weight should adjust positively and stay that way.

Eventually, I might come out and say that I haven't been sticking to their rules, or that I've eaten as much butter and cheese as I've lost in pounds (!) but for now, I will politely just slip away.

"Keep smiling" said the woman manning the scales.

I certainly will.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Three Chias for Chia!

Chia, cashew and cacao puddings

Adapted from a recipe of Sarah Wilson's

1/2 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup cacao nibs
375ml milk
Sprinkle of grind cinnamon

Place the chia seeds in a large bowl. Finely chop the cacao and cashews with a mezzaluna and add to the chia. Pour over the milk and add the cinnamon. Give a stir and leave to thicken for 10 minutes or so. Divide into 4 ramekins and refrigerate until set.

It has an interesting texture, a bit like tapioca, but if the slightly granular feel isn't for you, I think you could blend it with a stick blender to make it smooth. I serve mine with a tablespoon of greek yogurt on the top.

I winced slightly at the price, about £6 per pack of both chia and nibs, but if you buy in bulk, or better still, catch a Holland and Barrett buy one get one half price offer and it's not too bad. Worth trying if you miss a sweet treat at the end of the day.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Week three looms

This is harder than I thought. The last few days have been really difficult. Not insummountable, but challenging, and physically hard. I guess that's because is working but it's a trial this week.

It made me think about why, and give myself a break.

- saying no - this week has presented several occasions where I had to say no to offers of the wrong food, when I was tired and emotional. Pizza at patents evening, a sandwich out in town, and yet I stick it out.

- workload - patents evening x end of project marking or 6 groups x department strategy presentation = knackered and emotional. Normally the answer is Ben x Jerry...

- Mother Nature - end of pill packet =  3 days of dropping things, breaking things, and reaching for the wrong things. So far self medicating with butter and wine.

- In need of a benchmark - it's been over 2 weeks, and I haven't weighed myself to see how it's going. I'm ok with not losing weight (if the sugar quitting works to make me feel better but I don't lose, I can always diet sugar free then) but I would be really disappointed if I put weight on. To which end, today I have taken measurements so that in a couple of weeks I can check against this.

- it's time to go cold turkey

It's hard but it is ok. I've been shopping for supplies today to try some new recipes - cacao nibs, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds - and have some new things to try. They say the third week is tough with lots of addictions, it certainly was with smoking, and the only way is to grip on, and keep persevering, and celebrate the small victories.

On the plus side, I'm really enjoying the food and I am noticing a big difference in how much I want to eat and snack. A few slices of halloumi and red pepper this afternoon staved off dinner, so instead of roast chicken I made a delicious cous cous salad with basil, spinach, tomato, cucumber, and mackerel.

It is difficult, but it is good. Keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Apparently the world is doing it.

Interesting article from the Beeb...


And the Express...


In other news I declined free Dominos yesterday. That's dedication!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

What not to eat

I have just discovered that there are 23.2g of sugar in a tin of baked beans. Eek!! So apparently I no longer eat beans.

This is such a life reforming plan - so many "rules" I have been following on (let's be honest, unsuccessful) diets for the last 15 years have been completely overturned. Slimming clubs purporting baked beans and fruit will help you control your eating, fat is always bad, and low fat is always good. It's been quite illuminating.

I have only been at this for 10 days, but so far I have omitted:

- low fat yogurt
- cereal bars
- ketchup
- gravy granules
- breakfast cereals
- fruit (this will come back in a few weeks)
- baked beans
- jam
- all desserts
- diet pop (I never liked sugary pop anyway)
- biscuits / chocolate (obviously!)
- white bread
- savoury sauces
- tinned soups

In fact, absolutely loads of things that the slimming clubs suggest you eat in small amounts to keep you on track. Hmmm ....

Still enjoying much more energy, and still not having the 4pm crash (excellent when you teach til 4.15). Still sleeping better, and waking better.

I keep meaning to take measurements so I can keep track of inch loss, but haven't got round to it yet, and I can't go to get weighed this week because it's parents evening, so I'm having to just have faith and keep on keeping on. I do hope it is at least letting me maintain weight not gain, because I feel brilliant and I don't want to stop.

Must drop those 4 tins of baked beans in at the food bank...

Monday, 3 March 2014

A few observations...

It's Monday night and I have only just finished work, so I will keep it brief. A few observations...

- I no longer always clear my plate
- I came in from a 13 hour day and didn't need a snack
- I feel slimmer
- I wasn't nearly so tired after yoga yesterday
- I'm nowhere near as tired as I usually am at this time of day

Happy days.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Week one done :)

I didn't intend to quit sugar.

I asked the doctor for free membership to a slimming club, and went along. I have to say, I was shocked and horrified at the attitudes of the 20 or so women there. Purporting emulsified fat sprays, low fat yogurts and instant noodles, they seemed to be looking for a miracle - a way to somehow fool their lumpy bodies into losing weight whilst still eating all the foods they love and washing it down with weekly boozy nights out. Cheese is the enemy, vodka is the saviour, and putting on weight after a week's dieting warranted a round of applause.

I knew in my bones it wouldn't work... And I had 11 more weeks to go!

Then the weekend - not the ideal way to start a diet. Thursday was dinner and a night out with an old friend, Friday was a family meal out for a curry, and Saturday was our anniversary, so hardly the best start.

Then I bought this book... Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar. I stood in the book aisle and skimmed the process. It made sense, it seemed like it could work. It certainly made me think. 4 days after the slimming club fiasco, I decided to give it a go.

Surprisingly, the first day was not hard. I kept reading and rereading the book, because it seemed a little too simple. I stated taking lunch to work, instead of having the canteen food. I started checking labels and realised just how ridiculously high in sugar my diet had been, and this is coming from a person who doesn't take sugar in tea, and generally thought I was quite healthy.

The basic gist of the plan is to remove all fructose from the diet, and replace it with quality fats, carbohydrates and proteins. It was new to me to snack in cheese and switch to full fat dairy, but as much as I didn't fully believe it, having the fat did help omit the sugar.

The headaches were something else though! I wasn't prepared for the withdrawal symptoms, which really were comparable with a spectacular hangover. But they only latest for a few days, and by Wednesday night's slimming meeting I actually felt ok.

Anxiously I stepped on the scales, not expecting miracles (or anything really) but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had put on half a pound. Doesn't sound like a reason to be cheerful, but given my weekend, I could easily have put a pound or more on, so the fact that all the extra fat and cheese had not really had an impact, I thought I'm ok to keep at it, and see how it pans out.

Then came the miracle. Now the headaches had eased off, and I'd settled in a bit, I found energy I haven't had in years. As a teacher I work 70 hour weeks, but suddenly I was catching myself dancing in the kitchen while I cooked the dinner, and leaving work feeling full of energy, bit desperate to sleep. As the days went on, I kept it up, checking labels and continuing to be shocked at just how much sugar I had been eating without even realising. 28g in a low fat yogurt, 20g in a cereal bar - just making those 2 small changes has cut out 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, or 60 in a working week. And that is without the cereal, dessert, sauces, and all those other hidden teaspoons.

The weekend has been tricky in places - lunch with the girls at a city centre pub left me a little short of options, chicken and avocado salad to eat but only spring water to drink, then a night out with him indoors where I had a steak and chips, feeling a little uncertain about the rules. Actually, having checked the book, the meal was fine, but a couple of pints of real ale left me with a killer headache this morning. (Not a hangover, but the same sugar head from the beginning if the week.) Still, live and learn.

So now it's been a week. It's weird, because in many ways it feels like much longer, but no, 7 days exactly. But how do I feel? Like a new person.

Honestly, it's like rocket fuel. Looking forward to week 2.