Monday, February 29, 2016

Sugar fasting week 4

Hey folks!

How have you been? Lisek and me we are pretty awesome. Lying on the couch (or - in his case- next to it) after a long morning walk in the sun. There is definitely spring in the air outside and I love it!

Wow, I just had to look it up, because I kind of lose track here, it has been four weeks without candy in my life and I am so proud and happy at the moment. I feel really liberated and not because I fight temptations, but also because I have the feeling, candy and sugary food have become a bit meaningsless in my life. I can be just relaxed about them.

Last weekend we were invited for a "perfect dinner" at friends of ours. We have done this last year as well, every couple of the four invites the others over once a year for a three course menu and gets points for the food, decorations, you name it. Not being a very competitive person I do not particularly enjoy the format of the meetings, but it is always fun to see everyone. They served flan and churros for dessert and I did not want to be the person who would not eat it, just because it contains sugar. So I made an exception on Satuday. It was ok, I just noticed how sweet everything tastes when you are less used to it. Other than that I did not have any problems. Sunday, I just went back to my normal eating routine and that was it . In a facebook group I joined about sugar fasting, people freak out when they "lost control". When I think about it, I can understand it to a certain extent. But by making it a big deal, you let sugar play an even bigger role in your life than it had before. The difference is choice of course. If I deliberatley choose to have some cake or a dessert at a restaurant, then I enjoy it and know that overall I live a healthy lifestyle. Sounds like a healthy approach to eating to me.

PhD reading goes on at the moment. Next week I am goint to have the first eeting with fellow students, where everyone is supposed to present their ideas. I will not lie, I am a bit nervous about it, bur I will manage and probably take a lot out of the opportunity.

This new mindset it quite extraordinary for me. In my twenties I used to have much less self asteem. I would be horrified by the event next week and be totally sure not to be prepared well enough and so on. You probably are familiar with that feeling. Maybe it is my age and my experience that tell me, most of the time, situations you fear are much less horrible than you imagine them to be. All the fretting and the nervousness in advance actually is often worse than the situation itself.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sugar fasting - Second Week

Yesterday it has been two weeks of no sugar and no candy in my life. And what can I tell you? I feel great!
I had no idea that things would work out so well this year (At least so far...) A major difference to two years ago, when letting sugar go was by far less easy, is the stress level I currently have. Since reducing my officetime and my working hours altogether I am a much more relaxed person. Organizing breakfast everyday and getting up early enough to prepeare it does not seem such a big deal, which helps me a lot with reducing my cravings for anything sweet. Never having been a breakfast person, it can be tough to have breakfast everyday, but I just prepare it and take it on the train to work, so that I don't have to eat directly after having fallen out of bed. It might be weird, but the breakfast in the morning helps with cravings I usually have in the afternoon.

If you feel the need for a chocolate bar or anything, drink a cup of green tea first. It is a) one of the healthiest things you can put into your body and b) it helps with hunger attacks.

As a further motivation and to inform me, or also - let's be honest here - to feel awesome about myself, I like to watch documentaries about sugar and read all books about it I can get my hands on. I also joined a German facebook-group of People who are quitting sugar, the idea is to motivate and inform each other. My problem with it is, that the group is mostly used to share recipes of desserts and cake without sugar. When you want to give up sweets, no matter whether they contain sugar or another sweetener, it is not very helpful.

Sarah Wilson is also giving up fruit for 8 weeks, but I am not there yet...

I enjoyed "That sugar film" though (check out the trailer here), which was in cinemas last year. A documentary about an Australian actor, Damon Gameau, who had quit sugar a while ago and wanted to show the effects of sugar on a healthy body, by eating produced products again and including sugar in his diet. The interesting part about the movie is, that he doesn't eat candy though, but gets all his sugar (the average Australian amount of 41 tablespoons of sugar a day) from food often considered healthy, especially low fat producty, which usually contain a lot of sugar and cereals, granola bars, vitamin water, frozen yogurt, etc.  It is a very crazy, colourful and entertaining movie and it shows how bad all this food can be for your body. What impressed me most about it was, that it didn't stop with the message, that today's food is mostly bad for you, but on a positive note, that you have the power to change it. Damon goes back to his healthy lifestyle after his experiment and after a few weeks loses the weight and all his health problems. Even during the "sugar diet" he longs for his healthy lifestyle and feel good again. A scientist, interviewed in the movie made a statement that really got me to thinking: "If you have always lived that way (eating processed food), you have no idea of what life can be like." If you have always been drugged how can you know what it is like to be clean? Quitting sugar the last two weeks already had an effect on my energy level, I get up early, I feel motivated to do sports, I cook, spend qualitly time with friends, get my work done, read stuff for my PhD thesis - and it feels awesome. It makes me not want to start with sugar again. So this time I might stick to this way of eating.

I can also recommend a relatively new documentary about the problem of sugar made by the BBC (I love their documentaries!) called The Truth about Sugar.  and Globesity - Fat's new Frontier. Those help me to stay motivated and also to be informed about what contains sugar and how to avoid it. Just yesterday I watched a Ted Talk that Jamie Oliver gave on sugar and nutrition. It is very informative and I like how he uses his popularity to make schools healthier and inform people about food choices. In one of the documentaries I watched they said that about 80 % of all the school canteens in the US are sponsored by fast food or beverage companies, meaning the kids are surrounded by a lot of fast food even at school. I can only imagine how hard it must be to live halthily in the US.
One product containing added sugar Jamie Oliver talks about is milk. At least in the US. I found that appalling, but is there actually that much difference to the new apple varieties which have much more sugar in them than apples formerly had? We have a very good and big organic supermarket across the street and I am planning on getting my fruit from there in future, trying to find old varieties that contain less sugar.

Sugar and candy are considered such desirable products, that a lot of pet names actually come from that family: honey, sugar, sweetheart, a.s.o. I made myself a "sugar playlist" and those are only the songs that immediately came to my mind when thinking of candy related songs:

Sweets for my Sweets
Sugar Sugar - The Archies
Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
Candy man - Christina Aguilera
I'll take you to the candyshop - The Baseballs
Sugar - Robin Schulz, Francesco Yates
Lollipop - The Chordettes
Like Ice in the Sunshine - The Boss Hoss
Sugar - Maroon 5
Sugar Baby Love - The Rubettes
I want candy - Hop

Lisek is the sweetest Sweetheart anyway! 

Sugar is everywhere. Our brains react to it like they would react to other drugs as dangerous as cocaine or heroin. No wonder we want more and more and the food industry puts it into everything, always making us want more. They make money of our addiction. Imagine the uproar if we found out they put cocaine into everyday products to make us buy them. But the more I read and learn about sugar I feel that it is not so much different... 

Just recently a research team tested popular hot beverages we buy at coffee houses nearly every day on our way to or from work and they had a rocking amount of sugar in them! I always enjoyed drinking my nice and cozy Chai Latte at the coffe shop in our main station and no wonder, it consists of almost more sugar than we should eat on the whole day! Check out the BBC report on it here. I will have to continue making my own chai tea at home...

A lot of sugar experts, scientists and journalists see parallels to the fight against the tobacco industry in the 1970s. From the 1950s onwards it got clear how bad cigarretes are for your health and still, cigarettes used to be everywhere around us. The industry reacted by trying to undermine science and even attacking scientists and paying lobbyists to make sure, they did not have to endure government regulations. The same is happening at the moment with sugar.   (My parents actually used to smoke in the house all the time, and that was in the 90s...) I am currently watching a lot of Mad Men, and set in the 1960s, they are smoking everywhere, even on a plane, or with a big pregnant belly, which nowadays looks so shocking and perverse, but that is only thanks to the rebellion of some scientists against the tobacco industry. I believe that the same might happen to sugar. Ok, cigarettes are not part of what our body needs, but the longer and longer I am sugar fastening, I realize that processed food with sugar in it does not count as food at all. They are non-foods and they increasingly feel like that to me. While I already feel sick, when I see parents filling the baby's bottles with coke (I have only ever seen that on tv, dealing with the US or Mexico e.g., but I bet people are doing this in Germany as well), maybe in twenty years time we will tach footage from 2015 and feel appalled by the vast amount of sugar offered for example at a kid's birthday...

The other day, I went through the station and saw those ads, for chocolate, showing big choloate bars, full of nuts and yummie stuff, promising coziness and happiness. Candy in our culture is connected to happiness, which makes sense in the short run, as sugar helps to rise your serotonine-levels, but they shatter afterwards and you feel worse than before you ate that cookie or the piece of chocolate. So, turning to candy as a moodbooster is quite shortsighted and can start a vicious circle of always wanting more. I used to be a total ad-victim. Whenever I would see chocolate on a screen I immediately wanted some. Not so yesterday though. I went through the station, noticed the ads  - and then just went on. Without having the desire to eat chocolate. That might not mean much to you. but it is a huge step for me and it felt so liberating to not be affected by this ad. It is a huge thing for me. Being too passive about my food choices is one reason, maybe even the main reason, I chose to quit sugar for Lent two years ago. So it might be not such a big surprise of how empowering it felt to not care about the great looking pictures of chocolate above my head. 

Living healthily has motivated me to do more sports as well- I have started with yoga again after having the flu two weeks ago. We have also been bouldering last week, which was so much fun that I regret how we have been not doing this for such a long time... And we went running tonight. 

I will keep you posted about the sports and fitness which is going to happen around here. Taking the dog for a walk outside in the spring sun is already pretty awesome exercise I think.

Take care :)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sugar Fasting 2.0 First Week

Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbei (It's all over on Ash Wednesday)

Aschermittwoch marks the end of carnival season, a big party in the area I live in. We always celebrate carnival big, with lots of friends and nice costumes. And lots of sugar and alcohol, of course. The overly sugary food around carnival, following another very unhealthy time of year, christmas, causes the bad feeling we all know, the feeling of sugar weighing us down. It is no wonder that spring is a time for fasting. After Ash Wednesday, Lent officially starts. It is a very useful tradition, not only to prepare your body for spring, but to make you feel better after a time of sin ;-)

Lisek didn't understand what "Cheese" was supposed to mean...

We should be aware that Lent is no invention of the church, fasting is a much older tradition.
Two years ago I decided to give up sugar for the time of Lent. I am not a Christian, but it is a good tradition, found in many religions and cultures, to give up something that you feel has power over you, maybe something you do exceedingly. It is a time of empowerment. of regaining control over aspects of your life and can be very spiritual in itself. Sugar fastening was quite hard from time to time two years ago and all that kept me going was the longing for chocolate on Easter Sunday.

It's bye bye chocolate again!

This year proves to be a bit different. I have just started with the sugarfree time. but at least till now I do not miss my candy much. Two years ago, tomatoes and coffee with milk have helped me through the sugarfree weeks. In preparation I bought heaps of fresh and sundried tomatoes, so if I ever crave something sweet, I can just have some tomatoes. Banana with peanutsquish (without added sugar or salt) are a good snack if you feel like you need something sweet.

We have been quite good this year so far, when it comes to cooking. Mr. Schön and me we like to try all kinds of recipes and I have the ambition to eat more typical winter veggies, as long as they are still around. Brussel spouts, kale... Yesterday we tried a recipe with brussel sprout, fried in a pan, with pasta, mixed with parmesan and lemon peel and some cream. It was delicious! The other day, we made steak and guess who really wanted to have a piece of it. Or rather all of it...

Lisek watching Mr. Schön's every step...

Our food nowadays is loaded with sugar: ketchup, peanut butter, alcohol. juice, soda, you name it. I have no figures or number for you, but I guess that sugar addiction is the most common addiction there is in our times. Sweets are so present in our everyday life that everytime I almost ate something sweet during the last week, was when I was not paying attention to what I was drinking or eating. For example soft drinks on parties. While sugar used to be a rare good in the olden days, you can now find it almost everywhere- cake. joghurt, drinks, even salad, fast food, etc. If you are hooked on sugar like most of us are nowadays, maybe you want to give it up for a while as well.

Those tips might be helpful:

- give away all your sugary food, maybe take it to work, usually there are a few hungry people there.

- A.J. Jacobs writes in "Drop Dead Healthy" about how he wrote a cheque of I think 1000 $ to the American Nazi party, and if he failed to keep his hands off the mango slices he loved to eat, the money would go to those idiots. This is a good way to motivate you, even when the flesh is weak, it might help to make your spirit stronger, if in case you fail, something horrible happens.

- I just read about the suggestion to give up sugar step by step and to first write down a lot of sugary food you usually like to eat. Every evening, you mark the food you did not eat that day. I can imagine that seeing how the list grows you get motivated to eat better and better.

- Find the food you like to eat instead of candy. Sundried tomatoes work for me, plus everything containing milk, as milk has sugar in it as well.

- If you happen to eat a piece of cake or chocoate, don't stop the whole project. None of us is perfect and that's ok. Maybe you just really needed this piece right then. Keep up with the plan and don't think about the occasion.

- Reduce stress. It helps me big time that nowadays I work more from home, where I better control what to eat and when to eat. When in the office, often I do not take the break to eat in peace, ending up with really bad food choices. Try to avoid stress and eat early in the day, to not let you crave sugary food on an empty stomach.

- I am putting everything I eat into an app. It sounds like a lot of work. but the app is actually quick in finding all the ingredients, plus I always find time for it on the train or in the evening on the sofa. It motivates me big time to eat healthily and also to do some workout I can write down into the app. For this, I am using Lifesum, as I mentioned in an earlier post.

- A side effect of the sugar diet last time was my weight loss. It was not much for six weeks (six pounds) I think, but it was a nice side effect. Maybe I will have the same effect this year, but as it is the main goal to become empowered when it comes to food choices, it is not really important.

- If you do not want to give up sweet stuff, there are loads of sugarfree recipes online, for example check out pinterest for it. Natural sweeteners like dates or agave should be chosen over artificial sweeteners like aspartam, which I think is even worse than sugar.

- two years ago I wrote about a great recipe for Mousse au Chocolat. It was seriously better than the original sugarloaded thing. There are heaps of recipes on the internet, just check them out.

- We are in one boat: a lot of people use Lent to do sugarfasting and it is always easy if you share your battle with others. Find groups on facebook, pins on pinterest, etc. to make the time easier.

Bon Appetit!

Tonight's dinner. Yum!