22 January, 2011

A Week's Worth of Sweets Denied

Once you decide to quit doing something, it becomes very clear just how much you were doing it.  Since I've given up sugar, it seems like I confront temptation every single day.  It doesn't just seem that way - it is that way.  That's because before I gave up sweets in November, I ate sugary foods and drank sugary drinks every single day. 

I decided that it would be interesting to document just how much sugar I'm giving up.  A week is a good amount of time, so I wrote down every single thing I would have eaten if I wasn't doing this crazy no-sugar-challenge. 

Remember, this is no "special" week - it's not filled with special events, holidays, or even any unusually stressful events.  It's just a plain old week for me (when I'm not on a diet, which is most of the time).

  • Friday:
    • Starbucks on Fridays:  One tall Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks.
    • Breakfast Club at the office:  Dunkin Donuts.  One around 9am and  a second around 10:30.
    • Oh man, I forgot it was January birthday month!  Cake and vanilla ice cream at 2:30.  By now I have grumble-tummy, but that doesn't stop me.
    • Dinner:  my husband and I decide to get soup at Paradise Bakery.  This place is pure evil - they have the most fantastic cookies and they are buy one get one free - so you literally can't just have one!  They are big enough to split one, but because we get one free, I'd eat a whole one.
  • Saturday:
    • Dinner party:  raspberry vinegarette on the salad and for dessert, apple crumble w/ vanilla ice cream AND freshly baked cupcakes.  Probably would have split a cupcake with my husband.
  • Sunday:
    • Went to yoga - deserve a Strawberry Vivanno from Starbucks
    • Stopped at Cost Plus, husband got a Crunchie...I would have gotten one too.
  • Monday
    • Holiday-no work!  Went hiking - deserve a Caramel Macchiato and Blueberry scone from Starbucks
  • Tuesday
    • Back to work...stayed 'till 7:30pm :-(  Needed some chocolate - candy from vending machine!
  • Wednesday
    • A mostly sugar-free day!  Perhaps an afternoon Diet Pepsi (still has artificial sweeteners, though)
  • Thursday
    • Late at work...hungry so grabbed a Fiber One bar out of my co-workers desk (thanks, Amy!)
  • All week
    • On non-Starbucks days, regular coffee with sugar

Turns out that in this particular week, I gave up approximately 400 grams of sugar and around 3,600 calories.  This is very interesting because, in case you didn't know, you need to eat 3,500 extra calories in order to gain one pound of weight.  No wonder I've easily lost 10 pounds in the last two months! 

I encourage anyone who suspects that they may be eating too much sugar to do an experiment like I did.  You might be shocked at how many "empty" calories you are consuming.  It is so easy to eat too much sugar because of how sugar acts in your body...more on that another time.


16 January, 2011

I've Always TRIED to Be Healthy

I was very pleased this weekend when I got a phone call from my mom - she was calling to make sure she had all of the ingredients to make a green smoothie!  (Also, she confirmed that she liked the smoothie I made for her while she was out here visiting and she wasn't just pretending to be nice).

While my family was out here, I also introduced them to quinoa - and my sister actually enjoyed it!  To put this into context - my sister likes Yoo-hoo, cold hot dogs straight from the package, and scrapple (if you don't know what it is Google it).  On a side-note, check out this article about Yoo-hoo.  Conclusion?  This Frankenfood should come with a warning label!

So my mom also called to make sure she remembered the name of that wonderful couscous-like super food.  It makes me so happy to hear that my parents are eating healthier and that my sister is open to some different foods like quinoa. 

I hope that throughout this year I can learn more about what I'm putting into my body, and that I can share that information with my friends, family, and anyone else who is interested in good health.  

There is one thing that I'm beginning to realize:  you can't do healthy "part-time".  What do I mean by that?  Can you eat dessert and still be healthy?  Yes.  But can you exercise sporadically, eat well only 50% of the time, keep an extra 30 pounds of weight on, and still be healthy?  NO. 

Even though in the past, I've tried to eat right, exercise, and keep my weight in an acceptable range, it wasn't good enough.  My body doesn't know the difference between my good intentions and reality.  In reality, I've been 10 pounds overweight, my digestive system was over-worked, and while my body was craving nutrients, I was giving it sugar.  No wonder I felt like crap all of the time!


08 January, 2011

Benefits of Living Sugar Free

People have asked me why I would intentionally deny myself the pleasure of indulging in sweets (in moderation, of course).  Generally, sane people do not engage in unpleasant activities which do not provide some kind of payoff.  A few examples of unpleasant activities and their related payoffs:
  • Marathons (I personally challenge the sanity of these individuals, but for argument's sake, let's ignore my opinion) - "runner's high" and feeling of accomplishment
  • Desk jobs - money
  • Going to the dentist/flossing - you get to keep your teeth longer
  • Cleaning the house - you feel more comfortable in your home and visitors are impressed with your cleanliness
  • Cutting spending - feelings of security; you get to spend more later
  • Having babies - I'll get back to you on this one
Now I'm not saying I'm completely sane, but for me giving up sugar for a year is perfectly rational.  I eat sweets because they give me pleasure.  Chocolate makes me happy at 3pm on a Wednesday when all I can think about is shutting down my computer and going home.  Ice cream makes me smile, well, pretty much any time I eat it.  (I swear, if it were socially acceptable to eat ice cream for breakfast, I would.  Weird, you say?  When's the last time you had a doughnut before 9 am?  I rest my case).

After a month and a half without sugar I have noticed some pretty significant and positive side effects.  I hope one of those side effects will eventually include the elimination of cravings, but it hasn't happened yet (and I suspect the reason for that is white flour, but that's another topic entirely).

Benefits I've Noticed Since Giving up Sweets:
  1. No energy crashes - since this happens after eating sugar, I don't have them anymore
  2. Feelings of accomplishment - I've never been able to abstain from sugar for very long
  3. Lovely Poos - sugar wreaks havoc on the digestive system, and part two of this area...
  4. Gas is gone - no more grumble-tummy; bloat is neither comfortable nor feminine
  5. Clear skin - I don't have 4 Mt. Everests growing on my jawline every few weeks
  6. No guilt - whenever I overate (and it was always on sweets) I hated myself for it
  7. Less hunger - eating sugar makes you hungry more frequently; since quitting sweets, I don't need snacks between meals, unless I didn't eat very much at my regular mealtime
  8. Weight loss - finally, the one you've been waiting for...yes I have lost weight and I wasn't really trying.  I haven't even been working out!  But I plan to get back into the habit very soon.  I tracked my weight loss since I began my no-sugar journey and I made a chart.  8.5 pounds may not sound like a big deal to some, but when you consider that I started out at only 3 pounds over the "normal" range for my build, it's pretty impressive.
Has anyone else given up sugar and noticed benefits?  Let me know -  I'd love to hear about your experiences!


31 December, 2010

MiriahJane's Green Goodness Smoothie

(makes roughly 20 oz)

3/4 cup water
4-6 ice cubes
1 cup frozen fruit chunks (I use the Wawona Tropical blend from CostCo which has pineapple, mango, papaya, & strawberries)
1/2 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
1/2 avocado
1/2 large fresh banana (if frozen, use more water and no ice)
1 to 2 oz spinach*, depending on your green taste tolerance
Stevia to taste (I used to use it, but I've stopped in order to train my taste buds to like less sweet smoothies)

*May substitute kale for spinach

Smoothie ingredients read to blend

Blend on high for about 30 seconds, using a tamper to push ingredients down.  If you have a less powerful blender, use only fresh/thawed fruit and add ice cubes once mixture is smooth.


Green Goodness

30 December, 2010

How Green is YOUR Smoothie?

A person can only eat so many salads before getting bored.  And annoyed.  There's the washing, then the drying, the chopping, and all of the chewing.  If I could get my greens intravenously, or in pill form, I'd do that four times a week and eat salad the other three days.

But sadly, the best way to get the nutrients from greens is to go through the hassle of digesting them...and the amount you need for good health would come in much too large a pill to swallow.  So I'm back to the drawing board.  Hmmmm...how do I eat greens easily and so that they taste good?  If you read the title of this post you already know the ingenious solution.  Mix up the nasty stuff with yummy fruit and drink your greens!! 

I know that fruit has sugar, but I've been weaning myself off of the sweet taste and replacing the fruit in my smoothies with more and more greens so that my taste buds gradually become accustomed to that "green" taste (aka chlorophyll).  So far, I've only experimented with red lettuce, butter lettuce, spinach, and kale in my smoothies.  But there are a wide variety greens that you can use:  beet greens, collard greens, swiss chard, parsley, and arugula, to name a few.

My mom enjoying a green smoothie for breakfast

My favorite green to use in my smoothies is kale because you can hardly taste it.  There are actually different varieties of kale, but I've only tried red kale and regular green kale.  To my knowledge, I have never eaten kale prior to putting it into my smoothie a few months ago.  In fact, the way I discovered that you can put kale in a smoothie is via a recipe book.  I had no idea what kale even looked like - I'm ashamed to admit that I had to do a Google image search so that I would know what the hell I was looking for at the grocery store! 

I'm so happy that I found this great way to get more greens into my diet - it's easy, there are a ton of different recipes, it tastes great, and it's very healthy.  While my family was in town, I successfully persuaded my mom (a green smoothie skeptic) to try one of my delicious concoctions.  And she liked it!  Either that or she lied and then poured the stuff down the drain when I wasn't looking.  But I am choosing to believe that she actually drank and enjoyed it.  You can find my own original green smoothie recipe on the recipe page.  Give it a try!


28 December, 2010

Christmas without Chocolate

It's akin to Christmas without presents...it just feels wrong.  But I made it through.  When I told my mom that I was giving up sugar for a year, her response was "what am I going to put in your stocking?"  Well, I got what everyone else got...minus the sweets.

Yes, I successfully managed to stick to my resolution - and it was no easy task, let me tell you!  My family (mom, dad, brother & sister) flew out to celebrate Christmas with us, so they stayed with us for a week.  Now, I love my family, but having guests is stressful.  My family is extremely LOW maintenance but I'm neurotic so of course everything had to be perfect for them. 

For me, sugar is not only pleasurable; it's over-the-counter Xanax.  If I weren't on this no-sugar kick, the day before my family arrived you'd most likely find me sprawled on the couch watching a Hoarders marathon...in a food coma, with a belly-ache and copious amounts of empty chocolate wrappers double-bagged in the garbage so that my husband wouldn't see what a gluttonous mess I was. 

But I digress.

Since Christmas without sweets seems to me so utterly Grinchy (yes, I made that word up myself) I decided that I'd fill my cookie jar with cookies and my candy jars with candies.  Was I taking a risk buying these goodies?  Yes.  But I need to face it - I live in a world filled with my drug of choice. 

Have you ever taken a giant whiff of Oreo cookies?  If you have not, you should.  It's glorious.  Since I was not eating Oreos, I made sure to smell them - often.  It made resisting them a little easier because smelling the delicious Oreo aroma is almost as wonderful as eating them.  Okay, that's a flat-out lie.  It made me realize what I was missing and it pissed me off. 

But one good thing did come of the Oreos in my house.  My brother gave me an idea for a new treat to add to the list of foods I'll eat on Day 366 of no sugar.  He said he took around 6 or 7 Oreos, put them into a bowl, drenched them in milk and ate it like cereal.  Now that is something I'd like to try.


15 December, 2010

I Love 'The Biggest Loser'

Last night I watched the season finale of The Biggest Loser.  The show has its flaws:
  • too many sappy, crying break-downs complete with dramatic psycho-babble pep talks from Jillian
  • too many "game play" opportunities forced upon contestants
  • ridiculously insulting product placement ads.  Seriously, these contestants are regular people so don't make fools out of them - or us - by having them pretend as though they are casually touting the benefits of a Brita water filtration system, or the cravings-curbing qualities of Extra sugar-free gum.  We're onto you, Biggest Loser, and we like our commercials where they belong - with all of the other ones that we can bypass using our DVRs.
BUT, I absolutely love the show because it truly changes peoples' lives!  And it saves peoples' lives by making them healthier.  What other show can claim these things?  It gives me so much joy to see people gaining confidence as they achieve greater endurance at the gym, and as they see the pounds lost on the scale. 

This show starts with people who are literally killing themselves with an unhealthy diet and an inactive lifestyle.  These people are ready to give up on life.  And, for those who stick with the program, even after being sent home, the show ends with people who are strong, exuberant, HAPPY, and ready to take on the world.  The contestants who have gotten down to, or very close to, their goal weights are just as thrilled as the winner of the grand prize ($250,000).  Okay, it's no million dollar prize, but it's still a helluva lot of money.

I actually got to meet the first female winner - Ali - who lives in my hometown.  She said her life is completely different now, for the better.  And it had much more to do with her new, healthy body than the $250k she won.  She enjoys the outdoors more because she's able to be physically active (hiking is big here).  Men are more attracted to her, either because of her looks or because of her confidence, probably both.  She serves as a role model to other people who are trying to get in shape.  She even wrote a book!

If you have never seen the show, be sure to record it so that you skip the boring stuff.  The new season starts January 4, 2011!

This concludes my rant about something that has very little to do with quitting sugar, but has everything to do with health, so I say it makes sense to include it as one of my blog posts.  This is the one place where I get to make the rules, so I'm making the most of it!  You hear that, husband-who-makes-me-put-the-silverware-in-the-dishwasher-a-specific-way?  (my husband is the absolute best and I love him with all of my heart, but he is kinda picky about certain things)