Friday, May 22, 2015

Oh that sweet sugar!

Well, a few evenings ago, I thought I was at an AA meeting for sugar addicts. Seriously, my guests and I were introducing ourselves like this:

"Hi, I'm Sarah*, and I am so addicted to sugar. I can't stop eating the stuff."
"Hi, I'm Lynn*, and I like sweet things so much. I find it hard to have any self control when it comes to sweet things".
"Hi, I'm Carol*, and my kids eat way too much sugar. I'd love to know how to cut that down".

I was hosting a Sugar Workshop with Angela Humphrey who is the master-head behind The Sugar Trade blog. A couple of weeks ago, I told you how I was eating myself skinny, and how cutting out sugar had been a huge part of that. I think these days, there is a lot of talk about how sugar is bad for you and how you should stop eating the stuff, but no one is really talking about practical tips on how to do it. I thought Angela was a great person to introduce some ideas to friends interested in making a change.

But here I'd like to tell you about my journey and my family's journey. I'm a baker. I love baking, I love making people feel warm and welcomed with my baking, and it's hard to let one day go by without baking something. But, I have two young children and not much time to fluff around. So I had to find an achievable solution. I did! Hopefully you can see that this is not a hard thing and that baby steps in the right direction are totally ok!

We were sugar addicts:
We were all addicted to sugar. My kids were eating a lot of chocolate and all my home baking contained sugar. My husband was putting 2 to 3 tsp of sugar in his tea or coffee, I was putting 1. We were adding sugar to our natural yoghurt, cereals, other hot drinks, sauces, and the list goes on.

Something had to change!

I did a lot of reading and research and realized that the bad stuff that was making us addicted, sick and fat was the fructose part of sugar (which is made of fructose and glucose in equal parts). If you'd like to know more about how sugar is bad for you, head over this way to "21 reasons to eat less sugar". The glucose however, our body needs, uses and burns to give us energy!

Fructose was the meanie and fructose had to go!

Changes I made on the family level:
Two years ago, I ditched all my sugar and bought a 25kg bag of powdered glucose. You can easily find smaller quantities in supermarkets. Glucose was an easy swap because in all my recipes I simply put the same quantity of glucose as what is required of sugar. So 1 cup sugar = 1 cup glucose. EASY. Glucose is a little less sweet, which is a good thing too. A few weeks after this change, my hubby had lost 5kgs! I also use Rice malt syrup, honey and glucose syrup. You can read more on alternatives to sugar on Angela's blog post on sugar alternatives.

One big thing I'm aware of now is food labels. I check the grams of sugar, divide it by 4, and that tells me how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving. This is very eye-opening, and a helpful guide when I'm shopping. I can make much more informed choices of what I put in my trolley.

That's it! So EASY! Two years on, my kids eat a lot less chocolate (like, a month down the track their Easter baskets were almost untouched) and lollies, my husband puts 2 tsp glucose in his hot drinks and finds cafe baking way too sweet. The 5 kgs he lost was just a silver lining for him, as he's a pretty fit guy anyway.

Changes I made on a personal level:
At the same time as ditching the sugar and switching to glucose, I wanted to lose 20 kgs. I wanted to go hard out, so I ditched sugar, and all its high GI and glucose alternatives. I basically went cold turkey from one day to the next.

I won't lie to you. I suffered from headaches, bad moods, tiredness, grumpiness and bad sugar cravings for about two weeks. But, after that, my energy levels were amazing, I felt amazing, and there was no looking back. I had no baking for about 5 months, while I rapidly lost weight. I knew, however, that this was not sustainable long term because as I've said before, I LOVE BAKING, and I love eating my baking. 

So I did more research and trialled different things, and this is what I now use for myself: whole fruit (not dried), erythritol and stevia. They work for me, and I'm happy to give you some advice on making the switch if you're interested.

Yes, we do make exceptions! When we go to parties, or to see friends, or to a cafe or restaurant, we have sugar. There's no way around it, really, if you want some dessert or baking. But I'm ok with that, because it's not all the time. To be honest with you, my latest sugar loaded exception was at Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture on Featherston St in Wellington. Oh my, oh my... 
(A small note of caution though: when I do make exceptions, I know that I will very likely feel ill for a few hours afterwards - usually nausea and headaches. This does not happen to the rest of the family who eat glucose).

"Mon Tiramisu", Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture

Now before I finish off on this topic, I really want to share with you a recent decadent, delicious and surprising addition to my sugar free sweet treats! The original recipe is on Angela's blog, but here I give you my variation to make it low GI (it's already sugar free):

Green Chocolate Bliss Balls



1 large avocado
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup powdered erythritol (I use my coffee grinder)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 cup ground nuts (I use almonds)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder


Mash the avocado. Stir in vanilla and coconut oil. 
Mix in all the other ingredients, stirring well as you go.
Scoop up approximately teaspoon size portions, and roll into balls.
Roll in coconut, cocoa powder, ground almonds, etc.



That's it. I guess the biggest change we made was in our heads. Once we knew the facts, we decided what was ok and what wasn't for our family, then we forged ahead. I'd love to hear where you're at on your sugar journey or if you have some questions.

Kia Kaha! Be Strong!

*All names in this post are fictional :-).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

I'm in the trenches

Life as a stay at home parent can be so hard.

It's hard for me today. I'm sitting on the floor outside the bathroom door while my son finally plays happily in the bath. It's been one of those mornings that started at 6.15am with my son taking his dirty nappy off and putting No Twos all over himself. He then would not stay in bed, so I camped outside his door in a blanket so that every time he opened his door I could send him back to bed. Did I mention I had to take out his light bulb? 

Boy oh boy, life with an almost 3 year old is tough. I vaguely remember going through this phase with my daughter when she was a similar age. So it's kind of reassuring to know that I can only vaguely remember that time with her. 

There is hope!

But today, I just wanted to encourage all of us stay at home Mums and Dads. 

Well done us! Well done, Mama! Well done, Papa!

We deal with this, day in and day out, and we have to dig so deep for that extra dose of patience when all we really want to do is lock ourselves up in our room with a wine (even at 8am, yes yes!) and pretend that he / she didn't exist. Just for just a little while.

But hey, it will be okay. And you're not alone!

God created us with this ability to dig deep into the trenches of our willpower, whatever happens. I knew, even as I stood face to face with my husband this morning and begged him to stay home today, that actually, we were going to be all right. That my son and I would both get through the day.

And now he's happy in the bath. At 11am. Who cares? It's amazing how just a few minutes of peace and calm can get us out of our trenches and back into the sun.

Kia kaha! Be Strong!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Eat yourself skinny!

I wanted to write about erotica today, or Mummy porn. But I won't. I'm not ready to put myself out there that much yet. But watch this space because I've been doing a lot of thinking about this.

Instead, I thought I'd share a little more about my weight-loss journey. I empathize strongly with people who are overweight. I know how you feel. I know how you think. 

I know the battle that goes on in your head all the time.

I'm still on the battle field, and I've come to accept that I will be fighting this my whole life. I just like food too much. I'm obsessed with food and recipes even. When I'm eating a meal, I'm already thinking about what I'll be making for the next one! But, I don't like being overweight. Not only do I not like how I look when I'm overweight, but especially, I don't like how I feel

Never give up food you like to lose weight. Because you will lose the battle.

So, I've found a strategy that enables me to win so much more easily. I am loosing weight and I'm eating delicious food. I'm eating butter. I'm eating cheese. I'm having cream and ice cream. And cake. And I'm still eating some carbs. The secret is:

I don't mix fats and carbs and I always give my body protein!

I only ever give my body one fuel to burn. Either fats, or carbs.

And I don't eat sugar! That is the one big no no. And yes, it's hard to give up sugar. Your body will go into withdrawal. You will probably get bad headaches. After all, "sugar is more addictive than cocaine"! But after a few days you will feel better, the headaches will disappear, you'll have more energy, you'll have less cravings and you'll be more in touch with your hunger and satiety feelings.

Anyway, back to not mixing fats and carbs to lose weight. A dear friend lent me her Trim Healthy Mama book. I read it. It made sense. I applied it. I lost weight. I'm still losing weight. If I "cheat" too often, my weight loss stalls, or it goes up a bit, but as soon as I'm back on track, off fall the kilos.

I don't like to think of THM as a diet. It's more of a low GI eating plan with three main rules:

1) No sugar
2) Don't mix carbs and fats
3) Have protein at every meal

It's not hard to adapt to it. You just have to tweak some recipes a little. When my family have pasta, I have steamed cabbage or cauliflower. When they have fries, I have pumpkin or kumara (aka sweet potato) wedges. When I make cottage pie, I make a delicious cheesy cauliflower mash instead of potato mash. The kids and hubby didn't even notice it wasn't potato mash until I told them! When they have regular bread, I have my amazingly good low carb bread (my hubby even said it tasted as good as bread bought in Swiss bakeries - that's saying something!). 

My biggest mountain to climb was baking. I love baking. And I love eating my baking. How do you do that without white flour and without sugar? Well, I've found some great baking recipes on the All Day I Dream About Food blog. And I've played around with sugar substitutes:

  • xylitol: very low GI, very little calories, tastes like sugar, but very high in fiber so tends to give me tummy issues.
  • stevia: very low GI, no calories, but I can only bear the taste of high quality stevia, and only in my yoghurt.
  • erythritol: very low GI, no calories, tastes like sugar. This is what I use in all my baking.

That's it really! I'm eating such delicious food and I'm losing weight. Once I've reached my weight goal, I'll be able to mix carbs and fats a little more to stabilize.

The most important thing for me is that I'm still having fun in the kitchen and I'm still enjoying everything I eat

Let me know if you have any questions or would like some more details or links.

Kia kaha! Be strong!

PS. Oh by the way, this food plan is really good for diabetics as it's low sugar and low GI. Many people have had amazing health results on this plan.