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Seven Lessons Learned Attempting a Sugar-Free Month

Posted on 15 May, 2014 at 3:30 Comments comments (2382)

You're not alone if that month felt rather long.

The first week and a half of eating sugar and refined carbohydrate free was easy. As with any new venture, the motivation was high, the inspiration fresh. And then life happened.............

While we didn't quite achieve a pure sugar-free eating pattern, we definitely achieved a low sugar diet. And, we're thankful for what trying taught us! Below are seven lessons we learned/observations made while attempting sugar-free:

1. Eating less sugar improves your sleep!

We were in bed earlier and fell asleep faster. That's got to be a good thing!!

2. Removing the 'white death' from your diet opens up a new world of glorious and nutrient rich, real foods.

Marshmallows simply not being an option at night, allowed my mind to explore other avenues. And when I really checked in with my body, I found it didn't even want the marshmallows when it came to 7pm at all, a piece of fruit and handful of nuts were much more enticing.  It was the association I had created. At around 5pm, when feeling tired and still having to bath, feed and put to bed a fiercely independent 2-year old before getting some time to myself - the thought of marshmallows and a hot chocolate at 7pm kept me going. I see a lot of people in clinic doing this with alcohol. They begin anticipating that freshly poured glass of white wine at about 3pm when feeling stressed at work - which sets them up for drinking it at 5pm on arrival home, whether they still truly feel like it then or not.

3. Going sugar-free causes a mental shift to revamp your entire diet for the better.

I found this myself and so did others on the same journey. People told me that all of a sudden they were adding more colourful vegetables to their lunches and dinners, even though this challenge wasn't about increasing non-starchy vegetable intake - it lead to a desire to do so. Some research shows that those with a higher consumption of green vegetables have lower cravings for sugar, and backs this observation.

4. Sugar is everywhere.

If anything this exercise really opened our eyes to all the hidden places sugar is! We all know tomato sauce has sugar added to it - but did you know to what extent?! 1 teaspoon of sugar per 15g - i.e. one dollop. This has really rearranged my fish and chip eating style! Perhaps it’s not the deep fried chips that cause me to feel so nauseous afterwards......

5. With behaviour change, comes pain. But pain doesn't mean what you're doing is wrong.

We all know that sugar is addictive. With some studies showing it to be just as addictive as cocaine. This exercise reminded me that any behaviour change is going to come with feelings of discomfort, pain and even feelings of grief! All very real feelings, but it doesn't mean what you're doing is wrong. This is when 'sitting in the space', 'distraction' and having 'substitutes' can really come in handy.

6. Sometimes making something 'banned', can reinforce the dangerous 'black and white' mentality.

After years of work, I consider myself to have a healthy relationship with food. I'm at a point that I can have a piece of chocolate and feel satisfied at that one piece. Something I envied people for in my earlier years. During sugar-free, I did find that not 'allowing' myself to have something sweet when I really felt like it, lead to me over eating it when I did have it. Not hugely - but I felt a sense of 'this is more than I would have had'. Research supports that those people that allow themselves to have a little of some 'treat' when they feel like it, are more likely to eat less of it overall. Which I do agree with, and this exercise reinforced it even more. But, on the other hand, sometimes it takes a cold blanket/wipe out approach to bring the level of 'treat' down to a healthier normal.

7. Don't attempt sugar-free over Easter

This was James first observation when I asked him to reflect :). But also one that brings to mind the old saying:

 "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.



Sugar Free

Posted on 11 April, 2014 at 22:35 Comments comments (4676)

Join James and I in the 'sugar and refined carbohydrate free' revolution (heck - let’s just call it sugar-free!).



Now don’t get us wrong, we are both strong advocates of ‘everything in moderation’. And I’m particularly passionate about learning to listen to your body and conquering reasons behind non-hungry eating as a starting point for any nutrition-related behaviour change. However, sometimes it’s good to just plain challenge yourself.


So, we've decided to go sugar-free for 1 month. Please join us, it’s not complicated! Challenging yourself to something like this will not only show you’re capable of what you set your mind to – it also allows space........

Space for new thoughts, new foods, new recipes…space to build new habits….space to create a new normal.

Our reasons for this refined carb-free month are - well, sugar is a bit of a hot topic at the moment. With more and more research pointing towards less sugar being better for health. The thing is - as a world, we seem to have reduced our fat intake, but replaced it with refined carbohydrates including sugar in our diets in our bid to get healthy. This has only led to higher rates of obesity and diabetes. The World Health Organisation is up with the play and have drafted a change in recommendations:

• WHO recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life-course

• In both adults and children, WHO recommends that intake of free sugars not exceed 10% of total energy. This is about 9 tsp (an Organic Phoenix Juice will provide you with close to this!) .

• WHO suggests further reduction to below 5% of total energy.

The thing with refined carbohydrates including sugar, is they’re whole plants high in carbohydrates that have been processed by manufacturers to a point where they are so broken down that the body processes them very quickly, generally causing a high rise in blood sugar (glycaemic response). This processing also usually removes the fibre and most of the nutrients in the food. A high intake of these foods can lead to cravings, weight gain, lethargy, insulin resistance and more and more research is pointing towards their role in obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So many reasons!!

To us sugar-free is a step towards a more whole food approach of living. Out of all the different eating habits and styles out there – I think we can all agree that this is a good thing?!

Refined carbs and sugars aren't a huge part of our diet (speaking more for myself than my husband), but they're definitely there. Marshmallows, chocolate, ice cream… least one of them features on a weekly basis. Not in huge quantities and I do believe there is a time and a place for these things every now and again- but not this month ;).

So if you want to join us or just observe from afar, here are our guidelines for this challenge:

For us ‘sugar-free’ means consuming nothing containing free or added sugars. That is:

anything we call "sugar" including granulated sugar, high fructose corn syrup.

Here's a list of some of the possible code words for “sugar” which may appear on a label.

Agave Nectar

Barley Malt Syrup

Beet Sugar

Brown Rice Syrup

Brown Sugar

Cane Crystals (or, even better, "cane juice crystals")

Cane Sugar

Coconut Sugar, or Coconut Palm Sugar

Corn sweetener

Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids

Dehydrated Cane Juice



Evaporated Cane Juice


Fruit juice concentrate


High-fructose corn syrup


Invert sugar



Malt syrup


Maple syrup


Palm Sugar

Raw sugar

Rice Syrup


Sorghum or sorghum syrup




Turbinado Sugar


Grains that have been made "white" by stripping the germ and/or bran from the grain. This includes white flour, white rice, white pasta, and couscous.

Anything called "starch" - corn starch, modified food starch, etc.

Grains that have been turned into flakes, puffs, shreds, etc, rarely are made from whole grains, but in any case are generally processed to the point where they are very glycaemic.

The key being 'ADDED TO FOODS BY MANUFACTURERS', i.e. not found naturally, as in milk where lactose is found naturally, and fruit where fructose can be found naturally . Just think whole foods, i.e. as you would find them in nature and you'll be fine.


We realise that Easter falls in the midst of this, so on Sunday we will enjoy Easter eggs and treats with the family, but in moderation and only on this day!


We thought it might be fun to take some baseline measurements so we can do the whole 'before and after' thing. If you're joining us, you should too.


James being the fitness man that he is will be doing weight and skin folds at baseline and in one month. I’m 23 weeks pregnant so we’ll do skin folds just for fun, but my aim is more about increased energy levels. I’ll use a scale from 1-10 and access myself once a week at the same time every week – very subjective I know, but hey, it’s worth a shot!! I also developed gestational diabetes in my first pregnancy, so it will be interesting to see if in a month when the test is done if it’s any different this time around.


What are we replacing sugar and refined carbs with? I’ll be posting sugar/refined carb free desserts and recipes – successes or fails. And I hope that those who join will be doing the same! Follow us on" target="_blank">Facebook, do posts or PM us to let us know how you're doing!


"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."


What we can learn from children about being active.....

Posted on 19 October, 2013 at 22:30 Comments comments (7282)

This afternoon I was feeling particularly lethargic. I'm not too sure if my late night date with YouTube had anything to do with it?? zeal for life was waning. Thank goodness for my husband who arrived home from tennis late arvo and asked me if I'd like to go for a walk. Does he know me so well that he knows when a walk will set me straight? Or was it just that obvious that I was struggling with life? Either way, I am very blessed. Inside I was unusually dreading this walk. But from experience I knew, I'd feel better for it, so off we went.



And as predicted, as soon as my feet hit the pavement, life started pouring back into me. While we were out, my 17 month old son was released from his push chair and he began to explore. It got me thinking about exercise and how I view it compared to him.


He was climbing, walking, running, bending....any way his body could move, he moved it.


And these are the thoughts I had about what we can learn from children when it comes to exercise:


1. Move because it feels good.


2. Move because we can.


3. Move because we're curious about the beauty of nature.


4. Move in all the glorious ways our bodies will allow us to - it doesn't matter how we look.


5. Move because we love life.


6. Move because we ARE alive.


Too many of us have come to use physical activity as a punishment. Because we ate too much, because we need to be thinner, fitter, stronger. I definitely used to fit into all of these categories. And now I move because it refreshes me (as my husband has obviously picked up), it feels good, I'm a better human being for it.


Little children often have things so right, before the stresses of life have reached....and changed them. Next time I'm out walking, I might think of a few reasons children move, and be grateful for the body that allows me to do it.


Posted on 16 October, 2013 at 22:25 Comments comments (1336)

I was chatting with a friend and client the other day, and something she said struck me and has been with me since.


A chronic 'dieter', for the first time in her life this friend is experiencing slow and steady weight loss by making small, but healthy changes to her lifestyle each week. After jumping off the scales 400g lighter than she was the previous week she sighed and said, 'I know it's good, I just need to have patience'.


Patience is a word today's society almost frowns upon. Patience is not sexy, it doesn't provide instant gratification, it is not glamorous. But this is where the lie, if I may - lies.


Patience, in small regular doses is the reason for the greatest achievements and often provides the greatest rewards. Did Micheal Angelo make history by doing a 'The Block NZ' seven-day room make over? Do marathon runners achieve their personal bests (or even finish the race) without patience while pounding the streets during endless training runs?Patience is how a small child learns coordination while clumsily missing the hole for the puzzle piece, time and time again. Patience is how a person loses weight and keeps it off - FOR GOOD. Unlike a FAD diet that may provide instant results, only to see all the weight (and more) come back on in a few weeks time.


Love is patient - 1 Corinthians 13:4.


Is lack of patience getting in the way of achieving your life's dreams and goals? Do you sabotage these things by quitting or 'trying something different', just when you're about to see results? This week remind yourself - patience may be just the thing you need, to get you there in the end