Monday, 19 February 2018


I've been doing a lot of research on gut health, skin health, and all the other types of health you can imagine, and the basis of it all is the age old adage - you are what you eat. It really is true - what you put into your body really does have an impact on the overall well-being of your body. Eating junk food doesn't just give you a stomach ache, but actually affects your skin, your hormones, your energy levels, your mental health, and your digestive system. 

With this simple, but outlook-changing truth before me, I have reached the point where I really do desire wellness for my entire body. I have suffered from a digestive disorder for over five years now, and despite my struggles through that, this has never made full sense until now. I'm ready to take a proactive approach to my health and find ways to live a better, more motivated existence. 

All this to say that I have decided to cut out refined sugar for Lent. Lent is a spiritual practice of giving up something that is meaningful to you so that you can connect with the experience of Jesus on a deeper level as we approach the Easter season. Although I have health-driven motivations to try cutting out sugar from my diet, this is very much so a spiritual experience for me too, as sugar is something that I really really rely on. Deciding to give it up has been such a hard decision for me, but the fact that it was so hard to commit to goes to show me just how much I am reliant on it. 

I eat a lot of treats. And I depend on the reward of a treat to motivate me to get things done. I have very little self control when something sweet is involved. I am eager to see what cutting this dependency out will look like in my life and my health. It will be a challenge, I know, but I'm excited to see if it will make me feel different - not just physically, but emotionally too.

To mark the beginning of this challenge, I decided to compile a small list of five tricks to help smooth out the entire process. Maybe you're interested in trying this too? In my research and preparation I have come across some tricks that may help. The following are some pointers on how to kick your refined sugar habit.

1. Still have the natural stuff.
If you are someone who has a sweet tooth, deciding to cut out sugar is not going to automatically change that for you. You're still going to have a sweet tooth. So give yourself some grace and let yourself enjoy the natural stuff. Our bodies actually need some sugar to properly digest and function, but the key is portion and type. Refined sugar is the bad stuff - the stuff you find lurking in all kinds of foods that you never would have pictured containing sugar. Natural sugars, like those found in fruit, honey, and maple syrup, are the good guys. They also contain other benefits for our bodies (like antioxidants and vitamins), so they're actually good for you to have. In moderation. Everything in moderation.

2. Reward yourself with more beneficial "treats".
For a lot of people, myself included, treat foods have become a reward. If you have a tough day but finally make it through, you deserve a chocolate. If you can just focus on this paper long enough, you can have a bowl of ice-cream after you finish the initial draft. We motivate ourselves to do things by promising ourselves something delicious that we enjoy as a reward for completing the task ahead.

Although it is healthy to find things that will motivate you in your daily life, it can quickly become unhealthy when those rewards are, well, unhealthy. Food plays a really important role in our lives, so it can really skew our understanding and perception of it when we use it in psychological games with ourselves. Try finding a sort of reward system that doesn't involve food but that feels motivating and exciting to you. Some ideas could be a bubble bath, a new experience, a quick walk, a new art supply, or a chance to read a book. Get creative with what inspires you specifically.

3. Embrace grapefruit essential oil.
Along with the billion other uses and benefits of grapefruit essential oil, it has been proven to help curb sugar cravings when inhaled through aromatherapy. Pump that through your diffuser, rub it on your belly (with a carrier oil, of course), or take a great big whiff right from the bottle. Bonus points for the fact that it smells absolutely delicious (so what do you really have to lose).

4. Get creative with naturally-sweetened treats.
This is my life work right here. Not really. But nothing inspires me more than getting creative in the kitchen. Thanks to the paleo, vegan, and all other random types of diet obsessions of so many people, the web is chalk-full of amazing dessert recipes that use natural sources of sugar. I've already made three myself (like these sugarless date squares pictured above) and they are actually pretty darn delicious.

A few recommendations on this one though. First of all, avoid recipes that use synthetic sweeteners. I'm a strong believer that those are no more better for us than refined sugar. They're often made of chemicals and have a weird aftertaste. Not worth it. Secondly, make sure the recipe you find seems fairly credible. See if there are comments, some form of rating system, or consider where it ranked in the organic Google search. Natural sugar sources can be fairly expensive, so I wouldn't want to waste a lot of it on a recipe that doesn't even turn out to be very good. Pinterest is great for finding recipes, but it can sometimes produce some duds. Just be smart before you dive right in. Guard your bottle of pure maple syrup like it's your own child. Im kidding, but also not.

5. Press on.
"Don't stop, never give up, hold your head high and reach the top." Have patience with yourself and take each craving one step at a time. I'm convinced that once you get used to it, you'll enjoy the benefits that easing off refined sugar can bring.

Has anyone else ever cut out refined sugar? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the process!

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