Welcome to January, the month where we find ourselves taking stock of what we want to achieve in the coming 12 months. For many of us, this will include aspiring to a slimmer/fitter/healthier body. This is all very commendable, but let’s be honest, it isn’t always easy.
As a nutritionist and health coach I usually don’t have to think twice about how to make healthy choices but even I get seriously challenged by the onslaught of sugary festive fare. By the time January rolls around I find that my taste buds have changed and now that I am reverting to my normal eating patterns I am definitely craving sugar and not always wining – let the sugar battle commence! A few weeks of “relaxed eating” was all it took for healthy choices to no longer be automatic for me….so now I have to programme healthiness back in. Which, I suppose is no surprise since sugar is known to be so addictive, but even so, I do think that I really ought to know better by now.
Sugar, it seems, is as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus himself. Even if you’re not prone to stirring it into your tea or adding it to your breakfast cereal most of us increase our sugar intake in the month of December – mince pies, pudding, chocolate, alcohol and the rest of our holiday indulgences make a recipe for a very sugary festive season.
So, what can you do about it? Well, firstly decide if you want to cut back on sugar or cut it out altogether. I have done both options at various stages of my life and both have helped so I am not a hard core advocate of one route or the other. A quick internet search on “beating sugar blues” will lead you into a world of advice which can involve very dramatic changes to your diet and may involve buying supplements. The advice in this post focuses on changes you can start making today without having to spend lots of money (which can only be a good thing in the lean month of January).
5 Top Tips
- Make sure you are drinking enough water. There’s nothing quite like water to remind you of how your body feels when you give it clean fuel. 1.5-2 litres per day should be enough to help you feel a difference. If you are exercising heavily or are lucky enough to live in a hot country then you may need more than this.
- Start your day with half a squeezed lemon in warm water. There are several reported benefits of starting your day with lemon in warm water (including supporting your liver which is good news after December’s excesses) but more than that the act of starting your day with a healthy habit sets the tone for the rest of the day. Starting well puts you in a better mind-set to make good choices through the rest of the day.
- Figure out what your “trigger” foods are. Some foods/drinks are just designed to go together – cheese & wine, beer & crisps, cola & chocolate, tea & biscuits – if you ever venture to try beer with cheese or crisps with wine you will know exactly what I am talking about. So, when it comes to sugar, what are your trigger foods? Do you need to avoid tea to be able to avoid biscuits? Do you find that ketchup triggers a desire for a cola drink? Does wine at dinner make you more or less likely to want a dessert? Sometimes to give up one food we have to give up something else as well.
- Don’t be tempted by “sugar free” options. Switching to sugar free options will not change your taste preferences for sweet foods. So, even if you are giving up sugar to reduce calories, I would strongly advise against sugar free foods. The best way to change your taste preferences is to eat different foods that are not sweetened – artificially or otherwise.
- Box up all your sweet treats & either give them away or let your supplies run down. I hate wasting money as much as the next person and even though the foods left over from Christmas are unhealthy I understand that it’s not easy to just throw them away (never mind the fact that it would cause a riot in many households – my own included). What works for me is to box everything up into one container and to store it in our laundry room. It’s a lovely feeling to have only good foods in your kitchen, happy in the knowledge that if things get desperate there is still the box of emergency supplies. Seeing all your sweet foods together certainly helps you avoid buying more sweet stuff when you go shopping.