foodCourt's holiday help: sugar edition

Hi there! I hope that you all enjoyed the holiday festivities this month. I was lucky enough to be able to take a few days off work and get to jerz to see my family. I love the holiday season. I love seeing my family. I love our cooking traditions (yearly pastele day pictured below- a traditional puerto rican food). And I love indulging in sugar.

I may not be able to eat the sugar cookies, but I can eat the frosting

You read correctly: I love indulging in sugar. It hasn't always been such a happy indulgence. When I was in college I would stuff myself at every holiday dinner. I would follow it with a lot of sugar and a "one of everything" approach to dessert- yikes! As I have gotten older I have gotten better at listening to my body and not stuffing myself to the point of pain and discomfort. It can take a lot of practice in mindfulness and a lot of "learning the hard way" to get better at eating to satiety rather than eating to stuff yourself. If this is something you struggle with (not just at the holidays but at any special occasion) check out this post from last year on how to eat smartly at a big event. 

My new struggle, has been sweets. On a daily basis I really focus on limiting my sugar intake. I keep a bag in my pantry with all of my sugar (aka chocolate) inside so that I never "see and eat" but I must actually contemplate what I want and why I want it. Some weeks I have a piece of chocolate everyday, some weeks not at all, some weeks every other day. I try not to have it but if I am really feeling like a piece of dark chocolate or a mini peanut butter cup from Trader Joes (my weakness) then I have one.

we really like our wine (my cousin and sister pictured above)

At the holidays I used to be overwhelmed by all of the yummy treats. I ate whatever I wanted, and made myself feel sick, because I told myself it was just one day. Now, I am stricter with myself and maintaining my no-gluten/no-flour way of eating. I know that I want to enjoy alcohol and I have learned I can't have it all. Indulging in sugar laden treats and adding alcohol to the mix is a recipe for disaster. I have cut back from the one of everything approach and I know what treats I can eat. My aunt makes coconut macaroons - YUM- and we bake friendly treats like rice krispies and gluten free chocolate chip cookies.

So what is the issue? I still eat a lot of sugar! To go from not eating much to have a sweet after lunch, a sweet after dinner, and more in-between for several days in a row is A LOT! I am home for several days and I am sure many of you are in similar situations whether you are visiting with different relatives every day or staying with family. It becomes addicting. After just a few days of extra sweets I find myself with headaches after a few hours without. Your body gets used to, and craves, the constant influx of sugar.

Today I had two cookies as my mid morning snack. Were there better options around? You bet. But I really just wanted a cookie- so I ate a cookie. Now part of that I know was just a craving and the sugar controlling my brain, but I have one more day here and then I will separate myself from the cookies and because of that I felt justified. Really, it sounds silly. But I am sharing because I know that more than one of you out there are struggling with this exact same thing. I am far from perfect and I know the mental game that food can play on you. Yes, I believe in eating real foods, and limiting processed foods, and cutting back on sugar. BUT I also believe in eating foods you like and foods that taste good. There is a way to balance it all, though it may not be the same for everyone. For me, I balance by sticking to my principles and food beliefs but allowing myself to enjoy family time (which often means food time) without too much guilt. By allowing yourself permission to enjoy food you will slowly alter your mindset and slowly eliminate the guilt associated with different foods.

So now what? It is December 27th, the new year is a few days away and if you are anything like me, you probably feel like you have put on five pounds in just a few days. (Hey I didn't say my actions came without consequences). You can read my post from last year on how to get back on track with your meals after a holiday here. Today I want to talk about sugar, as this is what has plagued me most this year. 

Sugar makes you bloated and swollen- literally! Carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, sweets) cause your body to hold onto water. I am going to share my quick tips for getting rid of that water and transitioning off of the sugar. 

pre-new year tips to transition off the sugar

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. No diet sodas, no juice, just water. Don't wait until you feel thirsty and never let your pee get to apple juice color! Keep water with you all day. Although your body is hanging onto excess water, it needs water to flush out the bad stuff. Your kidneys need that hydration to do their job, so support them! If alcohol and social outings are in the picture be sure to have a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage. For those with a lot of social events planned this week be sure to re-read this old post.

homemade latte at my aunt and uncle's- no sugar added!

homemade latte at my aunt and uncle's- no sugar added!

2. Drink your coffee (without the sugar or flavored creamer). Coffee is a natural diuretic, meaning it causes your body to release water. Leave out the sugar (real and artificial) and say no to flavored creamers. When you add sugar to your coffee you are not doing much to help yourself, just perpetuating your body's addiction and continuing the constant sugar influx. Enjoy your coffee black or add whole milk or heavy cream to add an element of satiety.

3. Sweat. Have you noticed that when you try to exercise after a day or two of over indulgence you feel so heavy and incapable. That isn't just the swollen feeling, it is your lack of energy due to eating too many carbohydrates. Your body gets confused about what fuel source to use and is accustomed to constant sugar in the blood stream. It happens to most of us. I feel extra heavy, slow, and out of shape after even just one day of out of the ordinary eating. You don't need to have your best workout ever, but do something to break a sweat. With this unusually warm weather we are having it should be even easier to get moving. Follow me on instagram for workout ideas that are quick and easy, will get the blood moving, and get your body temp up. 

A good way to help wean yourself off of sweets is to eat a good breakfast like the breakfast lasagna pictured here.

4. Wean off the sweets. This is by far the hardest one. If you can, throw away the leftover sweets in your house that are tempting you. Do so first thing in the morning, before they have started calling your name. If that isn't an option (it isn't for me since I am at my parent's house and it is not just me living and eating here this week) then cut back. If you can, just say no and don't eat any sweets. In reality, I know this can be hard when they are sitting there, teasing your already addicted body. I am having a lot of trouble with stopping cold turkey this year. Mostly this is because I know there is an "end point" to my sweet treat exposure. Instead, my goal has been to cut back. On Christmas Eve and Christmas I baked and ate sweets, then I ate sweets after my meal, and then I ate more sweets just because. This was way more than I would ever have in a normal day. Instead, my goal has been to cut back everyday. Little by little weaning myself off of the sugar. When I leave Jersey tomorrow I will not be around these special treats and it won't be so much of an issue. 

These are not fast track weight loss tricks by any means, just some small, manageable tips to incoporotate over the next week. With the new year just around the corner thoughts of new diets, workout routines, and weight loss regimens are on everyone's mind. Use these tips to prep yourself for your new health goals and feel better- starting now.

You are not alone in this. I am trying these things right there with you! Comment below and let me know how things are going for you and what approaches you use to get the sugar and water weight out of your life.

With the new year approaching my sister and I have our own health goals lined up. We plan to do a mini detox and set some weekly diet goals. I will be sure to share our approach and ideas with all of you. Having a healthy and sustainable transition from the holidays "back to real life" is not easy, but it is possible. I hope I can help you on this journey.

Happy holidays and happy New Year!