Category Archives: Lifestyle

self-care, self-help and general lifestyle articles.

How to reduce sugar intake right now

how to reduce sugar intake
how to reduce sugar intake

Knowing how to reduce sugar intake is a handy skill to have when  battling an addiction to sweet treats, and aren’t we all? On September 12th 2021 I decided to drastically reduce my sugar intake in my diet and here’s how it went.

There are very few benefits if any, to consuming large amounts of Sugar. It is a known fact that it leads to weight gain and can contribute to tooth decay on the lower end of the scale and heart disease and diabetes on the higher end. Nonetheless, consuming a surplus of sugary treats is socially acceptable and even expected. At seminars, training days and  work meetings we find platters laced with sweet treats in the form of cakes, chocolates and biscuits, ready to give us our next sugar rush. In addition to this, if we aren’t offered sugary food on a platter in real life, people’s social media feeds are embellished with food porn of the sweet variety.

I realised that I was consuming too much sugar when I found myself having a monthly Haribo binge at a specific time of the month. I would buy a large pack of the Supermix variety and found myself eating more incrementally each time. I went from two large handfuls to half the pack in one go- to eventually devouring the whole pack. As it goes, these monthly sugary cravings weren’t even the tip of the iceberg. I was habitually eating handfuls of sweet biscuits and dipping them into my tea in the evenings, as well the odd mini cake or chocolate bar. I was also addicted to fizzy drinks. It was apparent that like so many of us, I was addicted to sugar. The body has an amazing way of communicating with us and we often know when we are abusing it. That feeling of guilt after eating too many sweets or fatty foods? Yes, that’s our intuition along with our bodies telling us that perhaps we ought to be a bit more mindful in our self-care. For me it came in the form of tiredness after consuming sugary snacks or carbonated drinks- the obvious symptom of an energy crash after having spiked my insulin levels so rapidly.

I took to the internet trying to learn how I could even begin to curb my sugar addiction- yes, addiction. Previously I wouldn’t have accepted this to be a thing, however I was finally able to admit it to myself and wanted to do something about it. Below I will  outline how to reduce sugar intake in  simple steps.

The first thing I did was to educate myself. Yes most of us have a basic idea of what is good for our bodies and what isn’t. In fact, when we make poor choices we often know this and that we are over indulging. I knew perfectly well that drinking excessive amounts of sugary carbonated drinks, sweets and biscuits were not conducive to a healthy diet, however I really had to sit down and inform myself on what could be at risk if I were to continue with my habits. Upon learning what the specific disease risks were, I set about finding more practical information on how I could make informed choices on what I chose to snack on, sugar wise. The British Heart Foundation Website really outlined the importance of understanding that sugar had MANY different names. I began to learn the lesser known ones and made a note to also avoid them within reason.

 Aside from educating myself on how to reduce sugar intake, I learned that my huge sugar consumption also came down to a range of different factors which were:

Mainly allowing for huge gaps between meals without snacks, not even slow release ones. As a result, by the time I returned home in the evenings I would be ravenous and reach for something gratuitously sweet and readily available.

A lack of meal preparation then fed into this, also increasing the chances of reaching for a sugary snack.

Forming poor habits in the form of allowing myself to consume harmful amounts of sugary substances without allowing myself to dwell on the consequences they might have.

I started to religiously read the backs of food packets in the supermarket. I would spend ages, pouring over the nutritional information. To my dismay, I found that so many so called ‘savoury’ foods had sugar contained in them. Things as simple as a jar of pasta sauce or a tin of baked beans or soup, even savoury cheesy biscuits! You name it, sugar was everywhere. I did it though. I made a point to find no added sugar alternatives and went with them. I felt a growing sense of achievement that I had successfully removed sugar from my life. Admittedly I became one of those annoyingly smug people who  gleefully told people that I didn’t eat sugar when they offered me treats. Of course, they were impressed every time because sugar addiction is absolutely no joke and most of us, who can consume sugar (non-diabetic) absolutely will.

At this stage, the hardest thing was letting go of chocolate as I knew it- large creamy bars of regular milk or dark chocolate. I found something called ‘black chocolate’ in a brand called Montezuma. It was 100% cocoa solids and contained no sugar. I was slightly nervous when I took it home and anticipated the taste. After all, this was going to be all I would be able to have from now on, I thought glumly. When I tasted it, it had a strong bitter kick but tasted rich and surprisingly moreish. I allowed myself to eat three squares at a time, adjusting myself to it and happy in the knowledge that it was at least, as an antioxidant,  good for me. I was in fact being very good, but if I were to instruct someone on how to reduce sugar intake, I would not advise this stringent, punishing method of going cold turkey on sweetness. Still, I continued with it.

At this first stage of my sugar free/ low sugar journey, I refrained from eating absolutely anything with sugar in it.

I cut out:

  • All sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolate apart from ‘black chocolate.’
  • Processed breads containing sugar
  • Processed tinned foods such as beans and soups containing sugar
  • All sweet drinks including fresh fruit juices

I managed this for two straight months. However after this something began to happen. I started to  physically struggle with the absence of sweetness. You would think it would have gotten better, however I was run down and exhausted battling winter illnesses on top of being a human being who simply wanted something sweet sometimes. Still I refused to fold. I actually produced alternatives for these times which I will speak about in another post- they really helped to keep me on track.

With Christmas on the horizon I began to think about what I would have for dessert on Christmas day/Boxing day. I decided that I would bake a cake and in this instance, break my rule of not consuming fresh fruit juice. Yes! I would make a cake and sweeten it with pineapple juice, I thought to myself. Ingenious, I thought, mentally patting myself on the back. In the end, I was too busy with Christmas preparations to make this cake and ended up having a sugar free whipped dessert from the supermarket. It wasn’t the greatest to be honest but I survived it!

Remarkably I somehow managed to avoid every sweet treat that was in my cupboards this Christmas season and there were and still are too many: multiples boxes of chocolates, a pack of chocolate rolls, two packs of chocolate brownie treats, a tin of Roses, a special pack of shortbreads presented in a mini- lighted house, the list goes on and yet I somehow managed to let not one pass my lips. I am genuinely not being boastful here and I do believe that a part of this mental resolve comes down to the fact that I felt a great sense of achievement from knowing how to reduce my sugar intake and somehow, eating a sweet treat, would ruin all the progress I’ve made so far and possibly have a negative effect on me. Besides this, high sugar foods do make me crash badly and I have genuinely benefitted from ridding myself of that unpleasant feeling.

The main two pieces of advice I would give someone on how to reduce sugar intake would be:

  • Educate yourself on what sugar in excessive amounts does to the body so that you know why you are making this choice and to help keep you motivated (this was major for me).
  • Only cut down your sugar intake to an extent that you are comfortable with. In hindsight I believe that I was excessively harsh on myself at the beginning of this lifestyle change and have since reintroduced moderate amounts of (mostly diluted) fruit juice into my diet for nutritional purposes. I am considering taking Manuka honey for its benefits if I get a cold or flu as I currently don’t eat honey as it is still technically sugar but a naturally occurring one.

I hope this has been of some help to someone. Have you ever reduced your sugar intake? How did it go and what did you cut down on or substitute the sugar with?

Let me know in the comments below!

How to Get Motivated in 5 Steps Now

how to get motivated
how to get motivated.

If you’re wondering how to get motivated, why not start here and read through these five tips to help you get back on track.

We all have goals, tasks and necessary errands that need to get done. It doesn’t matter what they are, we all need help from time to time, conjuring up the motivation needed to achieve them. Your goal could be as simple as getting round to making that application or as large as writing a book. If you do happen to be writing a book, check out my previous article on this.

Think of motivation as something that you need to ignite within yourself at set times instead of something you should always have. There is a time for everything, including having relaxation time, so If you hold the belief that being motivated is a state that you should always be in, then not being motivated can be, well, demotivating and it becomes and endless cycle. I hope that wasn’t too much word salad for you!

Instead, it’s important to know that we all go through different stages which require different levels of motivation. For those times when you find it difficult to pick yourself up to complete the important tasks, try these six tips.

Tip One: Who will you be if you keep this up?

How to get motivated, visualisation method.

How to stay motivated you ask? Use this visualisation method. Look at yourself as you are now. This could be in a literal sense by looking in a mirror if your goal is a physical one such as personal grooming or fitness related or in a more figurative sense by taking time to think about where you are in life right now and the distance between yourself and your goal or task. If you don’t take action where will you be a year from now? I know when I do this, it kickstarts me towards taking the steps needed to get started. The last place you want to be this time next year is even further away from your goal. Use your currently untapped potential to warn yourself of the not so pleasant results to come (an unrealised you) in the future if you don’t act soon.

Tip Two: Write it down

The simplest way to get motivated is to get organised with a good old pen and piece of paper. I have previously mentioned in this article how beneficial it can be to make lists. However, how many of us are actually listing our goals and then listing the actions needed in order to make them happen? This simple, no thrills method, makes all the difference- let me be a testament to that fact!  In fact any written form, outlining your goals and plans are a valuable way mapping out a clear way to achieve them. Check out my previous article, detailing how to use different methods to do this, here.

Tip Three: Start a small exercise routine

Want to know how to get motivated within a matter of days? Start up a small achievable exercise routine. Don’t overwhelm yourself as it’s always good to start small for two simple reasons. The first being that a small simple routine will help you stick to it. The second being that if you can stick to it, you have then kickstarted motivational energy, that energy can then be used to fuel other goals. Work on one goal at a time until that goal no longer feels like a goal and instead becomes a habit, then work on the next one and so forth. This is a process that can take months but if you remain consistent, you will see your motivation levels increase.

Remember: Motivation can be contagious so when you have achieved it, you can then turn to other goals and start transferring that energy and discipline towards them.

Some ideas for simple work outs are:

A light dumbbell routine

A low impact YouTube video

A ten-minute stretch routine

Breathing and posture exercises

Tip Four: Create a Vision Board

Vison board enthusiasts know just how to get you motivated. Yes, ten people have probably suggested this before me but vision boards really do work. According to Psychology Today, pursuing goals that keep you motivated will increase the likelihood of you achieving them, hence the major tip I’ve outlined  above about the benefits of starting out small.

Tip Five: Visualise your end product

This visualisation technique is similar to Tip One, except it is in the reverse. This time imagine your end product. How will you feel once you have achieved your goal? Imagine how you will look physically after achieving it. What positive lasting impact will it have on you and your perception of what you can achieve?

Remember, it takes one small, sustained action to motivate yourself towards one particular goal. Take the faith of a mustard seed approach and pick a time to start that small habit. Then take small actions to water it like a plant each day. Go easy on yourself and slowly but surely you will start to see growing results!

Do you have any tips that keep you motivated to share goals? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Calm Your Anxiety down

how to calm anxiety down
How to calm anxiety down

The question of how to calm anxiety down became one of the biggest of 2020. In fact the overarching events of the difficult year cast an umbrella of uncertainty over people from all walks of life. Nobody went untouched in some way, shape or form and anxiety became a collective experience shared by many.

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness usually marked by an emotion of worry or fear. According to the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) average mental distress levels were 8.1% higher in April 2020 ‘than it was between 2017 and 2019.’

I am no stranger to anxiety myself, however, this didn’t stop global events from heightening my experience of the dreaded emotion. Here’s how I manage anxiety when it rears its ugly head.

Slow Down to Calm Down

Take the time to be still and take stock of how you are feeling. Try to pinpoint which exact thoughts are making you feel this way. You won’t be able to find a solution if you can’t pinpoint the problem in the first place.

Put Pen to Paper to Calm Anxiety

Write to help calm your anxiety.

Next write your worries down. Writing bullet points or even creating a spider diagram can act as a tool used to assist you in how to calm anxiety down. Making the issues tangible can allow you to address them and make plans to tackle them in a more practical manner in due course. Writing can be a very therapeutic exercise. Check out my previous article on Writing Project Ideas for Adults.

Do Some Exercise

Take up exercise to increase endorphins and calm your anxiety down.

Doing exercise increases your endorphins which are the hormones responsible for our happiness. For a more in-depth explanation on how endorphins actually work, check out this article.

This is where getting your body moving comes in. Why not calm your anxiety with a quick burst of physical activity? You can go for a brisk walk locally, schedule in a gym session, go for a run or do a YouTube Workout video such as this one, completely free of charge.

Listen to Some Music

Create a special playlist to help calm down your anxiety.

Wondering how to calm anxiety down instantly? Use music as therapy and pop on your favourite tune. Music is powerful and it can connect us to both positive and negative emotions. Identify the music that uplifts you. Why not create a Spotify playlist to help calm your anxiety.

You might want to find music which:

Energises you

Makes you feel optimistic

Makes you feel nostalgic

Makes you feel completely relaxed

Overall, you want to craft music lists that take your mind off of your anxiety and lift your mood to a different state, even if temporarily.

You might want to craft several lists that have you feeling different positive emotions.

Just Do It!

Sometimes, we feel anxious because something is looming over us. We know we have a chore or task to do that might fill us with dread. There’s a document to sign or a phone call to make. When we leave these tasks undone, it leaves more room for our minds to wonder and for us to maximise the actual significance of them over our lives. I am very guilty of doing this. I can procrastinate over things until I start to worry about them. When this happens, I will usually make a quick list, either mentally or on paper and commit to ticking off those boxes at some point, even if it takes me weeks or months.

None of the suggestions I have given provide permanent solutions on how to calm your anxiety down, however, through personal experience, I can attest that they can definitely help. What methods do you use to calm your anxiety?

Let me know in the comments below!