How to give up sugar


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My blog does a roaring trade this time of year as quitting sugar is a New Year’s resolution for many folks.

This re-post of my tips to giving up sugar is for you.

How to give up sugar

You can either quit gently (I’d recommend Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar programme if this sounds like you) or go cold turkey.  I went cold turkey, cause that’s just how I roll.  Either way, here are some tips to make it easier on yourself.

  • Quit when your social calendar isn’t full.  It was the beginning of November when I first discovered Sweet Poison.  As Christmas was coming up,  D and I decided to be kind to ourselves and wait until AFTER Christmas/New Year’s.  We waited until we were back at work, so we didn’t have lots of free time to think about food.  Stay in for a couple of weeks instead of going out for dinner at night.  Avoid your favourite cafe.  Have friends over to your house, instead of going to theirs.
  • Get sugar in all its variants out of your house.  Give it away to your neighbours.  Just get rid of it.  You don’t want to be sitting at home on day two with that stash of chocolate you always keep in the top right-hand cupboard calling your name.
  • Generally I think soft drink is the devil, but get some zero-sugar drink to get you through the withdrawal period, if you think it might help.  Trust me, after a few weeks you will no longer want the stuff anymore.  I had it for about a week (that’s all I could stand) and it helped me when I got cravings.
  • Expect to have a few days of feeling rubbish.  It passes.  Sooner than you’d think.  You *may* get a headache or feel very fatigued.
  • Really think about if you’re ready to quit.  It’s okay if you’re not.  Just file the idea of quitting sugar away for when you are.  For me, I’d just had enough.  I’d hit bottom.  I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my over-eating that carrying on as I was just wasn’t an option anymore.   My kids are my motivation for staying sugar-free.  I don’t want them to grow up with a weight problem, or have the food issues that I did.
  • Expect to be hungrier than usual for a few days.  Eat larger meals, buy some sugar-free snacks, whatever it takes.  Your appetite will eventually calm down.

2. Why should I give up sugar?

Oh man, once you’ve been off it you’ll see.  Fructose is killing us.  It’s making us fat, sick, tired, diseased, spotty and addicted.  There is nothing in fructose that your body needs.

Giving up sugar has changed my life.  Here are some benefits I’ve seen:

  • weight loss
  • increased energy
  • increased satiety levels (I only need 3 meals a day)
  • clearer mind
  • fewer mood swings
  • better sleep
  • clearer skin
  • HAVING CONTROL OVER MY APPETITE.  I never could stop a one chocolate.  Now I can look at chocolate and not even want it.  Now I seldom even think about chocolate.  Or other sweet stuff.

3. What’s sugar withdrawal like?

Unfortunately, it’s different for everyone.  David Gillespie of Sweet Poison fame reckons men have an easier time of it than women.  I think he’s probably right.  My husband D took a couple of weeks to withdraw, which is pretty typical for men.  I took a couple of months.  (Unfair, isn’t it.) Some women take longer.  You may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • headaches
  • nausea
  • irritability (Duh!  Of course you’re going to be irritable)
  • intense hunger (When D and I quit we were both RAVENOUS on the first day.  I would have eaten anything not nailed down).  Have a metric tonne of sugar-free snacks at the ready.
  • tiredness/lethargy
  • trouble sleeping

All these symptoms are normal.  You are detoxing from an incredibly addictive substance.  I felt headachey, hungry and tired for a couple of days, but otherwise I was okay.  I found the worst part of withdrawal was simply saying no to temptation when out and about.

4. How will I know when I have withdrawn properly?

Your appetite will decrease.  You will no longer have thoughts of food taking up valuable space in your mind.  You will no longer be planning your day around trips to get snacks, or panicking about when food might get served at a friend’s dinner party because you’re starving.  You will be able to look at sugary treats and say ‘euck’.

5.  How do you stay sugar-free?

Expect to mess up.  Ok?  Just expect it.  You’re going to be okay.  You’re making a big change.  You’ve been addicted to this stuff for most of your life.

It takes a person an average of SEVEN times to break any sort of addiction, and sugar is no exception.  D and I first quit in January 2012 and did really well until we went to America in September that year.  We came back totally addicted again (hard to avoid it when you are been hosted by people).  As I was pregnant at the time and finding withdrawal incredibly hard, we decided to be kind to ourselves and quit after the baby arrived.  I was sugar-free until 11 months later I discovered I was pregnant again.  I tried with all my might not to eat sugary things during pregnancy no. 2, but just couldn’t do it.  I really don’t know why, as when I am no longer pregnant going sugar-free is a doddle.

I am not militant about never eating any sugar – but I pretty much only have it if I have been invited over to someone’s house for dinner and they give me dessert.  I take the view that I am not deathly allergic to sugar and simply eat whatever is put in front of me, like a good guest.  I tried having party food on special occasions, but it just didn’t work for me.  If I eat anything sugary now I feel terrible for several days, and I also find it tastes horrible to me now, so it’s easier just to abstain when I can.

After you’ve been sugar-free for a few months it really does get easier and easier.  If you mess up, or deliberately choose to eat some, just gird your loins and start eating sugar-free again at your next meal.  It’s not the end of the world.

6.  How do you get kids to be sugar-free?

Err, good question.  Here’s a rundown of what my toddler might eat in a typical day.

Sugar is in most of the food your kids eat, even if you haven’t meant to sugar them up.  Seriously.  It’s in their cereals, their yogurts, their ‘healthy’ muesli bars.  Depending on your kids’ personalities and how old they are, you might want to take the softly, softly approach.  Arm yourself with lots of yummy sugar-free recipes.

Again, I’m not militant about my children never, ever, ever letting sugar pass their lips.  My kids love sugary things as much as the next kid, so I let them eat whatever they want at parties and even give them the odd treat or dessert.  I’ve seen total sugar abstinence lead to some very weird behaviours around food and don’t want my children to behave that way.

7. I love baking.  What sugar alternatives do you use?

Okay, lots of recipes will claim to be sugar-free but still use honey, agave, or maple syrup.  They are all high in fructose and are still bad for you.  So you do have to look a bit harder online to find truly sugar-free recipes.

Occasionally I use stevia and rice malt syrup.  I mostly use erythritol or dextrose when baking, but to be honest, I reckon the jury is still out on that all of these sweeteners for me.  With all due respect to my sugar-free friends out there, some people use alternative sweetners like it gives them free licence to eat cake.  Like it magically makes things healthier.  It’s still cake.  You can make some amazing sugar-free treats for sure, but use them sparingly.

8. What does a typical sugar-free day look like for you?

One of the great things about giving up sugar is that once you are free of your cravings, you have the headspace to think about what else you are eating.  I simply couldn’t do that on any other sort of ‘diet’.  I would resolve to eat well and last for a few days before my cravings for sweet things and junk food kicked in.  Now I am free to really pursue good nutrition.

I believe in whole foods, made from scratch most of the time.  I eat high fat (animal fats), low carb (which naturally includes no sugar).  A misconception about HFLC is that you eat a ton of meat.  Yes, the amount of meat I eat has increased, but most of my diet is vegetables.  Seriously.  Our fridge looks like a market garden.  Eating this way has drastically reduced the amount of food I need to get through the day.

Breakfast: usually bacon and eggs.

Lunch: chicken or tuna with a huge pile of veggies.

Dinner: Some sort of protein rich, low carb dinner with veggies.

And that’s pretty much it.  Sometimes I have a piece of fruit with lunch or as a snack if I need one.  But I seldom need snacks anymore.


All the best with your resolution!

Going AIP


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I haven’t posted in ages on Giving Up Sugar.  Mostly this is because once you’ve given up the white stuff there’s little left to say, and I am not one to hang out in my kitchen creating mouth-watering sugar-free treats.  (Which is a shame, because I suspect I could make a killing.)

However, some of you on your own sugar-free journey may be interested in my next foray into wellness.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease at the ripe old age of 27.  Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (which I have too).

I was not at all surprised when I received my diagnosis.  Most of the women in my family have hypothyroidism, so I knew what was up when I put on a huge amount of weight in 6 months, felt like a slug all the time, had a puffy face, thinning hair and had freezing cold hands.  The hands thing was the final piece in the puzzle for me, as I had previously been one of those ridiculously hardy folks who swan around in summer clothing in the middle of winter.  But now people would shake my hand and cry out ‘Flipping heck, have you been dipping your hands in ice water?’  Something was definitely wrong.

I had to beg my doctor to run the tests as she didn’t expect someone to have hypothyroidism at 27.  But to her credit, she was swayed by my family history and ran the tests (I now realise how fortunate I was that my doctor listened to me.  Many people with Hashimoto’s are misdiagnosed as having a mental illness).  I’m not kidding when I say it took me 6 more years to fully understand the implications of my condition and to accept the limitations of it.  I spent those years ignoring my body, being lackadaisical about taking my medication, pushing myself through the tiredness and brain fog, and generally trying to live as I had before until I gave myself a bad case of burnout.

It was the burnout that forced me to pay more attention to my body and my lifestyle.  My body was screaming at me to slow down because it could not take it any more.

So I slowed down and began to recover.  Giving up sugar helped my energy levels to increase, and I was able to reduce my thyroid medication a bit, plus I lost weight.  Then eating the Trim Healthy Mama way (which is refined sugar-free) helped me shed two more dress sizes and feel more energetic.  But it hasn’t quite been enough.

I have always had a tricky case of hypothyroidism.  My thyroid levels almost always require tweaking of my medication and I am closely monitored for this.  Sometimes I need more thyroxine, sometimes less.  Even when my thyroid levels are ‘normal’, I keep having bouts of unexplained tiredness, poor memory, brain fog, irritability and feeling so, so cold.  Some of these ‘thyroidy bouts’ as I call them, can last a few weeks or a few months.  At the moment I am a bout which has been going on for a couple of months now.  Fun times.

Trips to doctors have them treating me like I am a mental health patient, despite the fact that I am a patient with hypothyroidism, complaining of hypothyroidism symptoms.  But as my thyroid levels are ‘fine’, doctors don’t seem to know what else to do other than screen me for depression and look confused.  I have learned to take my husband with me to all such appointments for back up as I am never taken seriously without having him there to say ‘Yep, what she is saying is absolutely true.’

My thyroidy bouts are not fun, and are very hard on my husband as he has to pick up my slack.  I’m a stay-at-home parent to two toddlers, so that’s a lot of crazy slack to be picked up!  I’m sick of these bouts affecting me – and my family – despite the fact that my test results are ‘normal’.  There has to be more that can be done.

Our genes play a part in the development of autoimmune disease, but diet and lifestyle can reduce the effects once that switch is flicked on.  I’m pretty active in the Hashimoto’s online community and have seen many reports from fellow sufferers saying they’d seen a huge reduction in their symptoms by following the Autoimmune Protocol.  It’s like the Paleo diet, but harsher. The first phase is an elimination diet where you cut out the usual suspects like grains, eggs, soy, dairy and sugar.  But the Autoimmune Protocol goes further.  Developed by Dr Sarah Ballentyne – an expert on immunity and inflammation – the protocol also cuts out nuts, seeds, alternative sweeteners, nightshades and NSAIDS (ibuprofen etc).  The main focus of the protocol is to eliminate foods that contribute to leaky gut and bad gut flora from the diet.  You can read more about the science behind the protocol here.

People with autoimmune diseases can expect to see significant improvement within a few weeks or months, although some may take longer.  I feel confident about doing the first phase because it’s not forever.  Once a measurable improvement happens, then a slow reintroduction to other foods can begin.  Many people discover they react badly to nightshades (tomatoes/potatoes/eggplant/peppers) and have to avoid them for life, and I suspect this might be the case for me.  My father is deathly allergic to raw tomato, and my skin often reacts to nightshades when I  prepare them for cooking.  Other people can successfully reintroduce eggs, nuts and dairy, so I hope I’m one of those!

Food elimination diets are daunting.  But if you’ve eaten something all your life, you may be unaware of its impact on your health and well-being.  I never truly knew how addicted to sugar I was until I eliminated it and saw improvements in my energy and saiety levels.  People who’ve gone AIP report significantly negative reactions to many of the reintroduced foods (like two weeks of feeling yuck), and those reactions are enough to help them avoid that food for life.  I’m hopeful that getting to the bottom of any food intolerances will help me kick my thyroidy bouts for good.

I wondered what on earth there would be left for me to eat if I attempted AIP.  No eggs.  My staple breakfast.  No dairy.  But, but what’s life without cheese?  No curries?  I think I might cry.

Help was at hand thanks to my local library and The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, by Mickey Trescott.  D and I were so impressed by this book, we immediately bought our own copy.  Besides being a beautifully designed and photographed cookbook, what had me going ‘okay, this lady is my new BFF’ was that Mickey acknowledges that sticking to AIP during the elimination phase is HARDER THAN HARD.  She acknowledges that having to make every single dish, sauce or dressing from scratch feels like a Herculean task if you work full time, have kids, or are sick. You know, from an autoimmune disease.  If that’s you, Mickey’s your gal.  She has meal plans and shopping lists to ease into the AIP way.  There are also many other great AIP books out there if you look online.

I haven’t started AIP yet, but I do have a starting date (28 July).  I’m approaching this like I did when I gave up sugar.  I’m not quitting until my social calendar is empty.  My birthday and a trip away are coming up soon, so I will go AIP after then.  I will be turning down dinner invitations and dining out while I’m on the elimination phase because I can’t be bothered with the hassle it would entail.  I have a wedding to go to in September and I think I will just tell the beautiful couple not to worry about a meal for me, and take my own food.  I want to cause zero hassle on their big day.  It will definitely be weird, but when you are on the elimination phase you absolutely cannot cheat.  If you have a reaction to something, you probably won’t be able to work out what caused it (Was it the dressing?  Were the veges sauted in butter? etc.).

So wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.


Have you ever gone AIP?  Did it work for you?

Hey you sweet thing


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So many delicious things

So many delicious things

I got together with some lovely friends for a sugar-free baking sharing session.  It was great to have so many people expressing an interest in reducing the amount of sugar in their diets.  We all made a couple of recipes each, and bought them for everyone to try to see if it was something their family might like to eat.  We had several kids in tow so many of the recipes can now be certified kid-friendly.

A sharing session like this is great if you are a ‘sugar-freer’, for several reasons.

1) Many sugar-free recipes are REVOLTING.  Like, oh-my-god-get-this-abomination-outta-my-mouth-now revolting.  This is a great opportunity to try a wide range of recipes and see what ones you actually like, without wasting your time and money.

2) Sugar-free ingredients can be expensive.  Alternative sweeteners can be costly, as can other ingredients beloved by those who create SF recipes.  There’s nothing more annoying than spending lots of money on cacao nibs and chia seeds, only to find the end result is not your cup of tea.  A sharing session is a great way to know whether a certain ingredient is worth your financial investment.

3) It’s a great time to educate others on the benefits of sugar-free living.  I can hold court about not eating sugar for hours if allowed, but I seldom get the chance.  🙂  At the sharing session I was asked all sorts of questions, and gave my opinion on the best alternative sweeteners.  The others were very interested in just how much not eating sugar has transformed my life – for example, I seldom need snacks or spend much mental energy thinking about food anymore – and they were keen to give it a real go.  It’s also a great opportunity to let others know what recipes are really sugar free.  There are many recipes out there claiming to be sugar free, but when you read the list of ingredients it has a cup of agave syrup or 2 cups of honey.  Yeah, not quite the real deal.

I made a batch of Sarah Wilson’s ‘oreo cookies’ (which are quite nice, but in no way taste anything like the original in case you wondered), and some chocolate/nut balls (which do have dates in them, but are a treat that will please everyone).  I came home with a reasonable haul of goodies which disappeared over the next few days, so it was well worth the effort.

Many people would like to give being sugar-free a go, but starting just feels too hard.  A little sharing session like this might just be a delicious tipping point.

Habits: Out with the old, in with the new


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I happened to catch an interview on Radio New Zealand the other week which really pricked up my antennae.  It was an interview with Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, talking about her new book Better than Before.  The Happiness Project has sold over 1.5 million copies and struck a chord with people all over the globe.  It follows Gretchen’s pursuit to discover what truly makes her happy, and contains a lot of scientific research and wisdom on how to increase your own happiness.  She followed that up with the engaging Happier at Home, which charts Gretchen’s experiments to improve several aspects of her life related to her home, including her possessions, her marriage, her children and wider family, her engagement with her community.

In this interview with Kathryn Ryan (if you are really interested I would listen to it now as I don’t know how long Radio NZ keeps their podcasts online for), Gretchen talks about how creating new habits truly can transform our lives.  Gretchen argues that if there is something about yourself that you don’t like and want to change, one of the most effective ways to create a lasting change is to form a new habit.  A change needs to become that ingrained if it is going to stick long-term.

Gretchen states that our habits are the building blocks of our lives, and are so ingrained that we rarely think about them.  Most of us don’t think ‘Shall I brush my teeth today?’  We just do it as part of our daily routine.  Therefore she argues that our habits can be the most effective scaffolding for creating a you that is better than the old you.

image credit

Want to create healthier habits? image credit

She goes on to say that in order to successfully create a new habit (like giving up sugar), you must understand how your personality affects the way in which you form habits, because habit formation is not a one-size-fits-all thing.  In her research she discovered that most of us fall into one of four groups: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels.  You can take a quiz here to find out what you are.  For example, a questioner has to be convinced that changing something about themselves by forming a certain habit really is the best thing for them.  I am an obliger, meaning I often overlook my needs for that of others, so forming a new habit which benefits myself is tricky.  If we don’t get our strategies right, new habits just won’t stick.

What I love about Gretchen’s work is that she is PRACTICAL.  I have read much about habit formation in my time, and none of it makes as much sense to me as her work does.  There are a lot of myths out there (like it only takes 21 days to form a new habit), and Gretchen has sifted through it all.   She has some great-yet-simple strategies for the different personality types e.g. say if you are an obliger like me and you want to exercise more – exercise with a friend who will be miffed if you don’t show up, because it is the accountability to someone else that is the key ingredient here.  If you want to know more, buy the book!

She also talked about ‘abstainers’ versus ‘moderators’.  Moderators are the sort of people who can have a block of chocolate in their desk and eat a square or two a day.  Abstainers are people like me, who would scoff the lot straight away, so they find it EASIER to just abstain from chocolate altogether.  What this means is that if you are struggling to give up sugar (or carbs, or alcohol, or whatever) it might be because you are an abstainer.  Having sugar in the house, or indulging in it here and there is not the best strategy for you.

Obviously what she said resonated with me.  Completely abstaining from sugar has worked for me far better than only having a bit here and there.  Saying no to offers of treats from well-meaning friends and family is much easier for me than eating it and dealing with the horrible consequences (feeling tired, spike in appetite, craving more sugar etc.).

Anyway, after listening to the podcast D and I talked about some things about ourselves that we’d like to change, and how we might do it, armed with this new knowledge.  D is an obliger too (although with very strong questioner tendencies) and wants to cut down his use of his smartphone.  He has enlisted me to call him out whenever I see him using it either too much, or at an inappropriate time, i.e. while the kids want to play with him.  In turn, as my accountability person, I have enlisted D’s help to ensure I get out of bed early each morning to exercise.  As I am an abstainer I have also decided to exercise every day, so that longer lie-ins are just not an option.  Hopefully exercise first thing in the morning will be just something that I do, just like brushing my teeth.

Having recently read Happier at Home, I have been inspired to launch a similar project.  I will be posting more detail on this soon over at my ‘brain-dump’ blog Tots in Tawhero.  And I will certainly keep you posted about whether my sleep-in abstinence strategy works.

If you have some bad habits that you’d like to replace for healthier ones, I highly recommend having a read of Gretchen’s website and books.

What ‘new habit’ strategies have worked for you in the past? 

Why I no longer use dextrose



Like many people, I came to sugar-free living via the excellent book Sweet Poison.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to give up the white stuff.  In this book, David Gillespie clearly spells out what fructose does to us, and how it makes us fat.  David recommends dextrose as an alternative sweetener for baking, and I have used it in the past with great success.

My regular readers will know that while I have been mostly sugar-free since 2012, I got completely derailed by both of my pregnancies and fell off the wagon big-time.  Once I gave birth, I found it very easy to get back on it, and since the birth of my  son I have been sugar-free again for months now, without any problems at all.

My brother, D and I had lined up a movie to watch the other night (Kingsman: The Secret Service, which I highly recommend if you want to escape reality for a couple of hours) and I really felt like a treat.  I hadn’t done any sugar free baking for quite some time, nor am I in the habit of using alternative sweeteners in my usual meals or drinks.

I decided to make a chocolate and raspberry brownie and used dextrose as my sweetener.  It was delicious and the three of us wolfed it down.

The next day I woke up feeling extremely tired, despite having had a reasonable night’s sleep (as much as one can have with a 10-month-old in the house).  I got increasingly irritable as the morning went on, and completely blew my stack over something trivial.  I was starving all day, and the next day, and the next.  I don’t remember having a reaction like that to dextrose in the past, but it’s not one I care to repeat.

I have always viewed alternative sweeteners with suspicion (and use them sparingly) and will now be crossing dextrose firmly off my list.  Of course, please remember that this was just me, and if you use dextrose without any ill effects, more power to you.

I guess what I recommend is to do your own research and see what effects alternative sweeteners have on your body.  I am finding more and more that I simply cannot have my cake and eat it too.

Sugar-Free Toddler: so, what does your kid eat?


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The number one question I am asked when folks find out I am sugar-free is if my kids are sugar-free too.

To which I reply, mostly.

Sausage eating banana 'ice cream': simply frozen bananas blitzed in the blender until smooth and creamy

Sausage eating banana ‘ice cream’: simply frozen bananas blitzed in the blender until smooth and creamy

Chip is only 9 months old so he is 100% sugar-free.  Sausage is 2 1/4 years old, so she is the ‘mostly’.  My second most-asked question is what on earth I give her to eat if she’s sugar-free, like she must live on gruel or something.

Having a mostly sugar-free toddler isn’t too hard when they are used to eating this way.  I imagine that transitioning a toddler off large amounts of the white stuff wouldn’t be much fun!  I feel exhausted just thinking about it…

Sausage is a pretty good eater (for now).  She’s not too fussy, eats most fruit and vegetables, and generally eats what we eat – although she draws the line at Ryvita (yuck!), vegemite (I DON’T like it!) and lettuce (that’s digusting!).

She does however, have a massive sweet tooth, especially for chocolate.  Her diet isn’t 100% sugar-free, but then it’s not my intention for it to be.  I believe in taking an 80:20% approach to what my kids eat.  I think forbidding my kids to eat any sweets, cake etc only serves to increase its desirability, which can lead to bizarre behaviour and attitudes towards food.  My mother once told me about some children she knew who were never allowed any sweets at all.  They got into serious trouble for shoplifting their ‘forbidden fruit’.  I also have a friend who grew up without being allowed to eat anything ‘bad’ – he was always sent to parties with a box of his permitted food – and he went crazy when he finally left home for university.  He had an enormous stash of chocolate at all times, and slept with several cases of cola under his bed!  His unhealthy relationship with sweet stuff continues to this day.

So Sausage does get some sugary stuff during her week.  It’s a lot less than the average child I think, and I think it’s easiest just to tell you what she might eat in a ‘typical’ day here in Tawhero.

Breakfast: She eats weetbix or cornflakes, sometimes with a bit of fruit on top (like the feijoas we have in abundance right now).  I can’t get her to eat porridge but you can be sure we’re working on this.  Pretty much any other cereal here in NZ is riddled with sugar.  Some cereals can be 30-40% sugar and yet are promoted as being healthy such as Nutrigrain or Sultana Bran.  And most cereals peddled at children, such as ‘Honey Puffs, Cocoa Pops, and Frosties’ are incredibly sugary.

Occasionally I make her scrambled eggs or pancakes for breakfast.  She likes pancakes just with butter.

Just FYI, I don’t limit fruit.  She’s a toddler and has more energy in her little finger than I have in my whole body.

Morning Tea:  Morning teas can be my trickiest meals in terms of curbing her sugar intake.  We attend two play groups that provide morning tea, and they always, always, always include sugary biscuits/cookies.  They are not the worst offenders in the biscuit world (i.e. they tend to be cream wafers or vanilla wine biscuits) but they seem to be a staple at play groups, along with providing fresh fruit.  One group sometimes provides a diluted raro drink (a powdered sugar drink) which I ignore and give her water (Sausage rarely has juice, and when she does it is very diluted.  She’s never had soft drink.  She is fine with drinking water or milk).  I realise of course that I could forbid her to eat the biscuits, but one during the day isn’t going to hurt when they are often the only sugary things she eats that day.  I could even bring her own morning tea, but I don’t for the above reasons.  I’ve have spoken to the play group organisers but it falls on deaf ears.

Don’t get me started on what adults are given to eat at play groups.  I have NEVER been offered anything savoury.  It’s always chocolate biscuits (in front of the children too!).  Fortunately I seldom need a snack in the mornings otherwise I’d go home with a grumbly tummy.

If we are at home, or at Playcentre where we bring our own morning tea, she eats things like boiled eggs, crackers (home made), cheese, hummus, vege sticks, fresh fruit, yoghurt*, sandwiches, cucumber and tomato slices, tuna, chicken or some sugar free baking if I’ve been particularly organised.

* I haven’t been able to convince Sausage that unsweetened yoghurt is delicious, so I sneak it in to her commercially prepared sweetened fruit yoghurt at a 50:50 ratio.  I will be gradually increasing the unsweetened ration, mwahaha!

If we are out and about and are not organised we do occasionally give Sausage biscuits (just keeping it real).  Griffin’s do a fruit digestive that is surprisingly low in sugar.  They are the best of the bunch if you are in a pinch.

Lunch: Sausage is addicted to peanut butter sandwiches (home made, preservative-free bread, for those who have asked).  We use Pic’s 100% peanut brand, which is in my opinion, the best ever.  I will eventually have to wean her off onto other spreads as many schools forbid PB due to increasing numbers of kids with deathly peanut allergies in attendance.  Anyway, lunch is often a PB sandwich, with vege sticks, cheese, fruit or whatever else is to hand.

Afternoon tea: Usually similar to morning tea.

Dinner: Sausage eats what we eat, unless it’s a highly spicy curry.

Sausage does get the occasional sugary treat such as ice cream or chocolate from us and her grandparents, and I allow her to eat what she wants at birthday parties – but she isn’t really on the party circuit like older kids can be.  She is always my litmus test for any sugar-free concoction I make, as if it pleases her, it is generally a hit with everyone.

Having a (mostly) sugar-free toddler is possible. 

Do you limit sugar in your house?  How do your kids respond?

Trim Healthy Thursday: Two Months In


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Okay, so I’m going to do something very vulnerable.  I’m going to share my before and after pictures.

I remembered to take some ‘before’ pictures so I could track my progress but hadn’t been bothered about taking any more because I thought it would be too soon to see any changes.  However, many people post their pictures on THM Facebook pages – some people even after attempting THM for a week.  And you know what?  You can totally see a difference.  What really spurred me one was one lady commenting that even though the scales hadn’t budged in ages for her, she’d still dropped THREE dress sizes.  While out shopping this week I was stunned to discover I could fit into clothes that were two sizes smaller than pre-THM.  So I dusted off the camera.

Here goes:

Two months on THM

Two months on THM

I can see that I have lost quite a bit of weight around my mid-section, my arms and my face.  I even have a waist.

Whilst I am reluctant to share these pictures with the interweb, I hope that others doing THM are encouraged.  You may not see the numbers on the scale decrease to your liking, but things will be happening nonetheless.

Okay, so this get this thing rolling again


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Giving Up Sugar seems to be more popular than ever, despite me deciding to quit it a few months back.  So I thought, why not resurrect it now I have a bit more space in my ol’ brain again.

I fell off the sugar wagon while pregnant with kid no 2 (I just cannot win against those pregnancy cravings), but have been sugar-free since January 1st.  Getting back on the wagon was really easy and I once again am reaping the benefits of a sugar-free life:

  • weight loss
  • stable energy
  • clearer skin
  • decreased appetite
  • an improved taste palette (holy moly, carrots are ridiculously sweet!)

I’ve still been happily blogging over at Tots in Tawhero, and thought I would share my adventures with Trim Healthy Mama on here too.

Here’s my review of the sugar-free eating plan that is Trim Healthy Mama which first appeared in Tots in Tawhero back in February.

Giving Trim Healthy Mama (THM) eating a go was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

As a rule I try to start new diets or eating plans when my social calendar isn’t filled with temptation in the form of birthday cake.    Now I have Sausage and D’s birthdays out of the way I have started THM with a vengeance.  THM has been feeling a bit like my nemesis for the past year and a half since I first purchased the book.  I tried and failed several times to eat the THM way while I was pregnant, but my cravings were too strong and I think I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it.

I have struggled with my weight for most of my adult life.  After going sugar-free I lost quite a bit of weight, only to gain some back while pregnant with Sausage.  I was just starting to loose some of it again by eating sugar-free and running when I became pregnant with Chip.  And then after Chip was born I put on even more weight(!) due to stress-eating when things were bad with his reflux. It’s time for it to come off again.  I am on board with THM now and raring to go.  As of Monday, my two month THM trial has begun!

Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett  (image credit)

THM is an insanely popular book in Christian circles and seems to be a successful way of eating for many, many people.  In a nutshell, THM is a carb-controlled eating plan that emphasises ditching sugar and most carbs, and embracing healthy fats and whole foods (as such, it is not a huge change to how I eat anyway).  If you want to make the most of the recipes in the tome-like book, it does require some expensive and hard-to-find-in-New-Zealand ingredients – but the ‘plan’ can be followed without it.

I don’t want to go into the THM way of eating because it feels disrespectful to the authors to give away their trade secrets.  I’m going to encourage you to buy the book instead.  The authors do a great job of explaining how tweaking what you eat in combination can make a difference to whether you burn fat or store it, and these ladies have really done their research.  Let me just say that THM makes good sense to me and does not involve complicated food restrictions or calorie-counting.  THM is not a ‘diet’.  I can eat as much as I like.  I just need to be careful about what I eat in combination and when.

I’ve been a THM Facebook member for several months now, and hardly a day goes by without someone posting their weight loss or improved health success story.  Many members have posted about how GOOD and how ENERGETIC they feel on the THM way of eating, and that’s why I have been desperate to give it a go.  I don’t know about you, but energy is in short supply with the adults in our household.

What I like about the book:

  • It’s an entertaining, easy read.  The authors are two Kiwi lasses (hooray!) now living in America. who have been on a healthy-eating journey for a long time.  Their book is largely written as a conversation between the two of them and their banter is often laugh-out-loud funny.  They are great at breaking down the nuts and bolts of nutrition,andmaking the science behind their plan accessible to people like me.  Because generally when it comes to food science, this is me:image credit
    Brownie points to anyone who can tell me what movie I’m referencing…
  • The book is huge.  The authors go into a lot of detail, and I said earlier, they back up what they are saying with research.  Like actual peer-reviewed research.  Not just anecdotal evidence sourced off Dr Google.  Plus I reckon the vastness of the book makes it seem like value for money.
  • The plan is holistic.  Pearl and Serene don’t just cover food.  They look at the impact what you eat has on your hormones, your sex life, your will power to exercise, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding, weight maintenance and more.
  • They recognise that approaches to nutrition differ.  They don’t expect anyone to suddenly change a life time of habits and favourite foods overnight.  They know that some people find eating a healthy diet and making food from scratch easy, while others rely heavily on convenience food to make it through the day in one piece.  The sisters themselves are like this – one is a purist and the other likes to cut corners, so you will often find two versions of a recipe for whatever camp you fall into.
  • They have lots of recipes for you to try.  I hate how some ‘diet’ books are all like‘check me out, this is how you should be eating’ and then only give you a handful of recipes that will actually work with it.  THM is half eating-plan stuff and half recipe book.
  • You can have dessert.  For breakfast even.  It just needs to be made without refined sugar or loaded with carbs.  They have a considerable number of dessert and treat recipes which won’t make you pile on the weight.  The THM desserts aren’t too different from the way I’ve been eating since quitting sugar back in 2012.
  • There is a huge internet community out there for support and encouragement. And I mean huge.  The main THM facebook group (there are many, many THM groups) has over 84,000 people in it.  The New Zealand THM facebook group has over 800.  The authors now have an active website and YouTube channel so you can keep up to date and keep motivated.

What I don’t like about the book:

  • It’s written for an American audience so some of the ingredients are hard or impossible to find here.  Some of the ingredients needed to fully make use of the recipes I have had to source from overseas, which is something I don’t generally like to do as buying locally is important to me.  However, as I mentioned previously, it is possible to do THM without the fancy ingredients and there is even a Facebook group for people who do this.
  • I think it’s hard to do THM cheaply.  You can’t be vegetarian or eat meat sparingly and do THM.  THM meals require some protein source.  However, I do think that once you are ‘on plan’ and your body is fuelling properly, you probably find you eat less.  Cutting out junk food and lots of carby foods also means there should be more wiggle room in the food budget for protein.
  • It’s written for the American palate.  I’ve tried several of the recipes only to find I didn’t like them, which is disappointing when factoring in the effort taken to source some of the ingredients.  I’m not hugely into creamy, cheesy dishes which some recipes rely heavily on.  However, there are still a ton of their recipes I haven’t tried so I will be persevering.  There are also plenty of bloggers who follow THM and are out there creating THM recipes – so many that I could probably try a different THM recipe at each meal for several years.
  • The dessert/treat recipes rely on sweeteners like Erythritol and Stevia and use other exotic ingredients like almond flour.    I feel uneasy about using alternative sweeteners (I still use them instead of sugar!), but that’s just me.  These ladies have actually done research on them and I haven’t.  I want to get to the point where I don’t feel the need for that stuff – which is (mostly) possible when you’ve been off sugar for long enough.  I’d like to get a few crowd-pleasing treat and dessert recipes under my belt for special occasions and to tackle cravings, but I’ll mostly be sticking to a piece of fruit if I feel the need for dessert.  A criticism I have of low-carb dessert recipes (not just THM) is that they tend to use large quantities of exotic flours like almond.  I would not sit down and eat three cups of almonds, so using three cups of almond flour in a recipe doesn’t feel very ‘whole foods’ to me.  Again, these are just my thoughts and I have done zero research on it!
  • The book is expensive.  It cost me over $60 (NZ).  But it is huge…

Two Month THM Update

You can read about my foray into THM here:

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Week Six

At two months in, I can say that it works.  I’ve dropped a dress size and have lost weight in areas that I don’t usually lose weight in, like my arms.  The food is pretty good and I don’t feel deprived at all.

Goodbye everybody, I’ve got to go…

Hi friends,

I just wanted to let you know that this is the end of the road for Giving Up Sugar.  I’ve loved this blog, and have enjoyed being part of the sugar free community, but I just don’t think I have anything else useful to add.   My heart wants to write different stuff now.



image credit

Giving up the white poison is awesome, and it WILL transform your relationship with food.  It’s really hard at first – and for some people, it will mean a big change in your regular diet, but it gets easier over time.  Eventually you rarely think about sugary treats at all.

I’m not going to stop blogging.  If you are interested, you can follow me on my other blog Tots in Tawhero.  The blog is definitely a work in progress, but I will be writing regularly on Tots in Tawhero next year.  It’s more of a ‘life’ blog about parenting, community, and more of my brain dumps.  You can follow us as we go on a Trim Healthy Mama journey and take a year long spending fast.  Oh yep, it’s gonna be an interesting year!

Thanks for coming with me as I battled with my sugar addiction.  If my ramblings helped you with your own journey, awesome.  I wish you nothing but the best.  If you have just started getting sugar free – YOU CAN DO IT, I promise.

Blessings and light to you all,



Is it over yet?


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To be perfectly frank, I’m rather looking forward to waving 2014 goodbye.

I’ve never known such an annus horribulus, and I’m certainly not the only one feeling this way.  Apart from my birth of my gorgeous wee son (cue gratuitous Daniel photo)…

2014-10-09 12.45.35

… this year is one I will look back on with much fondness.  I spent the first seven months in a pregnancy fatigue funk, which fortunately went away as soon as the baby arrived.  The fatigue was replaced with the expected sleep deprivation that babies create, although largely due to Daniel having the dreaded reflux.

Reflux.  Ugh.  How I loathe thee.

For the first few weeks I had an angel baby.  He slept well and was putting on weight like a champ.  Then he started to get a bit unsettled.  Then really screamy.  Then his sleep deteriorated.  I suspected reflux, but the diagnosis was complicated by the baby getting a nasty virus doing the rounds, and a hidden tongue tie.

Life descended into chaos.  The baby screamed ALL day.  I’m not exaggerating.  Things got so bad we had a friend come every morning to help out, and had to farm out our daughter as much as possible to her grandmothers because it was impossible for me to spend much time with her.  Then my daughter got the virus. Followed by D.  And then her grandmothers.

So I am the only well person dealing with a sick, screaming baby; a sick, clingy, only-Mummy-will-do toddler; and a sick, sleep-deprived husband.  I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind at one point.

Life has gotten less chaotic, although we are still struggling to manage the baby’s reflux, even with medication.  But he is ridiculously cute, which helps a lot!  He is predictable at least, and I have been able to spend more quality time with my daughter who delights me with her ever-expanding conversational skills (she’s pretty much into full sentences now) and her silly sense of humour.

The worst thing has been my sister-in-law passing away after a short battle with cancer a few weeks ago.  She was only 37.  She had multiple health conditions for most of her life, which she courageously managed to rise above.  She was an inspiration to most people who met her, and my life is certainly richer from having known her.  I’m saddened that my children will never appreciate just how much their Auntie loved them and how important they were to her, and it’s been beyond horrible to see my brother suffering the loss of his much-loved partner in life.

So yeah, 2014 can kiss my ass.

In the midst of all the drama of late,  I have done what I always do in tough times – turn to food for comfort.

I’m sorry to say I have been indulging in too much of the white stuff of late.  It’s incredibly frustrating to find myself reacting in my old ways when life gets tough.  You think you have this addiction conquered and then – wham! Oh no you don’t.

It just goes to show that for many of us, food is an incredibly complex issue.  It’s so much more than fuel.  If losing weight or getting ‘healthy’ is a simple matter of calories in vs. calories out then there should be more of us out there rocking skinny jeans, and I personally would have an entire wardrobe of body-con dresses.

I have worked with addicts a fair bit in my life, and know I need to treat myself with the same compassion that I would them.  I know about triggers.  I know that relapses happen.  I know that over time I will experience them less and less, until I am eventually free.

And so I dust myself off, and go into ‘rehab’ again.