Rebel with a cause

I put my back out doing the vacuuming.

(I know, right?!  I keep saying that I need to get a better story than that.  The truth is more boring than fiction in this case.)  

I spent the better part of a week, getting intimately acquainted with my bedroom ceiling as my injury meant I couldn’t sit or stand for long.  There were two unexpected bonuses to giving myself excruciating pain: I got a five day break from caring for my tots – but still got to see them and have unlimited cuddles; and I had a lot of time to think.

I’d been feeling rather down on myself because I’d lost my THM mojo and couldn’t seem to really get back into it.  I wanted to, especially considering my success with it, but I kept self-sabotaging.  I’d also been battling a virus for a couple of weeks that had left me really tired so I hadn’t done much exercise during that time.

I was frustrated at how flimsy many of my good habits are, and how difficult it was to create them in the first place.  Last year I’d devoured Gretchen Rubin’s book on habit formation, Better than Before, and discovered I was an obliger.  Gretchen’s research led her to the discovery that when it comes to habits, most of us fall into one of four categories, which she calls the ‘four tendencies’:

  • Upholders are rule-keepers.  They have no problem sticking to New Year’s resolutions, and are the sort of people who follow their doctor’s advice, to the letter.
  • Questioners –these people question any expectations placed on them by others, and will meet them only if they believe it’s justified.  Questioners tend to do research before embarking on anything like a new diet or form of exercise, and resist arbitrary rules.
  • Obligers are people-pleasers, who find it easy to meet the expectations of others, but not for themselves.
  • Rebels resist expectations from others, and from themselves.  Rebels like to do things their own way, and hate being told what to do.

(Discover your habit tendency on Gretchen’s site here.)

I was stoked to be an obliger, as the best strategy to help obligers stick with a habit is some sort of external accountability.  I’d inadvertently done this with my other blog, Giving Up Sugar.  I ‘d discovered that I couldn’t in good conscience blog about giving up the white stuff without actually doing it, so I knew this strategy worked.

Back in February I asked D to hold me accountable to sticking to THM, and signed up for roller derby.  Other than getting back into skating and making new friends, I hoped the pressure of making it to derby training each week would be all the incentive I needed.

As I lay there, pondering how badly the past couple of months had gone using the above strategies I had to admit that they hadn’t worked.

If you’d been a fly on the wall, I’m pretty sure you could have seen the cogs in my brain whirring and a little cartoon light bulb above my head.

Maybe I’m not an obliger?

Maybe I’m something else.

I decided to re-take the test.  I am the sort of person who takes multi-choice tests at the speed of light.  Unlike my darling D, I do not ponder all eventualities when answering questions about myself, I tend to go with whatever pops into my head.  The worst thing is that as I’ve studied psychology I am quick to spot categories and tend to answer in the manner of the particular category I think is desirable to be in!  (Not very helpful when you need an honest assessment.)

So as I took the test for the second time I paused and reflected on each question.  I tried to answer as the Angela-I-actually-am, not the Angela-I-want-to-be.

It turns out I’m a rebel.

I was like, whaaaaat?  Me, a rebel?  I’m one of the most goody two shoes people I know.  I’m a people pleaser, I follow rules, I do what others ask of me.

As I digested this information, I suddenly had the urge to laugh.  Because of course, I am a rebel.  The signs were there.  They’ve been there all my life.

I was the kid who hated ballet and art class because I hated being told what to do.  Sure, I loved to dance and be creative, but I wanted to do it MY way.  I was the kid who hated team sports because I liked to be the one calling the shots.  When asked to describe me as a kid, my Mum usually says ‘Oh, Angela marched to the beat of her own drum’.  And I did.  As a kid, I didn’t give a stuff what anyone thought of me.  Oh, how I wish for that sort of confidence these days!

As an adult I’ve lost count of all the money I’ve wasted on classes, gyms and workshops that I really, really wanted to do at the time I signed up – only to have any enthusiasm for it wane immediately and usually not complete what ever it was.  I’m a workshop flake.

I get a kick out of breaking rules, or flouting people’s expectations of who they think I am.  For instance, I am nice and kind and a goody two shoes, but I am usually the first one to bust a move on the dance floor at a party which raises many eyebrows from people who don’t know me well.

Most tellingly, any time someone asks me to do something my immediate gut reaction is to do the exact opposite.  I struggle against this of course – because you have to if you want to get along with others – but I particularly struggle if someone is telling me what I ‘should’ be doing.  On the outside I may say ‘oh yes, okay’, but on the inside I’m like ‘yeah, whatever, I’m going keep doing it my way.’  This is a common trait for rebels, and something that frustrates both them, and the people around them as we’re not always right!

After this a-ha! moment, my next thought was ‘oh no!’  Because of our self-sabotaging ways, according to Gretchen rebels have the hardest time creating new habits.  I have created habits that (mostly) stick in the past, but that’s because I’ve done them in a way that suits rebels.  A strategy that works for people like me is what Gretchen calls identity.  People identify with a habit; such as ‘I’m a runner’, or ‘I’m artistic’, or even ‘I’m lazy’.  In my case, I identify with things like being ‘sugar-free’, a daily exerciser’ and  an ‘op-shopper’ (the year I got married I’d vowed to only buy second-hand for the entire year.  I’m proud to say I completed this challenge.  I got married in a second-hand dress and second-hand shoes and was perfectly happy).

Take my exercise regime for example.  I’ve tried making rigid plans to exercise, mapping out what I’ll do each day for a month.  But I never, ever follow it.  Never.  Ever.  Now I know why!  Instead, I always do whatever I feel like.  Some days I run, some days I walk, some days I skate, some days I do a HIIT workout, some days I do yoga.  It doesn’t matter what it is, I still do something.  This is a perfect rebel strategy.  Because I am a ‘daily exerciser’ I’m okay with not choosing the ‘when’, but I do get to choose the ‘what’.  And it works for me.

Other rebel strategies are choosing habits that deviate from the mainstream (such as a man taking up ballet as a hobby), and setting themselves challenges.  A good way to get rebels to do anything is to tell them ‘I bet you can’t do such-and-such’, and off they’ll go to try and prove you wrong.

I’m going to try these strategies, like setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal and see what happens.

If you are struggling to start or maintain a good habit, it may be that the strategy you are using to do it just isn’t you.  You might be an upholder, or a questioner or an obliger.  I highly recommend Better than Before if you want to make a change in your life.  I’ll keep you posted about mine.


Which of the ‘four tendencies are you?’  What habit strategies work for you?  And if you’re a rebel, hit me up with your ideas!


Happy Trimaversary


One year of Trim Healthy Mama

Yesterday was my one year ‘Trimaversary’.  One year of doing Trim Healthy Mama.  One year!

I’m really proud of getting to this point.  As you can see from the photos above, THM works.  It’s been very slow (I am what we call a turtle in the THM world), but I’ve lost 3 dress sizes and have enough energy (most days) to run after my kids and exercise daily.

THM is different to any ‘diet’ I’ve been on before.  I stopped weighing myself months ago because the scale would stay the same but my clothes would be noticeably looser.  On THM I’ve lost weight in places I never have before and have discovered my collarbones.

It took until December until I really started to get lots of comments on my weight loss – people are generally too polite!  But since then, more and more people have had the courage to say something.

I wanted to end my year on a high note, but I want to be real and say that since Christmas I have struggled to stick to the THM plan.  I have good days when each meal is on plan, but I have bad days when I get to lunch, make bad choices (carbs), and carry on making bad choices for the rest of the day.  I think it has something to do with having been on holidays and being out of routine.

Since playgroups and kindy started back I have been better, but am still easily steered off course by special events.  I feel as if I have put on some weight because of this and it’s been hard not to let my nasty inner voice have free rein.  But I look at the photos above and see how far I’ve come and it keeps me going forward.  Anyway, I will be doing some serious thinking about what I can do to keep myself on plan more.  And keep you posted.

I have been terrific at exercising, and rarely have a day off.  I run, skate (I’ve taken up roller derby, wahoo!), do a HIIT workout or some gentle yoga.  I have noticeably more energy eating the THM way, and my moods are more stable.

So, here’s to making my second trimaversary.  I’m going back to basics, by making sure I fill up before special events so I don’t go overboard, no sweet THM treats (I think they affect my appetite, such is the sugar-free life) and giving myself plenty of grace for not being perfect.  🙂


Trim Healthy Thursday: Week 10, wins and losses

If you read my last weekly Dollar Diet update you’ll know I had mini-rebellion at pretty much everything.  This past weekend was a long weekend here in New Zealand, and I barely ate on-plan for those three days (I didn’t eat anything terrible, mostly peanut butter sandwiches which are not Trim Healthy Mama in the slightest).

But after doing a bit of soul-searching to discover what was really at the bottom of my sudden burst of mutiny, I figured I was still a bit bummed out over not fitting into many of my old clothes yet.  I also realised that covering old ground really shreds my undies (random Aussie phrase that I adore) I have been here before.  I have been this weight before.  I have been much trimmer than this weight before too.  I guess I feel mad at myself for falling off the sugar-free wagon during my pregnancies, but hell, if that’s not a time to be kind to yourself instead, I don’t know what is.

But you know what?  Despite my rebellion, I got right back on-plan, and have been completely fine at sticking to it.  Because in all honesty, it’s not that hard to.  This is such an easy way to eat for me.  I know rebellions are going to happen from time to time, but that I am also capable of reining myself back in.

And even though I had three days off-plan, I have still lost weight!  This morning I tried on one of my ‘I-almost-fit-you’ tops that I put into a pile last week It fit perfectly.  Just last week it didn’t.



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

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 or two during the day aren’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, cheese, hummus, carrots, 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 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.  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 sides of cheese, tomato 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?


Dollar Diet: Week 6

Despite physically running on empty this week, our bank account is getting fuller by the day.  This has been an excellent Dollar Diet week.

I made plum chutney, and holy moly it is the best chutney I have ever tasted!

2 kilos of plums (plus more rhubarb from my Aunt)

2 kilos of plums (plus more rhubarb from my Aunt)

I have no pictures of the finished product because it has all gone – either given away as gifts or gobbled up by D and I (it goes great with vintage cheddar…).  My second batch is ready to be assembled.  This year we have had an absolute bumper harvest of plums due to a scorching summer- the plums are absolutely coming out our ears – and it feels great to be making the most of them, like being a good steward of what we have.  We gave away more bags this week to family and neighbours.

I had a swag of birthdays this week and decided to make the most divinely decadent chocolate truffles known to mankind as gifts.  A dear foodie friend gave me her secret recipe a few years ago and I swore never to reveal it.  I’m not eating sugar, but if I was, these are what I would request on my deathbed.  They are so good I often get asked where I bought them and get shocked looks when I say I made them myself.  Anyway, I made a batch and ended up with several gift bags worth. 2015-02-06 22.33.00

I also made a meal for a friend who is wrangling his three kids while his wife is out of town and popped a bag of truffles in for whenever he managed to sneak in a little ‘me’ time.

We’ve been fastidious about using our leftovers, and using up what we have in the freezer and the cupboards. I made a roast chicken that gave us 3 meals plus stock.  We bought a loaf of bread in an all-fired hurry as D’s Dad called us on Saturday to say he and D’s step-mum were half an hour away.  We’d totally forgotten they were coming but fortunately we had plenty of fixings for lunch – except extra bread.  D sprinted for the dairy (what we call corner stores in NZ) and tried not to wince at the price.  They bought a big bottle of orange juice with them and most of it was left untouched.  D’s birthday is coming up soon so we’re saving the juice to make into a low-sugar punch for his party.

I had a real grumbly-tummy, hungry day today and rather than get some non-sugary snacks from the supermarket, I made some ‘nut balls’ from ingredients I had to hand.  I adapted a recipe from The Clean Living Cookbook, which was given to me by my best mate R.  They were delicious.  Sausage told me quite seriously that they were her ‘favourite’.


I have made more of an effort to shop at the cheapest places for grocery items, rather than getting absolutely everything from the supermarket.  I can be rather lazy about doing this, and I hate having to get Chip in and out of the car multiple times on a single outing.  We have a wonderful market here in Whanganui on Saturdays and I am able to pick up a tray of free range eggs there which sell for several dollars less than our cheapest supermarket.  I picked up a large bag of tomatoes for $3 while I was there.  I’m still waiting on the tomatoes in my garden to ripen but they are on their way, and I will soon be awash with free tomatoes (I got the plants for free).  I also went to a produce store which sells fruit and veg at much lower prices than the supermarket.  Travelling to several different places for groceries can actually negate any savings when you factor in the cost of petrol, but I will try to get into the habit of picking things up when I am going past anyway.

D saved half the cost of his usual bus fare (and about 75% when he takes our car) by catching a ride with a friend to Wellington this week.  D goes into his Wellington-based company to have some face-time with his colleagues once a month, and the cost of his travel isn’t cheap.  D traveled with a friend who also goes to Wellington regularly for work and gave him some money towards petrol, which he practically had to force into our friend’s hand.

I sold a pair of shoes on Trade Me for $35.

I had to go into our local mall in order to get some cash out for the market and was confronted by lots of temptation for the first time in weeks.  There were lots of ‘bargains’ to be had, but as I looked in the shop windows I found myself saying ‘There is nothing I need’.  Remarkable.

D has noticed a change in the way he calculates the cost of things.  We have been more diligent about using cloth nappies on the kids, and D being a math whiz, quickly calculated the expenditure on disposables we might make in a year if we didn’t.  E.g. 4 nappies a day at 30c a nappy, comes out at over $400 spent on disposables a year.  It’s worth doing those yearly calculations to give yourself an incentive to stop doing something or at least cut back.

Phew.  There’s actually more stuff to tell, but this has turned into a novella, so I’ll stop.


Low Sugar/No Sugar Chocolate Cake (Dairy Free, Egg Free)


This cake was a huge hit at our family party for Sausage’s second birthday.  I’ve adapted the recipe from Nicola Galloway’s excellent book Feeding Little Tummies.  I highly recommend this book for any one with babies or toddlers in the house.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to feeding tots, and this book is crammed full of easy recipes for meals, snacks and parties.  Nicola is a trained chef and nutrition consultant and is big on making healthy food tasty.

I love this book as Nicola keeps sugar in her recipes to a minimum, and I am firmly back on the sugar-free wagon.  I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, so I used a sugar substitute* and was thrilled with the result.  The cake is very dense and moist, and was well-received by everyone at the party.

The recipe makes a smallish cake so to make one like the picture above, double the recipe.


Low Sugar/No Sugar Birthday Cake

1 1/2 cups flour (could use gluten-free flour)

3 Tbsp cocoa (or cacao powder)

1/3 cup sugar/alternative sweetener (I use Erythritol)

1 tsp baking soda

1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar

5 Tbsp neutral cooking oil

1 tsp natural vanilla essence

1 cup water

1 banana, mashed

1/3 cup finely grated carrot or zucchini, excess liquid squeezed through sieve


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and lightly grease a 22cm/8.5in round cake tin.

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into a large bowl.  Add sugar/substitute and stir to combine.  Make 3 wells in the dry ingredients and pour vinegar into the first well, oil into the second, and vanilla into the third.  Pour the water over and stir to combine.  Fold in the mashed banana and strained vegetable.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Decorate with fruit and cream.



* Even though I use some sugar substitutes (the only ones I recommend are erythritol, rice malt syrup, stevia and occasionally dextrose) I remain uneasy about them.  Sugar is bad, but I don’t think that the substitutes are really  that much better.  So moral of story: make treats occasionally.  Party food is for parties and all that.


How to give up sugar

This post first appeared in my other blog Giving Up Sugar.

I have been trying to live sugar-free for the best part of three years now, and since beginning back in 2012 I’ve noticed the sugar-free movement getting more and more traction.



image credit

While sugar-free living is not a magic path to a super-slim me, I prefer eating this way.  I certainly do lose some weight and have waaaay more control over my appetite when I am sugar-free.  Some people are able to give up and stay off the white stuff for good, but I was derailed from the sugar-free wagon by both my pregnancies.  I’m not sure why.  Both pregnancies played havoc with my thyroid (I have hypothyroidism), and I found it impossible to ignore my chocolate cravings.

BUT, I have leapt back on that wagon with gusto and must report that it’s been pretty easy so far.  Knowing that I have been successful at keeping sugar-free for months and months in the past is a great motivator.

The number one question I get asked about living sugar-free is how I go about quitting.  So here’s my guide giving up the white stuff.


1. How did you do it?  How can I quit sugar too?

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, the first time D and I quit (more on that later) we 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 Coke/Sprite Zero, or other 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.
  • 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.  Sweet Poison was the first thing that gave me hope in like, forever.  My daughter is my main motivation for staying sugar-free.  I don’t want her to grow up with a weight problem, or have the food issues that I did.

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 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.  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 am not militant about never eating any sugar – but I do have strict, self-imposed rules around when I do have it: super-special occasions like milestone birthdays and weddings only.  This means I hardly ever have it.  I do this because D and I are very social and always have ‘special occasions’ going on.  I do this because I enjoy celebrating with loved ones, and some times are special enough to me to eat a damned piece of wedding cake.  It works for me.  Some people find staying away altogether works best for them.  Figure out what approach works best for you.

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.  One of my kids is only a baby so he doesn’t know any different.  My older kid is often surrounded by it at play groups and birthday parties.  I try not to be militant about what she eats when we are out as I think that merely serves to increase the desirability of sugary food to children.   Her meals are home are almost always sugar-free which  helps her have a balanced diet.  I try to spread the sugar-free message where ever I can (without being a pain in the butt) – especially at play groups where there are always biscuits etc on offer.

If you’ve got older kids, you might need to take a different tack.  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, you might want to take the softly, softly approach.  Arm yourself with lots of yummy sugar-free recipes.  And once you’ve all withdrawn, you can replace the sugar in their favourite recipes with alternatives. (Occasional treats people, occasional).

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.  Those things are all high in fructose and still bad for you.  So you do have to look a bit harder online to find truly sugar-free recipes.

Occasionally I use stevia, erythritol, dextrose and rice malt syrup.  While many people who have researched these alternative sweeteners swear by them, I must say that I think the jury is still out on them for ME, so I don’t have sugar-free treats a lot.  With all due respect to my sugar-free friends out there, some people use sweeteners 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.  Dextrose cookies twice a day does not a healthy diet make.


My New Year’s Resolutions (and how I’m going to try and actually keep them in 2015)

I totally cringed just writing that.  I mean, NY resolutions are such a cliched thing to do, and I was reading today that only 8% of us actually ever keep them.  8%!  Why do we even bother?

january 1st

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There is something undeniably electrifying about the blank canvas that is the new year.  The pregnant possibilities that this may be the year that you finally learn conversational French, go base jumping or meet the love of your life.  What’s not to love?

I have been successful at keeping some resolutions in the past, and absolutely woeful at others.  The resolutions that stuck had things in common, so here are my tips on how I keep them.

  1. I wrote them down and put them somewhere I could see them every day.  Having your goals right in your face keeps them fresh in your mind, and acts like an ever-present nag.  Guilt your way to keeping your resolutions if you must.
  2. I made them specific.  You all know this stuff.  It’s better to have a goal of ‘loosing 10 kilos’ than ‘I want to lose weight’.
  3. I started off small.  Don’t overdo it.  Your brain can only handle one or two new things at a time so there’s little point trying to change all of your life at once.  It’s just how we’re wired.  Be kind.  Give yourself grace.
  4. I turned them into habits.  The year I decided I wanted to be able to run 5k I got my butt out of bed early on set days of the week, as I knew that I come up with all sorts of excuses if I leave exercising until later in the day.  Getting up at 6am became automatic and meant my running was done and dusted before my brain could really switch on and complain too much.
  5. I planned for them throughout the year.  You want to learn a language?  How to cook ethnic food?  Play an instrument?  BOOK THE CLASS.  Pay the money and lock it in.
  6. I was accountable to others.  D and I usually make our resolutions together.  It’s so much easier if the people you live with are on board with you.  If you live alone, find a like-minded friend to join you.  This really, really works.  When I gave up sugar, I started blogging about it.  In hindsight, this was one of the best things I could have done.  Not only could I see the progress I had made right there in black and white, but I felt like I couldn’t let my readers down by eating sugar, so it kept me honest.

So in this spirit, here are my 2015 resolutions:

  • Complete our Dollar Diet.  Details of what a spending fast is are here.
  • Complete two months of Trim Healthy Mama on-plan eating.  Two months is long enough to see any benefits, and to know if it is going to be a realistic way of eating for D and I.  If we like it, we’ll continue.
  • Spend Monday nights writing my novels, and Tuesday and Thursday nights blogging.  I’ve even written out my weekly schedule (I’m a ‘J’ in Myers Briggs, in case you can’t tell…), I found the cutest weekly planner here.  How will I make the time?  By not watching TV or browsing the net on those nights (I don’t watch TV much anyway).  These two things are the biggest time wasters on the planet.  If you reckon you don’t have time for things, I guarantee you’ll suddenly have a bunch of free time if you limit your tv/internet time.

Do you make NY resolutions?  Have you ever kept them?


Sugar-free Toddler: Saving teeth

In New Zealand we have a ‘celebrity’ psychologist called Nigel Latta.  He’s predominately worked with troubled children and their families, and is pretty much my parenting guru.  I love his laidback approach to parenting, as he reckons parents today are so bombarded with parenting information that we tend to overthink things.  I’m in Camp Nigel.  I think the parenting industry is big business and mostly only serves to make us anxious that we are screwing up the lives of our dear little ones. 

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Anyhow, Nigel has fronted a range of tv shows on differing subjects (not all parenting related) and his latest one is brilliant.  Not so imaginatively called‘Nigel Latta’, the show is a six part documentary on what he sees as the major issues facing New Zealand at the moment.  It’s been a confronting and depressingly grim show and yet contains enough hope that successful ways to tackle these issues are possible.  He looked at inequality in New Zealand, domestic violence, alcohol, our education system, our prison system, and SUGAR.

The episode was called ‘Is Sugar the New Fat?’  I’ve been on this sugar free journey for a couple of years now and am well aware of the evils of the white stuff, but let me tell you, this show terrified me.  D and I were very disturbed by it and it has certainly strengthened our resolve to be a sugar-free family.  Now for us sugar-freers, there wasn’t a great deal of new information in the show, but the guy knows how to put a show together.  Nigel talked to sugar slaying Dr Robert Lustig who talked about the addictive nature of sugar, and its insidious addition to processed food.  Nigel looked at how much sugar is in staple NZ foods, and talked to the people who put it in there.  He also featured blogger nz sugar free  who went sugar free when his wife was diagnosed as being pre diabetic.  Both husband and wife lost loads of weight and the wife is no longer in any danger of becoming diabetic.  

Nigel even went sugar free himself for the show.  He thought he had a healthy diet (low fat milk, muesli and fruit for breakfast) and exercises regularly, but his bloodwork told a very different story.  After two months of being sugar free (and removing other refined carbohydrates) his bloodwork was well within the normal range and he’d lost some weight.

One of the most disturbing parts of the programme was Nigel talking with dental surgeons who regularly perform teeth extractions on toddlers whose teeth have rotted due to excess sugar consumption.  They even showed some extractions.  It was horrendous.  Two and three year olds needing multiple teeth extracted because their parents thought it was ‘okay to put coke in their bottle’.  The dentists said these surgeries (which cost megabucks) are on the increase.

Toddlers needing teeth extractions is not okay.

Having spoken with friends, I know that most people who watched the show were horrified at how much sugar was contained in their food (Marmite and some canned tuna, for instance).  I hope this dialogue gets some traction as I believe we need to angry at the food industry for what it’s doing to us.  At what it’s doing to our kids.  As Nigel points out in the show, the World Health Organisation recommends that children consume no more than 4 teaspoons of sugar a day.  Most NZ children would probably surpass that by breakfast time, given the sugar-laden cereals that are peddled at children.

The show has prompted me to get tough with my toddler to protect her pearly whites (we’ve been a bit complacent in the wake of Cyclone Baby).  In my next post I’ll tell you what that looks like in practice and pass on my tips for sugar-free toddlerness.


This post first appeared in my other blog Giving Up Sugar


Sugar Free Banana Pikelets

As Sausage is sort of walking (she still demands you hold her hand a lot) I reckon she may now be officially classed as a toddler.  Since turning 1, the past few months have seen an explosion of development, particularly with her language skills.  She’s a very early talker (so was her Dad) to the point where I can have conversations with her, where she will give me a one or two word reply, or nodding/shaking of her head.  Her comprehension scares me, even when I think she’s not listening – trust me, those little ears are listening and they definitely get the gist of whatever is being talked about.

Since hitting 15 months the dreaded food pickiness has started to appear.  Up until now Sausage was a good eater.  She didn’t eat much, but like most babies she would take pretty much whatever was on offer.  But now she has matured, thank you very much Mummy, she definitely lets us know what she wants to eat.  It’s often not what is in front of her.  In fact, I suspect if she could prepare her own meals, she would live on peas and yoghurt.  Possibly even mixed up together.

I try not to make a big deal about her refusal of food, nor do I run about making something else she prefers instead.  That way lies madness.  Sausage still eats a reasonable variety of foods – particularly fruit and vegetables.  She’s also in the 91st percentile for weight (also for height, we hope we are raising a future basketballer) so she’s definitely not starving herself!  With sugary foods D and I have adopted an ‘okay in moderation approach’.  I simply just don’t fancy being one of those Mums who comes along to every party with a baggie of food for her kids, as they aren’t allowed to eat the party food.  Sausage doesn’t get sweet stuff very often, but she isn’t on the party circuit…yet.  That bridge will be crossed soon enough I suspect.

Like all kids, Sausage prefers sweet things.  Fortunately most of her playgroups are pretty good about encouraging healthy snacking, so her morning teas tend to involve crackers and fruit, and maybe a wafer biscuit (cookie for my American readers) on the old occasion.  Water is given instead of juice.  It’s really great to not have to worry about this as we go to playgroups 3 or 4 times a week.  The PARENTS on the hand are always offered chocolate biscuits.  I can only recall once being offered anything savoury for morning tea at a playgroup, so I dodge chocolate biscuits, muffins and cake on an almost daily basis.  I get weird looks if I nick a piece of fruit that has been left untouched by the kids.

Sausage is all kinds of crazy about banana (‘Na-Na!’) and these pikelets go down a treat with her.  (Pikelets are also known as drop scones, by the way.)  This is not an earth shattering recipe, but these pikelets are easy and quick to make, and most kids gobble them up pretty quick – especially if smeared with butter.

I’ve adapted a traditional pikelet recipe and subbed out 1/4 C Sugar for mashed banana.  Simple.

Sugar Free Banana Pikelets

Sugar Free Banana Pikelets (makes 8-10)


  • 1 C plain flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C mashed banana
  • 3/4 C milk


Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  In another bowl beat egg and banana until well mixed.  Add this, along with the milk to the sifted ingredients.  Mix until just combined (they can go rubbery if you overmix).  Drop a tablespoon full of mixture onto a hot, non-stick pan.  Turn pikelet over when bubbles start to burst on the top surface. Cook the second side until golden.

Eloise enjoying her pikelet