With Easter just around the corner, everyone around me is very excited to finally get to end of Lent and get back all of their things that they had given up for the 40 days and 40 nights after Shrove Tuesday.
At the time, I wracked my brain to try and think of something that I could give up, to help me break a habit, and I even asked the girls in my office. The answers I got from them…?
‘You’ve got nothing left to give up – you’ve given it all up already’
But, it got me thinking – since the beginning of my fitness journey back in November, what have I actually ‘given up’? I don’t really like that term in general, as I have made the decision not to have these things most of the time to benefit my health and fitness, but I managed to write a little list of what I have DRAMATICALLY reduced to improve my lifestyle:
Sugar & Sweeteners
Now, giving up sugar was strange – and very difficult! I used to be the kind of person who had sweetener instead of sugar in my tea, but after a LOT of research & reading, I found out that having sugar was actually better than having sweetener, because at least it wasn’t completely artificial, and I could burn it off easier, right?
There have been loads of programmes on TV recently regarding sugar and what’s best for you, and it turns out that the only thing that’s really any good is cutting sugar out completely. Harsh, I know, but after a little more in-depth reading and watching of more programmes, the realisation hit. Foods that contain more than 22.5% sugar (so that’s 22.5g out of 100g) should be WELL out of bounds (so start reading your packets people), and white sugar, brown sugar and even honey are all completely the same thing. One of the previously mentioned is no healthier than another.
It’s been quite difficult to give up sugar completely, but now that I don’t really have it anymore, I don’t really miss it. Some days I opt for the ‘If It Fits Your Macros’ approach to allow myself a cake at a special occasion, but generally I steer clear. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever, and if I start eating cakes and sweets it generally goes on a very steep downwards slope, but if I stay away from it – I can generally cope quite well! I have also managed to find cake recipes with no sugar, and so I manage to enjoy things without too much of a problem.
Giving up sugar kind of lead to giving up caffeine. I can’t drink a coffee without sugar/sweetener – it’s just too strong for me (queue instant headache).
Giving up the good stuff was relatively easy, because I did it in stages. I wanted to get back to drinking green tea, so I switch my morning hot beverage for the green version, and then I allowed myself a cuppa in the afternoon. From then on it was really easy to switch to decaf tea for my afternoonsies.
Dropping the sugar in the hot drinks meant that I don’t really enjoy them as much, making me drink less altogether (and I guess that’s a good thing!)
Tiffy Top Tip: If you are thinking about dropping your sugar or caffeine intake – do it step by step. Drop down to 1 sugar for a week, then go to 1/2, then to none. After two weeks of being on zero, it’ll just become a habit.
I chose to go without alcohol at all for the first month when I started this fitness journey in November, because I had literally been drip-fed it daily when working four back to back seasons and I thought a ‘detox’ was in order. In total, I think I went about 40 days with zero alcohol, and it was actually quite refreshing – but of course there were plenty of difficult times when I really wanted to have a drink – like when I spent the weekend at Matt’s, or when I went out with friends, and loads of times over the Christmas period.
I think that the initial removal of alcohol from my intake really helped kick start the weight/fat-loss, and I still believe that by not having it very often, it helps me to stay on track, but I am not going to completely deprive myself…because I just can’t do that!
Some weekends, me and Matt will have wine with dinner, or we’ll head out to the pub for a couple. Why the hell not?! Mum doesn’t drink at all, so I never drink when I’m at home, which keeps me on track 90% of the time.
It only takes the reduction of a few key things to see huge differences. Reducing my sugar intake meant not eating sweets and chocolate and cake. Removing caffeine from my diet ended up meaning I haven’t had a coffee since!
The little things make the biggest difference…!
Disclaimer: This weekend coming up (Easter) is both mine and Matt’s birthdays – so I am sure that copious amounts of sugar and caffeine and alcohol will be consumed. As I said before, I am not going to completely deprive myself of anything, and when celebration is in order, I won’t think twice about downing that gin and eating that cake!