Hi everyone, I’m Laura and here’s my full story…
My struggle with sugar
As a Frosties and low fat fruity yoghurt child, I grew up with a strong sweet tooth. On a daily basis I found myself fighting my will power around wanting eating cake and anything sweet. Office treats often felt like a mental battle!
I used exercise and used other dietary restrictions as a coping mechanism so I could eat more of the sweet things I loved. The amount of sugar I was eating wasn’t healthy for my body and the way I was accommodating my life to maintain my sugar habits wasn’t healthy for my mind.
Keen on health and nutrition, I caught onto sugar’s dark side quite early back in 2011.
Through nutrition, and habit change research, I successfully was able to recalibrate my tastebuds, craved less and made positive change. I was hugely inspired by Sarah Wilson, David Gillespie and Dr Robert Lustig.
I stopped emotionally eating biscuits, balanced my blood sugar and hunger, whilst also learning to manage sugary social situations well.
It worked – I lived low sugar with a grade A.
I ate a little dark chocolate here and there. I could take or leave the cake. I felt heaps more in control around sweet stuff. I felt empowered, energetic and healthy.
I used my experience, coaching ability and knowledge to help others do the same with ebooks and courses – recalibrate their tastebuds, change around sugar and feel the benefit. Again, this worked too and I found great joy in changing lives around a somewhat addictive substance I felt passionate about.
Nice end of the story right?
Not so fast, that wasn’t quite all of it.
On the surface I thought low sugar life was my answer to health and I was profoundly healthier in what I was eating day to day.
But whilst what I was eating was healthy, how I was thinking about food wasn’t.
Going ‘sugar-free’ or low sugar had changed my life in a very positive way, but I had become more fixated and somewhat obsessed with healthy ‘virtuous’ food through the process.
Training as health coach with IIN, I put a lot of pressure on myself to eat healthy and found myself in a food pre-occupied world following others with ‘perfect diets’.
I wasn’t overly restrictive but I was restrictive enough to still engage in binge behaviour that caused shame and guilt – this time on nut butter or ‘healthy treats’ I’d make.
I went through a judgemental period – forming internal opinions on others who didn’t’ eat as healthy or who ate in a certain way. My self-esteem was wrapped up in my ‘healthy’ diet and body image, likely due to my own insecurities in other places.
Whilst nothing serious, I had some strain of disordered eating – possibly towards the orthorexia side of things (an obsession with healthy eating).
It also was linked to my relationship with myself, the maintenance of my figure and my weight. I had a great figure, however, like many women, I often didn’t feel like it and I didn’t know how to mentally process these thought patterns.
Being like this for a number of years blocked my ability to intuitively eat when I was actually hungry because I ate more strategically to manage hunger and optimise my ‘perfect’ diet.
I became a chronic picker and was excessively snacking.
I would make healthy snacks but eat them all before I was hungry.
Too many almonds anyone!?
I wasn’t thinking about sugar like I used to but I was still putting more mental focus than I wanted to on perfecting food, my diet, my body, etc.
Generally I was putting a lot of pressure on myself where I would rebel through emotional eating and mild binging.
Learning to let go
It was the loss of my periods through amenoherra that thankfully forced me to snap me out of it in the summer of 2014. I was over-exercising, stressed and not eating enough. I had to change if I wanted to get them back and be healthy.
I started to really make an effort to embrace holistic health more seriously and systematically.
After trial and error I devised new ways to identify with my own version of ‘healthy’ that served my mind-set around food alongside my actual diet.
I found a way of doing this healthily without reverting back to eating too much sugar and being unable to manage my cravings – it was a bit of a tightrope and still is but I’ve developed ways to manage it well.
I was introduced to Brene Brown’s work around shame, vulnerability, imperfection and wholeheartedly living which had a profound impact on me, as did some research around being present, intuitive eating and mindfulness.
Putting on a little healthy weight and getting my body back fully functional, I learnt to use this mindfulness to deal with my harsher thoughts around how I felt in my body.
Learning this really helped in many other areas of my life too where I practice (& still practice) mindfulness to help with my self-talk and to stop unhealthy thinking patterns taking over. That stuff is quite life changing and now forms the biggest part to my coaching work.
So what now?
I feel relaxed and more laid back about food and ironically, sugar. I feel free.
I’ve got a trust in my own habits and I know they are mostly healthy. Where I veer off a little, I’ve learnt to live well with imperfection knowing confidently that I’ve got my own back to dial up my health habits and glide through life with an ongoing sense of wellness.
Not going to lie, it feels odd at times after all the years to feel this freedom, but I know that I have a healthier relationship with food and myself than I think I’ve ever had before.
The days when I fill my life with other things and forget about food, I feel truly free. I’m more creative, happy, engaged with all that life can give and fulfilled.
I love eating healthy but I love life experiences and I have bought other hobbies and interests to obsess over instead of what exactly I’m eating.
Sugar can feature e.g. I can eat dessert but it’s not such a big deal to me these days as I do genuinely like things less sweet and I trust my body and mindfulness to tell me when I go too far overboard.
I’m not 100% ‘there’ but I’ve come to realise there is no ‘there.
We’re all work in progress and it’s about celebrating those little habit change wins, or the achievement of a sugar detox challenge because it’s a challenge rather than a diet. A lot happens when you become more attached to the outcome in terms of your feelings rather than a number on the scale.
I run Happy Sugar Habits now an online digital magazine/blog because I want to establish a trusted platform that helps people with sugar but that doesn’t forget the bigger picture of holistic health.
I also learn such a lot from coaching my few VIP clients and I want a place to share this insight with the world so that I can help those who aren’t quite ready for the 1-2-1 coaching just yet.
I’ll also say that most health magazines or publications focus heavily on weight loss as the holy grail and are packed with advertisements sugar-packed ‘healthy’ products without any notes about how these products can fit into a healthy diet and mindset.
This does my head in!
Whilst weight loss is a real and valid goal for many, I believe that it’s much more effective when it’s a side product of just implementing core health habits and addressing ones relationship with sugar.
I’m also keen to take on a role as an connector so I can introduce products and services that align with true lower sugar life for my readers and provide honest insight around them to address the stage that they are in.
My mission is to create sugar and food freedom to help people start living healthy habits day in and day out whilst maintaining a healthy mindset that protects them from binge and emotional eating sugar.
I believe it isn’t really about what you do (or don’t) eat, it’s about how you behave around what you eat – the habits, the thoughts and the feelings that end up shaping your days and ultimately, your life.
I would have never have been able to do this work without my readers here and my incredible coaching clients to date – I thank them for putting their trust in me to support.
Know that I am work in progress as much as you are – making mistakes, fumbling through and embracing the process. It’s all OK!
You might also like to read my article on the Elephant Journal of how I fell in love, broke up and became friends with sugar – it’s my more artistic version of my story likening it to my former relationship!
If these words have inspired you, then I’d be delighted if you’d share with someone else who could relate (or post in your health Facebook group!)
Then of course, leave me a comment below if any other questions or thoughts. Thanks for reading!