Adventures in Sugar Reduction

My husband and I are taking a Bradley Method class in preparation for the birth of our second child, and a big part of the Method (so far) is a special diet called the Brewer’s Diet—but that I like to think of as my “show dog” diet. (Dr Brewer based his dietary recommendations for pregnant women, in part, on the dietary guidelines that show dog breeders use for their pregnant animals.)

Anyway, in order to make sure we’re meeting the protein requirements of the diet, our instructor suggested we download this app called My Fitness Pal, which I did. I didn’t have too much trouble with the protein part (80–100 grams per day), but oh boy, people. One thing I immediately realized is that I eat a LOT of sugar. So, along with trying to get more good stuff in, I’ve also been trying to cut some of that bad sugar stuff out—while still allowing myself to have a treat or two, because I love treats.

Here are some strategies I’ve developed:

  1. Use cinnamon. Cinnamon does not have any sugar in it, but I think because I associate it with sweet foods, when I put cinnamon in my yogurt or coffee (yes! you can do that!) I FEEL like I’m eating something sweet, even though I’m not.
  2. Eat plain yogurt. Three weeks ago I thought this stuff was putrid, but already I’ve grown accustomed to it. (The vanilla kind that I usually ate has a ton of added sugar—oops.) I just add cinnamon and some fruit and nuts to make it more delicious.
  3. Treat raisins like a sweetener, NOT a food. I used to think raisins were a healthy snack, but there’s a reason these things are called “nature’s candy.” I don’t allow myself to eat handfuls of them anymore; I only use them to sweeten other things, like bran flakes or yogurt—and that is sparingly.
  4. Just eat one cookie. The Girl Scout Peanut Butter Patties I’ve had over the last couple weeks have been the tastiest I’ve had in my entire life, and that’s because I limit myself to ONE and force myself to really savor it: no multitasking while I’m eating desserts anymore! I make myself pay attention when I’m indulging in sweets.
  5. Try not to eat more more than 2 servings of fruit. I used to eat 3–4 servings of fruit on a regular basis, and I frequently had a glass of orange juice pretty much everyday too. It’s too much! There’s a reason the Food Pyramid limits fruit consumption, and the reason is sugar.
  6. Even with the strategies I’m still going over the app’s sugar allowance pretty much every day, but I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. I’m learning.

    If you have some favorite strategies for cutting back on sugar, please share them in the comments 🙂

    (Image by Xochi Romero)

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3 Best Purchases of 2016

The way I pursue minimalism, I’m not trying to get down to “x” number of possessions or going on any shopping bans. I honestly never had much of a problem with overspending. I lean stingy, so part of my personal growth journey has been about learning how to enjoy life more by not being such a penny hoarder. (My excellent husband, who has, to an extent, needed to learn the opposite lesson, has taught me a lot in this respect. We work well together.)

With that said, here are my three favorite purchases that I made in 2016. These are things I’m truly glad I bought and have not had an ounce of regret about trading cash for.

  1. A New Vacuum Cleaner. I sort of learned how to “keep house” in 2016. I never had a cleaning routine before and, actually, not wanting my space to be such a disaster is a large part of what got me into minimalism in the first place. A real source of housekeeping grief in my current home, however, had nothing to do with clutter: it was our carpeted dining room. Off-white carpet + a sloppy toddler + a long-haired, black cat makes frequent vacuuming an imperative if keeping that room non-disgusting is going to be on my priorities list, and I decided it very much is. My old vacuum cleaner did not have much suction power, but—in the spirit of frugality and minimalism—I was determined to make it work. So every Saturday I crawled around the dining room on my hands and knees trying to suck up as much cat hair and food mess as I could with the cleaner’s hose and upholstery brush. It was time-consuming but manageable—until the upholstery brush broke. After that—I cried. And then I did some research and bought a new vacuum. The new one is nowhere near perfect, but I LOVE it because it’s made my Saturday cleaning regimen so much shorter. No more hands-and-knees vacuuming! (Unless it’s carpeted stairs day.) I am a much happier lady.
  2. $21 Thrift Store Chair. We had a sectional couch in our living room that was made of bonded leather, which I now know is a terrible material for a couch to be made out of, especially if you’ve got cats and toddlers scurrying about. We’d only had the thing for 3 years, but it was already very badly molting. We considered buying a new couch, but we didn’t really have money we could justify spending in that arena, so after a few weeks of brainstorming I realized we could do a furniture shuffle so that the couch that was in the room we don’t use very much is now our living room couch. After that I found this very serviceable chair on sale at the thrift store, and I bought it to add some more seating where the other half of the sectional used to be. I love this chair (pictured above) more and more everyday.
  3. Little Black Dress. I got this dress to wear to a friend’s wedding last July, and it’s been a wardrobe staple ever since. Now that I’m 6 months pregnant, it lays funny in the back, but a long sweater takes care of that problem—and also, I’m pregnant. And it still fits. There’s definitely something to be said for that. My favorite part about it is the sleeves; they make it 100% work and church appropriate. I’m fairly certain I’ve worn it once a week (at least) since I bought it. At that rate, it’s at about $2 per wear.

What 2016 purchases are still making you happy?

On Resolutions

I have never been the sort of person to try making New Year’s resolutions. Even as a teenager I knew that I’d be quick to drop the resolution as soon as I felt like it wasn’t enjoyable or practical or working for me since, after all, I’d only said I was going to do the thing based on an arbitrary date that rolls around once every calendar year.

I do make resolutions, though. I just let them happen organically. I was thinking about this as January 1 was approaching and remembered that the last resolution I made was in August, shortly after I found out I was pregnant with our second baby. I resolved to reduce stress from my life by paying close attention to how activities, habits, and goals made me feel (both emotionally and physically) and to drop and add things accordingly. My last pregnancy was a very stressful time: we bought our first home, and I was TERRIFIED about having a baby and becoming a mother. I didn’t prepare for the birth very well. I focused my mental energies on learning about purchasing real estate and getting a good mortgage rather than learning about how to have a good birth. Consequently, my birth experience was pretty horrible, but our mortgage situation turned out rather well.

I decided I wanted to have a better birth experience this time around, so I knew I needed to scrap the things in my life that would distract me from pursuing that.

Resolving to reduce stress in order to focus on having a more positive birth and pregnancy experience has made decision-making about what to say yes and no to a LOT easier.

I dropped a hobby that was crushing my spirits.

I didn’t pursue new job opportunities even when they sounded like something I might really like.

I finally started getting rid of unused electronics and instruments that were adding to my mental clutter every time I looked at them. (Not to mention taking up valuable space!)

I took up yoga and a mindfulness practice.

I’ve been more deliberate about my commitments at church.

I’ve given myself permission to care a lot less about personal relationships that give me no joy.

I’ve said no to personal interactions and situations that I knew would cause me unwarranted stress.

As I’m beginning the new year, it’s been helpful to remember my last resolution (instead of creating a new one). My August resolve really has added a lot of peacefulness to my day-to-day experience, and I intend to keep practicing this resolve at least until the new baby is born. In this January, post-holiday lull it’s good to remember that I’m aiming for peace: filling up the extra time with new hobbies and other business is NOT the way to move forward right now.

There is a time for everything.

What was your last resolution?

(Photo by Andy Rogers © 2014)