Today is my birthday. It's also the day that marks the end of 9 'sugar free' weeks, and the day I could eat yummy chocolate, cakes and sweet desserts again.
But although someone at work baked me a really delicious chocolate cake, I found myself choosing a few almonds, over the cake for my snack.
Now this is a notable thing as I've always been a big eater of chocolate, cakes, biscuits and sweet desserts. I grew up having a chocolate biscuit after lunch every day and dessert after dinner every night. I've continued that through my adult life too.
Occasionally I've decided to try and stop eating cakes and chocolates, but never really had that much motivation to do it and the effort was honestly a bit half-hearted.
When I had kids I put on weight, but gradually over the years I've lost most of that weight.
About a year ago, I was sitting at a swim carnival with my daughter. I was wearing shorts, and she looked down at my legs and exclaimed, "Urgh! What's that??", pointing at my cellulite! Now I've had cellulite on my legs for a long time now, and haven't really worried about it that much - until that day and that comment. It reminded me that I still had weight to lose to be a size and shape I wanted to be and was happy with. I wasn't 'overweight' but was at the top end of those charts that tell you your ideal weight range, but more importantly, I wanted to feel slimmer, fitter and run faster.
So last year I decided to focus, commit and slim down and tone up. I used my new Samsung watch to track my calories and exercise for 12 weeks and lost about 4 kg, putting me at a size, shape and weight I was happy with. Note that it was only half the weight loss of my target, but once I'd reached this size, I felt happy enough to stop. (but at this stage was still 4kg off my 'goal weight')
Why does this matter? If I was happy? What is a number?
That's how I felt, so thought no more of it, I'd slimmed down and toned up, and basically did it by only eating when I was hungry - not eating because I was bored, angry, greedy or any other reason. Seems a simple enough plan and it worked!
So why am I now talking about going 9 weeks without sugar?
Well - my 'goal weight' was 60kg, which is the weight I was in my early 20s, and seems a nice round number. It was the number I always said when I tried to slim down or lose weight over the years. Yet I had reached 64kg and was happy.
So, what happened?
Well, it started on a friend's birthday at work, when there was a delicious rich chocolate cake baked and I had a slice after lunch. It was so rich that I 'had to have another cup of tea to get through the piece of cake'.
When I said this - my choice of words actually made me stop and think...should I really be saying I have to 'get through' a piece of delicious cake, like it's a chore? Something wasn't right.
I felt full of sugar the rest of that afternoon, then.... my daughters both called to say they weren't swimming after school as they'd planned to... I can't even remember their excuse..reason.. whatever. But that was another trigger that made me stop and think.
I was frustrated with my girls for not sticking to what they said they were going to do. It's not about whether they swim or not, or do whatever after school activities they choose or not. It's the idea that if you say you're going to do something, you should do it. To keep on changing your mind is a bad habit - especially when your decisions affect others - who are coming to pick you up, or take you places. I often schedule things that I want to do around my girls' plans. I have plenty of things to do that can be flexible in their timing, but their sports need someone to take them to and from and I'm happy to help them with that. But their decisions were affecting my plans and it was frustrating. I was trying to teach them the importance of sticking to your plans and following through with what you say you're going to do.
So....this all made me think of me saying my magical 'target weight' of 60kg over and over again for several years, but never actually sticking at my plans for long enough to reach that magic number. I'd stop when it got hard and I'd say - oh but I'm happy at this weight. But wasn't I just doing exactly what I was getting angry with my girls for not doing? It's the old
'do as I say not as I do'. Not good.
So on the spur of the moment I decided to follow my own advice and stick to what I said I was going to do. But initially I had no real plan.
How could I lose the final 4 kg? I exercise LOTS, and have tried increasing that to no avail, I just get hungrier. Eating less doesn't work either - I've failed endless times on willpower for that - and sensible feelings too that when I'm exercising so much, my body needs the fuel. I'm a big believer in listening to your body.
So my spur of the moment decision was to stop eating sugary desserts, cakes, biscuits and cakes - until my birthday, which was then 9 weeks away. Over the following few days I decided that fruit was ok, and I wasn't worried about a little bit of sauce here and there and other things that may have a little added sugar, but generally I just avoided cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweet desserts.
Weeks 2 and 3 were I think the hardest. There were a lot of moments of craving, but each time I felt like having something sweet and chocolately, I reminded myself that if I gave in, I would be doing exactly what I was frustrated at my girls for doing - giving in when it got hard, not sticking to my word, and finally I seem to have found the motivation that worked!
Overall, the 9 weeks really weren't hard. One of the reasons I wanted to lose the kilos was to run faster. About 3 weeks in I got on the scales and was 2 kg lighter than my starting weight. So I went and did Parkrun ( a free 5km run ). I spent the whole run telling myself in my head that I was 2kg lighter - and that was like NOT carrying 2 bags of sugar on my usual run - so I should be faster. I pushed and talked to myself the whole way and ran a personal best time. I did it again a week later - again going faster.
It was my younger daughter who pointed out that it was probably all in my head, which I believe is true. My weight fluctuates by a couple of kg all the time, so I hadn't actually lost the weight, was just in a dip - which I probably had lots of and had run at that weight before. The difference was my mental attitude, telling myself I should and could run faster. I believed I could and I did.
This was a fantastic motivation for me and I spent the next few weeks discovering some new sugar-free desserts and snacks, like chocolate avocado banana mousse, and a variety of bliss balls.
After 7 weeks I tried on some clothes that I've kept for 16 years, unable to wear because I'd put on weight but unable to get rid of them. I held onto the hope that one day I'd manage to slim back down and wear them again. And guess what - finally I could. Although I got on the scales and haven't really lost weight - something has changed and I can wear all those clothes I've kept for so long!
In the redistribution of my weight - I am slimmer somehow, but weigh much the same. However, I feel like I've finally reached that goal. I thought my goal was a number - but it wasn't, it was a state of both body and mind.
I can finally wear all the clothes in my wardrobe, I feel great and I'm running faster.
AND - as if all that wasn't enough - my cellulite has vanished! I was talking to my girls about my success at the weekend and mentioned the disappearance of my cellulite.
They asked, "What's cellulite?".
My reply to that question was to reach down to my thighs and squeeze to 'show' them my cellulite...but couldn't find any to show!! I'm amazed at this as it's not something I'd set out to do, nor ever really considered as a goal. I just had in my head that cellulite was a part of ageing and I wasn't worried about it. I didn't like it but hadn't considered looking at ways to get rid of it.
So that brings me up to today, my birthday and the end of my own personal challenge. I have various sweet things stashed in our fridge and freezer. Things I've been looking forward to eating again - in particular a Cadbury's Creme Egg (my favourite).
Over the weekend, I had started to wonder what my eating habits will return to now - and what I want them to return to. I no longer crave chocolate and sugar. I've seen such a big difference and change from sticking to my word and just cutting out cakes, biscuits and chocolate. Do I even want to eat it again?
So today when I was presented with my beautiful chocolate birthday cake, I took a very small slice and had 2 small bites. I could appreciate it was a really good chocolate cake, but had no desire to eat it, so stopped after those 2 small bites. It just all felt wrong. Chocolate for me is such a pleasure to eat, but this just wasn't. I was eating it for the sake of it because it was my birthday, it was the day I could start eating sugar again after my challenge, and well, you eat cake on your birthday.
But no - after those two bites I wrapped up the cake slice and put it in my lunch box. At my next break I had a few almonds and didn't even look at the cake.
I brought the slice home and ate it after dinner. More because I still felt I should - and a big part of me wants to enjoy eating cakes and chocolate again. I managed to finish the slice but felt full of sugar afterwards and regretted eating it.
My feeling now is that last year I learned to control my mind and only eat when I was actually hungry. This time I think I've got rid of the mental chocolate cravings - and the physical manifestation of needing something sweet to go with my cup of tea, or just because it's after dinner, have a cake.
The plan is now to try and go with what my body feels like. If I feel like some chocolate, I'll have something small. Or if I feel like a cake - have a small piece. But if I don't feel like it - don't eat it.
I've been a big sugar eater and sweet tooth all my life - and it's hard to wrap my head around the idea that I don't want to eat chocolate cake - my favourite cake.
I'm still learning and figuring this all out.
For those of you who know my blog - I haven't been able to spend much time on it at all, and had no time for sewing for the past year and a bit since I went back to work teaching. I would like to sew a little again, and breathe new life into my blog.
There is so much I want to do, and my problem now is trying to fit it all in - there just aren't enough hours in the day.
So my next challenge is to find time to do all those things I want to. Looking at what I've achieved over the past 9 weeks just by simply doing what I said I was going to do, has opened my eyes to possibilities and I'm excited!
Phew! Well if you've read this far - thank you for taking the time.
I felt the need to share my story and it helps me to put it into words like this.
I'm not sure what comes next exactly, but I believe that
Success comes from doing things differently.
These past 9 weeks of no sugar were started on the spur of the moment with no real plan - it just kind of developed and grew as I went along. This is different to all the times I've tried to reach my 'body weight/size' goal as I've always planned my attack and started on a Monday.
So I figure this new approach (for me) has worked once, so I'll just go with the flow and work things out as I go.
Have you ever had an experience like this? Something you've tried to or wanted to do for years - failed and then suddenly managed it? For me it was absolutely all about finding the right motivation. Fitting into clothes, reaching a number, running faster were all goals but never really enough motivation.
Wanting to show my girls how to be strong and committed was my motivation - to be a good role model for my daughters inspired me. It took me years to find the motivation that works - now I'm holding on to it!
Have you found your motivation yet?