#SWGD – Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it came down in one.

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Day 22.

So, I know that as an adult I must take responsibility for my actions. But what I’m about to tell you is not my fault.

I was going really well. Was. And I’d had a lot of support from my readers and friends. Had.

That was until this week just gone.

I returned to my (future) home, Bath, and spent three days with my flatmate Lina. I assumed, as she was doing the ‘No Sugar September’ with me, it would be easier. We’d be able to support each other and avoid sugar.

Day 1 was a breeze. We ate homemade banana bread which had zero sugar in it. We went to the book launch of Anna Ellory’s The Rabbit Girls (click the link to see my review) and then Lina went off with her friends whilst I caught up with mine over dinner. No sugar to be seen in my meal, though I can’t guarantee the same from the whiskey I was drinking.

Day 2 was even easier. We spent all day at the Deli she worked in. We ate more banana bread, and other sugarless goodies available there. I had a really nice scotch egg with salad, without the vinaigrette. We rekindled our tradition of visiting TKMaxx and Garden centres together, just enjoying each other’s company and avoiding cake.

We did go to the cinema. Lina had popcorn, the sweet kind. But it was fine, there are half the calories in cinema popcorn than you’d find in a Kitkat. So it wasn’t a big deal.

Day 3…

So we met up with Lina’s fiance, and went to the Cosy Club for brunch. They do this awesome deal where you get a full breakfast, and a hot drink, for eight pounds. LF ordered a hot chocolate, with marshmallows and cream. It sounded really good. But I held strong. I ordered tea. And when my tea arrived, it had a cute individually wrapped sugar cube. Well, Lina had treated herself to popcorn the day before – I could have ONE cube in my tea, right? Sweetener tasted rank and I’d have to talk to someone to get some. Social Anxiety, anyone? So I dropped the cube into my tea.

Well…

I didn’t drop it in as such. My dad used to do this thing where he’d rest the sugar cube into the tea, just enough to submerge a corner. And then we’d watch the tea soak upwards into the cube and just before it hit our fingers, we’d let it go and watch the sugar sink into the tea.

This is what I did ^.

And LF noticed.

‘What did you just do?’

‘It’s one sugar cube,’ I replied, immediately guilty. 

‘No, what did you do with the sugar cube?’ 

I explained.

‘Can I have a go?’ 

LF didn’t want another sugar cube in his hot chocolate, it was already sweet enough, so he asked if he could put the cube in my tea. I liked LF, but I’d only spoken to him once before.

It felt rude to say no – that’s the excuse I’m going with.

He dunked the cube in, watched the tea rise, and dropped it in.

Well, Lina was not going to be left out. She did, bless her, ask first, before copying me and LF and dunking her cube into my tea.

Three sugars. Three. In one cup of tea. I couldn’t taste anything else. I kept topping up my cup with more tea, and it was still sugar-infused two cups later. My tongue began to tingle. I’d missed that. My whole mouth felt sweet.

We finished our Brunch and the waitress came over.

‘Would you like to see the dessert menu?’

‘Yes.’ I didn’t even hesitate. 

LF waited right up until my spoon sunk into the warm chocolate brownie I’d ordered before asking,

‘So hows the whole ‘no sugar thing’ going?’ 

‘You’re a bad influence,’ I replied. ‘I blame this entirely on you.’ 

#SWGD – Total Recall

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Day 18.

So, it’s been a minute since I last caught you up on my Sugarless Journey. And if I’m honest – I’m kinda over the whole thing. My weight has stayed the same (I know, we’re all shocked) my mood has returned to normal, mainly because I’ve started having tea with sweetener, and my life is full of tedious moments where I check the back of the packet containing my favourite foods and sighing because – once again – my favourite food has sugar in it so I can’t have it.

I’ve also been super busy, so keeping you updated hasn’t been a top priority – so I’ll do a recap of the key bits you might feel you missed.

I went to the Tate Modern.

It’s a lot easier to find sugarless things in London. There’s more shops, more opportunities, and everyone is trying to sell Green living and healthy products. I drank sugarfree juicy waters, ate chips and burger – and resisted the urge to have an American sized milkshake. No matter how much of a bad influence Georgia was being…

I went for lunch with an old friend. 

I suggested a coffee shop, which was my mistake. And then to torture myself further, I sat opposite the homemade cakes and cookies available at said coffee shop. We had a nice salad, and we had a nice catch-up. And I stared at a chocolate cake hoping it would suddenly grow legs and jump onto my plate. Disappointingly, it didn’t.

I went to Live at the Apollo.

It’s a lot easier to avoid sugar when you’re constantly on the move. I drove up to Richmond, trained across to Hammersmith, and drank nothing but water. Again with the burgers… I’ve now got the GBK app and I’m not looking back…

I recorded a Podcast.

I’m really excited about this, but I can’t tell you anything about it yet! Just keep your lemons peeled for exciting news on that front.

I got my hair cut.

I’m not a casual Goth with dark brown/black hair. And I’m so here for it! If anyone wants an awesome hairdresser, Gillian Pollard just UNDERSTOOD what I wanted without making a big deal or stressing me out. Can’t recommend her enough.

Watched Old Eltamian’s Women’s Game.

It was good to see people again, and I’m glad I went. Still not emotionally or physically prepared to play – plus it took me an hour and a half to get there because of the roadworks. But baby steps…

It was at the game that my friend Claire pointed out how empowering it is ‘being able to walk past cake and not needing it.’

I’ve never needed cake as such, but she’s right. It’s a lot easier being around cake now and not crying that I can’t eat it. I don’t feel ’empowered’ as such. Maybe, liberated? I’ll enjoy cake again in my future, but I can wait.

Shopped at Bluewater.

Similar to the podcast – I’ve got a vlog you’ll need to look out for. It’s hilarious. Just wait.

And now I’m in Bath. I’m currently sat in a coffee shop, watching the flatmate who encouraged me to do this whole ‘No Sugar’ thing hide behind the pastry display.

The whole experience has been a lot easier with so much support – but I’m still not hyping the ‘no sugar’ bandwagon. Save changing my tastebuds to make sugar the enemy, I don’t feel any real benefits yet. But it’s nice to know my flatmate is working on it too, and that so many people who read these blogs (and the slightly more emotional ones) care enough to reach out and message me.

I genuinely love you guys. (I mean it, try not to be sick). Thank you.

Seam Submission: Woman

I recently submitted an essay to Seam’s anthology, Slant – the topic being women in the modern era. Unfortunately, though I made it through several rounds of filtering, it didn’t quite fit the overall feeling of the anthology and you won’t be able to see these words printed. But!

I do think I’ve put together an essay worth discussing (of course I do, I’m a narcissist) and I’d be really interested to know what other women have to say about it.

Men – the few of you that there are – whilst this essay isn’t ‘for you’ as such, I’d like to know how you feel about infertility and whether you feel the same pressures as the guy I mention below.

Woman.

I looked in his eyes as I told him, ‘I can’t have children.’ And he recoiled. ‘That’s so
sad,’ he said. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because… having children – that’s what makes you a woman.

It’s the key biological difference that separates you from a man.’
Then I guess I’m not a woman.

I’ve never had regular periods. When I was fifteen, I went into emergency surgery for
a ruptured appendix. They had to take my insides out and put me back again to fix me. My heart stopped beating at one point – and this is when I stopped being a woman. The severity of the rupture had caused the organ to disintegrate and I had three different blood poisonings. Water collected in the gap the appendix had once filled, and doctors were worried that if they tried to burst the honey-comb bubble within it, they might pierce my ovary. The bubble eventually subsided, and the water drained away. But my periods became even more irregular. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I went to see my GP, having not had a period for over a year.

After some tests, bloods analysed and an ultrasound, I was told I had Polycystic
Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It’s a condition that impacts my hormones, creating more male
hormones, which causes me to skip menstrual periods. It can cause women to grow hair on the face and the body, can create baldness, and it contributes to diabetes and heart disease.

PCOS also makes it ‘almost impossible to get pregnant,’ my GP explained.
To an eighteen-year-old, this is not big news. I didn’t want children. I wanted a
university degree, a flat full of potted plants, nights out with friends. I’d recently broken up with a boyfriend and I was flirting with the next potential. I was told there were treatments, birth control pills, but was warned they’d make me gain weight – which was already a symptom of my PCOS, so I declined. Children were not a priority.

Nearly ten years later, I can’t say I feel differently. If anything, my PCOS has become
a shield. My stock response any time someone makes an assumption about me having
children, or giving up my career or settling down, I say, ‘I can’t have children.’ And much
like the guy sitting across from me at the start, they recoil. Worried my infertility might be contagious.

It isn’t.

When it comes to listing things that make me a woman, I’ll admit that I struggle. I
play rugby, a man’s sport. I go to the gym, I take the rubbish out, and I’m not afraid of
spiders. Maybe I’m being flippant. Maybe that’s a man thing too. But I’ve lived by myself for a long time. I enjoy my independence. Once you’ve lived by yourself for a few months you learn that ‘gender roles’ are a fallacy. You can’t dictate behaviour due to what’s between your legs. Chores have to be done. Bills have to be paid. You don’t have any excuses. Nowhere to hide. It leaves a permanence to the idea that any equality between genders is perpetuated by another agenda. Whether that agenda is materialism, capitalism, fear or misunderstanding.

His commentary on my situation should have annoyed me. The truth is I felt sorry for
him. Though his words were about me, this guy’s thoughts were elsewhere. How he would feel like less of a man if he were told he was incapable of getting someone pregnant. Unable to fulfill his one biological requirement.

He wouldn’t feel like a real man. So how could I be a real woman?

I see a lot of pity in the eyes of people who learn about my infertility. I see the pain
that would have been caused if they’d received this news, not me. I know there will be
women out there who can’t have children, and this is devastating for them. Maybe they found out whilst trying for their first. Maybe they’d always dreamed about having children.

According to Goodarzi’s The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, ‘27% of women have PCOS undiagnosed.’ I can’t imagine the pain of discovering, after years of
knowing you want children, that you’re unable to. That you’ll need medical or divine
intervention.

But – to me – my infertility is inconsequential. It’s one facet of my complex
personality. It doesn’t stop me from retaining the privileges of being a woman. I won’t
apologise for it, either.

#SWGD – Sweet Freedom

Sugar, We're Going Down bannerDay 5.

Okay… I’ll be the first to admit Day 3 was tricky. Some (my family) might even go as far as to say my mood was ‘extra’ or ‘aggressive’. (There’s no might, those are the actual words my family used to describe me.)

But I can confirm that Day 5 finds me in a much better mood. I don’t know if it’s because the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, or the lack of caffeine and sugar has left me with a broken soul and no will to go on (the positive bean in me wants to think it’s the former) but I woke up feeling happy. Good. Not quite healthy, bouncing full of life; but not murderous any more so I guess that’s a plus.

I want to take a moment to thank those who reached out to me after the last post. Tentative as you were. To those who called, commented, messaged to make sure I was okay. Yesterday was pretty difficult in that so many people have told me ‘just have a cup of tea… who’s going to know? Who’s going to care?’

No one. You’re right. But I don’t want to give up on something I’ve told myself I’ll do. And I don’t want to let down those who messaged saying, ‘you’ve got this,’ ‘stick at it.’ ‘You’re nearly there.’

They might be massively misguided, but it’s kind of them to care about me and I’m grateful for that.

I’m still at the torn stage where I wouldn’t recommend giving up sugar cold turkey to people, but I’m still acting like it’s the best thing for my body. I’ve started calling it a ‘cleanse’ to people who ask about it, and I’ve never felt so pretentious in my life.

I’ve got these sunglasses with reflective lenses. They’re huge and they’re gorgeous and they’re still not as pretentious as telling people you’re ‘on a cleanse’. Just a little PSA.

I thought the answer to giving up sugar would be to find alternatives. Trick my brain (and my mouth apparently) into thinking that I wasn’t giving up sugar so much as replacing my favourites with other things.

Image result for fruit infusers sachetSo I tried teas without sugar (a bust, as day three proved) and I tried fruit infusers in cold water. Essentially squash, but with no added sugar.

These fruit infusers were an abomination. The label suggested leaving the little teabag looking sachet in the water for five minutes and then removing. I tried the apple and blackcurrant flavour first, not wanting to risk the more precarious flavours of mango and pineapple, strawberry and kiwi. After five minutes, the water was pink, and the blackcurrant smell was really strong. I could almost taste it.

And that’s pretty much what happened when the water touched my tongue. I could almost taste it. You know when you finish a squash bottle, and you fill it with water, and there’s that little residue taste – like the ghost of blackcurrant past?

That’s what this tasted like.

No worries, I’ll try leaving it a little longer. Maybe I’ve put too much water in it. Maybe it needs a few more minutes. It didn’t. The colour of the water got darker, more pink. The taste stayed the same. Disappointed, I just had a glass of water. Left the bottle to soak in it’s own misery.

Came back two hours later to see if it was any better now. That was my mistake.

It tasted like mould. The fruit or flavourings or whatever had been left in the water had massively soured. It was gross. I immediately spat out the water, poured the rest down the drain and eyed the teabag looking sachet to see if there was actual mould inside. There wasn’t, but there was also no colour in it either.

10/10 would not recommend. Avoid. Avoid.

Dejected, but still too stubborn to admit I’d have to cut sweetness out of my life if I wanted to cut out sugar, I took to Sainsburys again. I sent a sad post of minirolls, flapjacks and cookies to my family on the group whatsapp, and thought about giving up.

Image result for sweet freedomAnd then I spotted this tiny little bottle with a badger on the front.

Something you might not know about me – I’m a Hufflepuff. (Unless you ask my flatmate, family or anyone who has seen my temper and then I’m a Slytherin.)

So seeing a badger on a label caught my eye almost immediately. Then, the price did. £3. That’s a lot for this piddly bottle, but I picked it up anyway.

‘No added sugar, natural fruit sweetners, perfect on porridge or for making hot chocolates with.’

Come. To. Mama.

I won’t say it’s the best £3 I’ve ever spent. That honour goes to the big mac I bought a guy called Alex  (who I thought hated me) nearly ten years ago and thus secured our standing friendship. But this was the second-best £3 I’ve ever spent. 

Three dollops of this in warm milk, bam. The sweetest hot chocolate I’ve had since I tried a ‘true Belgian hot chocolate’ in, unsurprisingly, Belgium, which was essentially just warm melted chocolate in a cup. Nearly half the bottle to make it, but, when I’m feeling sad now on my little journey to not have refined or added sugar – this bad boy is coming out of the cupboard.

The true hero of this week. Definitely recommend.

#SWGD – Give Me Something To Break

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Day 3. (SUPER Explicit.)

At this point, I’m wondering if giving up added sugar for my health is worth the health of those around me. Because, and I cannot stress this enough, I’m ready to straight-up fucking murder someone.

IMG_20190831_193748_513My week started with a food shop, where mum and I sought out sugarless or ‘no added sugar’ alternatives to things like breakfast cereals, tea, and juice – as these were going to be the three key things my life was going so to suffer without.

So let’s have a little run down of the products I got:

Puffed Wheat – AKA Sugar Puff’s snotty younger sibling who is trying too hard and basically tastes RANK.

Porridge Oats – not the same without a dollop of jam.

Freefrom Pasta – So far the only team player I’ve encountered. Tasted the same in a Pasta bake on Day 2. Good work.

Sugarless Greek Yoghurt – Not usually a fan of Greek Yoghurt, but with the Tikka Cod we had for dinner Day 3, not bad!

Juice Infusers – You’ll get your turn you abominations.

Maryland sugarless cookies – which taste like cardboard dipped in bitter chocolate. Yummy.

Smoothie Mix you add water to – the only bit I’ve not tried yet, so they’ll inevitably get their own post.

And now we come to my ultimate disappointments. The shitcreek of saviors. The ones who promised it all and delivered diddly-squat.

Earl Grey Tea with a Zest of Orange and Yorkshire Biscuit Tea.20190903_100942

So I’ve tried both of these before, and had convinced myself they’d be perfect alternatives to a breakfast tea. The Biscuit tea is super sweet, I’ve only ever needed half a tea spoon to take away the bitter aftertaste – but that bitter aftertaste has only increased since I’ve been denied sugar.

As for the Earl Grey, the Zest of Orange promised a soft, floral alternative that was still FUCKING BITTER. The last mouthful of this is actual hell. I don’t know how people drink tea without sugar. I fucking love tea with sugar. But the bitterness can only be compared to reporting your Ex’s New Girlfriends bikini photos on Instagram as ‘pornography’.  Which I’ve totally never done… honest…

When I agreed to give up sugar, I knew the whole ‘no cake, no sweets, no chocolate’ part was going to be hard. I did not expect to have my favourite drink, and about 80% of my personality DESTROYED by not being able to have tea.

I’ve been in a foul fucking state all day. And all I get ‘yeah, you’re going through withdrawal’

NO FUCKING SHIT SHERLOCK! HERE I WAS THINKING I’D JUST HAD A PERSONALITY OVERLOAD AND TURNED INTO THE FUCKING SHE-HULK ON A WHIM!

People have always told me I can be aggressive and angry – which I am. But this is next level. My sister in law actually backed away from me the other day. People are responding to my texts like I’m their boss with a harsh deadline.

‘Well if that doesn’t work for you…’ ‘are you okay?’ ‘Is something the matter?’

Yes. Something is the matter. I’m juggling sugar withdrawal AND caffeine withdrawal and I’m fucking miserable.

‘It only lasts three days.’

Well I’m on day three, and you better HOPE it finishes soon or you’ll see my face plastered on the six o’clock news because I ran into my local Costa like I was robbing a bank, shot up the ceiling, and insisted they pour Peach Iced Tea straight down my gullet until I either died or the police arrived.

Also – before you repeat my mum’s advice of just having normal tea without sugar – get out. Just get the whole way out.

And have a nice day!

#SWGD – Fall At The First

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Day 1. (Explicit) 

I woke up feeling immediate regret. I needed a cup of tea. I needed strong breakfast tea with a dash of milk and one sugar. Just one couldn’t hurt?

I resisted. I’d just drink water. Water is really good for you, I told myself. It’s great for your skin, helps regulate body temperature, oh, and it keeps you alive! As a line manager of mine once said, ‘Hydrate or die.’

3057640316098_LSo with a 1ltr and a half of Volvic Sugar Free at hand, I hid upstairs. There’s no sugar upstairs, I’d already eaten it all before the challenge started. Maybe if I physically avoided sugar I’d be able to resist?

Lina was having a much harder time. She works in a cafe, surrounded by sugary cakes. Somehow she managed to suffice with a bowl of cucumber. At one point, she explained, that she was going to stare at the cakes whilst eating the cucumber to see if that would trick her mind into thinking she was eating sugar when she wasn’t. Yeah… we can all guess how well that worked.

And then it was my turn to be tested again.

My dad is a Mason, and they host a charity bbq for the families every year. Our mission was to bring a pudding, as if life wasn’t cruel enough, so my mum created an Eton Mess (for the political irony).

‘I can’t eat that,’ I told her, more to remind myself that the cream and meringues had sugar in them.

‘It’s okay, I’ve put some strawberries aside for you.’

Five strawberries. Six, after she saw my disappointed face. They’d have to do, I guessed. I didn’t want to sound ungrateful.

They say when you lose a sense the others become more heightened. Well, I was neglecting my tastebuds, and my nose decided to overcompensate. It was probably psychosomatic but the moment I arrived at the bbq, all I could smell was sugar. It was in the BBQ sauce drizzled on the ribs, it was in the cheesecakes, cakes, and other sweet puddings on the counter. It was in every fizzy drink available.

I’d brought a bottle of water with me, filled with my Volvic Touch of Fruit, so that I didn’t need to break my pact on day one. We hung out for over an hour, chatting with people, buying raffle tickets, having a laugh and then food was served.

Now, there’s a lot of old people at these functions. And they took forever to get through the buffet. So by the time I got there, I was starving (didn’t have breakfast, in a stern attempt to avoid sugar) and just wanted to stuff my face so that I wouldn’t want dessert. I started with salad – no sugar in salad. Sausages, kebab, potato salad – couldn’t guarantee no sugar, but there weren’t many other options. The pasta salad probably had sugar in it, but was it worth fussing over right now? And then my big blunder. The mistake I should have seen coming.

A plump white roll, with powdered flour on the top. Fluffy. Soft. I didn’t even think – it went onto my plate. So did a rib. Well… it would be rude not to!

I sat down, and started eating. Took a bite out of my roll.

Oh no.

Oh. No. What have I done?

‘This has got sugar in it, hasn’t it?’

‘Well I wasn’t going to say anything,’ said the brother who did a nutrition module at uni.

Fuck.

How did I manage to fuck up on the first day!? I wasn’t even 24 hours in!! I handed the roll to my brother, who happily munched away on my roll (which I’d tucked the sausages inside, so I didn’t have those anymore either). Whilst I ate my probably-covered-in-sugar rib.

‘You did really well to stop yourself though!’ said Lina, the greatest cheerleader ever.

‘But I failed! On day one.’

‘Better to fail on day one than day 21 when you should know better.’

Tomorrow will be better, I told myself. Tomorrow will be easier because I’ll be able to control everything I eat. Tomorrow. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Sugar, We’re Going Down…

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It’ll be no surprise to most, if not all, of those who know me –

I hate my body.

This will have a positive outcome I promise! Just keep reading…

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Trying to find a photo from my size 12 days that wasn’t blurry or weird was really hard… 

There’s a lot that frustrates me about my physique, which goes beyond not being as ‘skinny’ as I’d like to be. As you know, I used to play rugby. I was a healthy size 12, I trained three times a week, I ate what I liked, and I could run up my four flights of stairs without being out of breath.

None of those facts have been true for about eight years. I’m now a full hour glassed size 20, I go to the gym when I can but not as often as I should, I punish myself with my eating habits, and thanks to my recent cold I have to stop halfway up the stairs to catch my breath before carrying up the rest. 

Added to this: I’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome.

It’s an interesting little dysfunction, my ovaries cling on to eggs to create cysts. I can’t have kids, and I gain weight like crazy. My size 12 to size 20 slide didn’t take the full eight years, it’s just taken me this long to admit it. I went from a size 12 to a size 16 in months, whilst at university, and everyone told me it was Fresher’s bloating. All the alcohol and cheap pasta. But then after uni, I kept ballooning. I went to see my doctor, and she reminded me that weight gain is a side effect of POS.

‘How can I stop the POS?’
‘By going on the pill.’
‘Can I go on the pill?’
‘I can’t put you on the pill until you lose some weight.’

You see my conundrum? A cruel Catch 22 of needing to lose weight and control my body so that I can lose weight and control my body.

There are other psychological factors for me hating my body but if you need to know those, my ‘Did I let anxiety win?’ blog covers most of them.

Here comes the positive bit –

My flatmate Lina and I are going to do a ‘No Sugar for September’ challenge. 30 days of zero refined or added sugar. I really struggle to diet, I get bored easily and the moment someone tells me I can’t have something then that’s all I want. But we’re hoping that by doing this together we’ll be able to cut out sugar for a month.

I don’t expect this to be easy, I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth ever! And sugar – as I discovered when shopping yesterday – is in EVERYTHING! But I’ve got the support of my flatmate and my family, and a game plan. I’ve found replacements for the sugary things I have daily, such as tea, breakfast and lunch. And sugarless alternatives to snacks and other things like that.

I’m not entirely sure what I hope to get out of this. I’ve spent a long term trying to train myself to like my body, even a little bit. But considering I’m the only person I allow to see it in the harsh light of day – maybe I need to stop fixating and starting ‘fixing’ the problems I think I have. And this can’t hurt, right?

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No, but seriously, why hasn’t vogue called yet? 

I’ll try to update the blog every day so you can see whether the alternatives are worth the money, how the lack of sugar impacts my mood, weight and mindset, and please – for me – treat yourself today. 

Just don’t tell me about it…