oh no sugar!

I was blessed with fast metabolism. It’s amazing the sheer quantity of food I could eat without gaining any weight. But now that I’m older, with two kids under my belt (literally), it’s getting harder and harder to pack it in and keep it off.

Pregnancy was my excuse to pig out without any remorse. I gained almost 50 lbs and weighed more than my husband. I would joke that he wouldn’t be able to carry me out of a burning building, to which he would reply, “I could drag you out.” Thanks. After my first child was born, I figured it was pointless to try to lose the baby weight since we wanted more kids and I’d hope to be pregnant again. Why waste the effort. Luckily, I got pregnant soon after. Having two kids 17 months apart, I felt like I was pregnant for 2 years straight (which I kind of was). I thought there was no way I’d ever get back into shape without plastic surgery. Hubs said he preferred that I spend the money I would use for plastic surgery on getting a personal trainer instead. Fine, okay. I’ll give it a year. I stumbled across this workout studio on Solano Ave., Woohoo Fit. They were starting a postnatal workout class and offered childcare, so there was no excuse. I had to start exercising. I’m really not one to endorse or subscribe to any one type of organized exercise method and I HATE going to gyms. But this class was just plain addictive. The owner/trainer, Eva Bramwell, is simply great. She’s one of those people that you like immediately. As a trainer, she’s not too soft, not too agro. I thought I needed someone like Jillian Michaels to yell at me and make me feel like sh*t to get my ass in gear. But Eva is someone you’d want as your friend and you want to make her happy, so you do all the crazy stuff she tells you to do. The other trainer, Amy Brennick, is a bit more militant, but I like her style. When she shows you what exercise to do, you think, there’s no way I can do that, and then you do it. Makes you feel like superwoman afterwards. It also helps that they’re both RIPPED, so I figure if they can get so ripped doing these exercises, then I can too. Plus, they seem like normal women with normal lives, not people who exercise 24-7 to get abs of steel.

Eva thinks of ways to engage and motivate her clients. In October, she introduced the 10,030 challenge: do 2000 sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, squats, burpees and run/walk 30 miles in 30 days. It averaged to about 60 reps of each exercise and 1 mile per day. It seemed doable. By the end of the month, I felt like I had been training for a marathon. My knees were weak, but I had lost a jean size. It worked, but now I have to buy all new jeans.

Eva’s new challenge in March is to go 30 days without sugar. This sounds impossible for me, but I totally need to kick the sugar habit. I’m a sugar addict, I admit. Just look at my other posts. I can’t pass a bakery without being held hostage. I need an intervention and this challenge is it. But I hate diets. The instant you tell me I can’t eat something, I crave it all the more. But I’m not one to back down from a challenge. Instead of saying I can’t have sugar, I’m looking for creative ways to satisfy my sweet tooth. It’s a way I can still obsess about food without thinking about what I can’t eat.

A friend suggested I’d like this blog about healthy eating. Funny she thought I’d be interested in super healthy food. It is a beautiful blog with really tempting recipes, but I don’t usually think of myself as being a health food nut. I’m just nuts about food, period. The trainers at Woohoo suggest eating protein to curb the sugar craving, especially for breakfast. It boggled my mind that oatmeal or “healthy” cereals like Special K or Kashi weren’t the best breakfast options. So here’s my current favorite protein-rich breakfast:

Eggs scrambled with tomatoes and cheese with black beans, avocado and sour cream & coffee, coffee, coffee

Here are some protein-rich salads that I really like:

Quinoa with brussel sprouts, pomegranate and pine nuts

I make the quinoa in a rice cooker in the usual 2-to-1 ratio of liquid to grain. Then I sautéed the brussel sprouts in olive oil with pine nuts and salt and added it to the quinoa with some pomegranate seeds. If it needs a bit more salt, I add shaved parmesan cheese on top.

Lentils with french feta, red bell pepper, and tomatoes

I used the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joes for the first time for this salad and the lentils were a bit mushier than I thought they’d be. I added french feta which is creamier, saltier with a little less tang than the greek version. I mixed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash (1 tablespoon) of balsamic vinegar. I added the red bell pepper for crunch and grape tomatoes for sweetness and color. Next time, I’ll cook the lentils myself to the al dente consistency that I like for this salad.

Kale salad with sesame vinaigrette

I usually get this salad from the antipasto bar at Berkeley Bowl, but noticed that they were selling the kale salad by the bag in the produce section. Here’s the recipe on the bag:

8 oz chopped kale (with shredded red cabbage and carrots)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon good salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Toss all ingredients together and let sit for 30 minutes before serving. This salad will keep for two days.

I didn’t use as much olive oil as the recipe calls for and omitted the sugar for my no sugar diet, and it still tasted delicious. The longer you let it sit, the better the salad tastes as the kale will wilt down a bit and absorb the vinaigrette better. I like that the salad can keep in the fridge until the next day.

Thai green bean and cucumber salad with tomatoes and peanuts

I omitted the sugar from the recipe, obviously. And didn’t have the tiny shrimp or thai chiles on hand, but added braised tofu to up the protein. I also blanched the long beans for a little bit, since I thought it might be weird to eat raw beans. But I’m sure the longer you let the salad marinate, the beans will soften up.

These are some of the “no sugar added” treats I’ve been eating to satisfy my sweet tooth:

Medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese and almonds

My healthy eating friend suggested this as a no sugar added snack and they have been my saving grace since starting this challenge. It’s so decadent that I know it can’t be good for me. So I try to limit myself to just 1-2 of these dates per day, since dates are super sweet. Good thing is that you cut the date in half so you get two for the price of one date. I also added some unsweetened coconut flakes because I had some on hand.

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar, black pepper, and fresh ricotta with lemon zest

I love berries and blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are my go-to fruit during this no sugar challenge. Adding an aged balsamic vinegar to strawberries amps up the sweetness factor (I had a nice port vinegar I used) and a pinch of black pepper. I grated some meyer lemon zest and mixed with the ricotta. It adds a nice balance and richness to the berries that vanilla ice cream or whipped cream would.

I’ve been sticking to the no sugar challenge for two weeks now. The first week, I overindulgenced on cheese and nuts to compensate for my lack of sugar and I felt bloated. Week 2, I’m back to eating normal portions and I’m not DYING for a cookie or chocolate. It actually hasn’t been as tough as I expected.  I’ve lapsed a couple times and had a chocolate cream pie on date night and a cookie the other day. And you know what? It wasn’t that good. Didn’t feel worth it at all. I’m going to kick this habit. Woohoo!

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2 thoughts on “oh no sugar!

  1. Ok. I’m going to try the 10,030 challenge. I just cut out meat 1.5 weeks ago as a personal will power challenge, with a side effect of healthier eating. The 10,030 challenge sounds like it’s a good target for me. Without targets, I’m the most aimless person ever. Love this blog. xo

    • Do it! You’ll feel like a rock star after. And it’s not really that bad. Just 25 min of your day. You can just do a set of sit-ups while you watch TV. Or squats while waiting in line. I’m impressed that you’re going without meat. You could try some of these salads on this post – they’re all meat-free and yummy! Good luck!

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