5 things that help me stop sugar binges

getting out of the house helps stop sugar binges

Today I was in a counseling session and it dawned on me (thanks to my kind counselor) that I have come a long way in harmonizing my relationship with sugar and carbs.  Looking back on the past few years, I feel like I’m in a pretty grounded place to offer some advice on what helped me personally win the fight against the urge to O.D. on sugar and carbs. Keep in mind this is not professional advise, per se, but rather the kind of insight that comes from the familiarity of going through something and knowing it intimately.

#1. Get support.  I always do best when I have a good friend to share my feelings with or am seeking professional support (counseling for me).  Groups like Over-eaters anonymous can be a great support network and there is no charge for joining.  Support that is non-familial has been key for me.  As much as  I love my family and husband, sometimes the issues that drive me to  crave sugar involve them and I have found that having a safe, non-biased place to express myself helps me trust my feelings and explore the core issues behind my sugar addiction.

2. Eat a balanced diet.  Okay, maybe this is the nutritionist in me, but it’s also just the experience talking.  When I eat protein at every meal, have veggies at least 2 meals/day, eat 2-3 fruits/day, and up to 3 servings of grains, I am good to go and don’t physically crave sugar.  I have to eat pretty substantial meals because I don’t like to snack (Snacking = trouble for me).  Also, include plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, some nuts/seeds, avocados, goat cheese or other cheeses that are strong enough in flavor that you don’t want over eat them.  Even butter has its place in my diet.  Milk is out for me, so I use almond milk and drink about a cup/day.    Protein really is my anti-sugar antidote, so I try to reach for protein instead of carbs first when I’m hungry.

3. Don’t eat trigger foods alone.  I have no business eating cake and frosting, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or cookies by myself.  It’s not that having these alone is inherently bad, it’s just bad for me.  When I eat binge food alone, even if it’s gluten-free or wheat-free, I’m way more likely to over eat.  Also, I have to ask myself why I’m eating alone in the first place?  Am I sneak eating or hiding something?  Big red flag for me!  If I’m not willing to eat treats out in the open, I’m not eating them for the right reasons.  On the flip side, when I do want to enjoy a treat and I’m with others I rarely want to eat in excess because my motivation is simply to enjoy a delicious something, not curb an emotion or numb out.

4. Get out of the house.  I spend a lot of time at home during all hours of the day now that I’m  back in school.  That kitchen calls pretty loudly sometimes, If I’m not careful.  I find that getting away to study helps me feel less isolated and more confident.  I’m not sure why, but it does.  If you find that you binge or eat mindlessly when you have too much unstructured time at home, it’s time to get out!  Structured time has also helped me stay away from derailing my flow with food.  If I have time goals or placed to be I’m much less likely to waste time eating mindlessly.

5.  The pleasure principle.  “All work and no play” makes me cranky and hankering for something to ‘sweeten’ my life…such as a donut or cookie.  When I make the pleasures of life a priority, I’m usually good.  I’ve learned that the emotional craving for sugar is often a calling for a break from the work or from the expectations I place on myself to always be doing something productive.  I like to hang with friends, cook with other people, go for a walk with my husband at night, chat on the phone, watch movies or do whatever to give myself a break.

I’d love to hear from you about what helps you avoid the pitfalls of sugar binges.


Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind become still.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.

– Lao Tzu

This week I experienced emptiness.  True, physical emptiness.  It was grand (well, it was grand after it was miserable).  My emptiness occurred out of pure accident.  Food poisoning (PC term: Food born pathogen), left my husband and I in, eerr… a rather precarious state for about 36 hours.  I’ll spare you the details, except for the  glorious feeling that I had once the trauma was over.

Physical emptiness feels enlightening to me.  In part, this is because I really rarely allow myself to feel it.  Hunger is uncomfortable for me, so I’m always rushing to fill its need.  Yet here I was, able to survive on little but tropical fruit (the only thing I wanted) and bubbly orange water and ice for nearly 2 days.  Once I felt better, I felt truly refreshed – like I’d been ‘reset’ by some divine force of nature.  It was refershing to allow my body to NOT have food it it and to allow my mind to NOT think about food.

Physical emptiness is also enlightening because it creates internal space.  Not just physical space, but emotional space.  Lying on my back, with little energy to do more than watch HBO movies and sleep, I could think in a way I’ve not given myself permission to do in a long time.  I could think without boundaries, expectations, deadlines or pressure. I allowed my mind to be idle.  I wish that I could tell you I devoted some of my illness time to deep meditation or even journaling, but I didn’t.  In a way, this is my journal entry of all those feeling that fed my spiring during my hiaitus from life.

You all have heard me say, in one form or another, that my relationship with food often mirrors my relationship with life.  Of late, I’ve been cramming it in – food and life.  Going too fast, expecting too much.  Not allowing space for emptiness or freedom from the ties that bind.  So nature found its own way to set me right again.  It dawned on me that it had been a long time since I simply thought about doing creative things just for the sake of them, or since I just took a walk for a reason other than to boost my cardiovascular health or that I allowed myself to rest, to just be.  Why do I forget how essential these elements to life really are?

So, I’m going to thank my period of emptiness for helping me resent my mind and body, and for reminding me of how far off the mark  I tend to get.  Happily, I found myself eating much less today and appreciating what I did eat for what it was -a nourishment to my body and spirit instead of something to soothe my worrisome soul that has been overworked and under played for the last 8 weeks (School!).

We live in a time where emptiness only comes when we get ill or we deliberately seek it out through fasts or cleanses.  How lucky are we?  Fortunate yes, but also I think we miss out on something really powerful that only happens when we do go without, even for a short while.

Magical Tithing

Happy Holidays Bloggies!  I sure have missed you all.  Finally, the dust of finals, teaching TONS of yoga and working at the co-op have settled a bit.  All in all, I am filled with joy and gratitude for what this year has brought into my life.

Part of that joy has been reconnecting with old friends and also just peeking in on some old friends and their lives via Facebook. What can I say, I think FB has been a huge catalyst of getting reunited with people who are special to me.  For a girl who seems to move every 4 yrs, I have a lot of old friends to catch up with.

Just today I happened upon a friend from my nutrition program’s website and her blog.  She has a blog post about “Magical Tithing” – a simply way to give and support abundance this holiday season.  Not only is this gal and offwhite crusader (she once gave up all sugar for 1 year, if I recall correctly) but she’s also really insightful about staying connected to the bigger things in life.

Interested in magical tithing?  Check this out:

Christy’s Blog

Ciao my friends and happy, happy holidays to you!

Finding your personal balance

Between all the books I read about healthy eating and the work I do with my clients, it’s no wonder that we, as a culture, are really confused about what to eat and when.

The biggest shifts and insights began for me when I slowly realized that even all the research in the world couldn’t really tell me what to eat. In fact, so much new research indicates that because our physiology an genetic make up is so unique, it would be darn hard to say what the exact perfect diet is.

For me, lately, I’ve been doing great by eating 3 full meals a day, with no snacks in between. My trick is making certain those meals really count and are very nutritious. I must have at least 1 full serving of protein per meal, and do best when I eat 2-3 grains/day MAX and 2-3 fruits/day as well.
This approach is different than the advice I might give a client or a friend, because to eat 3 meals or 5 meals/day is a truly individualized decision based on what your needs and energy levels are.

My motivations for 3 meals? Basically I learned about myself that snacking is where I get into trouble with portions and unhealthy choices. My taste buds might begin with a craving for fruit and a few almonds or a hard boiled egg, but then I start grazing and pretty soon I’ve basically had a meal. So for me, the idea of 3 meals and 2 snacks was really translating as having 5 meals!! Hmm…. not so good for the waistline or for the mental wellbeing, especiallly when I didn’t really need all those calories.

Do I make exceptions? You bet! If I’m hiking, didn’t get a solid meal for whatever reason (travel, with others, out and about and didn’t have time…), I will have a snack, but my snacks are pretty consistently the same: veggies/hummus, a protein shake, a piece of fruit, a small portioned bag of trail mix or an energy bar, and I really watch how I’m feeling before I make my choice.

This is where the coaching concepts can come in handy to determine your personal balance. Ask yourself the questions:
1. Why am I eating in the pattern that I’m currently in?
2. Do I like the results I’m getting from this patten? IF no, what don’t I like? If yes, do I need to tweak further?
3. How does my current meal plan support the need for fruits/veggies/whole grains/lean proteins?
4. What am I willing to change today and give a try?

#4 was a big eye opener for me personally. I used to be very afraid of eating only 3 meals, as if I would starve in between! Well the reason I felt this way was because I hadn’t been planning nutritionally for those 3 meals, so I was eating too little to sustain me until the next meal. If I’m eating 3 meals a day, my meals must be about 500-600 Kcal/meal at least to get me to my baseline (according to my latest dip into the BodPod at UC Davis to measure my caloric needs and body composition). That amount seemed too high, but yet it is what I need to be satisfied until the next meal time.

So many women I know under eat when it counts (like at mealtimes) and over eat to compensate for hunger, emotions, etc. They are afraid of 100 Kcal of high quality Salad dressing, but will binge of junk or eat 100 Kcal snack bags, which are only going to make them hungrier. There is just WAY too much evidence that refined foods mess with our metabolism and our blood sugar (and hence our cravings and weight) to go that route and expect a health outcome.

So gang, if you want a different result from your nutrition program, I recommend asking yourself those 4 questions and really being honest about what you need for a balance in your life. It’s about progress and not perfection. What can you sanely sustain for the LONG HAUL….which sometimes means making one tiny but surmountable change at a time.

PS: I still have my guilty pleasures and I do drink a rice/almond based drink MOST days, between meals. Sometimes I splurge and drink a coffee drink w/decaf coffee. For me this is part of my mental balance and keeps me away from the other sweets that I simply CAN’T control 🙂

Dine from the vine

Masterpiece!  4 months at an attempt to foster a garden, and look at the bounty I received….one luscious tomato!  Clearly I should just stick to cooking foods already harvested because my thumb is not green.  Nonetheless, what to cook with my precious morsel?

Since I’m going to be gone a lot this week (3 nights away from home: housesitting, visiting a friend at Skamania lodge (yay!!)), I had to plan ahead for 3-4 breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  I know myself and the temptation to purchase food becomes very strong if I’ve not planned well.  Now that Matt is in schoolnd the budget for eating out is quite different than it used to be, batch cooking for busy weeks is going to be a Sunday mainstay.  Plus, the choices I sometimes make when my stomach and my appetite call the shots aren’t always the best and I end up regretting them later.  Especially in lovely Woodburn, OR where there aren’t many good places to eat.  Sometimes I eat at the Bistro at work, but mostly I prefer to just BYOL and call it good.

Off to the kitchen I went with my one lovely tomato and an idea.  Here is what I prepared for the week ahead:

1 batch of chicken ‘n’ veggies (see recipe below)
5 hardboiled eggs (for breakfast or to put into a salad)
1 large tupperware of salad as a base for lunch a couple of days
1 HUGE yam, cut into 3 pieces to accompany my meals
Plus I added into my every so large lunch bag: a container of hummus, yogurt, organic black beans, 4 slices of Ezekiel bread, and about 6 carrots and 6 pieces of fruit.  Vioala, I am set for the upcoming week’s needs.  Yes, I will be rather sick of chicken and salads by Wednesday, but that’s okay because I’m banking on having left over barley risotto from my cooking class!  It pays to be the cook sometimes.

Here’s my ‘on a whim’ chicken ‘n’ veggie recipe, complete with warming spices to balance the chilly Salem weather:

4 large free range chicken breasts
2 tbsp EVOO
Sea salt, to taste
3 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/3 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 beautiful, home grown tomoato, chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes to offset my pathetic garden yield
1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces

Coat the bottom of a pyrex dish with EVOO.  Add chicken and coat with the rest of the EVOO.  Dust with spices and salt.  Spread seasonings with a brush.

Add the tomatoes, onion and zucchini.

Sprinkle with a little salt.

Cook at 400 covered for about 40 minutes, and then uncovered for 10 minutes.

TIP: I just learned from The Professional Chef book (a good reference for anybody wanting to learn about cooking without paying for culinary school) that when cooking in glass you can reduce the temp by 25 degrees for the same amount of time, which is why I chose 400.

Makes 6 -8 servings.

Good night, all, and happy Off-White living.


the sweet truth about HFCS

I just about died today.  I’m happily watching a little TV on the Discovery Channel and I see this blasphemy:


OH MY GOD!!!!  Gee, I wonder who funded it ….oh, the corn growers association…hmm….big shocker.  Their big angle – “its just corn”……OH MY GOD x 2!!!!!!!  No, it is NOT just corn, and even if it WAS, the way its modified so much that it stresses the liver, increases blood sugar, and is more likely to contribute to carb addiction and the odd maladies that go with food sensitivities (headaches, constipation, bloating, inflammation).  It is NOT a food.  And just because it only has the same calories as regular does NOT MAKE IT OKAY!!!  This totally negates the notion that we really ought not to promote eating sugar.  Moderation will come when we focus on filling our diets with abundant wholesome foods.  Most of us don’t need to hear messages about eating sugar in moderation, as we get enough options to do so on a regular basis. 

The other part that baffles me is why this commercial landed itself on the Discovery Health channel.  What kinds of values does this channel embody if they allow such rubbish to be broadcasted.  How much money does it take to be willing to propagate a lie.  

My hope is that none of you Off-white readers will take this commercial seriously. Of course you won’t – you are all much too smart for that!! 🙂  Please tell your friends and family there is more to the story than these two lovely people sharing a popsicle in the park.  Its not innocent.  It’s deceptive. It’s wrong.  Now more than ever we need to continue educating through example and experience the benefits of eating real, wholesome foods.  Our children and our friends are looking to us to be models.  

Okay, off my soapbox!

Off White goes to youTube!!

Hey there everybody,

just wanted to share my exciting news.  Just recently I purchased what might be the greatest gadget since the KitchenAid: a flip camera from Flip Video.

So, what a better way to debut, than to discuss Olive Oil…right???  Yeah, random topic but I was at Pike’s Place market in Seattle recently and decided to take the camera on its maiden Off-White voyage.  It was a mix of what was available to me and what wouldn’t get me kicked out of any shops or harrassed by other tourists.

So, with pleasure, I give you Olive Oil 101.  enjoy!

The “lean and green” approach to falling off the Off-White wagon

DID YOU KNOW THAT OVER 2,000 SCIENTIFIC ARTICLES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE PHENOMENA OF SUGAR/CARB ADDICTION?? Its no wonder that some of us fall prey to the white stuff, even just “once”, and are back in the throws of bondage w/no way out….

But there is hope: Just recently a friend of mine shared a great term with me.  “Lean and Green”, she called it.  This refers to consuming a source of lean protein and ample green vegetables as part of a weight-loss, but also sugar/carb detox process.

Well, I just love the term and it fits so nicely to explain my suggestions for when you fall off the “off white” wagon and your knee deep into white stuff….

I can relate to falling off the wagon. In fact, for some parts of my life I spent most of my time bouncing up and down between the two: on one day and off the other.  I certainly don’t recommend this approach because it gave me nothing but bruises….

So, if you are struggling I want you to know that it is okay.  You are okay.  It may seem like the “white food” monster has a grip on you, but there is a way out.

THe way out starts with willingness.  How uncomfortable, inconvenienced, wanting for sweets but not having them, are you willing to be in order to flush out the white stuff.  Willingness can move mountains, if that is what you want.  Be honest with yourself.

So, if you are willing to do what it takes and put abstaining from sugar/flour first, then here’s what I suggest nutritionally:

  • Eat “Lean and Green”: lean meats (organic and free-range as much as possible) + cooked and raw green veggies for at least 1 full meal, if not two per day.  This helps detox from sugar and bring your pH back to normal (alkaline vs acidic from carbs)
  • Boost your water.  Even if you drink a lot of water, drink even more.  Add some lemon to help get the GI tract moving.  You need to eliminate that white stuff so your body forgets about it.
  • Eat gluten-free, high fiber grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, and millet/amaranth.  If you must have oatmeal, make sure it is whole oats and that you’re not adding sugar or dried fruits for a few days.
  • Consume fruit only with a meal, and focus on low sugar fruits like mango, berries (all types), green apples, lemons, limes, kiwis.  The reason for eating fruits with meals has to do with keeping the blood sugar in balance.  Fruits on their own, while they can have some digestive benefits (Ayurveda and Chinese medicine support eating fruits alone), this is not good for blood sugar nor for detoxing from the “sweet” taste
  • Be patient, and take it 1 meal at a time.  Sugar and flour create opiates in some people’s bodies/brains, which means that the longing for them can be really strong. Support from friends, family, coaches, nutritionists, group support systems, etc can help with this VERY REAL PHYSICAL PHENEMONA.

I hope this helps – I know that it works for me, when I find myself on the white road of insanity and sugar….

Life, on 60g of sugar per day

The World Health World health organization suggests a diet of less than 60 g of sugar per day or less.    Generally speaking, us humans can consume approx 200g of total carbs per day, so about 25% of them could be sugars, according to this model.

Some folks, especially sugar junkies trying to recover, ought to consider 100 – 150g of carbs per day or less, and make sure those carbs are from fiber containing sources.

So, how can we do it?  I ask myself this question everyday.  While I don’t go about my day counting carbs or sugar, I certainly keep these numbers in mind, mainly in the form of the concept of low sugar eating.

Through the years, here is what I have learned.  I have to make my sugar grams count, otherwise I’m going to be upset that I have nothing sweet and special to look forward to.  Here’s how I live on 60g of sugar per day (including the sugars in fruits):

  • Focus on lower sugar fruits like green apples, berries, cantaloupe, plums, peaches.
  • Avoid juice, flavored water or using sweetener in my tea at home.
  • Have Stevia in my purse to use for sweetening beverages when I go out.
  • Use unsweetened applesauce.  The difference here is 5g sugar/serving
  • Mix oats with fruit and spices, like cinnamon, for flavor.  I typically don’t add sweetener.
  • Use only plain yogurt.   I don’t do much yogurt, due to the dairy thing, but I will go plain when I do!
  • Watch the sugar in pasta sauces.  On average, a serving of jarred sauce has 10-12g of sugar.  I look for something with about 8g.
  • I avoid boxed cereals altogether.  They are high in total carbs, usually wheat or corn based, and don’t do a good job of watching portions.  For me, its just best NOT to go there.
  • Unsweetened almond milk ROCKS!  We are talking 3-5g of sugar as compared with 12-15g for even rice milk.  Add some stevia if you need more sweet.
  • Skip the ketchup and bbq sauce, unless it “really” goes with the meal (like a BBQ house, which I do like once every 3 yrs)
  • Tell the important people in my life I’m not eating a lot of sugar.  It helps keep me accountable.  I’m a sugar junkie, always looking for her fix, so I’m gonna take a mile when I’m presented with an inch!
  • Lay off of the dried fruit.  I found myself over-indulging in raisins, dates, and dried apples a lot when I started to avoid traditional sugar.  The challenge for me is that 1/4 cup of raisins is about 25g of sugar, and I can shovel in 2-3 handfuls mighty fast…..  I still eat dried fruit, but I try and add them to salads or eat them in front of someone where I’m less likely to pig out.
  • Be very, very humble.  My sugar desires are monsterous at times.  I must be honest with myself about them, and respect the food I am eating as having an effect on me.    Every time I make a good choice for my body, I feel sooooo grateful.

These same guidelines apply to white flour, which is not too much different from white sugar.  I tend to avoid wheat in general, which makes that one an easy choice.  I always skip the crackers, cereals, muffins (unless I know they are wheat-free, but even then quite often I just pass – they set me up for cravings), pastas, and a lot of breads.  Ezekiel bread is a treat in our house, and I choose to enjoy 1 slice per day when its around.  I use a lot of lettuce leaves as bread and whole grains in place of pastas, which helps avoid the interference of white or wheat flour.

Sometimes it gets me down to have to think so much about sugar….and then sometimes I just don’t think about it.  Unforutunately for me, however, not being conscious of it typically makes me end up eating a lot more of it that I’d prefer, as the sugar addict in me will always find a way to get her fix unless she’s kept in check.