I wasn’t to know it then, but I guess you could say Elle saved me. It’s April 2010- and I have my mind on uni, sweets, men, hanging with Nish-Nosh (my partner in crime), finding somewhere to live and men- did I say men already? Ha. Sugar, I was discovering was the answer to everything. I loved chocolate when I was sad, chocolate when I was happy, chocolate when I was bored… you get the picture. I’m not one of those people who say ‘oh I’ve got such a sweet tooth’ because they like a piece of cake everyday. I really am a sugar monster. I could eat alllll the sweets at the party and then go home to an entire chocolate cake. I don’t get sick of sugar EVER. (It genuinely bugs me when people say they have a sugar problem when they don’t come close to the level I’ve been at. I’m not proud of it, but it has been a long hard struggle to bring myself up out of it.)
Around the summer of 2010 I had hit my peak, my face was a mass of pulsating spots. I’m not just saying it- Dave my future flatmate and now- fiancée, likes to reminisce about the pulsating. I spent my days gorging on sugar due to my large student bursary. I had NEVER had so much money to spend on sweets! So you get the picture, my spots were at an all time high, I was on the emotional roller-coaster of my life (due to the sugar spikes and crashes contained in all that chocolate) and my meals often consisted of cheese scones, milk chocolate bakery cookies and Percy Pig sweets. If you’re wondering: Cheese + Sugar= not good skin.
I had perused the shelves of WH Smith and picked myself up a copy of Elle (the British version with Chloe Sevigny on the front) and came across an article called ‘The Beauty of Food.’ You know when you have those thunderbolt-dinging-light-bulb moments when you’re not sure why it hadn’t hit you that way before? This was one of those moments. The author talks about how good skin comes through what we feed it- our diet. Hardly groundbreaking information- yet it hit me like lightning.
“I hate my friend Alice and here’s why. It’s her skin. It glows as if lit from within. She’s no saint: she lives in a city; she drinks too much; has been known to leave mascara on her pillow, and likes her men heavily stubbled. I investigated further and discovered that her skin ‘regime’ is basic- soap, water and SPF. I know she thinks Botox is some faraway thing that celebrities do. She has to furrow her brow to remember the last time she had spots. And her skin always falls back in place afterwards. Finally, she told me her ‘secret’. ‘I can’t believe you kept it from me so long,’ I said, underwhelmed. ‘You never asked,’ she replied. This is why Alice believes she has good skin: ‘I never eat anything low fat, no fat or with “diet” on the label. I don’t think a bottle of multivitamins makes everything OK, unlike some. Nor do I believe that a 500ml bottle of Volvic and an extra layer of Clinique will offset two bottles of Pinot, unlike some. I avoid sugary stuff, except for chocolate. I eat porridge, even on hangover days. I drink lots of water, obviously, and I put olive oil on everything. Fish is my main source of protein, I don’t put salt on anything… and I’d rather go hungry than eat fast food.’
(‘The Beauty of Food’ Elle UK April 2010)
I was convinced. All I needed now was to get my ass in gear. This was going to change me. It was May. I moved from my parents to a 7-bedroom Dundonian flat and started learning to cook every meal myself. Encouraged by my new flatmates who were also into healthy eating, I began. In the beginning my food was very bland, I got bored of it easily and would often rely on flatmates cooking to get me through the day. Cooking this much didn’t come naturally and eating this healthily was alien. Sure, I didn’t lack healthy home-cooked meals growing up, but vegetables still didn’t really do it for me. My sister lent me a book called, ‘Super Skin: Natural Ways to Super Healthy Skin‘ by Kathryn Marsden. I would recommend this for anyone starting out on the healthy eating journey, especially if you are trying to clear up acne. We were attached at the hip, I took this book on grocery shops- buying whatever Kathryn told me to.
I finished Uni, moved home and due to a couple of reasons I quickly fell back to bad habits. Don’t get me wrong, my diet was by no means perfect in Dundee but I do remember it escalating quickly in the wrong direction once I’d moved away. One of the reasons I believe this happened, was the fact I was no longer surrounded by people who shared my diet. I cannot stress this enough- when it comes to staying on track, find people who you can do it with, who inspire you to keep going. I also believe that being back in the home environment made me stray. Let me explain… When I would go grocery shopping in Dundee, I would often COMPLETELY avoid the cake aisle, the bakery section, the sweets. It was as if they didn’t exist. Being back home, I was surrounded again by those old smells, the old habits. The kitchen would smell of cakes and pancakes, 4 o’clock swung round and there was a biscuit tin on the table and cups of tea were on the go. It was reminding me of my old ways. Habits die hard. Being surrounded by that is difficult to resist for the strongest of people. Pile on a couple more reasons and I was back to the shop buying packets of biscuits, marshmallows, chocolate- just for an evening snack.
I moved again. I tried keeping track of my eating habits through the use of an app. I kept track but the results weren’t good. I guess I wasn’t trying to be good, I just wanted to see how bad it had gotten. After that I tried having a treat once a week. On Sunday I would allow myself a really chocolatey brownie, some cookies or some ice cream. This was successful to an extent, it was exciting looking forward to that treat every week knowing that I didn’t need to feel guilty, I’d earn’t it. Then I decided to give up what I call ‘obvious sugar’ full time. I tried it for six months or so to begin with and now I don’t intend to eat any more EVER. The term obvious sugar is fairly loose here, but it has helped me immensely. I’ve tried big unreasonable steps in the past, failed and backslid, so this one was the perfect fit for me. I’m not someone who can do moderation well so if this seems drastic, for me its not- its necessary. ‘Obvious Sugar’ then is all refined sugar: sweets, biscuits, cakes, ice cream. It’s a bit random, because I still eat honey and often eat croissants but I’ll check packets of savoury food for example, and won’t buy it if it has sugar. So I know I haven’t by any means cut out refined sugar completely (I still go to restaurants and don’t completely object to the menu) but for me its a really really good start and I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I have definitely reduced my sugar intake drastically.
So that’s pretty much where I’m up to now. It’s five years since this all began- I’m cooking everyday: reading, researching and recording my findings. My aim with this blog is to create health driven habits for myself that stick. There are so many ways of doing things that don’t capture me. I am out to find ones that I can’t take my eyes off. Yummy-Magnetic-Health-Habits-That-Make-You-DROOL. Sound good? You’re in the right place, I’m looking for that too.