It’s both a blessing and a curse in this crazy city that I feel like I’m constantly running from one thing to the next, and am so busy that I almost forget to eat. It’s exciting and exhilarating, but also exhausting. And while I’m so glad to be getting the most out of my Hong Kong expat experience, it means I often end up making bad food choices… like that 4pm chocolate bar, and the socialising over coffee and cake.
Despite being aware of this, when I’m tired and frazzled, it’s really hard to keep walking past Pierre Hermé (surely I deserve just one of those amazing macarons… or maybe two?), or turn down a cupcake. And just don’t get me started on afternoon tea! The problem is that the longer I’m here, the worse it gets. I’m becoming increasingly addicted to sugar.
So I’m trying to put a stop to it. Aside from the summer juice detox craze, there’s also the I Quit Sugar movement that has really sparked my interest.
Now, I’m not going to encourage anyone to do something as extreme as quitting sugar entirely… I mean, who has that kind of willpower? More to the point, who actually wants to live without chocolate, cake and desert buffets forever more? However, it seems timely at this hectic time of year – with the kids back to school, new activities, new friends and while starting to think about Christmas (I know, already?!) – to try to at least reign in the sugar cravings. As such, I’ve put together a list to help you (and me) to control a sweet tooth in this hedonistic city of temptation and prevent – or at least moderate – the sugar binges.
It’s 4pm and the coffee and cake is calling your name. How can you resist? You need to do something else. As crazy as it sounds, try exercise. Of course, you might not have the time to go for an entire yoga or spin class, a brisk walk around the block (perhaps to check out that cute dress you’ve been meaning to try on at Ted Baker) will do the trick.
You manage to procrastinate at your desk when faced with a stack of emails, so why not apply that skill when you start thinking about chocolate? Instead of hitting Sift every day, walk to the shops instead; drink some water and eat a piece of fruit on your way. By the time you get back to your desk, your cravings should have passed.
Indulge in something harmless. It may sound boring to have herbal tea instead of a Java Chip Frappuccino, but try a new and interesting variety. Go for something fancy and expensive and it will seem all the more like an indulgence. For example, I find any tea with licorice to be really sweet, and surprisingly satisfying. Add cinnamon instead of sugar to your coffee for a spicy kick. Alternatively, substitute with a food that satiates your appetite like oranges, apples or a hard-boiled egg. Once you’ve consumed the substitute, ask yourself if you still really feel like sugar or whether it’s just a habit.
It’s no good trying to go without your usual afternoon treat if you’ve barely eaten all day. It’s old advice, but it’s true – have a healthy breakfast and a high-protein lunch (for example a tuna salad or lentil soup) and you will feel full for longer. It’s much easier to make healthy decisions in the morning when you are less stressed and tired than after an afternoon of boring meetings, so aim to eat well throughout the day, and make that sugary snack unnecessary.
Identify your triggers (and avoid them!)
Until recently, I was doing pretty well in the evenings, enjoying a cup of herbal tea, berries and yogurt for dessert. That was until my dear brother brought me a family-sized tin of Milo from Australia, reinstating my after-dinner sugar binge with a vengeance! From one big cup on the first night, I was drinking 2-3 within a week. When the tin ran out, I found myself polishing off at least half a packet of biscuits each night plus whatever else I could find!
The key here is breaking the habit; I habitually eat sugar after dinner when watching TV. So I needed to identify that trigger and then avoid it. Reading The Power of Habit helped me to break my nightly glass (or two, or three) of Pinot Grigio habit some time ago. I’d put the baby to bed, start to cook dinner (my trigger) and open a bottle. Now I think my trigger is quite similar – I sit down at the end of the day to watch TV, and feel I deserve a treat. So all I need to do is avoid the trigger (and perhaps go for a 10 minute walk around the block instead) and then I can avoid the habit.
Sometimes, give in… just a little!
None of us are perfect, and sometimes – regardless of how much sleep good food, exercise and pints of herbal tea consumed – all you want is a giant Mars Bar. If nothing else will do, then it’s ok to occasionally treat yourself. However, instead of getting a super-size caramel latte and a whole afternoon tea set, go for a small coffee and split a cupcake with a friend. Alternatively, opt for a small piece of dark chocolate rather than the whole chocolate bar. Don’t think: “Since I’m having the burger, I may as well have the fries”! Opt for the burger with a salad and dressing on the side instead. (There are more tips on mindful eating in French Women Don’t Get Fat – the original book that sparked the trend for all things French). When you do indulge your craving, actually enjoy it! Eat mindfully and be satisfied, but don’t feel guilty because a occasional indulgence is not going to cause a bigger dress size!
Main image sourced via shutterstock
Ironman, multiple marathoner, corporate lawyer, and mum of one, Jane grew up in a small coastal town in Australia. Not ever wanting to be too far from a beach, she recently moved south to Hong Kong after a 2-year stint in Shanghai. When she’s not running – either round and round a track or after a toddler – Jane studies Chinese, cooks for friends, and does crafts. She also blogs at Dim Sum and Long Runs. This year she plans to break 3 hours in the marathon, and to finally finish the quilt that she started for her son’s first Christmas…