I’m taking a pause this February to challenge myself and support Australia’s youth.
I’m giving up alcohol and sugar for the month of February. This will not only help raise funds for disadvantaged young people in Australia, but will also help me get a healthier start to the new year.
I’ll keep this post up-to-date with my FebFast progress over the month.
FebFast funds youth workers who connect with young people experiencing disadvantage and ultimately help them stand on their own two feet. A most worthy cause.
Thanks in advance for supporting my FebFast challenge.
Day 1 review – Hide the chocolate
The first day of FebFast was not without challenges.On waking my first task was to label a container of Malteasers with a message for my husband to hide them. He dutifully hid them in his stomach for me.
I had to do a mental-check that my pre-prepared lunch did not have any sugar added to it (luckily I don’t usually add sugar or use a lot of pre-made sauce).At work, I put a post-it note to remind me not to eat the chocolate in a colleagues draw. Politely refused chocolates and politely accepted some sugar-free muffin.
Then it dawned on me, in the afternoon, that it was Friday. And Friday has a Friday night. What on earth would one do on a Friday night without something to drink of the alcoholic kind. So I cooked my healthy sugar-free dinner of lamb and stir-fry followed it up with a mineral water with a squeeze of lime.
Before going to bed I weighed myself and measured my waistline, to get a baseline for potential progress through the month. And this morning I took a ‘before’ photo. The hope is that at the end of the month I not only feel better, but maybe I’ll have some visible effects.
Clearly after one day I’m not going to feel much different. But I do feel hyper-aware of what I am consuming and have started checking labels. Not a bad thing I guess.Day 1 down, 27 to go.
P.S. I woke up in the middle of the night to use the facilities. I did not have a midnight snack which is a miracle given even sleepy me knows that here is still ice-cream in the freezer. Proud.
Day 2 review – Sweet dreams
First night of weird dreams about accidentally consuming alcohol or sweet stuff. Just dreams, but I am very conscious of checking the labels of everything I eat.
Also realised that a good side effect of the no sugar thing is that take-away is really not an option. So many things have added sugar, so it’s easier to make my own food.
Downside of no sugar, when you have a sore throat and you can’t take your usual cough syrup, because syrup = sugar.
No headaches or other side-effects yet.
Day 3 review – Wine would be nice
Not really craving sugar, but it is making snacking problematic. Thinking creatively I made a banana chia pudding.
A glass of wine would be nice, but it helps that I am sick with a really sore throat. A friend suggested that my cold may be triggered by restricting sugar and alcohol. Interesting theory.
Day 4 review – (Reading) Hungover
Being sick is kind of helping because I’m stuck in bed and not really thinking much about eating and certainly not drinking. Although some cough syrup would be nice (sugar sugar sugar). Started reading Hungover by Shaughnessy Bishop-Stall. A Christmas gift, a really good read, and I am told, not a hint. Florid prose about frequent hangover pains and misadventures really adds to the motivation. Some of it is so descriptive I feel hungover reading it (or maybe that is just being sick).
Day 5 – The headaches begin
On the afternoon of Day 5 I get my first headache. It took a while to kick in. Or maybe I didn’t notice them among the symptoms of my fading cold. There was an interesting discussion around whether taking two paracetamol was a better or worse option than having an apple to stop the headache. The decision was, I didn’t actually feel like anything sugary, and didn’t feel like I was suffering from low blood-sugar, so paracetamol it was.
Day 6 – Pizza resistance
I am noticing I am less hungry, which can only be a good thing. I haven’t been ordering take away or eating out at all because it’s too difficult to tell what they have added sugar to (and usually too frustrating to ask). Tonight, my husband ordered pizza for dinner, my favourite pizza. It was a struggle. I said no. I internalised. I could smell the pizza. I thought of all the sugar that was probably in the sauce (and how generally bad it was). I did not eat pizza. I woke up in the middle of the night. Passed the fridge on the usual middle of the night path and thought about the pizza. I considered eating the pizza. One slice, what’s the harm. I did not eat the pizza. It’s the principle.
Day 7 – Team check in
A week in to FebFast and I thought it was a good time to check in with the team. We are sharing not just our fasts, but also in the challenges and positive results of pausing for a cause.
Team NEXTDC has been pausing on various vices such as alcohol, sugar and cigarettes. All to raise funds for disadvantaged youth, a worthy cause, with the added bonus of improving their own health and wellbeing. Both of these are at the heart of NEXTDCs culture and values.
The 7 day mark was passed yesterday, week 1 down, so as a group we shared our challenges so far and the positive impact we have been noticing.
Many have encountered some literal headaches in the first few days. Most have struggled with the simple annoyances of having to abstain, missing the habit itself. Some are starting to notice, that breaking a habit is not easy
“I feel like I have become some sort of person with a contagious disease, when I am out to dinner and I tell people I’m not drinking, the weird looks and questions that come with that statement”
“I feel ‘slow’. Like I’m not on the ball. And that’s tricky cause I have a lot of work to do.”
“missing that glass of wine when cooking dinner”
“When stressed, not being able to have that “stress” cigarette.”
Despite the early, and continued challenges, everyone is starting to notice positive changes in their health and behaviour, even after one week in.
“I have lost 1.5kg and my energy levels seem to be a lot better, plus I am sleeping better”
“I can run further and faster – without coughing… Everything tastes better!”
“Drinking the recommended amount of water per day”
“despite the residual headaches I am actually feeling a lot more energetic and less hungry”
“If it were easy or fun then it wouldn’t be a challenge worth doing!”
21 days to go.
Thanks to Bec H, Ben, Fiona and Kristian for contributing quotes for this update.
Day 8 – Avoidance
Feeling much more energetic and much clearer. It’s even easier to wake up in the morning.
Late lunch for me, due to avoiding the office lunch which might usually be considered healthy (pita bread rolls) but I knew contained sugar, because I checked the website. Also feeling a bit of self-pity of not being able to share in some amazing looking home-made ricotta cake. Home-made anything is a weakness of mine.
I hit the wall in the afternoon and would normally have solved it with a sneaky sugar hit. Instead I powered through it with some mint tea and music.
It really does change the dimension of a Friday night when you aren’t drinking. I did have the option to go out, but chose not to as I didn’t feel much like hanging out with a bunch of drunk people, while sober. In the past I have found the social aspect of drinking alcohol to be one of the hardest, explicit and implicit peer pressure.
Also made an interesting observation in my own writing. I write ‘drinking’. I am not taking a break from ‘drinking’ but I guess alcohol consumption is so ubiquitous that you don’t even need to qualify that it is alcohol when you say ‘I’m not drinking’.
Home made steak sandwiches and Netflix, a pretty satisfying Friday night.
Day 9 – Reading all the labels
Saturday is my food shopping day. Armed with my list, a podcast and my coffee I make my usual way through the aisles.
Every single packet of anything I pick up, I’m checking the ingredients list. Even things I regularly buy that I am sure have no added sugar, I’m checking just in case. Most things were okay, from prior experience I tend to avoid things with unnecessary added sugar. I rush through the confectionery aisle smelling the sugar as I go (not sure if I can actually smell it or if it’s just in my head). I pick up some extra sugar-free snacks to supplement snack cravings (popcorn, organic corn chips). Cured meats are off the list, no surprise really because I know they have sugar, but I was kind of hoping maybe there’d be a stray one without. Also learned that a lot of cured meats have alcohol added. Suppose adherence to that would depend on how strict you want to be.
Lesson: Reading the labels is a good activity in any case. I noted, and chose not to buy, a lot of things which had additives such as preservatives that I might have otherwise purchased.
Side note: received some good advice today regarding ‘not drinking’. Instead of saying ‘I’m not drinking’ just say ‘no thanks’ or ‘I’m right’. Or even better have a drink on hand (like a soda water) that could appear alcoholic. A way to avoid having to explain yourself, because if you aren’t drinking alcohol it requires explanation.
Day 10 – The cravings are real
Sunday afternoon and the cravings were real. No Sunday afternoon drinks. No sweet treats for me. Not much to be done for craving a glass of wine, just power through and drink heaps of water. But I am able to satisfy my sugar craving with some banana and cashew butter on toast.
Maybe Sunday was harder because I’m home and there is more sweet stuff available and certainly more alcohol on hand than when I am in the office.
Day 11 – (Reading) The Clever Guts Diet
I finished the Hangover book (recommended read) so in keeping with my FebFast reading I have moved on to The Clever Guts Diet by Dr Michael Mosley. I’m fortunate to have seen Dr Mosely present live twice. The first time through TEDxMelbourne when I actually got to meet him, get a photo, and he signed my copy of The Blood Sugar Diet. Most recently I saw him at a local Dymocks event where he was promoting his latest book. I like the idea of a science based approach to food health and looking forward to getting some practical advice from this one. Reading about the digestive system is also an excellent distraction from food cravings.
Day 12 – 3:30-itis
3:30-itis is real, as are my continued cravings for things I am fasting from. In the afternoon I really really really wanted chocolate. I think this was a result of a caffeine come down. I have been being extra good and not eating take-out. I’m trying to avoid even the smallest amounts of refined sugar where possible. All I have really wanted in the last few days is just to order some take-away. Nothing in particular, just something that I didn’t have to cook myself. In looking for some positives, I do feel better for this. I feel less heavy in the gut area and certainly have not suffered from any hangovers. I’m hoping I can set myself up to drink less and eat less sugar going forward for general health.
Day 13 – Events are hard, really hard
My first event for FebFast. It was a tough day. I didn’t really plan food or bring healthy snacks because I was so focussed on my tasks (chairing and presenting).
The options for food were not necessarily unhealthy, but I could not guarantee that refined sugars had not been added to things (like wraps and pies). So I subsisted for the day on a small fruit salad, a coffee and some complimentary kombucha. By the end of the day I was exhausted. not quite sure how much of that exhaustion can be attributed to not eating and how much can be put down to nerves and adrenaline.
On the bright side, my exhaustion made it very easy to skip the networking event where I would be confronted by my favourite thing… an open bar. Instead I went home and had a high carb dinner before and early bedtime.
Day 14 – Half way and V Day
We don’t care too much about Valentine’s day in our house, but it has traditionally been a great reason to go out for a nice meal and a lot of red wine. Oh, and let’s not forget dessert. That makes it a tough half-way point for FebFast.
Today has not been too bad though. I think a busy day of appointments and work kept cravings at bay. I replaced our dinner out with steak and roasted vegetables. I used a variety of vegetables from all available colours inspired by The Clever Guts Diet (not finished reading yet, but already picking up great advice).
14 days to go.
Day 15 – Fridays are tough
What is it about Friday? 5 days of a working week. The day before the first day of the weekend.
The last few hours of a Friday at work are tough for sugar cravings. Which is surely just habit at this point. I solved my Friday afternoon sugar craving with an apple to get me through the last hour or so of work.
Then there’s Friday night drinks. Last Friday I skipped a social event to avoid being around the drinkers. This Friday I thought I would stop in at our local and enjoy a soda water.
I arrive, greeting by the regular crowd and their smiling faces, confronted by beers and Haigh’s chocolate.
I stayed for one soda water and then left. My husband may be right, sober me is boring wink.
Day 16 – Saturday out with the girls
I thought this day would be the most difficult. A day out with my girlfriends including lunch, 2 theatre shows and dinner. The normal run of events would be drinks with lunch, drinks at the theatre and drinks at dinner. Of course the theatre requires malteasers.
None of that today though. Water with lunch, a sugar free slurpie at the theatre (gross by the way) and Virgin Mary at dinner. The Virgin Mary was actually good and a nice way to counter-balance the lack of alcohol.
It also helps, as it seems, to have supportive friends. Not being pressured to drink makes a big difference. If your friends are great and they understand your goals then success is an easier goal in any situation.
Day 17 – Time out pass
It feels like cheating, taking a Time Out pass after 16 days of sobriety and no sugar. But this is what FebFast has the passes for.
My husband bought me a pass so I could actively participate in a Sake accreditation course we had enrolled in (and I had not considered when signing up for FebFast), followed by dinner at a Japanese restaurant to test our skills.
The first drink felt strange and wrong. Luckily there were spitoons on hand (the point being to learn, not get drunk). On speaking to the instructor, apparantly going into class not having had alcohol or sugar for 16 days is a good thing. Having a clear palatte to be able to taste and understand the sake.
The drink certainly hit me quickly, so I paced, I watered and I used the spitoon. Doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of the drinking thing.
After class we went to the Japanese restaurant and had a few more to apply our new Sake knowledge.
The next day? Felt awful and had a lovely headache. My reward for the timeout pass, and perhaps not as much water drinking and spitoon using as I should have.
I don’t regret taking the class, but it did put a damper on the achievement of 16 days of FebFasting. The Time Out Pass is paid for, so it’s still all for a good cause, but I am not sure if my liver would agree.
Day 18 – The morning after
Some regrets from my Time Out Pass day. Headache and general gross feelings from yesterday’s drinking, and probably from the sugars included in the day.
Certainly gives me something to think about in terms of what happens on March 1, and how I approach alcohol and sugar going forward.
Day 19 – Training day
It’s funny the things that make you miss snacks. Training days apparently make me miss snacks. Sitting all day in a training course had a doubling effect I think.
The first being the memory of all of the training and workshop snacks that have adorned tables in the past. The second being, the brain power that a training day uses up, and the temptation that sweet snacks can play.
No sweet snacks for me today. Luckily there are plently of sugar free options for training day snacking.
Day 20 – The trouble with travel
Had I considered all of the things I would be doing in February, I may not have done FebFast. Lucky I didn’t think about it.
Travelling is a big time for alcohol and sugar consumption. Whether it’s work or personal, alcohol is part of the equation and eating well becomes a challenge (or at least easy to ignore).
My first encounter was on the plane to Brisbane. Would I like the apple snacks or the health treat ball? Well, I’d already had an apple at the airport so I chose the treat ball without a thought. And then, I checked the ingredients.
It probably wasn’t the worst, but there was added sugar in that sucker. I am glad I checked BEFORE I opened it. So into my bad it went (and to a grateful colleague).
I’m away for 3 days, hotel alone, team get together, airport lounge. This will be a challenging week.
Day 21 – Dinner, no drinks
Joined my team for celebratory dinner / drinks for a project that most had been instrumental in delivering. Another one of those situations where drinking is a social norm, so not drinking felt a bit awkward.
Fortunately, the team knew I was FebFasting, so no pressure. As long as I had a soda water in hand it didn’t feel so weird.
Eating out on a sugar-free diet has been a bit of an educated guessing game. There were lots of options to choose from, and it has become an exercise of choosing the things that are most unlikely to have sugar added to them. I think I am getting the hang of it.
Day 22 – Lounge lizard
Yes I am a fan of the airport lounge. If you’re able to get access, why not. More space, comfort, food and of course… drinks.
This is the first time I’ve spent a Friday night in an airport lounge without a glass of wine to accompany my toasted cheese sandwich. I mean it’s there, it’s free and if it’s Friday night and I’m in an airport why not.
Helped along by some good company it wasn’t really that much of a struggle not to have one. Just felt weird to not partake. Another example of an alcohol driven habit.
Day 23-26 – Sick in bed
One way (although not guaranteed) to keep away from alcohol is to get sick and be stuck in bed. Certainly don’t feel like drinking. But some comfort food and a sweet treat would be nice.