My sugar detox journal – confession time! What’s your WHY?

I never remember very clearly how it starts – it always seems a bit blurry.  

But then I find myself finishing an entire piece of the most delicious, moist carrot cake on a Sunday morning.  How did this happen…?  How is it possible to go from super motivated and focused, to stuffing my face with my all too familiar drug of choice – SUGAR?

I can tell you how it happens…

I will have an emotionally down day or moment –  and then I go to that familiar mind-set:

“Sugar will definitely help me to feel better, it will give me energy and that feel good factor that I desperately need (and feel I deserve) RIGHT NOW.”

Then I give in to a biscuit with my coffee, have one of my toddler’s sweet treats… and its like a slippery slope down hill (ok it’s not THAT bad, but you get what I am saying…).

Next thing I think to myself, well you have given in so you might as well have a couple of biscuits, or a piece or 2 milk tart (this was yesterday) and carrot cake…(today)…?

And the next thought…. Tomorrow is Monday and it’s basically the beginning of a new month… perhaps this time I will kick the habit and a few kg’s before summer…?

BUT I HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE… And there’s no time for denial anymore – I am just too SICK of it.  Time to get REAL people!!!! O.k… I am trying really hard to motivate myself…

Human willpower (for most of us) just freaking fails us time and time again.  It’s the reason why new years resolutions are mostly a waste of time… and the: I will start on Monday… or next month or whatever…

So WHAT NOW???  I so desperately want to live healthier – and for me right now – this means cutting out the white stuff.  And the white floury stuff.

I heard a talk the other day… she said you need to 1st OF ALL – FIGURE OUT YOUR WHY.

Your WHY needs to be important enough to carry you through those familiar moments where you typically give in.

MY WHY?   I want to do what I can to not get sick.  I want to feel less achy, less moody, less tired and totally be there for my hubby and busy toddler.  And perhaps most of all right now – I am searching for a holistic, sustainable lifestyle cure for insomnia & anxiety.

What is you why?

Love Helene x x x

My sugar detox journal…hidden sugars to watch out for!

I finished my 21 days of trying my best to go off sugar.

HiddenSugarInfographicAlthough I am happy with my progress,  I am not entirely happy with how the 21 days went.

Why?

  1.  I had about 4 “cheat” days
  2. I didn’t cut out ALL sugar (for example: Honey, fruit and certain refined carbs)
  3. I don’t think I experienced the FULL BENEFIT of really detoxing from sugar… And this is what I am after – really getting to that point of moving beyond the withdrawal and cravings and starting to experience all the benefits.  Like…. better and a more stable mood, better sleep, clarity of mind, more energy and some weight loss.

So… What I am going to try to do over the next 21 days is to:

  1. Consistently cut out all forms of sugar (Including honey, fruit and hidden sugar in snacks – see this cool picture to the left…)
  2. Lower my overall carb intake (Mostly for me:  Bread; rusks; wraps; rice; potatoes; pasta; pizza)
  3. Decrease my caffeine intake to 2 cups max per day – mostly to help with the anxiety and insomnia.
  4. Trying not to get too ravenous (this is when I make my poorest food choices) – so filling my tummy with good stuff whenever I am hungry.

Here is a great list of all those other names under which sugar hides in foods:

According to the USDA and other sources, alternative sugar ingredients or names to watch out for when reading labels include:

There also “healthier” sugars, including coconut palm sugar, honey and blackstrap molasses. Generally since these are far less processed (especially real, raw honey), they are OK in moderation but still a source of sugar to keep to small amounts.

So today is another day 1 for me… wish me luck!

Love Helene x x x

What the sugar?? My sugar detox journal…

I am doing a sugar detox for 21 days. I am currently on day 6.

Why I decided to do a sugar detox? I feel that I have become addicted to sugar and that it was starting to affect my mood in a negative way. It is a personal mission of mine to achieve mental wellness, and I know its up to me to make it happen. About 6 months ago I started suffering from insomnia and this has seriously spurred me on to do everything I possibly can to start sleeping better again… Sugar potentially being one of the aspects that can affect your sleep negatively.

SugarWithdrawl_Graphic_1-768x3464
So the insomnia and mood issues are my main reasons for going on this sugar detox. (To be perfectly honest, other reasons for me include potential weight loss and the prevention of diseases.)
What a sugar detox looks like for me? A book that has helped me a lot is “I quit sugar” from Sarah Wilson. But there are many many books. So for me it basically means cutting out ALL sugar. A quick list would be : Actual sugar (brown, white) ; honey; any foods or sauces with lots of sugar added (check labels)and fruit (actual fruit, juices, dried). I am not cutting out all carbs – I have decided to make this about SUGAR.
How am I feeling? I felt perfectly fine for the 1st 2 days. On day 3 I started really craving and missing my sugar fix (usually cake/chocolate/sweets). On day 4 I started struggling emotionally and day 5 I felt completely depressed and tearful. I wondered whether this could be a detox symptom and found out that it absolutely can be…(have a look at this link.)

The start is always the HARDEST. But I have found that once you get started it gets easier.

It’s almost like you need to learn how to trust yourself again too. Trusting yourself that you will honour a decision that you make to commit to something. Even if no one else is checking up on you.

Day 6: Yesterday we celebrated my bother’s 46th birthday and since his wife always bakes with zero sugar I thought the birthday cake was a gluten and sugar-free version. After this 1st couple of bites I realised that it wasnt this time 😉

For a moment I felt like I was a failure and had to start all over again.

Then I decided to be kind to myself. So I am adding an extra day to my 21 days and today I am continuing as normal despite my little “glitch”.

People trying to eat healthier can often be so hard on themselves for having a weak moment – that weak moment then becomes a weak month of year… These type of negative emotions and guilt just never serve you.

So currently I am still on day 6 and so far so good. I had a scone this morning with butter and cream (no jam) and coffee without sugar. Also had a seed cracker with sugar-free peanut butter. And I am feeling a lot better today in terms of my mood…

I will do another post in 1 week!!! I will write about which sugar alternatives are BAD and which ones are OK. I personally like Xylitol… And of course an update of how it’s going with my detox…

Why not join me?

Love Helene xxx

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All of this unpacking is getting me nowhere…

“I got hijacked at gun point infront of the psychologist’s practise at her house in Cape Town…”

The journey of mental and emotional wellness looks different for every single person…

For the past 8 years or so I have been struggling on and off with bouts of anxiety and depression which was mainly linked to certain significant life events/experiences (Situational depression/anxiety).

The 1st time I went to see a psychiatrist almost 8 years ago, she “diagnosed” me with an anxiety disorder and gave me a script for an anti-depressant – that’s it.

I spilled out my heart to her for an hour – about how I was starting to feel generally down, almost like I was looking for more meaning in life and starting to struggle with regrets and my current work and relationship situation. I was hoping for some advice, some tips… but no – just a piece of paper and off you go.

That’s where my love hate relationship with the world of psychology and psychiatry started.

After the psychiatrist visit, I tried out about 3 different psychologists – to talk it out. They call it talk therapy – and together with exercise, taking your medication (if you are on any) it was supposed to be the best way to manage anxiety/depression.

Well, psychologist number 1 kept on referring to her text books and showing me diagrams of how my parents kept me under their protective wings for too long and how that has affected me negatively.
…A lot of talking and getting nowhere.

Psychologist number 2 – I rocked up at her house in Mowbray and got hijacked in front of her house leaving me standing on the side-walk after having been robbed of all my belongings including my car at gun point.

…Funny thing is – she seemed rather calm and not too shocked about the incident – and I decided NOT to start a relationship with her – go figure?!

Psychologist number 3 – I had high hopes. She seemed like a nice enough soft-spoken afrikaans lady. Sympathetic eyes. I gave her 5 sessions. Did it help me – no. We unpacked and unpacked and unpacked (my past life) until it felt as if all my “clothes” were strewn across the floor – all “deurmekaar” – and I felt worse and couldn’t make sense of anything.

Everytime I asked her, so WHAT CAN I DO NOW TO MAKE THINGS BETTER, what kind of action plan can I take going FORWARD, like practical LIFE SKILLS… – she seemed a bit confused and unable to answer me. The last straw was the day I left ALOT more depressed than I was before the session. I actually let her know afterwards and she was oddly unsympathetic and too professional.

Since then I havent been to any psychologist purely because out of my experience I have come to the conclusion (for ME) that seeing a psychologist is a lot of money and a lot of talking and digging into your past (and yes getting some form of insight) – BUT getting you NO WHERE. But I am sure there are psychologists out there who have adopted a more practical approach, and I also have a lot of time for experienced life coaches.

I really want to help people in the future who struggle with similar issues like I do, especially new moms – I really want to help people overcome and live a better quality life. I want to empower women of all ages as well as teenage girls and give them hope at a point where they might feel hopeless. I want to help them to start believing the TRUTH about themselves and reject the lies that they have been believing about their identity.

I am trusting God to show me how and when I can start helping others on this journey of mental health. I have decided to not push it and to rather just open myself up to opportunities and open doors and trust that things will fall into place in time. Perhaps do some further studying, although I doubt that the formal route of Psychology is the answer for me…

For now, I am still learing every day. I get up every morning and realise it is something I have to manage actively (more so on some days than others).

For me what works currently is a combination of watching what I eat (more on this in my next blog), exercising, trying to do things that I like (aka “self-care”) and most of all watching what I am thinking about.

What is very important to me is to try to walk closely with God every moment of every day. To incorporate prayer into my daily life. To ask Him for guidance, grace, favour and strength for every moment. To help me to live mindfully in the moment, to be grateful, to love, have mercy and grace for myself and others, to forgive easily…

Chat soon, love Helene xxx

Could wheat & sugar be the root cause of your eczema?

Hi everyone!  I hope you are keeping warm in this icy cold weather!  You might be experiencing some skin issues often associated with cold weather – skin can become dry, sensitive and flaky.  In Part 1 & 2 I discussed how sugar and wheat could contribute to skin ageing and acne.  Today in my final part on How what you eat affects your skin, I cover a common skin concern which also often flairs up during cold winter months:

ECZEMA

Dermatologist Dr. Satish Bhatia states that the consumption of excess sugar is bad for the skin. “Increased sugar levels can cause a build-up in the liver or colon giving rise to the majority of fungal infections and eczema.”

Livestrong.com states:  There’s one food that all eczema sufferers should try to limit. Sugar, especially in its more refined form, may be the common culprit behind many inflammatory conditions. When we consume foods that are high in sugar, our body releases insulin. Harmful free radicals are released along with the insulin hormone and then have the potential to damage our cells. This damage promotes an inflammation response as our immune system attempts to fight the free radicals.

Many people who have eczema have food allergies, so eating a healthy diet may help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions. Eat fewer refined foods, and sugar. These foods contribute to inflammation in the body. Source: Eczema | University of Maryland Medical Center

Food allergies associated with eczema are typically: Dairy products, Eggs, Nuts and seeds, Soy products, Wheat

Have a look at my previous blog for some tips on treating sensitive/eczema skin and how your mind and stress levels might be causing and/or aggravating this skin condition.

Another interesting read… US News – Health News: Healing your skin with your mind – The solution to your skin issues, from eczema to psoriasis, could be in your head.

Short term solution: Try and get to your dermatologist for a short term solution in the form of medication (internal or topical). STOP using any active cosmetics e.g. products containing VIT A/FRUIT ACIDS/High concentrations of anti-oxidants etc. Rather get yourself a cleanser and moisturiser for very sensitive skin conditions. I like Bioderma’s Sensibio range. Uriage also has products for sensitive and irritated skin.

I have tried these products…

Bioderma (Available at Dischem and online at Dermastore):

Soothing, Purifying Cleansing Gel R189.95

2015-05-16 15.53.26I like the fact that this cleansing gel foams up and gently and effectively removes all my make-up (including eye make-up). I can highly recommend it to anyone with sensitivity and combination to oily skin.

Water Cleanser R179.95

h2o_250This is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITES.  The best eye make-up remover around and a great way to remove heavy make-up before your second cleanse.  I can highly recommend this product to anyone!

Cream R189.95

ds_creme_1

This day/night cream has a light cream/gel consistency.  I have an oily skin and still found it a bit too light for me.  It felt as if my skin being so irritated and flaky needed something with more moisture.  I will recommend this to anyone with sensitive and very oily skin or men who prefer a very light texture.

SkinMedica (available at Skin Renewal branches and other medical practises nationwide):

Redness Relief CalmPlex

skinmedica-redness-relief-calmplexThis is a product I thought I would personally never have to use.  Well, in skincare emergencies like I’m having you will try anything.  The cream has a rich texture and causes tingling upon application due to the active ingredients.  Although it has a heavy texture, it didn’t make my oily skin more oily and I actually enjoyed the comfort of cream.  This is a pricy product, but I can recommend this to anyone with red and sensitive skin conditions.

I wish you beautiful and healthy skin!

Chat soon

Helene x x x

Does what you eat affect your skin? Part 2 (Acne)

Hello again!  In part 1 of “Does what you eat affect your skin”- I discussed sugar, wheat and how these could potentially cause a lot of damage showing up as skin ageing – all the things that we DON’T want to see when we look in the mirror!  Today I am going to share with you how what you eat can also potentially lead to a common skin problem even in adults…

ACNE

4687180430_c3ff93615c3Sugar consumption can also affect acne. When our blood sugar and insulin levels rise, whether from a poor diet or from stress, we experience a serious increase in inflammatory chemicals at a cellular level. This causes inflammatory diseases such as acne to worsen dramatically. Cortisol and other adrenal steroids can act as androgens (male hormones) and stimulate the sebaceous (oil) glands resulting in a flare-up of acne.

Dr. William Davis states in his book Wheat Belly:wheatbelly-book320

Evidence suggests that it is not a genetic issue, but one of diet. Cultures that rely only on foods provided by their unique location and climate allow us to observe the effects of foods added or subtracted to the diet. Acne-free populations such as the Kitavans of New Guinea exist on a hunter-gatherer diet of vegetables, fruits, tubers, coconuts and fish. Japanese Okinawans, probably the most long-lived group on planet earth, until the 1980’s consumed a diet rich in an incredible array of vegetables, sweet potatoes, soya, pork and fish; acne was virtually unknown among them.

Cultures without acne consume little to no wheat, sugar or dairy products. As Western influence introduced processed starches such as wheat and sugars into groups such as the Okinawans, Inuits and Zulus, acne promptly followed. In other words, acne-free cultures had no special genetic protection from acne, but simply followed a diet that lacked the foods that provoke the condition. Introduce wheat, sugar and dairy products, and Clearasil sales go through the roof.

More recently, studies have once again pointed at carbohydrates as the trigger of acne formation, working their acne promoting effect via increased levels of insulin.

Woman with PCOS, who demonstrate exaggerated insulin responses and higher blood sugars, are strikingly prone to acne.

Insulin levels are highest after carbohydrates are consumed; the higher the glycemic index of the consumed carb, the more insulin is released by the pancreas.

There is so much more that I can say about adult acne and breakouts.  I will leave this for a future blog, but I would still like to end of with a couple of tips and a few of my personal favourite products to treat acne.

1.  Look out for products that are specifically designed for the oily and acne skin.  They should include ingredients like Salicylic Acid; Vitamin A; Benzoyl Peroxide and other purifying ingredients.

2.  Always ensure that you cleanse your skin thoroughly with an effective yet gentle cleanser – not the cheap & nasty products that will just dehydrate your skin making it look and feel even worse.

3.  Next, I would strongly advise you to LEAVE YOUR SKIN ALONE!  The more you touch and pick at your skin, the more infection spreads worsening the condition.  Use a spot treatment for those stubborn spots as well as a treatment product specifically for oiliness/acne underneath an oil-free moisturizer and sunblock.  I will write about all of these products in blogs to come – for now here are a couple of cleansers I have recently tried for oily and blemish prone skin:

2015-06-01 16.44.20Bioderma Sebium H2O R159.95and Sebium Foaming Gel – R169.95

What I like about the Bioderma Sebium H2O cleanser is that it has all the great properties of their legendary Sensibio H2O cleanser with added benefits for oily skin. It still gently removes all make up while purifying and regulating excess oil on the combination and oily skin type.

The Foaming Gel is as good as any good quality gel cleanser for combination, oily and acne skin.  It doesn’t foam up as much as I would like it to, but that’s just me.  Hubby loves this one!

2015-06-01 16.43.10Neostrata Clarifying Facial Cleanser – R419

This gel cleanser contains all the active ingredients to purify your oily skin and fight those breakout causing bacteria.  Added bonus is that a little goes a long way and it foams up gloriously – Yay!

Eucerin DermoPurifyer Cleanser – R79.95

Good value for money foaming gel cleanser for oily skin types.  I finished this one a while ago – therefore no picture!  Great for me and hubby – the type of cleanser you can leave in the shower and not skimp too much on using because of the good value.

Skinceuticals Blemish & Age Cleansing Gel – R832

blemish_cleansing_gel_retail-500x500I haven’t personally owned one of these – but have used it in professional Skinceuticals treatments as well as having received feedback from clients using it at home.  This cleanser perfectly combines targeting two issues that many women struggle with – Ageing and Oily skin (Blemish prone/Acne prone).  For most women this is a real frustration, because there are plenty of products for either of the two concerns, but not many targeting both at the same time.  You only use a little bit at a time and it foams up beautifully giving you a thorough cleanse without stripping the skin. It is both exfoliating (fruit acids) and brightening.

A final word – have a look at this recent article published on US News – Health News: Healing your skin with your mind – The solution to your skin issues, from eczema to psoriasis, could be in your head.  This links up with my previous blog: Stress and your skin.

If you are struggling with one or more of these skin problems and have tried different treatments and/or products – maybe its time to think about how your mind and what you eat could be the root cause.

Love

Helene x x x

STRESS and your skin

My skin has never given me any serious issues.  I’ve always been of the opinion that I kind of like my oily skin type, oil tends to keep the skin looking younger and wrinkle free for longer! I have also made peace with my skin’s hormonal hyper-pigmentation that’s been around for the past 8 years as well as the oily skin & breakouts well into my 30’s. At least it has motivated me to know about everything there is to know re the treatment of hyperpigmentation and to have loads of sympathy and advise for friends and clients suffering from the same skin issues.

Recently my skin has started acting out – almost like a toddler throwing a tantrum – totally out of control and all over the place.

It all started with a innocent general increase in oily skin, then a bout of acne type breakouts and the final straw was yet to come…Eczema like patches around my eyes, upper cheeks and along my hairline appeared out of nowhere!  A couple of days ago these patches got hot and swollen and I am sure people thought either 1. I had some hectic treatment done to my face 2. I had a heavy night of indulging in wine or 3. I have been crying all night.

Well, none of the above applied to me and the state that my skin was in…  This led me to seriously consider how my internal emotional state as well as my eating habits (for a future blog) during the past couple of months could have potentially caused all of this.  I will share some of my thoughts and discoveries…

How your emotional state can wreak havoc on your skin…

One of the best books that I have read on understanding the mind-body-spirit connection is: “Deadly emotions” by Dr Don Colbert, MD.

Book

Bottom line:

“Medical research is showing more and more that there may be a mind-body connection to MOST diseases and ailments; not just a few.”

I loved what he says about emotions and the skin…

“I will never forget the words of one psychiatry professor in medical school.  He had previously been a dermatologist for a number of years and had treated countless psoriasis sufferers.  On one particular occasion I approached him and asked why he left the field of dermatology to study psychiatry.  He told me that his work as a dermatologist had led him to conclude that many individuals who were suffering with psoriasis and eczema were actually “weeping through their skin.” In other words, these people for one reason or another were unable to weep openly, even though they had experienced events that warranted a good cry.  They were releasing their sorrow through their skin, where it manifested itself in painful or irritating rashes.

Research has shown that outbreaks of psoriasis and eczema increase when a person is under stress.  Eczema has actually been called a “boiling” of the skin.  Stress worsens eczema.

If your body could talk, it no doubt would tell you through a skin disorder, “I can’t take any more of these stress-producing emotions”!”

I am not saying that skin conditions such as these can be attributed to only one’s emotional state – it is purely a contributing factor which also varies from person to person. But do ask yourself when you suffer from a bout of eczema, whether your stress levels have been higher than normal and/or whether you have experienced emotional trauma.  You might just find that they coincide.

THAT’S JUST GREAT – now I am stressed out and my skin is in a mess!!

Short term solution: Try and get to your dermatologist for a short term solution in the form of medication (internal or topical). STOP using any active cosmetics e.g. products containing VIT A/FRUIT ACIDS/High concentrations of anti-oxidants etc. Rather get yourself a cleanser and moisturiser for very sensitive skin conditions. I like Bioderma’s Sensibio range. Uriage also has products for sensitive and irritated skin.

I have tried these products…

Bioderma (Available at Dischem):

Soothing, Purifying Cleansing Gel R189.95

2015-05-16 15.53.26I like the fact that this cleansing gel foams up and gently and effectively removes all my make-up (including eye make-up). I can highly recommend it to anyone with sensitivity and combination to oily skin.

Water Cleanser R179.95

h2o_250This is one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITES.  The best eye make-up remover around and a great way to remove heavy make-up before your second cleanse.  I can highly recommend this product to anyone!

Cream R189.95

ds_creme_1

This day/night cream has a light cream/gel consistency.  I have an oily skin and still found it a bit too light for me.  It felt as if my skin being so irritated and flaky needed something with more moisture.  I will recommend this to anyone with sensitive and very oily skin or men who prefer a very light texture.

SkinMedica (available at Skin Renewal branches and other medical practises nationwide):

Redness Relief CalmPlex

skinmedica-redness-relief-calmplexThis is a product I thought I would personally never have to use.  Well, in skincare emergencies like I’m having you will try anything.  The cream has a rich texture and causes tingling upon application due to the active ingredients.  Although it has a heavy texture, it didn’t make my oily skin more oily and I actually enjoyed the comfort of cream.  This is a pricy product, but I can recommend this to anyone with red and sensitive skin conditions.

Long term solution:  Dr Colbert writes that we can actually get addicted to stress hormones like adrenaline and the “high” that it creates. Those addicted to stress hormones will constantly push themselves and chase different things to get that temporary emotional high. Being in an almost constant stressed state, reaks havoc on your body and can result in burnout. His advice is to stop and think for a moment what it is that you really desire in life and to start focusing on these things like: Peace of mind; joyful, simple pleasures; time with friends and loving family relationships and good health.

I am not a qualified life coach or psychologist, I do know that I do not want to wait until it’s too late in more ways than just the condition of my skin. I try to make time for things that I know (through trial and error) help me to de-stress like exercising, doing Pilates or just going out for a quick coffee. I also need to take the time to just focus on breathing properly when I feel my stomach goes into a knot or I get close to a panic attack. Even a glass of wine helps… But to be honest, once you start realising that having that glass of wine is not for the pure enjoyment of it but rather to relax (every night), then you might want to think about it again…

Dr Colbert further says about psoriasis, adult acne & stress:

“Many different studies have shown that stress, as well as other psychological factors, is associated with the onset and worsening of symptoms in patients with psoriasis. Psoriasis is like a volcano erupting from the pressure of unseen forces just below the surface of a person’s life. The body is releasing fear, frustration, anger, and other toxic emotions. The painful, itchy psoriasis flare-up is a strong signal of rebellion against the level of stress the person is experiencing.

The link between acne and stress is also well documented. Stress acne occurs more often in middle-aged women climbing the corporate ladder than in any other age and social-strata group. It also occurs commonly among those who are taking final exams, those who have high-stress jobs, and those who are rushing to meet a deadline.

Next time I will chat to you about your eating habits and the effect it has on YOUR SKIN!

Helene x x x