*Disclaimer* I am not a doctor, please check with your doctor before you attempt to fast.
So, Lent is coming.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to it before (except when we used to sell chocolate covered almonds for a fundraiser every March/April – every person I tried selling them to responded with ‘I gave up sweets for Lent’).
Normally what we do is join in a fast for the month of January. However, this year, we decided to fasting during Lent.
But this brings me to my first question…
Do you ever feel like fasting is a little far-fetched for the average person to achieve?
Today I’m going to show you some practical things that you can do to make your fasting experience a little easier, so you can focus on praying and not on how you are dying of starvation.
I used to get so mad at myself for not being able to complete a fast.
…until I gave up sugar.
That’s when it hit me! Sugar makes it so much harder to fast!
2 weeks before a fast, I like to give up sugar, caffeine and any other food item I feel drawn towards – like breads.
#2 Have A Plan
One of things I’ve been learning over the years is that planning and preparation is key to so many areas in life (if not all of them!).
Things you want to plan for are:
Type of fasting
I put together this handy fasting guide to help get through this fast with focus and purpose. There are no dates on it so that you can use it at your own convenience.
#3 Bring Power To Your Prayer
Go into your fast with great expectations. Know what you want to seek God for. Seek His face with everything you have!
If you want to join me in this fast, leave me a comment and download the fasting guide.
Also, if you want to join in with the Bible plans on the Bible app, add me as a friend (search Sheri Ciaramitaro or VinGoshen).
Nonetheless, at times like these, my kitchen counters get cluttered with tea bags upon tea bags. Caffeine is just a requirement for my utmost efficiency.
However, now that I have probably burned through a Costco-sized box of Tetley Tea this week, I’m craving a little something different.
That’s when Starbucks sent me an email luring me into the beloved Peppermint Mocha.
Ugh, this is my absolute favourite Christmas drink, but with all of the sugar in it, it’s a no-go for me.
For some reason, and much to my dissatisfaction, Starbucks has discontinued the skinny version of this drink. Why? I don’t know. All I know is that I need to figure out how to make my own skinny version at home.
So, here it is. My tried and true Rowena Francis Skinny Peppermint Iced Mocha!
1 1/2 cups Milk (I like 2%, but you can substitute almond or coconut milk for lactose-free option)
2 oz Coffee
1 Tbsp Cocoa (I love Hershey’s!)
1/2 Tbsp Coconut Sugar (Splenda or Swerve for a lower calorie alternative)
2 drops Peppermint Oil (or extract)
3 Ice Cubes
Crushed Candy Cane Pieces
Mix the coconut sugar (or alternative) and cocoa together in the bottom of your mug.
Brew the coffee over the cocoa mixture and stir until it dissolves.
Add ice cubes and stir until they’re melted.
Add drops of peppermint oil.
Fill the mug/cup with milk and stir some more.
Top with whipped cream and crushed candy canes.
I usually make this in a reusable Starbucks cup because it fits perfectly and I can throw a lid on it and take it with me in the Jeep. This is also a great hot drink. Since tonight is another work night, I’m going to try out a Skinny Orange Cafe Mocha – the possibilities are endless!
I recently shared how I ditched sugar. I’d like to say it was super easy and it happened in a finger snap. It didn’t.
Although I did go cold turkey and it happened all in one day, it didn’t become a lifestyle until a few years later.
Maybe don’t torture yourself like that.
It was literally a daily choice – sometimes a moment by moment choice – that formed habits of saying no to things.
That paved the way for it to turn into a lifestyle.
Step by step. Moment by moment. Choice by choice.
Here are my tips for getting started.
Tip #1 Don’t get excited by all the sugar-free ‘options’ at the local grocery store.
I had no idea that sugar-free chocolate existed until a few weeks into my journey. When I saw the bag at the store, I bought multiple bags of EVERY kind offered.
When I got home, I indulged and ate every last chocolate that I bought.
Maybe self-discipline was my downfall?
Within a few hours, I was in agonizing pain.
I mean, agonizing.
My belly swelled out and resembled a fairly pregnant state. I could barely stand up straight because of the pain in my gut. Then, I had to try to avoid all types of social measures because the best air fresheners couldn’t even keep up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it was a struggle to escape the porcelain throne.
I didn’t make the correlation.
Just a few short days later, I was craving chocolate again.
And the process kept on going.
Until a friend told me about sugar alcohols.
Tip #2 Steer clear of sugar alcohols.
Sugar alcohols are sweeteners used in many products labeled ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no sugar added’.
Sugar alcohols sweeten your treats, but tear up your gut – they have this crazy effect called a laxative effect.
See where I’m going with this?
Just. Don’t. Do. It.
Trust me on that one. Your gut will thank you.
Sugar alcohols may appear as
There are so many names for sugar alcohols, so do some research or just stay away from anything that lists ‘sugar alcohols’ in the nutritional information on the package (there is an exception to this, I’ll mention later).
Tip #3 Be prepared with a plan
One of the things that I struggled with at first was the cravings. I’m going to be frank, the cravings have never gone away completely. However, I quickly learned that they had a rhythm and rhyme to them. All I had to do was prepare ahead of time by baking. I have done a ton of experimenting with baking sugar-free. It was quite hard back in 2011 because there were very few options available. My first baking experiment was brownies and they looked, felt and tasted just like a cardboard box. I’m not kidding. Now I feel like I have so many options to use to satisfy my sweet-tooth when it comes every few weeks.
Tip #4 Find a healthy sugar alternative that you like.
The thing with any sugar alternative is that it will never be an exact match to the sugar cane. So, you’ll have to find something that you like and what works for you. For me, for the last 7 years it has been coconut sugar. That being said, just a few weeks ago I tried Swerve (available on Amazon or Superstore) and thought it was the closest to sugar that I’ve ever had – and it comes in granulated and powdered). Technically it’s a sugar alcohol (erythritol), but it’s all natural (like the erythritol that’s found in pears, etc.). I made peanut butter cups with it and my kids devoured them.
There are some other great alternatives. However, I’ve never been a fan of Splenda and although I do use it sometimes, stevia usually lands me with a pretty migraine.
Tip #5 Purge the pantry.
Stop for just one moment. Don’t even think of doing this until you’ve explored Tips 1-4.
You. Will. Regret. It.
Once you have a plan, a sugar alternative that you like and have educated yourself enough on the effects of sugar alcohols, then it’s time to go through your cupboards.
My rule of thumb as I purged my cupboards, fridge, pantry, freezer, dressers, pockets, shelves, etc. (yes, I hid sugar everywhere!) is if it has sugar (by any name) in the first 8 ingredients, I chucked it.
Did you know that ingredients are listed in order of quantity used? Sometimes companies separate the sugars into different names so that sugar doesn’t appear within the first few ingredients.
Tip #6 Give yourself a break.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s extremely difficult to cut sugar cold-turkey. Give yourself time to adjust to it. Take small steps to work toward your goal. It’s doable and you will notice wonderful benefits when you take the plunge. It’s been 7 years for me and I’m still learning and adjusting. It’s a process.
Are you on a journey to cutting down on your sugar intake? What sugar alternatives do you use? Comment below.
*Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. There is no added cost to you.
When I travelled to Israel in February, I decided I wasn’t going to be sugar-free anymore.
I ate sugar.
I ate it!
I couldn’t handle it.
My body reminded me first hand of all the terrible things sugar did to me – brain fog, sluggishness, bloating, headaches.
So, although I’m not going to call myself ‘sugar free’ anymore, I definitely don’t want to willfully eat it again.
That brings me to the question I get a lot.
Why did I decide to cut out sugar?
Everyone thinks that when you do something drastic like that it’s because you’re some sort of health nut or something.
I’m going to be honest – I didn’t do it because I wanted to be healthy. I did it out of sheer competition.
…with my husband, no less…
Here’s the low-down.
Brian approached me one day and said he was giving up sugar for a month. All I could think of was that I was going to stuff my face full of sugar, ballooning out like a hippo and he was going to be all ‘healthy’ and fit.
So, I told him I would do it with him.
I mean, he laughed so hard I may have seen a tear slide down his cheek.
He said I wouldn’t last a day.
That was all he had to say.
The next 24 hours were brutal. I mean, brutal! I’m talking headache, shakes, irritability, literally the works.
I was determined to prove I could last a month, so I pushed through it. Kudos to my kids for putting up with me.
After a month – probably the longest month ever – Brian went back to eating sugar again and I realized I had a problem. Every night that month I would dream about chocolate and wake up tasting it! I couldn’t tell if it was all in my head or if I was sleep-walking in the night and indulging in the bliss of chocolate heaven.
So, I decided I would keep sugar out of my diet until I had some self-control.
I went through the entire house and cleared out all of my stashes. I had chocolate hidden so many places, you’d think I was a chocolate hoarder.
Mom fail – my kids didn’t even know that they got candy at Halloween or Easter or anything because I ate all of it.
I also went through my whole kitchen and threw out anything with sugar (or a derivative) in the first 8 ingredients.
Good-bye bbq sauce. Sayonara ketchup. Bon voyage salad dressing. Arrivederci to almost everything!
Honestly, it was such a great decision. It didn’t take long and I started feeling the difference. Here are some of the benefits that I experienced:
Mental clarity – no more brain fog
Waking up awake
No more bloating
Talking without stumbling over words
All in all, it took a good year before I stopped tasting sugar in my sleep. Once that year mark hit, I didn’t have to purpose to not eat sugary foods, it just became more of a lifestyle for me.
Don’t get me wrong, there have been times throughout the 7 years that I just wish I could taste it one more time, but I know it’s a slippery slope for me. The symptoms I experienced by trying a teaspoon of it in my coffee on vacation were enough to encourage me to continue on without refined sugar in my diet.
Do you struggle with chocolate or sugar? Maybe I’ll do a post with my sugar-free tips (hint: it won’t be anything with maltitol – sugar-free doesn’t have to mean digestive issues.) Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.