“My sugar addiction”

Aaaah sugar sugar sugar. This modern demon we are running away from. Maybe even more as the gluten (pretty much also public enemy Number 1 the past years).

Until a couple of weeks ago I thought I really had a sugar addiction. I made a few research on Google and social media and from what I saw, I wasn’t the only using that expression. Comparing the sugar addiction to cocaine addiction. Are you like me and heard about this scientific study comparing the effects of sugar and cocaine on rats? The first conclusion was that sugar had the same addictive effects on the brain than cocaine. What the hell, we have that thing everywhere on our food! But in the nutrition field (we could even say the scientific world) every information can be debated and be demonstrated wrong. Some scientists found this study on rats absurd and others mentioned the importance of not comparing too fast rats and humans.

I don’t know in which camp you are, neither am I, I am not a scientist. I just want to eat the best food possible (I want palatability and safety for my body).

This addiction idea has also been challenged quickly when I took an honest look at myself. I had to change my point of view and be less dramatic when I had a check-in with my coach. We talked about how I was managing my diet from Monday to Sunday, from all meals to also my snacks.

By the way, I can only recommend you to get a coach to do these super-efficient exercises. This talk opened my eyes about my consumption and the modifications I had to do (I will share that quickly).

I think I can spare you the traditional “but what is sugar, the different types and how to choose the best one”. You probably read or heard that in different places and don’t need me to remind you.

So, my situation I think, is the one of many people. I wasn’t eating a lot of sugar because I was addicted. I was eating too much sugar because my diet wasn’t balanced properly and I didn’t manage my anxiety and stress properly. Yep, when I would look in details:

  • I didn’t have enough proteins in my diet so my satiety levels were too low which led me to snacking too much.
  • My meals were not tasty enough so I would snack on cheese and sugary stuff to give myself some treats.
  • My portions were sometimes too big and other too small.
  • My breakfast and diner were not big enough.

That, for me, was the easiest part to modify because I like to cook and try new recipes. And if you are telling me I can eat more chicken and eggs, I can only be happy.

No, the difficult part for me was to understand the behavior disfunction behind my compulsive snacking. Because yes, when you snack out of boredom or stress and you binge a lot of crappy food in five minutes it is compulsive. I would know, I had anorexic and bulimic issues in the past.

I realized I was snacking out of my mind just talking with my coach. I was snacking in front of my computer when I was stressed by my work, my future, when I was bored and would just get busy this way. So, the solution was to balance my diet and calm my mind.

What helped me was a combination of meditating, drinking way more water and green tea, going for a walk outside and breathe fresh air.

I thought it would be extremely hard to stop eating so much sugar because I was snacking on biscuits and chocolate every single day. Every day. But at the end (it’s been 6 weeks, still a long way to go), it wasn’t that hard. So, I was really exaggerating, I wasn’t addicted to sugar, I just add a really bad habit. When you are doing something wrong since a long time, it’s harder to change it. Harder but possible.

I set up an easy exercise to succeed: I would have my chocolate and biscuits just once a week. With my diet and my little steps per day it was easy. When the first week was over and I realized I didn’t crave it that much I was super happy and proud of myself. I could easily repeat it. And I have been doing it for 6 weeks and it’s just getting easier.

Not only I got a mental boost, I also got a better skin, less swing moods and I lost 3 kilos (6 lbs)!

The more I keep this rhythm the easier it is getting and I am not craving industrial sugar that much. Every week when I am having my chocolate break, I am taking a smaller portion and I had to change of products because some of the things I was eating, are now disgusting me. When you get used to it, the taste of certain chemical products can make you feel sick and it’s not a nice feeling on your stomach.

So, if you want to reduce your sugar consumption, look at different parameters:

  • Are you consistent with your diet from Monday to Sunday, or are you eating well during the week and binge during the weekend?
  • Do you eat enough protein through the day (animal or vegetal, what matters is the total)?
  • Do you have enough variety and tasteful nutrients in your plate?
  • Do you experience stress and anxiety and how do you cope with it?

Once you answered all these questions, reduce your sugar snacks. Go slowly so you don’t feel overwhelmed or depressed. If you were like me, reduce your consumption to 5 days a week and step by step reduce to 1 or 2 days. Of course, if you can, go for really good quality foods when you want it. Chocolate with good cocoa, sorbet ice cream, homemade banana breads, etc.…

Good luck and keep it up!

Staying calm inside

We are living a very challenging time. The majority of us had the luck to say until today “I never lived a war, a national trauma or a state of emergency”.

Now we are in this pandemic situation together. No one is safe and everybody is impacted on all levels.

Maybe you lost people already, your job is at risk, your health, your financial situation. This crisis we are living is a serious threat to our future and our loved ones. But it is also an opportunity to learn and look forward to the future, on an individual and collective point of view.

In what kind of world do we want to live, how, what to improve and what to live behind ? I think it’s still too early to have an answer to these questions. We have to go deep into our self reflection, our leaders have to make decisions to use all this time we have for good.

But right now we have to manage our daily lifes, trying to hold up everything together. Being stucked at home with very limited liberty of movement is not only a hit to our bodies but our minds. We have all seen on social media how people record themselves going nuts only after a couple of days inside. What is happening ? It is hard to ground, calm down, take time to do something useful … or do nothing.

That’s the challenge. We are so damn busy all the time, running from one task to another that now we feel scared contemplating the amount of time we have for ourselves. It is scary, we feel lost. You have all day to think about your relationships, your habits, your money, your past, your family, what do you want to manifest, etc. News are scarier every day, making the next week almost unbareable to wait for.

What can we do ? For the world, not much but stay inside and wait slowly. But each one of us has the choice and the responsability to not let fear take us and do our best to remain calm. Every day is not going to be peacefull. Especially if you live in a small place with your partner and your kids. We have the chance to meditate, put a little music on, dance, read, draw, write or cook to take our minds off the anxiety around us. For families it’s a beautiful occasion to connect, get closer and create new memories together.

It’s the moment to be productive for you and your family but it’s not either a competition to “who is going to be out with 10 lbs less or create a new business plan”. Don’t be hard on yourself, if today you did nothing but wearing pyjamas watching Netflix. Today was slow, tomorrow will be different. Take this deal day by day and be gentle with yourself. We live an unprecedent crises that NOBODY KNOWS HOW TO HANDLE.

Life is giving us an opportunity not to be lock down for weeks, but to take care of ourselves in a new way for weeks. Let’s get out of this with more love for ourselves, new habits of self-care and new goals.

The power of your habits

Listening to a podcast for health coaches I heard a very interesting sentence that got me digging the topic : 95% of our daily actions are habits. Pure habit. Unconscious mechanical action. Only 5% of our decisions and actions come from your conscious mind. 

What does this means ? Well most of what you do, say and think during the day is the result of your subconscious mind. You do things per habit, without even thinking about it and you go on for years. 

Don’t you think it’s terrifying ? It’s means we are acting like a robot 95% of the time. Letting our social and family conditioning dictate your life without knowing it. 

Why habits dictate our life 

It comes initially from a natural instinct of protection and survival. 

Your brain has the greatest ability to transform every single possible thing into a routine to save energy and minimize the risks for you. This neurological reaction is necessary to our survival but can also work against us when we have a bad habit.

It’s during our first years of life that our brain is very moldable and tries many different things. With time it become less and less moldable and changes are way harder to make. 

Also the human body is pretty amazing because every time you follow one of your habits, your brain “gives you a treat” by providing you its own natural hormonal goodies. We get addicted to this sensation, it’s harder to resist the temptation and feeling, and so, change a habit.

How it happens ? When you do something for the first time, you cortex side receives the information. After a couple of repetitions like that, the behavior becomes a routine and the information go deeper into the brain (in the ganglions). There, they are recorded as fixed processes and can’t be erased.It’s for this reason that change an old habit is one of the hardest thing in the world to do.

When you try to do so the craziest thing happen: your brain is going to fight you. Yes, your own brain. You have to really force “against him” the new habit and fight the rational ideas that will pop up in your mind. 

Why is it so hard to change my habits

As we mentioned earlier, you have to fight your own brain, something imprinted in yourself. This is (a very famous expression these days) stepping out of your comfort zone.

And it’s freaking hard, it goes against what we want and feel good with : being comfortable. Every time you try to change a habit and do something new it’s hard, it feels weird and annoying, you feel hesitant and it can even be painful. 

Let’s take one of the easiest example: when you start working out.

The first day you go because you are motivated, but the day after you are sore everywhere. That’s not okay with you : you wanted to exercise for pleasure not to suffer. 

So you think “this is too much for me, I just wanted to get in shape. It’s easier and more pleasant to spend time with my friends or watching TV”. And you stop trying to work out after a couple of days.

Same thing happens when you try to stop smoking or start dieting: it creates an unpleasant sensation in your body that you won’t like. It takes discipline and organization to pass this unpleasant feeling until you get to the point where the new habit is implanted. 

Focusing on “how to do it” can be extremely paralyzing : you visualize the difficulties, fear takes over, you start procrastinating and just give up without trying.

Which is why you have to focus on your “why”. Why do you want to start exercising, quit smoking, read a book per month, etc…
When you feel aligned with your why, find a new method to implement to actually work progressively towards your “why”. Then you develop slowly a new habit attached to it.

How to switch from bad to good habits

I don’t like to label things “good” or “bad” because it brings a negative and guilty connotation to the topic. So let’s give another formulation to this: define which habits you want to change, why and how. 

The powerful aspect of your habits is that you do them mechanically. It means your daily actions can really allow you to accomplish amazing things or huge disasters (to yourself and to others). With this perspective, a good habit brings you closer to your goal, a bad one takes you away from it. 

Take time to list your principal habits, the things you do every day, every week. Write as most as you can and after a while, write next to each one if it’s serve or work against your goal. For your “bad habits”, develop and write down what it is not serving you and what you could do instead to achieve your goal. It will be easier for you after that do determine your plan of action: you can decide to eliminate a habit or reduce it slowly step by step (sometimes it’s easier). 

Anyway, keep in mind that you new strategy and habits are going to take time to work. It’s going to be painful, long and you are going to want to give up many time. Remember your strong why. It will make you keep going.

And the only way to make it work is to keep doing it, repetition, repetition, repetition. 

4 Tips to help you change your habits 

  1. Be conscious of what’s happening, observe what’s your mind is doing: what are you thinking and why.
  2. Don’t act: don’t stop running or eat this entire cake. Take a step back, listen to your mind but don’t do what it says to you. 
  3. Let the temporary discomfort pass: you are hungry or tired but it’s not going to last.
  4. Actively talk with your mind and argue sainly ! eat this cake it’s good = yeah its good for a minute and then I get fat and I am unhappy. So no we are not eating that.

Habits and goals 

You can’t talk about one without the other, they are related, they evolve with time and your efforts. It’s good to review your habits and your goals on a regular basis, for example once every month. 
First it allows you to review your goals: are you still on them or do you want to make some changes. Depending on your answer, then you adjust your habits.

If you still have the same goal to reach but you see that your current habits don’t get you anywhere with it, it’s time to think about a new habit strategy. 
Changing a bad habit is always really hard, we like our comfort. But it’s easier to change a recent bad habit than one we have for years. As usual the hardest part is to fight the comfort we seek and like to actually progress. 

The beauty of the process? You are going to be on it your all life. If you stopped trying you can get back on it, life is a journey and you have multiple occasions to change the parameters of it. 

The downside of social media

I am young (27) so I kinda grew up with social media. Because we are the first generation actually living with these things, we don’t measure yet the consequences into our mental health. These tools can get us incredible life opportunities and meet people from around the world. But it can also cause feelings on loneliness, fear of missing out, lack of confidence, low self esteem and self worth, etc…

I want to talk today about the story of a fitness mom that I have been following on Instagram for more than 4 years. The girl is (was) freaking killing it: married, 4 kids, several businesses, cooking, having a beautiful house/car, waking up at 4am to work out, bikini competing internationally. A dream life, work hard life, but beautifully sold on Insta, FB; Snapchat and her website. A couple of weeks ago, big surprise, the bubble explode: we saw her crying on her Instagram stories. Turns out the perfect shiny life wasn’t so perfect: complete burnout from working too much 6 to 7 days a week, lack of sleep and energy, lawsuit, one business to sell and a marriage on couple therapy. 

The lesson ? Now that things are negative in her life, she doesn’t want to share more and she is literally begging people for privacy. But it’s hard for the public to get that. For years we saw everything, from the wedding to the pregnancy, the kids growing up, the training and make up routines, the cooking and decoration of the house, the travels and the shopping…Everything, content every single day. 

What can be wrong with that ? Once you start to tell everything to people, they feel entitled to ask everything. 

It’s hard for her to back up now and protect her intimacy. I am not judging, just observing a fact.

My point is that nobody is perfect. We all need to learn how to use these tools, between sharing and not sharing, and what kind of content. If we choose to share everything, we need to be willing to accept all what is going to come with it. People making inappropriate comments, bullying, harassments… the list goes on. It can get so terribly wrong that some people kill themselves after horrible experiences through social media.  

As a user you can see on the comment sections how a conversation can quickly escalade to strangers insulting each other. Being behind a screen makes us forget that we are talking to human beings with feelings.

I myself still trying to find balance with the content I share, especially on FB and Insta. I have goals, I want to use social media as a tool to grow an audience and share with people.

But if I do it a certain way, it can really backlasch on me and produce the exact opposite effect of what I want.

The only thing that I didn’t do and don’t think I will do is share about my relationship with my partner. It’s already hard enough to have a relationship and take care of your partner. You always receive some negative comments about family and friends. But exposing it to the world and thousands of strangers that are going to make comments just based on pictures… for what ? Get some likes on an unrealistic picture with the hashtag #relationshipgoal

My goal is to feel good and make the ones around feel good too. What we see in social media is just a tiny percentage of what we are and what we do. We can so easily manipulate it, it makes me dizzy. 

Note to myself for the future: put more effort and consciousness about what I share and why.

The performance race

Lately I have been feeling really exhausted and unmotivated about…pretty much everything.

I have this type of personality that when I face a difficulty I tend to think that I have failed at everything in all aspects of my life.

I have always had a big tendency to feel the need to control all my life and I have no patience, or very little.

So when I plan on achieving a goal, I get frustrated if it doesn’t happen in the timeframe that I set for myself.

The result ? Mental and physical exhaustion.

I am so hard on myself and have expectations that are so high that I have succeed to produce the total opposite effect of what I wanted to do : not achieve my goal.

In practical terms what does it mean ? I have lost appetite and want to eat more crap; my sleep is a disaster (I wake up several times at night); I have very low energy, my training has lost its quality and intensity; I don’t read/watch videos/ listen to podcast that much…

Worst aspect of all, I became a huge pain in the ass for all the people surrounding me, especially my partner (sweetie if you read this I am sorry, I am working on it).

I am learning the hard way that life is not a competition. Despite the society we live in and the subconscious rules that are forced upon us. So it’s time I stop banging my head on the wall I built with unrealistic factors.

I don’t have to be productive EVERY single day, I can’t be on the top of the world in all aspects of my life all the time.

I am trying hard to get better at expressing myself, live my life with passion and increase the quality of my relationships. But that’s the work of a life.

We live in a world of performance and I am feeling this way harder since I live in the US.

But it doesn’t have to be my case. I choose the way I react to everything and how I make my life.

Since I am in Miami I see a lot of people chasing money and working several jobs at the same time for multiple reasons. They aren’t millionaires and they aren’t more happy with their life.

I think life is trying to teach me a lesson: slow down, enjoy and make things happen in your own terms.

I need to get back passion in my life and reduce the pressure I am putting in myself. From today I am going to stop trying to full my days. Being busy from 7am to 11pm with 100 tasks doesn’t make me a better human being. Sleep more, have better food and especially, take more meaningful things to my life, personally and professionally.

I am setting myself 2 or 3 goals per month, write them down on my phone and putting them on the fridge. Achievable goals that aren’t going to stress me more.

I have 3 big goals for a year from now, we will see how it goes. I will probably have to adjust along the way.

My point today: don’t let the world AND yourself eat your personality and joie de vivre.

Self Love Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I did an amazing challenge I want to talk to you about.  

I am a believer on personal development and I have worked on it the last few years. We don’t receive personal and relationships education at school. And the knowledge we get from our parents and our social circles isn’t always appropriate.

I have learned that we can carry our parents’ burdens, conflicts and bad habits and behaviors.

In order to clean our state of minds and general well-being, it takes a lot of internal work.  And it’s in addition to all the work we already have to do on a daily basis. Sometimes it just feels as another form of pressure to me: on top of my day, I have to meditate, do yoga, breathing exercises, practice mindfulness…

This self-love challenge that I did on the initiative of my friend reminded me that taking care of myself in different ways is not another duty on my to-do list. It’s a small gesture from me to me to feel better on a daily basis. Because yes, you have to be a bit selfish to take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.

I don’t want to spoil you the pleasure of doing this challenge, so I will just give you a few hints of what we did.

Every day we had to do a thing that was meant to reconnect with our body, our mind and our pleasure. It goes from taking a bath, to cook for yourself some fresh meal to make a list of the crazy activities you want to do in the next few months.

Some days were pretty easy, some others the challenge really made you face aspects of your life that can make you really uncomfortable. But it’s also part of the process: a little shake to remind yourself to not stay caught up in your comfort zone.

It’s also a good occasion to realize that if you have been forgiving a little bit about daily rituals that are good to you, it’s time to make them part of your routine again.

The best part of it was that we did it with a all group of females on Facebook. Every day we have been sharing our thoughts and reactions to the challenges. It has been a good way to meet new people, create a new tribe you feel connected to and don’t feel alone.

This is the kind of moment when you realize that age, nationality and culture matter but they don’t do everything: we have the same fears and joys in our hearts.

I do recommend you to contact my dear friend Capucine, she is a wellness coach. In addition to the challenge she can also help you work on yourself on many different levels:

Facebook Capucine Thustrup

Instagram @thesparklingnipples

Away abroad

Since I have been traveling and living abroad for a couple of years now, I get asked quiet often this question “don’t you miss being with your family”.

I understand why people ask it and I find hard to answer it because it’s a mix of yes and no.

I don’t want to look like a monster but to be honest, I don’t have a family with easy and positive relationships (I know it’s the case for a lot of us) so going away has been a relief for me.

It can sound weird or cruel. I have friends that can’t live more than 5 miles away from their parents or not talk to their mom on the phone every day.
It didn’t happen for me and my brother and sister.

After my parents split the atmosphere at home became really heavy, it never became light and fresh again, we still have old tensions in the air that are 10 years old. My parents and us we have different characters and ways to communicate. It seems that when we spend too much time together, we just hurt each other.

Yes, we should have family therapy but that’s another conversation.  

So no, it doesn’t really hurt me to be that far away. Yes, I miss my family and my close friends. But it never came to the point where I felt “I need to come home to be with them”. Being in my hometown would be the death of my soul, there is nothing there for me to grow and feel fulfilled.

The ones that are close to my heart know it and they really saw me get better being away.

Thanks to technology we can still be in touch on a daily basis anyway. Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, emails.. you name it, there are several ways to reach out and we are having fun with it. Even my grandparents learned how to use their smartphone to facetime with me (even if I see more they hair or their nose than their faces but still).

I miss big events like weddings of friends or new babies but in a way, I am also paying more attention.

Because I am far, I am trying to take care of them, I send them pictures, videos, voicenotes and I am working harder to maintain our connection. I can’t do it with everybody because it would be very time consuming so, time has made me do some selection. But I think I kept the best relationships on track and I am spending several hours every week to reach out to every person that I care.

It can sound selfish but let’s be honest, a day only has 24 hours, you work, you eat, you sleep, maybe work out and read a little, you can’t maintain deep relationships with 100 persons, especially if there are living on another time zone.

The hardest part is to make others understand my point of view. Even good friends sometimes tell me “I don’t get why you stay there, it’s hard, expensive, food is not good, you are far from us, what’s the point”. But it can be difficult to have others understand you no matter in you live in your town or in another country.

We are all unique, what works for me doesn’t for others and vice versa. It’s valid for any aspect of your life.

To conclude, yes, I miss moments with my families and friends, not being in environment with them but it’s also making me a better person so I think it’s worth it. And they think the same.

How sport can help your mental health

When I used to be anorexic, sport/working out/training wasn’t fun or relieving at all. It was just a tool to punish myself after eating anything (even if it was just a bowl of soup).

That’s why I wanted to train alone, when you don’t work out for pleasure everybody can see it and I prefered to hide it.

I was just feeling literally like a giant stick of shit. The mental toll of this illness is very hard. I hated my body that’s a fact, but most importantly I was extremely weak. I couldn’t do any kind of exercise for a long period of time without feeling sick (nausea, dizziness, pain in the joints).

So when I saw my doctor the first step was really just to get back strength, muscles and flexibility and eat properly step by step. Further along I went back to exercise not because I needed too but because it was fun, I was enjoying myself, was pushing my limits and felt part of a group.

I created lovely memories at the gym with the family I have there and some people are still part of my life even being away from Europe.

It took me almost two years of working with my therapist and different coaches to train for pleasure again. I am still working on this today and always try to have fun when I do it.

Some days I need to go very hard and strong at the gym and lift heavy weights.

Some days I need to just walk on the beach or stretch at home watching a serie on Netflix.

Sport has been a very useful tool for healing because it gave me a way to expulse everything.

When I workout I only focus on my physical sensations, my breath, my moves. I put myself in a bubble to just live a moment of deep connexion with my body. I get only into my physical sensations and push it until I feel relieved.

Why does it help with mental illness of any kind ? Because you regain power with yourself along the process. You feel confidence and self esteem again, strength again. You actually realize the extent of your physical power and you feel limitless

The aesthetic of your physique changing is just the cherry on the top.

Plus when you exercise, your body releases hormones of happiness, which is why you actually feel good for real.  

So no matter what kind of mental illness you are experiencing, try do find a activity that you like and do it a couple of times per week, at your rhythm and find the joy in it.

The rest will come 😉

Visualization

It’s an interesting exercise that I did a couple of times on meditation and it’s really amazing.

As any form of meditation, it allows me to get quiet and focus on positive things. It makes me feel grounded, remind me how lucky I am and help me reconnect with myself and my goals.

The point is not to think about the object itself but the feelings and the sensations that it awakes in you.

For example, you workout not to have a 6 pack, because in itself it doesn’t make you happy. The 6 pack is just an aesthetic option for your body. But when you have it; you feel sexy, confident and strong.

You want to have a porsche not for the car, it’s just a big object. But you want it for the sensation of the speed, the adrenaline, the powerful sensation that you feel.

So when you visualize what is it that you want, focus on those feelings and sensations with all your 5 senses. Imagine the touch, the smell, the noise, the taste, the colours…

Make your dream alive, it will manifest in your life at some point. The more you think about those things that makes you happy the more you rise your energy.

I like to do this in the morning to put in a good mood before work but also at night before sleeping, it makes me feel grateful.

What do you visualize for yourself ?

Buddha bowl meditation

The past couple of months I have been really consistent with the practice of meditation.

I don’t do it on a daily basis, it depends on my necessity and the energy around me but I have learned to have fun with it.

I have downloaded an app with nice noises and a voice to guide me, I have short and long videos on my Youtube list to listen to when I am ready.

Honestly, I can’t say that I am getting better at it because some days I try, and I just end up stopping after a couple of minutes or a couple of breaths. I cry, I over -tress or I don’t focus so I end up as more stress than before I started.

So, as I learned, the key is to let go. Some days it’s not the moment or me. Sometimes it is so good I feel asleep.

A couple of weeks ago I tried a special meditation in a center dedicated to it, I really liked it so I just wanted to share my feedback.

It was an hour session of meditation with buddha singing bowls. I have heard a bit of it before (big trend apparently) about the benefits.

I laid on a sofa with a dozen of other people, with a blanket and the voice of the teacher guiding us. We started just with deep breaths exercises and then slowly, the instructor added sounds from the meditation singing bowls.

There is no specific words to describe it perfectly but what I can say is that it felt amazing. Because when the sound starts you are already relaxed, the sounds are vibrating around you and then in you, like waives and you can really feel the energy vibrations inside you.

I mean it’s how it felt for me. I was feeling ways of vibrations inside me, at different intensities and speed, it’s been fluctuating during the session.

I have read Tibetan singing bowls are good to help us heal, they are tools giving us good vibrations of energy. They are not magic tools, it didn’t stop my thoughts during the session but definitely helped me relax a lot.

The hour went by super-fast, I completely lost track of time and when I opened my eyes I felt relaxed, calm and quiet like not very often in my life.

 I did this session a Sunday night, let me tell you it’s the best way to finish the weekend and start the week.

Since then, I downloaded several Youtube music videos of these sounds and I love to put them on my phone before going to sleep. I urge you to give it a go and share your experience !