This weekend, I’m dropping sugar and adding organisation.
According to highly-respected Australian nutritionist Rosemary Stanton in her Complete Book of Food and Nutrition, the body can accommodate a some sugar in the diet and therefore can be beneficial for those who find certain important healthy foods unpalatable. However, she makes it quite clear that sugar in itself is quite unnecessary, having no real nutritional value alone. Additionally, most foods that are particularly sugary are also high in fat. She recommends that the average diet should contain no more than 45-50g of sugar per day, noting that an average chocolate bar contains 26g, muesli bars or iced doughnuts contain 15g, and even a tablespoon barbecue sauce (with which I often cook) contains 8g.
The Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel reports that research indicates a link between foods with a high glycaemic index and conditions including hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease, all of which there is a history of in at least some members of my family (although I actually have good cholesterol and blood pressure levels at the moment). At thirty years of age, it’s no longer alright for me to think that I’ll have a period of being unhealthy but will get myself back on track and be alright in the long run. It is not the short run anymore! While no link between sugar and hyperactivity has been observed, Rosemary Stanton notes that many sugar-laden foods will also contain preservatives that are known to be linked to hyperactivity. It will be interesting to see whether this improves my sleeping (if two days are enough for it to make a difference). And, of course, there’s the whole tooth decay issue…
I definitely have a sweet tooth. I love chocolate most of all, but cakes, ice cream, milkshakes, biscuits and the like all really do it for me. I have gone for long periods without eating junk food and I do find that it’s much easier to resist once I’ve got into the habit – it can even feel too sugary and sickly and less satisfying. However, it’s a little like being an alcoholic (I’m guessing!) because it doesn’t take very much at all to catapult me back into a negative cycle.
In May last year, my mum died (aged 63) after a long battle with cancer – eventually, lung cancer. The last six months were increasingly stressful as she struggled more and more with her breathing and being as active and independent as she normally was, but it was still a huge shock when she didn’t make it through her last bout of chemotherapy. We were all expecting it to improve her quality of life and keep her going for a fair while longer. While I haven’t been wallowing, I’ve definitely found that my resilience has taken a significant hit and, even more than a year later, it feels easier and more comforting to curl up on my bed and watch television and eat chocolate than to make the effort to pick myself up and make consistently healthier choices when I’m feeling a bit tired or stressed. And I’m not a very energetic person a the best of times (which these aren’t).
For me, dropping sugar is as much about retraining myself to make different choices when I feel like indulging myself, whether it’s merely reaching for something healthier to eat or deciding to do something completely different like practise the piano, as the health benefits. Weight and general health concerns are definitely an important motivating factor for dropping something that is fairly unnecessary to my diet, but there’s a whole set of psychological-emotional and physical habits involved with my sugar-eating that will hopefully be improved, too.
In the end, I have settled on adding organisation to my weekend. This is a pretty broad concept and one that I am not naturally inclined to in most forms! I do have something a little more specific in mind this weekend. I want to organise myself for the week ahead. This will involve some backwards organisation, as I am overdue for sorting out a range of documents and resources I have lying around, and this will be necessary for organised function in the coming week. However, my main idea is to organise myself this weekend so that I can get up each day and merely deal with that day, rather than rushing around catching up on old things, trying to prepare for the next day or just not getting going because I have to do some preparation first.
There are a few things I have to prepare for this week. The first is teaching. As a casual relief teacher, I usually only need to make sure I have a few good storybooks and some just-in-case activities prepared. This term, (Term 3 of 4, about ten weeks straight), I’m replacing a grade Prep teacher (first year of school, around age 5-6) for every Thursday and Friday. While much of the planning will be done by the teacher who takes this class on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, there is still a little bit of planning involved in this role. It would be nice to make a head start on it for the coming week. The second is tutoring, because I tutor a Grade 5 boy in English once a week and need to do a little planning for each lesson. The third is uni, which starts back on Monday. I’m studying Psychological Science and, luckily (since it’s a very demanding course), I am part-time this semester and will only have to attend one tutorial regularly as I can download videos of the lectures to watch at home and do my readings and assignments mostly at home. Then, of course, there are various other little chores and jobs, such as doing washing so that I have clean clothes and sheets for the week.
This will be challenging for me, because I will actually want to relax and rest this weekend (with chocolate!) and therefore will be tempted to put things off. I’m probably a little scared that I’ve set myself a goal of being more productive than I’ll manage and then will get despondent if I don’t get it all done (even if I get a lot done). As I learned from Week 2, small successes are more useful that large failures when it comes to building habits. And yet, I’m still going to aim high because that feels like the only way to do the organisation thing properly. My secret weapon is my iPod, which I’m going to listen to while I’m doing some of the more physical and boring chores (like sorting or washing), because music really bouys me. Ideally, if I organise myself this weekend, I will actually be able to have more rest and relaxation during the week.