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College is generally not "peak health" time in your life. That's just a fact. Between the lack of sleep and the absurd amounts of junk food, late night snacks, and unnecessary Taco Tuesdays and Wine Wednesdays that the average college student goes through, it comes as no surprise that one's health is usually not at its prime.
When I graduated from college I expected all this unhealthiness to somehow magically vanish and allow me to happily live the mature, adult, and hopefully healthier, life everyone talks about. What was I thinking? Four years of not treating your body as a temple don't just go away once you have a diploma to hang on your parents' wall. What's worse, I traveled home for a much deserved post-college break and instead of relaxing and indulging in all the Peruvian food I'd missed out on, I paid a visit to my doctor only to find out things were worse than I had imagined.
Just to be clear, while I wasn't sticking to a particular diet during college, I was still getting in my daily dose of greens, working out, and generally being better than the average student (not that that means a lot apparently). My real issues came down to my sweet tooth. I mean, realistically who is happy rejecting a brownie? or a warm chocolate chip cookie? or a scoop of ice cream? No one! Don't lie! The minute someone mentioned dessert, my healthy mindset would poof! disappear! and I would be left "treating myself" once more, #noregrets (or so I thought!)
So much for #noregrets.
Back to my visit to the doctor. To spare you of the technical details, let's just say he was not a happy camper, whatsoever. In fact, I was slightly terrified by his reaction, and so was my mom judging from her "what do we do now!" followed by a million other questions in classic panicky Latina Mom style. He basically said that I'd developed an insulin resistance thanks to my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and made worse by my over indulgence on anything sweet and overall lack of a better diet. Diabetes runs in my family so he was very clear when he warned me that "no changes will be the end of me" (I'm making it sound more dramatic, but I swear that's what he sounded like in my head).
Ergo, I didn't eat any of the yummy Peruvian food I'd genuinely dreamt about for months. Instead, I packed the prescription the doctor gave me to help control my insulin intake, and with that packed a whole new attitude and mentality to successfully tackle my sugarless life as I planned to move to New York City.
Here's to a new city, a new diet, and new beginnings.
Believe it or not, the city was a great place to start this oh-so complex journey. Initially I feared I'd be depriving myself of the extensive list of restaurants that New York has to offer. However, I had the slight advantage of having lived here before for a few months, which meant that I'd already been to a few of the New York "musts." I told myself I'd done the whole NY-Italian extravaganza, and tried all the weird cookie dough shops, and even had enough Van Leeuwen to last me for another year, so tackling this sugar free diet should not be a problem. This helped a lot."I have been here before, I am not missing out" became my life motto.
My first realization, and probably the biggest tip I can give, was that it is really all in your head. I know, I know, you've heard this hundreds of times, but trust me I have definitely tried to diet in the past and nothing, no change. Only until I got slightly (very) scared by my doctor did my mind make the switch and I fully and mentally committed to this. Now, I am not saying you need a traumatic experience to get your mind going, but I suggest you find something that motivates your mind and the process will be waaaay easier.
A Crash Course in Thriving While Sugarless
There's nothing wrong with a little sugar, obviously. Anything in moderation is fine, but for my specific situation no sugar was the way to go, at least for a bit. While sad, I had accepted this and gotten myself mentally there, so now what? Here are a few things that really helped me get through the though part, the starting period, and eventually led to me living a happy (new) normal life.
- Tell those around you what's going on—this was incredibly helpful to me. Not everyone needs to hear about your diet, but I found it important and incredibly helpful to let those who are constantly around me know about this change. Whether that's your roommates, close friends, coworkers, family, whoever you surround yourself on a weekly basis, let them know! This not only makes it easier when planning things to do or places to go, but it also takes away the awkward pressure of having to say no every time someone suggests getting ice cream after dinner, or sharing a chocolate bar, or making late night brownies, you get the idea. For me, making it clear that this wasn't about me going on another annoying diet, but about my health and something that I was taking very seriously made all the difference. It helps keep you accountable too, if that's the extra little push you might need! Long story short, communication is key!!
- Find ways to reward your commitment—we all love that feeling of having accomplished something and getting the recognition we so deserve! Treat this like a little challenge, where if successful you get to enjoy and celebrate. For me, finding little goals that I could cross out every so often really helped. Whether that's buying a pair of jeans you want to fit into, or go a week without adding artificial sweeteners to your morning coffee, or even going into the ice cream store your friend really wants you to go to and not trying a little sample. Whatever it may be, there isn't really anything too small as long as it gives you that feeling of, "ah I conquered that! Go me!"
- Don't focus on the numbers—remember that this isn't about aesthetics or looks, remember that this is about health! It's really easy to stop dieting so I stopped thinking of this as a diet. Don't be so obsessed with the scale. These numbers will go down because obviously cutting out sugars will help get rid of some extra pounds, but the focus shouldn't be on that because numbers fluctuate! Weight goes up and down for multiple reasons so if you're too focused on the numbers you'll freak out if the scales reads a higher number one day. And you really shouldn't! It could be muscle gain for all you know. Stay away from those numbers as milestones and instead focus on healthy milestones.
- Treat yourself to healthy alternatives—New York, and so many other places in this modern world we live in, has so many healthy alternatives to sweets. SO MANY. Don't go crazy on these alternatives as it might screw up your progress and trick you into wanting to eat the real deal. However, find things that you can include once or twice a week to satisfy that sweet tooth. For me, The Good Chocolate did the trick. Sugarless chocolate? Sign me up! One little square was enough to keep me sane, satisfying that little sweet craving while sticking to my health restrictions. Try it out! I highly recommend!
Anyway, those are a few things that helped me make this a pretty enjoyable journey. Not gonna lie and say I don't miss sugar, but to be completely honest, this is not so bad! I feel happy with the changes I'm seeing in myself and have gotten to the point where sugarless is the new norm, it feels natural and it's no longer something I need to try really hard to accomplish.
As a lil bonus, here are some of my favorite food bloggers' Instagram's with recipes and tips and general healthy options that don't suck!