{WIAW} {Recipe} Sweet potato hotpot & spin spin spinning

For this week I am going to look back at last Thursday. I started the day around 7am with my current favourite breakfast of porridge.  This one was suitably autumnal with grated apple, peanut butter, cinnamon and ginger…

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After warming myself up with a huge mug of jasmine green tea (no morning is complete without it in my opinion!) I was as ready as I’d ever be to cycle into work. I was thinking on the way in how lucky I am to be able to do this and how lovely it is to see so many other people cycling into town as well – although they always look far more practical than me in proper coats and trousers – I always seem to be wearing a dress! It does make you feel a bit smug though overtaking whilst looking so unpractical sometimes 😉

Anyhow, mid-morning I was feeling a bit snacky so had a pear (unpictured). In fact, this turned out to be quite a snacky day for me…

Lunch was delicious – a sweet potato hotpot style meal which was so easy to make at home and then heat up again in the microwave in the office. So I thought I’d share the recipe with you as it was so comforting and filling (a savoury recipe?! shocking, I know).

Sweet potato hotpot

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1  sweet potato

1 small onion

1/2 courgette

6 cherry tomatoes

1 carrot

1/2 carton tinned tomatoes

Big crushed clove of garlic

Handful of spinach

Sprinkling of pumpkin seeds

Pepper

Sea salt

Rapeseed oil

Balsamic vinegar

Fresh basil

Start by piercing the sweet potato and cooking it in the microwave for about 6 minutes on medium/high or until soft. Whilst this is cooking, chop up all the other vegetables into chunks. Heat about 1/2 tablespoon of the rapeseed oil in a wok on a medium heat and then add all the vegetables apart from the sweet potato, tomatoes carton and spinach. When these are about halfway through cooking add a good splash of balsamic vinegar and mix together. Chop up the cooked sweet potato into chunks. When the vegetables are nearly cooked, add the remaining vegetables. Lower the heat and continue stirring until the tomatoes have heated up and the spinach has wilted. Season with sea salt and pepper, and add a sprig of basil and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch.

Either serve immediately or take to work and heat up again later.

This recipe serves one but could easily be doubled (or more!) and is a great way to add more vegetables into your diet.

I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to restrain from going to get a Starbucks (something about this cold weather?) and snacked on a banana bread Nakd bar at my desk instead…

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However, this restraint was totally ruined by me being early for my post work spin class – I am NEVER early. For anything. It was almost a bit shocking. So I kept myself occupied with a soy americano and a banana in the gym cafe, I was quiet impressed actually – the coffee was surprisingly good.

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I had an awesome spin class. This session was strength focused with lower rpm and higher resistance but it still killed me! I was very close to being sick and falling off the bike at the end (to much information?). The instructor was really good in getting us to visualise races by closing our eyes (sounds weird but it worked) and imagining we were in a 16 man breakaway climbing a mountain – I totally won the Tour de France in my head! This got me thinking, I tend to run because it helps me to feel free – no numbers, no time per km or heart rate, just me (I always tend to wear a heart rate monitor but never look at it till after). I guess it’s kind of my escape. Whereas cycling is my ‘steady’ sport where I feel comfort in a way. I tend to watch my heart rate monitor and, when spinning, the numbers on the screen a lot of the time… So it was nice to change this a bit for once and ignore the numbers on the bike.

So, after spinning I had to cycle (/wobble) home and was EXHAUSTED. After looking at my heart rate monitor (number numbers I know!) I saw I had reason to be I guess 🙂 love that kind of tiredness! I must admit though, I do still tend to compare my calories burnt to when I was rowing when it used to be thousands so it is never quite the same but I do still find it interesting…

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Dinner was typical vegetable stir fry topped with salmon, soy sauce and lemon juice…

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I had pudding infront of Charlie Borman’s American Adventure – possibly the coolest job? Oh how I’d love to be paid to explore the world… This was chocolate avocado pudding with frozen cherries and blackberries. Followed by a buttermint tea!

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And that was my Thursday!

Do you have a sport where you feel ‘freer’ and can properly escape?

‘Living lighter…’

The other week I posted about my constant pursuit of perfection, and putting too much pressure upon myself. In my quest to ‘live a little lighter’ and destress I have been focussing on doing some of my favourite things… Here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Long autumn walks with Christmas songs to work

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  • A few weeks ago I went to London and whilst there visited my cousin for breakfast. She had made this awesome bread – funnily enough called life changing bread!! So, naturally, it’s been on my ‘to try’ list since and the other day I finally made it. This bread is full of oats, nuts and seeds – no flour. The recipe can be found here. It is super filling and makes for some great toast.

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Me waiting for my life to be changed!                                                                            The finished product…

 

  • Lots of spiced chai lattes, soy cappucinos and endless cups of green tea – the ultimate therapy

 

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  • Catching up with friends and family who I haven’t seen in far too long – including some delicious cocktails and a visit to a beautiful pub…

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  • Researching case studies at my volunteer work from various health and sanitation projects around the world for World Toilet Day and realising how truly lucky I am to have the life I do.

 

  • New clothes! Especially from a little vintage shop I found in Worcester 🙂

 

  • Listening to my favourite songs and falling in love with them all over again

 

  • This inspirational post from Katie at Fat Girl PhD on body image and self confident. She really hits the nail on the head “Every time you think you’re fat, or you hate your thighs, or you obsess over the scales, you are wasting valuable moments that would be better spent doing a whole bunch of fun things, like lip-syncing to Etta James, or breathing in the fresh Autumn air, or whatever tickles your pickle. To put it bluntly, you are wasting valuable, precious time you’re never going to get back worrying about this kind of thing – when you could be living instead.”. Wise words!

 

  • My first mulled cider of the season. No further words needed.

 

  • The crazy people I work with never failing to make me laugh! My boss in particular – and yes, she reads this blog!

 

  • One of my friends taking the time to cook me a delicious dinner and dairy-free cake – I was so touched! We ate the coconut chocolate log infront of the fire whilst watching Elf…heaven? I think so. The next day was absolutely stunning – clear blue sky and perfect for my cycle home 🙂

 

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  • And finally, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’.” Mary Radmacher

{RECIPES} A healthier take on the toastie

It seems that the student classic of a humble toasted sandwich has got a bit of a bad rep in recent years as a particularly unhealthy meal or snack, smothered in cheese and full of fats. Yet, thinking about it, why should this be so? Good quality (or the best you can afford) brown bread can provide slow releasing carbohydrates whilst the filling could be a mixture of healthy fats (which we do all need, contrary to many popular diets at the moment), protein and a bit of fruit or veg. thrown in for good measure – not so bad, surely? I’m a great believer that a little bit of what you like will do you no harm, it’s all about moderation – and means you are far less likely to go overboard later on. Toastie ‘bags’ are cheap to buy and mean that you can easily make a toastie in the toaster, and eliminate the need to use butter as an anti-stick for the toastie maker/frying pan.

The other week, a good friend of mine, who is still studying at Durham and works on the student newspaper (The Palatinate) there, asked me if I could contribute a couple of alternative toastie recipes to this issue’s food section. Now, this was a bit of a challenge for me since I don’t eat a great deal of bread and, being lactose intolerant, the only cheese I really eat is goats cheese – and even then not very often! Nonetheless, I sent her over a few recipes and here is what they picked:

The full article can be found here if you fancy a read.

 

Avocado, honey and sea salt toastie

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2 slices bread of choice

1 small ripe avocado

Honey

A pinch of sea salt

Spread the honey over one of the pieces of bread (how much depends on how much of a sweet tooth you have, I don’t think this needs much to be honest). Hollow out the avocado, thinly slice and layer over the honey, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and toast.

 

Apple, cinnamon and peanut butter toastie

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2 slices bread of choice (brioche could work well here)

1 apple

½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. soft brown sugar

1 tbsp. peanut butter

Slice up the apple and place in a microwaveable bowl. Mix in ½ tbsp. water, along with the sugar and cinnamon. Microwave for 60 seconds on high, or until the apple is nice and soft. Spread the peanut butter evenly across the bread, top with the apple and toast!

If trying to be healthier, look at the ingredients on your peanut butter. So many don’t have a very high percentage of peanuts actually in them (you want it as near to 100% as possible) and have lots of oils added instead. Meriden, who do a range of different nut butters, and Peanut Butter & Co. tend to be the best.

A note on sugar – all of the sugar in these recipes could be subbed for healthier alternatives such as honey, a little maple syrup, agave nectar, etc. (this would be my personal preference). 

Do you ever eat toasties? What’s your favourite filling?

{WIAW} Winter sunshine & World Toilet Day

Wow this Wednesday has come around quickly – isn’t it funny how some weeks go so much quicker than others? I’ve had a lovely couple of days visiting friends and family in Oxford on Sunday and Monday, and then came back for World Toilet Day (my life is SO rock and roll) yesterday! So here are my eats from Tuesday.

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After a MASSIVE sleep I woke up around 8am to beautiful clear blue skies – but freezing cold. Definitely a porridge morning. This one included an egg (as seems to be my new norm), a little vanilla extract, almond butter and chopped pear – perfection in a bowl. Accompanied with a vat of jasmine green tea, naturally.

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Shortly after breakfast I layered up to go for a run, it felt so good! I did a slight variation on my usual route, thinking that it would be a bit longer but when I looked back at MapMyRun after it actually turned out to be 100m shorter! Still, a stunning morning made even better by listening to Christmas tunes along the way 🙂

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After a quick turnaround at home, and a smoothie to try and refuel (cherry, apple, cacao, peanut flour, spinach and almond milk) which I failed to finish (I never like eating after a run as it always makes me feel rather ill…) I was ready to cycle into the office for World Toilet Day!

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Lunch was delicious – a spinach salad with cous cous, avacado, cherry tomatoes, avocado, some seeds, sea salt, black pepper and lemon juice:

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Our schools co-ordinator and myself went into a sixth form for the afternoon to talk to their year 12 about the work that we do and basically to raise awareness that not everybody is nearly as privileged as we are here in the UK. It was actually really inspirational as some of the students brought up some interesting points in the disucssions – it was great to see them thinking these type of issues over more. As part of our presentation we showed them this World Toilet Day video by Matt Damon which certainly got a few laughs, whilst also really getting the message across.

I also snacked on a banana on the way to the school:

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By the time I got home again, on my bike, I was absolutely freeeeeezing and needed a mug of tea (and a lot of layers) to warm me up…

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My dad had cooked dinner which was lovely – stir fried vegetables with chicken, mixed herbs and half an orange squeezed over the top – so simple but so delicious.

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This was followed by (surprise surprise) a chocolate bowl cake (unpictured) whilst catching up on the Sunday papers on the sofa. I am aware that I do seem to eat rather  a lot of these but to me they are the perfect, warm pudding and really satisfy me. They don’t seem to be doing me any harm I don’t think! Although I would quite like to branch out a bit more…perhaps I need to try and be more imaginative!

Do you have a go to pudding? Any recommendations for me?

The Pursuit of Perfection

Rather a wordy post today – you might want to pop the kettle on!

“You always have to be perfect don’t you?” This was said to me recently (in a much politer way than it sounds written down!) by a very close friend of mine and it really hit home. I realised she had absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am never good enough for myself.

I have to be perfect. Have the perfect body, the perfect diet, the perfect workout, be the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, achieve the highest marks in all my work, get the perfect job, I could go on and on… No essay has ever been good enough, no creation ever quite right. I am currently writing my masters application, for a course I so desperately want to get onto, and I know I will never be satisfied with it.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes pursing perfection can be very useful. When I was rowing it was what drove me on to achieve my goals, and I know it’s what’s got me through all my exams. But it’s not always healthy. I’m not just talking about myself, I’m referring to so many of us. Putting so much pressure on yourself only means that at some stage you are going to crack – something I seem to be doing far too much of lately, be it getting repeatedly ill or constant meltdowns!

To be honest, it is really starting to annoy me! These last few weeks I’ve found myself really struggling over the smallest decisions, which has been baffling me. Then I realised it was because I’ve been trying to ignore my bigger challenges that the smaller ones have become such an issue.

SO, time for a change! I am a great believe in living in the here and now, as you never know what is around the corner… as life so often proves. This has been slipping away from me of late but now is the time to bring it back – and make it count.

My all time favourite video…

I’m not going to be perfect. I accept that. But the thing is – I don’t really want to be. Everyone has their own definition of what perfection is… To quote Mark Darcy “to me, you are perfect”, and surely that’s all that counts?

The same friend has come up with an amazing saying which I keep bringing myself back to – “live a little lighter”.

So what can you do to live a little lighter?

  1. Make yourself write down all the issues that are causing you to stress at the moment and then ask yourself – what can I do to change this and make life a little easier?
  2. Take a bit of a step back from your life for a while and lift the pressure off yourself. I realised I was stressing about whether I was well enough to go the gym each morning this week and so I have banned (!) myself for the rest of the week and feel so much more relaxed for it!
  3. Do more of what you love – go for a walk in the sunshine, make your favourite food, watch an old film, call a good friend, listen to music that brings back happy memories, take a day off from everything and do something different…

Live a little lighter

What are your coping mechanisms when stressed? Do you often find yourself putting too much pressure on yourself?

{WIAW} {RECIPE} ‘Nutella’ porridge and a pretty normal day

I cannot WAIT for Sunday to arrive! Struggling with this week as I have been ill and had to take the day off work yesterday 😦 I am not very good at being ill but more on that another time… Looking forward to Sunday and Monday when I am going to Oxfordshire to catch  up with friends and my Granny 🙂

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Today I am going to look back at last Thursday which was my idea of a ‘normal’ day, for once! After a LOT of self nagging I eventually managed to drag myself out of bed about 6.45am (this process took about half an hour…) to go for a run.  Before leaving I grabbed a couple of prunes:

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Having slept badly the night before I was not expecting great things from myself, the only way I was able to motivate myself was telling myself that I would just ‘plod’ my way round and survive!! However, much to my amazement, I flew round my usual route and ran it the fastest I ever have – including managing to get in the middle of a dog fight which definitely raised my heart rate a bit!

After a shower I was ravenous so opted for my breakfast of the moment – ‘Nutella’ porridge, along with a huge mug of jasmine green tea. Oh. my. God. I am addicted, it is just like having pudding for breakfast and even better it’s full of good things and super filling! So here’s the recipe for you all 🙂

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‘Nutella’ porridge

50g oats

Roughly 175ml almond milk or water (I go for a mix)

1 free range egg

1 tbsp cacao powder (you could use cocoa but you can definitely taste the difference here!)

1 tsp hazlenut butter

1 small capful vanilla extract

1 chopped pear

1 handful frozen cherries

Add your almond milk or water to the oats in a bowl (I tend to go by eye rather than measuring, enough liquid so that the oats are well covered) and pop in the microwave for 90 secs on high. Then crack the egg into the bowl and whisk with a fork until well mixed. Microwave for another 90 secs.

When cooked add the cacao powder and hazlenut butter and mix together. Then top with the pear and cherries, or stir in! You may wish to add some agave/coconut sugar/honey if you have an extra sweet tooth but I find the cherries add more than enough sweetness for me.

I must admit, when I first heard of adding an egg to porridge I thought the idea was absolutely crackers. BUT, having tried it, it makes for a much more filling meal and adds that extra bit of protein – something I can often forget to eat. Try it!

After breakfast it was time to cycle in to work (these mornings are definitely getting much colder all of a sudden!), today my volunteer work.

Lunch was at my desk, a chickeny soup from Waitrose’s Love Life range, 2 pumpkin seed ryvita and a soy cappuccino from a coffee shop nearby. All were delicious apart from the cappuccino – I thought I was being so good supporting a local business instead of going to Starbucks but it was such a let down! 😦

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Mid afternoon I fancied a snack and (smugly) had thought ahead to bring one of my homemade snack bars with me. This was a slight variation as I had left out the almond and cocoa so it was a bit simpler.

Then I cycled home (pretty much in the dark!) to have a couple of phone calls with some old friends 🙂 I could quite easily talk for hours!! For dinner I made roasted brussel sprouts and leeks, topped with some bacon cooked in garlic with onions – delicious. Whilst making this I realise that I definitely tend to plan my meals around a vegetable, protein just sends to be an afterthought,  should probably work on that…

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Later on I fancied something sweet so had some grated apple with blackberries, sheep yoghurt and peanut flour sauce…

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And shortly after collapsed into bed!

Do you ever find yourself forgetting to eat things like protein?

{RECIPE} Chocolate orange hazlenut cookies and feeling festive

I realise this post may be a little controversial but I am a firm believer that after (if not before to be honest…) Bonfire Night it is PERFECTLY acceptable to be massively excited about Christmas. On Wednesday I had been having a pretty rubbish day and was sat in the office majorly in need of cheering up. So come lunchtime I wandered into town (all 2 minutes away ha) to be greated by Christmas lights! They may not have been lit but still did a great job in starting to lift my mood. THEN I got a grande soy cappuccino from Starbucks in a red cup to take back to my desk – combined with Christmas tunes and the world was more than okay again 🙂

 

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I was feeling pretty ill when the time came to leave work (I don’t think my body can handle my one night out this week…) so skipped the gym session that I planned and walked home through the park instead. In the wind. And rain. But weirdly it was fun…

 

Anyhow, once I got home I fancied getting my bake on. Feeling inspired from my budding orange mocha habit (it’s like drinking a chocolate orange except better…) I decided to make chocolate orange hazelnut cookies by slightly altering this recipe…

 

Chocolate orange hazelnut cookies

1 cup white spelt flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tbsp coconut sugar (I used Coconom)

4 tbsp xylitol

1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts

2 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp orange extract

2 tbsp coconut oil

3-5 tbsp almond milk (or other)

 

Preheat oven to 180C. Combine all dry ingredients, then add all wet ingredients and mix together into a ball, leave in the fridge until cold (apparently this helps make super soft cookies, YUM).  Then form into small balls and bake for 7 mins, leave to cool for a further 10 mins as the cookies carry on cooking during this time.

 

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These cookies are free from refined sugar (although still very sweet I think) and the little fat they do have is good fat – what more could you want from a chocolatey gooey Christmassy treat? Tragically, my inability to count, as an Economics graduate, meant I made my cookies too big so I can’t tell you how many this recipe makes… ENJOY!

 

When do you start to get excited about Christmas?

A northern holiday…

Wow, to say this week has been busy would be a bit of an understatement! I haven’t had a chance to organise myself enough to log a whole day’s eats so I thought I’d do a write-up of this weekend instead, when I went back up to Newcastle and Durham to see my old uni friends…

 

The weekend started early on Saturday when I thought it’d be fun to go for a cycle before the day began… It definitely was fun but SO windy!! At one point I was peddling down a hill… Nonetheless, I felt great afterwards (although with a 5 and a half hour drive later that day maybe it wasn’t my smartest move…)

 

After sorting myself out, Dad and I headed off into town for Hereford Food Festival – it was great to see so many local food and drink producers in one place (although there was definitely a disproportionate number of cider stands – saying something here?!). We had tickets to go and see Paul Hollywood (see my sneaky shot from the back below) who was on top form. He made a sweet plum pizza as well as an orange and marmalade cake, definitely need to try that one, and got his son up on stage to help which was very cute. There was a lot of Mary Berry and GBBO chat as well of course!

 

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We grabbed a quick lunch in Andy’s cafe in town where I had a smoked salmon sandwich, heaven, before I had to leave to head up north to Newcastle!!

 

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Oh my God, I had forgotten just how cold the north is! Although I don’t think it helped that I was driving up in torrential rain and a thunderstorm during which I leapt out my seat each time lightening flashed and was consuming endless coffees to keep me awake throughout the day…

 

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Anyways, once I got there it was so lovely to catch up with old friends. The weekend was full of dinners, cocktails, delicious breakfasts (including a poached egg/chilli salsa/bacon/toast combo – must try make that at home), lots of coffees in Durham, a night out and some of my favourite people. One (!) of my coffees on Sunday in Durham was with the lovely Laura Agar Wilson (you can see her blog here). It was so nice to catch up with her (in Starbucks of course), it had been far too long!

 

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Driving home on Monday afternoon I ended up literally driving into the sunset (how cheesy am I?!) and feeling so lucky to have such wonderful friends. A fitting ending to an incredible weekend.

 

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A letter to Sugar

Yesterday I read an article about sugar, and its alternatives, in this month’s Women’s Health and it got me thinking about my own relationship with sugar and how harsh (mentally) I am with myself when I consume it. So here is a little letter to the white powder itself…

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Dear Sugar,

Well, we’ve definitely had a turbulent relationship, to say the least. You’ve been my crutch throughout the bad times, and the good. Lately though, you’ve been getting some bad press. It used to be all about Fat but we quite like him now – he has a good side and we’ve realised we all need a little Fat in our lives every so often. But Sugar, I don’t need you so much now. As with most relationships, there comes a time to move on and I’ve come a long way in my efforts to get over you.

I’ll admit though, sometimes I can’t resist you. So often you give me headaches. Sugar headaches I call them. Then comes the guilt, followed by the stress. The other day I ate a piece of cake, full of you. A ‘bad’ food (except I shouldn’t give things labels I know). It was delicious. But then I felt guilty. Why? Simple – you have a bad reputation and I felt I should. You’re too refined. You give me a quick rush and then I crash. You’re so manufactured. Then you make me turn to Fat, the bad one. Nobody’s meant to feel good about ‘giving in’ to an old habit are they? Well screw you Society – I’m not dangerously fat, I’m not addicted. I’m not going to suddenly gain 10 stone and morph into a pile of lard. I’m not going to become hooked and come crawling back for more, and more. Not now, I’m past that. But I refuse to feel bad about enjoying something ‘naughty’ occasionally.

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So, Sugar, maybe you’re not quite so bad as your rep. Once in a while, an old indulgence with you is okay. But, I just want to say, I’ve moved on now. You’re not so  fun anymore, I’ve got new friends nowadays – Agave, Maple, Stevia and Xylitol. And we’re much happier together.

See you around then (I’m not perfect…),

Pip

x

How’s your relationship with sugar?