Working On It, Week 13: Leaving It All Out on the Ice

feature image modified via shutterstock

This week in my continued effort to not destroy my body, I bought new workout pants. From a place called Lorna Jane, if you want deets. I think it’s an Australian store. I spent ~20 minutes perusing lycra clothing racks, shoulder to shoulder with incredibly fit people with endorphins oozing from their pores. For once, I didn’t feel like a total outsider in a sports store. It seems like progress in terms of my health confidence and viewing myself and my fitness level in a more positive and less shameful light. I doubt I’ll be signing up to the mailing list any time soon but at least I wasn’t nervous that the fit-looking people at the counter would side-eye me as I walked in.

Here’s what has and hasn’t been working for me lately.

Working: Ice skating

I was a little hesitant to say yes to ice skating. I feel like it’s an activity that requires a lot of practice to be even slightly capable, and I’m not sure I enjoy it enough to commit those hours. But I figured if nothing else, it would be good practice for walking around Chicago when I move.

My guide was my bff Owen, a Canadian ice hockey player. He’s ~that guy~ who’s racing around the rink doing fancy maneuvers and making ice fly while you’re pulling yourself along the railing and rolling your eyes. He made me hire ice hockey skates instead of the recreational ice skates but my ankles kept buckling inward every time I stepped out onto the ice. About one hour and three size adjustments later, I was ready to go! Excruciatingly slowly and awkwardly.

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“Am I going so fast that I’m blurry?”

I wasn’t.

I was terrible. It took twenty minutes to muster up the courage to leave the side railing. Then half an hour later, I was good enough to avoid falling on my ass but too tense to really let go and have a good time. Partly because little fearless children kept skating right into my path, it was hellishly stressful.

I don’t think I enjoyed ice skating enough to be adding it to my future fitness regimen anytime soon. However I’m still chalking it up as a successful fitness experience, given it was a solid workout and also an activity that’s pretty far outside my comfort zone.

Not working: Sugar-free work/life

Recently it came to my attention that I have possibly developed a little sugar addiction? A few weeks ago my boss banned candy and biscuits in the office because the weather is warming up and he thinks we should all be starting to think about our “summer bodies.”

Apart from my mild disgust at the phrase “summer bodies” and mandatory group dieting, I didn’t have a problem with the new ‘no sugar’ rule. I honestly didn’t expect it to impact my life whatsoever but whaddaya know, I’ve been dealing with intense sugar cravings ever since. At 3pm I’m sneaking off to the gas station for a cheeky Caramello Koala like a teen sneaking away to smoke weed.

This realisation isn’t a huge deal, in the grand scheme of things; on one hand sugar in large quantities does fairly terrible things to your body and on the other, I don’t ingest a tonne of it and I’ve had unhealthier addictions. Still, I’ve decided to go cold turkey for the next three weeks, which is the same amount of time I have left in Sydney. Health benefits aside, it’s something I’ve wanted to wean myself off anyway, as my gal pal can’t eat much sugar and I don’t wanna be smashing cheesecake on the couch while she’s left to snack on celery.

Has anyone cut out added sugars before? Do you have any tips or motivating experiences? It’s not realistic or desirable to cut back on sugar completely; it’s in so many things and life’s a little busy to be too fussy about what I eat. But as a start, from this week I’ll cut out the midnight mini ice creams and gas station candies and anything else with obvious added sugar. Wish me luck! God knows I’ll need it.

How’s your past week been? Is anyone still doing the yoga challenge? Have you tried any new healthy things? Tell me everything.

Also if you haven’t joined the Working On It social group, you could.

Crystal is a 33-year-old Australian living in Chicago. Founding member, does HR stuff, writes now and then.

Crystal has written 329 articles for us.

57 Comments

  1. Didn’t you write about the stress of needing workout clothes in one of your early columns but not feeling part of the ‘fitness people’? Full circle.

    Hahah ice skating as practice for Chicago — probably accurate. At least Chicagoans know how to deal with cold weather. Portland gets freezing rain every February which covers the city in a sheet of ice but no one knows how to drive in winter weather. Some people put on golf shoes and walk around downtown taking pictures of all the pretty ice-covered landmarks.

  2. your boss sounds like a tool.

    but re: eating less sugar, I mostly find it useful to have protein-dense snacks on hand for my 3:30 pm hangry, and like, not all sugar is created equal and you could get some of your sugar yayas from like, dried mangos vs ice cream bars every afternoon.

    • speaking as somebody who used to work a job that made me feel really bad over the summer and would walk past this incredible minimart with lots of kinds of paletas for $1 and I would buy one on the way home, and like, paletas are delicious and these ones were economical, and also two months later my rings fit different since I’m not eating ice cream bars every single day. like, weight loss is zero percent my life goal, but not eating ice cream every single day will cause the scale to slide a bit.

  3. Work-mandated sugar limitations (and the reason given behind them) sound horrible (and possibly like grounds for sexual harrassment?), but on the topic of lower-sugar alternatives–

    I’ve found (for myself) that it was initially pretty difficult, but after a few weeks, it became much easier, and even found I don’t like things as sweet as I used to. Some swaps I made–lower sugar yogurts and adding in fruit instead of relying on flavored varieties (Siggi’s is the lowest-sugar brand I’ve found around me, but Australia probably had different versions from the US), plain cream instead of flavored creamers in my coffee, raw cacao nibs in place of chocolate chips in desserts or trail mix, KIND bars instead of granola/protein bars, naturally-flavored sparkling water in place of soda, etc. For baking, I either replace some of the sugar with ripe bananas, or use a lower glycemic-index alternative, like coconut sugar (when I can find it). When I do have a stronger craving, I try to go to fruit first, which usually helps subside it. I especially like sliced apples or bananas with almond butter 🙂

    • I’ve found adding almond slivers to plain yogurt gives me enough flavor without much added sugar.

      Also noticed lately that since I’ve started weighing pasta etc. to limit carbs to reasonable portions (30g uncooked pasta/meal for example, rather than an enormous bowl that was probably 5x that), I don’t get the mid-day sugar crash that always sent me running to the cookie jar. Of course, adding lots of veg to replace the carbs also probably helps because fiber slows how quickly you process sugars. Which is why apples make a great choice- sweet taste and fibers slow the sugar release to help avoid a crash.

      I’ll have to look for coconut sugar, thanks for the tip!

  4. That you even attempted to ice skate is more than most, and that you managed to walk away from it unscathed is even better! I love playing hockey, so I love being on the ice.
    So far as sugar goes, it can be tricky. One of the best things I’ve managed to do to curb the sugar intake a bit is to primarily make my own sweet treats…and then I make them less sweet than a standard store bought something, and also have worked out recipes where I sneak in protein and vitamins and such by using ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily expect. (If you want some recipes, lmk, I could msg them to you) The best part about doing this is, when you do get the store bought stuff, it tends to taste ridiculously sweet, like in a gross out way, so then I don’t crave it.
    And congrats on the moving countdown being so close! I’m moving in 2 week as well (but not very far) and my race is this weekend!!! So, i’m organizing all of my food, etc and making snacks to have at the ready, but generally having a fairly light exercise week.

    • I would be interested in your no/low sugar recipes, thanks! I’m always really impressed by people’s creativity when it comes to gaining sweetness from uncommon ingredients. One time I ate a vegan no sugar/sweetner brownie that was made from avocado and cocoa and other things I’ve forgotten, and it tasted just as amazing as the sugar kind. It was unexpected and delightful.

      Good luck with all your race prep over the next two weeks!

      • Thanks!! But i don’t have 2 weeks…my race is on Sunday!!! I’m actually really glad its not two more weeks away, bc I’m just excited to do it. I’ll get some good recipes together& send them your way in the next week.

  5. “A few weeks ago my boss banned candy and biscuits in the office because the weather is warming up and he thinks we should all be starting to think about our “summer bodies.””

    Ummm that’s harassment and incredibly triggering for some people. I can’t believe that happened in 2015. Is the culture around that stuff different in Australia?

    My body in summer is my “summer body.” Period. And any employer who tries to control the way I eat is going to get an earful about EDs and body-shaming for DAYS.

    • I can’t really say whether our culture is different but we are a very small and informal workplace, which could be why it happened. It was some body policing/shaming bullshit, for sure.

      We’re all free to bring in our own candy/cookies/etc – he only banned company-purchased candy and he replaced the candy jar with a fruit bowl. I’m just clarifying because my very top level overview probably made it seem like he banned candy completely and not just from the company snack supplies. Not that I really think it really matters, it was still terrible.

      • Ohh gotcha. Yeah that would still be pretty upsetting but it makes slightly more sense.

        Once a friend of mine was like “well my sister’s boss mentioned to her that she was gaining weight, and I think it was actually good for her. It was a reality check.” The friend who told me this was naturally very thin and energetic so she probably didn’t realize that for most of us, negative reinforcement and shame never, ever help. They hinder.

        So just to reiterate to everyone (as most women already know), for people who have struggled with body image and eating stuff over the years, NO COMMENT ON HOW THEIR BODY LOOKS OR HOW BODIES SHOULD LOOK IS EVER APPROPRIATE. And since you don’t know who those people are, just don’t.

  6. My partner has started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (which I’ve tried before and wasn’t really for me), but watching them get their butt in gear inspired me to search out a dance class I like. The school doesn’t have any good ones this semester, but I came across a studio that opened up in June that offered a Bollywood dance class! Huzzah!

    I tried it last week and although it was just me and an older, very sweet, Korean woman who is far more fit than me in class (I guess everyone else phoned in and said they couldn’t come) I loved it! The music is great, the teacher is really nice, and we learn routines and then do them, which gives enough downtime between the high intensity dancing that I didn’t have to stop, which has happened to me at Zumba classes.

    They also offer a Burlesque class that starts next week that I’m going to check out, as I take the sign saying ‘open to all genders and sexualities’ as an indication of good people teaching it. I’m hoping to make friends in these classes, but even if not they’re super fun.

  7. UGH THE SUGAR THING. I’ve cut down a LOT of generally unhealthy habits, but sugar is one thing that I’ve always had trouble with. GOOD LUCK! I BELIEVE IN YOUUU

    Also just HAVE to also reiterate that your boss sounds awful. I’m glad you’re using it as inspiration to cut down on sugar, but DAMN. That is a really shitty weird power trip of a move for a boss to play. Good luck with that too, I guess?

      • When I say ‘added sugar’ I basically mean things like store-bought candy, cakes, soft drinks, etc. I don’t know if that’s an appropriate term, it’s just what came to mind. Essentially any food situation where refined sugar has been clearly added.

        • Yes it basically is the appropriate term.

          When I say what kind I mean like is it specific sort of “flavour” so to speak of somethin that is an added sugar food. And was supposed to be in there somewhere what kind do you have the hardest craving for with a bit on what could sub for it that is something with natural sugar or what.

          My big craving is sour candy, such as sour gummies but I can get my “fix” by subbing with sour fruit.
          I’ve been kind of incoherent this week.

  8. Looks like you did a great job skating! It gets a lot easier pretty fast if you decide to try again.

    I’d be mad if anyone at work tried to get me to think about beach bodies. Work candy is my savior and downfall.

  9. You’re going too fast!!! =D

    I tried ice skating maybe 2 time my whole life? It’s okay. I think I like roller blades a lot more. LOL.

    Sugar? That’s a hard topic. I’ve tried to substitute with something like Stevia which kinda works for when I have tea. I don’t drink coffee so that’s sort of out of the question. We don’t have any kind of soda here in the house so that really helps to keep the sugar away. Even when we eat out we don’t really have soda. I usually try to opt for water or a lemonade.

    Cutting back on sugar can suck but it’s one of the things I’ve seen with other people that really helps with starting a healthy lifestyle.

    GOOD LUCK on your move!!!

    • I’m really interested in trying Stevia as a sugar substitute. I usually put 1/2 an aspartame sugar substitute in my morning coffee but I’ve read enough negative articles now to be interested in switching to a natural substitute.

      Also thanks so much!

  10. You did great on the skates. The trick is to go with someone worse than you, and you can feel accomplished by comparison. Going with a hockey person? That will feel rough.

    Ahh, sugar. It’s been a while ago that They recommended reducing sugar intake to something like 6 teaspoon for men, 5 for women, and 4 for kids. I can’t find a really good explanation to link to, so here’s something recentish:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2979477/World-Health-Organisation-chickens-cutting-recommended-sugar-intake-children.html

    Anyway, I know the recommendation in the US is older because I used to limit my kids to their limit. When you look at sweetened breakfast cereal, yogurt, granola bars, fruit snacks, basically anything packaged, it’s easy to hit the limit immediately. One serving of yogurt is more than the kid limit! Sweet foods are super convenient!

    Anyway, reducing can totally be done. A whole foods diet (which I don’t follow!) would accomplish it, but there are also cereals that aren’t sweetened, plain yogurt with fruit, savory snacks instead (cheese and crackers, nuts, blah blah blah). Good luck. I love sugar and I’m unapologetic about it, but I want my kids to grow up to be healthier than I am and learn better habits from the start.

    • Ha yes that’s true, I probably shouldn’t have gone with a pro skater.

      Thanks for the info and suggestions on sugar! I’ve been going down the whole foods track in a very informal way but it’s working out okay so far. I’ve used a nutrition tracker in the past and agree that it’s just so easy to hit the recommended sugar limit.

  11. You seem to be doing fine on ice skates! They’re tricky.

    As far as sugar goes, I went pretty much cold turkey back in college. I found myself feeling sick to my stomach after all night study sessions with lots of sweet drinks, coffee, snacks, and energy drinks so I just tossed them all and dealt with it. I found myself substituting things like iced tea with honey for a soda, granola bars for candy, and just stopped putting sugar in coffee. You’d be surprised how quickly your tastes change – I can’t even drink a soda now, just too sweet. My one weakness is ice cream – still haven’t given that one up.

  12. I can cut added sugar stuff out for about 28 days give or take and then it’s outta my hands and into my mouth like popcorn. Sour craving and chocolate craving, sour stuff if I can sub gummi worms or what for naturally sour fruit pretty effectively. But chocolate? Nope nothing can sub chocolate, but at least I love dark chocolate.

    I think what I was trying to get at/to is you should try to find some fruit to sub for your added sugar craving, but I don’t have your taste buds and wouldn’t know what’s on the market where you are.
    For example honeycrisp apples taste sweet to me however I grew up eating granny smiths which are a strain of apple considered by most to be quite sour. Honycrisps could seem more sour than sweet to you, also they might not even been an available strain in Oz.

    Sample lots of fresh or dried fruit but not the fruit in the creepy syrup is the advice here, I think.

    I’ve got most the kinks in my schedule worked out so I can work out with being a

    • WTF computer

      okay

      So I can work out without being attack by cute.

      Leg lifts on the couch not the floor when ever and over head weight routine behind closed doors early in the morning (or before bed if morning got busy) so that maybe I can start pull ups again. I don’t have a standard pull up bar, I have something for people who got too cool for regular pull ups. Rebuilding oneself is hard in a different way than trying to make good healthy habits.

      When ever it happens Gordita is deep asleep and I have the floor I’m trying this modified plank thing. Made 45 seconds last time, the first time I did it was um maybe 18 seconds which is yay, but no chance of trying the yoga challenge anytime soon.

      #cute problems

        • I’m doing a modified plank that’s basically the push-up position at the up part. No idea if it counts as a “plank” or is easier than a true plank just know it doesn’t feel like the floor is trying to crush my bones to dust the standard plank with forearms down.

          Just feels good to gain 27 seconds and not focus on the things I could do long ago. Like do 30 standard pushups with out breaking a sweat with energy and stamina to spare.

          • The modified plank is easier on your core but tougher on your arms. I’m specifically trying that because my core is strong but my arms, not so much. And there are such cool things I want to do with stronger arms, like handstands and all of the aerial stuff.

  13. Ironically, I’ve recently had the conversation of “hey, you need to stop losing weight” which means I’ve started adding honey to tea and eating all the chocolate I can remember to eat and such. So, I’ll take your sugar over here? Thanks. (Yeah, the just add more olive oil and eat more nuts sorts of things weren’t cutting it, clearly.)

    I had a roommate who did an intense no-sugar deal (down to the ingredients in bread and such). I’m not likely to do that sort of thing on purpose, but if I truly cook for the week and I’m out of chocolate, I think I do go without added sugar.

    • Good luck with upping your weight! May you not run out of chocolate often.

      Yeah cutting out things like bread is a little too intense for me as well, my fiance needs to do it and it seems like a thing that I’d struggle with.

  14. I quit sugar and sweets (and basically everything) for my 30 day Paleo challenge in February.
    I just substituted other stuff in, like honey or fruits or berries, dates or dried berries even.
    My biggest problem since then has been coffee, because coffee with no milk and sugar is a total no go for me, but I’ve successfully switched over to Mascobado Sugar which is unrefined and still has some nutrients (I hope).
    Another way to cheat your way around no sweets: Don’t buy any.
    Snack on dried goji berries if you must have something sweet, or better even: Fruit. Oranges and the like.
    P.S.:My skin looked amazing while on the no sugar thing. Amazing!

    • Ha yes good tip on not buying sweets. It’s been 8 long days since my last caramello koala. I have been hitting the fruit bowl more often instead and it’s been helping with the cravings, particularly kiwi fruit.

  15. Lately I’ve been getting a mid-day sweet fix from a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and whatever fruit I bought that week- strawberries or nectarines or whatever looks good, dressed with a vinaigrette. To get as filling a salad as possible I pack a separate small tupperware as full as possible with greens and keep the rest separate. The vinegar really makes the sweetness of the fruit shine in a satisfying way. The only somewhat awkward thing for some workplaces is that you have to put it all together in a pretty big bowl in order to get the dressing on everything. Normally I bring a sandwich or some leftovers, too. If I plan my lunches like this it takes me zero willpower to keep from wasting tons of money at cafes in the morning/afternoon, because I’m satisfied.

  16. Late in life T1 diabetic right here, I have all the experience cutting back the sugar. It did hurt at first, but eventually I just stopped noticing really. Now on the odd occasion I DO eat desserts I find them super sweet.

    My coping strategies for sugar cravings:
    Flavoured black tea with milk (earl grey, lady grey, black tea flavoured with cacao).
    Sparkling water with lime and all the mint.
    Greek yogurt with a few berries.
    And sometimes I just ignore all that stuff about artificial sweeteners killing you and drink diet coke, because whatever. I have almost no vices left.

    Also there was a recipe here aaages ago for whiskey brown butter cookies, which I have successfully made low carb and somehow more delicious with coconut flour and alternative sweetener. AS improves my life again.

    I’ve injured my elbow and am frustratingly unable to train normally and I’m climbing the walls at the moment (except not literally, because I’m not allowed to climb anything). I DID try roller skating the other day, I was really hoping some of the balance from my normal activities might cross over? No joy. I looked like a drunk baby giraffe

    • I’m sorry your injury has put you out of action, to an extent! I also look like a drunk giraffe when rollerskating, I empathise.

      Thanks for the tips on things that help curb your cravings, I’m going to try them out. I already do the greek yogurt and that’s a winner.

  17. I agree with everyone on here that your boss sucks. Seriously, limiting your employees food intake because our fucking society has banged it into our heads that we have to get “beach ready” in summer?? (I fear I’d be fird as soon as I opened my mouth at your place, for obvious reasons.) In my country I’m pretty sure that’d be illegal, but it might not be in yours. Or it might be. In any case it’s aggressive and controlling.

    On the other hand yay for ice skating! It’s going towards winter here, so ice rinks will start to pop up sometime in the next month. I loved ice skating a lot until I ruined my spine, and now am too afraid of falling to do it too often or do anything crazy while skating. Sad, that. Keep on trying it, it really gets better! Balance is something we have to learn if we haven’t be able to do it before. For inspiration go to YT and watch Johnny Weir skate to Lada Gaga.. (and then relax, he’s an olympic skater.. but doesn’t it look like fun??)

    I started the Yoga thing! I’m on day 3, and it’s really fun. I like doing it when I come home after work (whenever I don’t have a dance class that day, which isn’t too often) and found that it’s a great way to loosen my joints or pump up my happiness factor (haven’t been very happy recently coming home from work, as work sucks. But well. Yoga helps!) I like it, actually, and since my spine hasn’t decided to hate me yet I’ll take a real proper Yoga class at my dance studio tonight before dance class to see what it feels like to do it in a room with other people. I’ll go back to Adrien and do day 4, though. I like her videos a lot.

    I quit sugar, coffee and alcohol every year for lent. I go cold turkey, and it helps. I replace sugary treats with nuts and dried fruits, though I’m generally not prone to snacking at my desk. Sadly I have no further tips or tricks for you – it’s a thing of pure cold discipline for me.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your spine and work troubles!

      Also well done on the yoga challenge, I’m glad it’s already delivering some benefits for you. Good luck with the yoga class! Or I guess you’ve already done it. I hope it was awesome.

  18. It’s so great that you didn’t feel intimidated by the fitness store this time AND that you did something so outside of your comfort zone. I haven’t been ice skating since elementary school and the video of you skating makes me want to give it a try this winter! You look great and you didn’t fall! So I’ll probably ask you to teach me. I hear that the ice skating rinks in Chicago make for a great date night 🙂

  19. Ice skating! The rinks where I live are only open in winter (Northern hemisphere), so I’m excited for them to come back soon. My first couple of attempts at iceskating were 100% cling-to-barrier outings. Then I avoided ice for two years while learning to quad skate for roller derby. When I tried again, I found derby had given me free ice skating powers! I looked a bit daft because I tend to go into a roller derby skating stance, but it was so fun to get on the ice and straight away be able to do fun things. Even jump (180 degrees only, I am no budding Johnny Weir).

    If you go again, a good thing to try is gliding on one foot at a time, extending how long you go before you switch to the other foot.

  20. You look really good on the skates! I don’t have access to an ice rink but I’ve been toying with the idea of learning to roller skate for roller derby tryouts next year, but it’s so far out of my comfort zone, I don’t even know where to start.

    I started the yoga challenge a few days ago and I already feel so much better and more energized! Thanks for the recommendation.

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