This month’s career change interview is with Laura, whose story starts with a blog about Happy Sugar Habits.
The concept of eating low sugar is one that is deeply familiar to me, having first been introduced to the Montignac low GI diet in 2001. My dad as well as my aunt and uncle saw the extra pounds melt off and I saw good results too in coming back down from my chocolate chip cookie-induced weight gain at the American school from which I had just graduated. Since then, my diet of choice moved on to the low-carb approach of Atkins and to the most recent LCHF (low carb, high fat – sounds bad, no?) method that has become so popular in Sweden. This has meant a good 13 years of eating vegetables, salad or quinoa with my meals instead of pasta, rice and potatoes, upping my protein intake, eating more eggs than toast and cereal for breakfast… and facing a constant struggle to stick to all this in the face of a barrage of sweet temptations.
It’s quite easy to stick to actually when I’m at home, at a restaurant or a hotel where I can choose freely from a menu, with my family or with close friends who know my habits. It’s harder when I’m visiting someone and they serve up huge plates of pasta, or a huge portion of dessert is placed in front of me. It’s also hard to resist in the office when there are brownies and muffins and cake, oh my, or while travelling, with most cafés and bars serving only sandwiches, cupcakes, cheesecake, sweetened yoghurt… Recently I’ve been good again, being open and honest with everyone so that it’s easier to say no. I find that I’m good at being strict – but as soon as I make an exception, my will power collapses.
The power of sugar is psychological as much as physical. Even though I find a lot of cakes and chocolates too sweet these days, sugar still has an emotional hold on me that goes back to my childhood. My mum likes to regale our friends with any number of stories involving sweets and me. Take your pick from when I was four and barricaded the door to my bedroom in order to stuff my face with the chocolates our family friends had given me; when I was seven and snuck Fazer mints out of my mum’s office drawer over a period of many weeks, thinking she wouldn’t notice – but unfortunately she did notice when she eventually opened that drawer to find an empty box; when I was nine and we were at a restaurant that had a big bowl of mints out in the hall, and my mum went to pick up my cardigan only to find hundreds of mints falling out of their hiding place and bouncing down and across the floor; when I was twelve and ate a whole 100g bar of white chocolate then stuck my fingers down my throat to throw up (okay, that one’s not so funny).
The odd thing is that my mum was fully aware of the dangers of sugar and did all she could to instil my sister and me with healthy eating habits, for the sake of our teeth as much as the empty calories that came with sugar. We had fruit and wholemeal toast at home while our friends’ mums gave us jam doughnuts and ice cream. We only rarely went to McDonald’s as a special treat. We drank Light Ribena and bought sugar-free chewing gum. But as soon as I had my own pocket money, I would stuff my pockets full of sweets at the local newsagent’s or at the school’s tuck shop.
Today, I’m 100% convinced of the need to avoid sugar and the benefits of eating a diet of more fat and less carbs than traditional dietary advice would recommend. Going sugar free has huge benefits, not just related with weight but also for me avoiding migraines, blood sugar lows and mood swings. I believe it is catching on and slowly, slowly, the world is adapting. Of course, there are lots of people who can stuff their faces with white bread, pasta and pizza, cakes and biscuits, and not gain weight (though my sincere hope that they are rotting on the inside…!). There are others who have enough will power to eat in moderation. Sadly I don’t belong to either group…
All this to say that I wholeheartedly admire and support Laura and her efforts with her Happy Sugar Habits blog and programme! Read on for her story…
Healthy eating coach
Laura Thomas was a management consultant at IBM before taking a sabbatical to set up her business Happy Sugar Habits, which helps people get control over their sugar cravings. Laura now coaches individuals one-to-one, runs workshops on sugar, and has created a successful online sugar detox programme. After her sabbatical, Laura returned to IBM in a part-time role training the graduates whilst continuing to run her business alongside. She currently spends 50% of her time in each.
1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?
It was during the 2012 Olympics. I was watching the athletes achieve such incredible things through their hard work and dedication. It truly inspired me that there was something bigger out there for me to do in this life. I didn’t actually know exactly what it was but I had already started my Happy Sugar Habits blog earlier that year, so thought I’d spend my savings and time on developing this into something more serious.
2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?
By a mile it was the isolation of setting up a business and working solo. I didn’t anticipate the challenge of this but it’s something I have to consciously manage these days. Finding a role at IBM that I love and that gives me such a people and team ‘fix’ energises me to be able to work solo for the rest of the week. Occasionally I feel like I have a double life, but I love the fact that my career and personal journey is completely unique in its own right.
3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?
In terms of emotional support, my friends have been nothing short of incredible. They remind me of what I’ve achieved and have spurred me on when I’ve felt like giving up. Financially, I put aside some savings before taking the sabbatical, which gave me the time to work things out and formulate my business idea more clearly. I believe it’s not a case of the one idea, but really working things through by doing.
4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?
The fact that I am wholly fulfilled by my work and constantly challenged, learning very quickly. Emails from clients and subscribers to my blog about how I’ve made a difference in their lives give me the best feeling and fill me with purpose. I am also grateful that I currently get the best of both worlds and this has led me to really appreciate the pros and cons of each type of employment lifestyle.
5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?
Know that you might not ever ‘know’ or be sure what your next move might be or how exactly it will work out. You will grow and learn significantly as a person regardless of what happens. There are options you may not see now that will only come to light once you are on your way.
You can read about Laura’s business at Happy Sugar Habits and get her tips on her blog (like this one: Ready for sugar-free change? Ask yourself these questions) or follow her on Facebook.