A new enemy.

It’s been about a year since I started taking my skin seriously in terms of identifying and eliminating the causes of my constant breakouts. I reached the conclusion that the main culprits were sugar and dreaded dairy, so I made efforts to limit my consumption of these items (with lots of backsliding as I can resist everything except for temptation). I’ve been relatively good, but a week ago my face was attacked by a rash of pimples and I could not understand why. I racked my brain but could not remember eating any excess sugar or dairy in the past week. I thought perhaps it was due to my forthcoming period, and I did what I always do when my skin acts up when I’ve been good-ish- say what the hell I might as well binge on sugar and cheese, and got my favourite chocolates, gummy bears, and even asked for cheese in my burrito.

It has since occurred to me that I might have to add one more item to my eat in moderation list. For the week leading up to my breakouts, I had spaghetti every single day for dinner (so yummy!). Could this be the reason for my skin woes? A quick google search concluded that it was in fact the reason for my skin problems. Refined grains such as white pasta, and white rice have a high glycemic index which means they increase blood sugar which then increases insulin levels which then increases oil production which causes acne. What is even the point of life? Rice and pasta are pretty much the two food staples in my life (along with white bread to complete the unholy trinity)- at a point in my life I was eating either rice or pasta everyday. The bright side to this is that maybe pasta was the culprit all along and I can go back to having cheese? Hmmn.

I have also learned that vitamin A is important to having clear skin. The post I read claimed that it was not dairy that caused acne, but dairy consumption without adequate vitamin A to counterbalance it. So now I’m drinking a glass of multivitamin effervescent tablet every day and hoping for the best. Probiotics are also supposedly good for the skin but this is dairy so I’m not sure what to do. Soy is my go to dairy alternative but word on the street is that it is not good for the body either. Oi! Thankfully there’s oat, almond, cashew, coconut to choose from.

In summary; avoid all refined sugars, consume more probiotics, omega 3, and vitamin A.

One day I will have clear skin, but that day is not today.

Got milk?

I’ve been meaning to post for ages but instead I sat and watched the days pass me by; valentines day, pancake day etc. I’m going to sum it all in this one post. Last year I wrote a post for Shrove Tuesday in which I discussed what I was giving up for lent. I’m reviewing the post and of course it all largely the same things that I intend to give up this year. Yay for consistency. Nay for never following through.

Anyway, apart from mopping and brooding over my life what else I have been up to? Nothing much, I’ve just been chilling, trying to form new habits and desist from bad ones. For Valentine’s Day, I did nothing but stay in bed and eat a grande bowl of pasta and slow cooked brisket ragu. I was happy and eagerly looking forward to Tuesday, this day being pancake day which really is my own Valentine’s Day. Last year I decided at the last minute to have some pancakes and I got some from the store on my way home. This year however, I was prepared and I got my supplies ahead of time. For breakfast I had fluffy American pancakes and eggs, and orange juice; and for dinner I had French crepes with chocolate, fruit, and ice cream. I was happy and bloated.

That was my last meal splurge and my last experience with dairy for a while. This is one of the main changes I have made in my life, and pretty much the last resort in resolving my skin issues. Even before Lent I had stopped consuming dairy and limited my sugar to help with my acne, and I found that my breakouts reduced drastically. The dark spots are still there of course but my face was not a pimple battlefield as it was before. I did relapse a few times-once when I bought a packet of Rich Tea, and then the next day when I bought a cake. What I realised is what I’ve always known: I have no self control when it comes to food. The biscuits were nice, but the cake was dry as hell yet I devoured it all in one go. The breakouts came back in full force, and they came back as well after my valentines day-pancake day binge fest. I accepted these pimples because all that food was an au revoir to my old life. I’m glad I did it because now I know for sure that diary is the devil’s liquid. It was actually interesting to see my skin change after consuming dairy; the angry pimples and angry red spots. It was a mess. The last of my pimples from the pancake fest are just clearing up. I do hope one day I can go back to consuming dairy in moderation but to be honest if I ever clear my skin I would never risk it by going near dairy again. Plus the dairy free life is alright, and all the dairy free alternatives are pretty good. Of course sugar is also another thing to give up but dairy seems to be the worst.

Without further ado, here are the things I am giving up for lent. I have copied out the things I tried to give up last year for Lent (in italics below) and added my current thoughts.

Reduce my screen-time: I aim to achieve this by reading a book instead, and avoiding mindless gossip. I’m taking this seriously this year. I’m trying to do this by putting my phone down more. The thing with living alone is that I have filled the void with sugar, television, and technology (my phone). I knew I was obsessed with my phone but it wasn’t until I spent Christmas with my friend that I realised just how bad it was. I am literally always holding my phone, even when I dash off to the toilet or downstairs to get my food. She called me out once for always holding my phone and while that ticked me off a bit I knew she was right. I spend so much time staring mindlessly at my phone, even as I am tired and my eyes are burning. There are times when it was past midnight and my brain was fried but I would continue scrolling through Instagram even though there was nothing to see. It was crazy. Anyway I deleted Instagram and I am now trying to wean myself off my phone. I also need to wean myself off of mindless gossip because I really don’t care about any of these things and they do not concern me.

Plan my meals and replace junk with fruits. I must understand that dinner is enough; there is no need to always have a snack. It’s also okay to say no thank you when offered a snack; it really is okay sweetie. Haha I have done a reasonably good job with this lately. Apart from the biscuit, cake and pancakes I have actually been pretty good. I went to the shop recently and there was a sale on Oreos biscuits so I instinctively picked it up. After completing my shopping I had a change of mind and put it back and got some carrots instead.

Fuck milk! I believe this is self explanatory.

Read more: I aim to read three books in this forty days. Back in the day I would have considered this to be rookie number. I will try to read but I’m too lazy and would rather watch television. That being said, three books this Lent seems doable. Let’s go!

Write for an hour everyday-Whew my restlessness is going to make this one hard! Not going to happen. Unless we count the writing I do for work. I will try to write more on the weekends. I actually need to because this is all I want to do. Every time I am doing something else I just want to be in bed writing. Yet when I get the time to write I watch television instead.

Talk to someone (family/friends) at least twice a week-I snuck this one in at the very last minute. I was going to write everyday but I chickened out. I do need to talk to people-other than myself. It cannot be healthy to go a whole week without any meaningful conversation. Hmmmmmmn I don’t know about this. I would rather text.

In short, this Lent I will cut out diary, reduce my reliance on my phone, and seek to be healthy in body and in mind. So help me God.

Lunch at the Mediterranean.

*Record freezes*
*Record breaks*
*Record shatters*

Well darlings I have once again embarked upon yet another healthy eating adventure. If at first you don’t succeed, erase all evidence that you ever tried dust yourself off and try again and again. So here we go again. My skin is really terrible, this bloat is going nowhere and my general wellbeing is poor. I do zero exercise, eat zero vegetables, consume copious amounts of sugar each day. All this to say my lifestyle really is unsustainable and I need to change. But I do sound like a broken record, because I have sang this tune so many times. In trying to plan my latest healthy eating trial, I came across my notes from five years ago in which I was trying to do the same thing. It’s a little demotivating. I just want to lie in bed and stuff my face with all sorts of sweets and cheese and pastries and pancakes, but life is not fair.

At the tail-end of 2020 I came across an article talking about the best and worst diets of the year. I only peeked in the article to see what these were and that’s when I was introduced to the Mediterranean diet which was rated number one. (Keto was the worst by the way). In short, the Mediterranean diet consists of lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes; moderate amounts of protein (chicken, fish) and dairy (none for me), limited red meat, NO added sugars and processed foods and so on.

One of my friends pretty much just eats vegetables and protein; she’ll have a big bag of mixed vegetables and some fish/chicken and that’s her dinner sorted. I wish I had that willpower; rice or potatoes always creep in somehow. Plus she runs 10km once a week and I average 10 steps a day.

Last week was the first full week on this lifestyle. I just grilled some chicken wings and made a big batch of tomato rice and vegetables. A good way to incorporate vegetables is to mix it in with my food in one form of stir fry or the other (this is actually the only way I will eat vegetables). So I boiled rice, and then in a pan I fried onions, tomato paste, bell peppers, spices, mixed vegetables. Then I added the rice and spinach and mixed it all up. Put it in a container and ate it all week. I definitely was planning on exploring more recipes and cooking healthy things each day but I could not be arsed! The other option for me is grilled salmon and sweet potato chips with spinach on the side. For a period in my life that was my constant dinner (without the spinach and with lots of nando’s peri mayo). For a treat I may have one of the alpro diary free treats. I also got diary free ice cream. I am also considering dabbling into fajitas…

I wonder how long this stretch of healthy eating is going to last. In the past I went on these healthy trends because of my constant bloat, but now I have bad skin to add to my motivation. This time I need to do it for the sake of my skin. The sad part is that I actually thought my skin was getting better. I have not eaten any sweets in two weeks and I have been using a slew of serums (vitamin c, niacinamide etc) and salicylic acid. My face seemed to be getting better, I have a few leftover pimples from that weekend I binged on Haribo and twirl chocolates, and even though I still had a ton of acne scars my face did not feel as rough so I was happy about that. Well on Friday I had to Facetime a colleague for a meeting and when my face appeared on the camera I was shocked to see how it looked. I was super oily and all the scars was magnified to a million. It was jarring and depressing. One things I have realised is the massive difference in the iPhone and Samsung (android) cameras. The latter is helpful for boosting self esteem as it automatically applies a blur effect to the pictures. Of course when you use the Samsung camera everyday you don’t realise this until you switch to the iPhone and yikes!

For the longest time I thought that simply not adding sugar to my food and avoiding fizzy drinks meant I was sugar free. (Same way I was dairy free and eating yogurt and cheese). Now I realise that I need to take it a notch higher and actually read the food labels on things I buy. I will actively start monitoring my sugar intake because I suspect I am still ingesting way more than the recommended daily limit (25g for women). I have honey with my oatmeal every morning and I just realised one tablespoon has 13.1g of sugar! Add in the sugar in the oat-milk and I have almost hit my limit, and that is just breakfast. I just want my skin back to flawless for Pete’s sake! I am envious of people who can eat all the sugar and cheese they want with no consequences.

I also need to start drinking water! A few months into lockdown I started having sharp persistent stomach cramps and my pee smelled weird. Turns out I was not drinking enough water. In December 2020 my lips started cracking like crazy and I assumed it was just the weather. I noticed that my lips were also darker and just looked weird. Google suggested a form of ezcema/contact dermatitis which results from licking the lips but I eventually realised it was also because I was not drinking enough water. It is easy for me to just drink water. I won’t drink fizzy drinks or other sugary things, I just won’t drink anything. I have limited movement so I don’t feel thirsty and so do not notice that I am dehydrated until my body starts to act up. My skin issues are probably caused by this; because God knows I have not been drinking water and minding my own business.

The Mediterranean diet is not great for weight loss and I am really just trying it out because I need a lifestyle overhaul and this includes a good sustainable diet. In the long run I do hope that it will cleanse me from the inside out, resulting in clear skin and flat stomach. Fifth time’s the charm? Only time will tell.

Crack.

The first step is admitting you have a problem.
The second step is making no effort to change and continuing in the same problematic routine until you cannot take it anymore.

I recently realised I have an addiction to sugar. I actually realised this months ago but let’s not dwell on that. Long story short, about two years ago I started breaking out on my face. I had always had pimples now and then but this was ridiculous; incessant and never ending. I kept waiting for it to get better but it got worse and worse until my face became a cesspit. In typical fashion I just went about my life without being pro-active until one day I thought to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps it was the makeup I was using, or making I wasn’t cleaning my makeup sponges properly. Maybe it’s my pillow-even though I changed the pillowcases every week that was apparently not enough. My formerly smooth-ish face was ravaged with ugly pimples and the nasty dark spots they leave in their wake.

It wasn’t until I spent Christmas 2019 with my family that it even occurred to me that my diet could be a factor. I was surrounded by my family, ate mostly home cooked food and did not have my typical deluge of junk at my disposal. Surprisingly my skin was largely co-operative leading me to the conclusion that sugar is bad for my skin. What did I do upon realising this? Eat more sugar of course.

As if my skin was not problematic enough, lockdown brought about an entirely new problem. A few weeks in, my face was attacked by angry painful pimples across and under my jaw, the likes of which I had never seen before. I was flabbergasted. Surely some evil forces were against me. I thought back on Christmas 2016 when a friend remarked on how clear my skin was and how my problems started soon-ish after (a year and a half later but who’s counting). Surely by uttering those words, my friend dared the universe into afflicting me with acne?

A quick google search revealed that the cherry on top of the acne sundae was called cystic acne, and a major factor is dairy. I switched to soy and other plant based milk a while back, but I always have yogurt in my fridge, I don’t say no to ice cream and cheese is my true love. The lockdown induced baking craze was another factor; semi skimmed milk costs less than half the price of soy milk so me being a cheapskate I briefly went back to animal milk for all the baking I was doing. This must have jolted my system, resulting in the cystic acne. Again what did I do upon realising this? Go back to plant based milk but continue with cheese, greek yogurt and ice cream, of course. At a point I even started drinking soft drinks (7up, pepsi etc) which I hadn’t drank in years, because I thought what the hell my skin is effed up, might as well gorge on nonsense.

However enough is enough, every idiot has its breaking point. I took inventory of my face and mah God it’s a mess. I was too lazy to go out last week and so did not get to stock up on toffee sweets and gummy bears, the result of this was that I did not get any new breakouts. So I have decided to stick to this and be good. No processed sugars and no dairy. I nearly slipped on this because I was about to order food from Dominos until I reminded myself that cheese is in fact dairy (heartbreaking!). I also just had a diet coke but it says zero sugars so we’ll see.

If I learned one thing from this experience, it is that I am not that different from a crackhead; the addiction to sugar is real and destructive. I have so much sympathy and empathy for everyone dealing with an addiction because it’s really not easy. I knew the adverse effects sugar was having on me yet I could not stop. I would exercise by taking a walk to the shops and leave with a bag of sweets which I would devour within hours; once I popped I could not stop. At a point I was not even enjoying the sweets; they were there so I had to eat them all. It was madness and chaos. Part of this is due to the fact that I live alone, and with no company there is nothing else to do but eat and watch television. I have realised I have zero self control when it comes to sweets so it’s best to stay away and not buy junk at all.

The first step is admitting you have a problem and then taking serious steps to rectify it. (I am a sugarholic and I have a problem).

My goal is to clear my skin and improve my life. So help me God.

Tired.

I tried to be good, I really did. Every now and then I decide to change my life and make better decisions; I will eat better and exercise more. I do it faithfully for a week until I can no longer be arsed.

I can be impatient and fickle. I practice a diet and exercise regime for a week and when I don’t immediately see results I think what’s the point? and return to my raggedy ways. I avoid dairy for a week only to be rewarded with a fresh outbreak of cystic acne? I am bingeing on all the dairy products I can find. I do sit ups every day for a week and no abs? Back to lying in bed all day.

My latest fitness foray was an attempt to reverse the disastrous effects of the lockdown on my waistline. I vowed to increase fibre in my diet, eat more vegetables, do two Chloe Ting videos a day, and increase my daily steps. I stuck to this for about a week, and now I am in bed gouging my face with brioche bread and butter, rice and beef, toffee sweets, and gummy sweets that I don’t even like. I am still bloated and my skin is still a cesspit.

There is also so much conflicting information. My initial research showed that a fibre rich diet was instrumental for weight loss so I went out and got all the fibre rich things I could get. Then I had yet another case of breakouts and uncomfortable bloating which I blamed on a cup of mango yogurt hence my derisive attack on dairy. I did more research and came across a health website that claimed that fibre caused bloating. I quickly closed the page because obviously this qualified nutritionist did not know what they talking about. A few webpages later and fibre does in fact cause bloating, leaving me confused as heck. The solution for one problem exacerbates the other.

Cystic acne is a new problem I really did not need. I did not even know it was a thing until my jawline was ravaged. Apparently this is hormonal which pisses me off because the life of a woman is plagued with these goddamned hormones from which we can never get respite. I thought bacne was the worst thing but of course things always get worse.

I am also looking into the possibility that I am breaking out all over, face and body, due to my laundry detergent. I hope this is the case so I can finally have some relief.

I am tired.

The year of realising things

The great modern philosopher Kylie Jenner declared 2016 the year of “like, realising things”. At the time the detractors laughed, but she turned out to be right (Trump, Brexit). 2020 is also shaping out to be another year of realising things, for me anyway.

I started this post a few days into the new year, I’m sure by now 2020 is a year of realising things for everyone!

Sometime in 2018, I started breaking out heavily. I have never had spotless blemish free skin, but this was ridiculous. As always I ignored it for a few months, hoping it would just go away. When it persisted I started blaming the breakout on everything; stress, lack of sleep, hard water, towels, Nando’s peri mayonnaise, makeup, evil people. It just was not fair; I washed my face twice a day and never ever slept with makeup on. I did not deserve to get so much acne. Every day there was a new pimple on my face, and in its wake was a dark spot. I stopped eating certain things, and in a particularly low moment I actually bought Proactive. Nothing worked.

Fast forward to Christmas 2019 and I am on holiday with my family. During the short break my skin miraculously improves and I even get compliments about how my face is glowing.  Holiday ends and I return to my normal life, high on life and full of positive energy for 2020. Almost immediately my skin starts to break out again! What the hell? I took the time to review what was different on holiday

*music scratches* It was at moment that I realised the root of my problems.

See I did not eat much junk food on my holiday. I slept in till mid afternoon, ordered room service, went out to eat, and rarely ate any sweets. Then I came back home and immediately resumed my routine of devouring  sugar custard doughnuts, chocolate chip muffins, chocolates, and cakes. It was then that it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, my problems were due to sugar.

I already suspected junk food was not my friend due to my weight gain and dental issues. Despite my brushing twice a day without fail, I developed a cavity and had to get a filling. At the time I also bemoaned the unfairness of it all, but I have since had to accept that maybe I do consume too much sugar. In fact, I am eating more junk/sugar now than I ever did in my entire life. Growing up I did not have easy access to sweets and chocolate, seeing as I had no money of my own and couldn’t take myself to the store, so I had those in moderation. Nowadays I literally always have a treat every single day, and I always made sure to have something sweet at home to nibble on after dinner.  On my way back home on Fridays I would stop by the stores to stock up on junk for the weekend: chocolates (not my faves but still), pastry, candy, juice e.t.c. Looking back at it now, it is actually ridiculous, but at the time I did not think anything of it. I have now developed a habit of looking at the sugar content of the stuff I buy and Mon Dieu! There is so much sugar in everything. One pot of sticky toffee pudding has 42g of sugar-I would have two. Even the healthy options such as fresh juices have a lot of sugar just I would drink them like water. Speaking of water, I was struggling to drink more than a few glasses a day. This was my life, go to work, stop at the store on the way home to buy rubbish, go home and eat nonsense till I fall asleep.

Then I had my second realisation.

It all comes back to loneliness. I spend so much time by myself, alone in my room, that I have nothing else to do but to eat and watch TV (and procrastinate on all the productive things I could be doing instead). Spending Christmas with my family away from home made me realise that I have fewer junk cravings when I am with company. To be honest I don’t have that much cravings anyway, I just eat because it is something to do.  Plus I know that custard doughnut tastes good so I buy it and keep it eating it until it is all gone, regardless of whether I am actually craving it. Having snacks around is another problem; I have zero willpower in the presence of sugar. I can resist temptation when the temptation is still in the store, but once it is in my vicinity I have to eat it.

Of course I was aware that people eat out of boredom, but I did not extend that to loneliness and to myself until now. Boredom and loneliness can be entwined and sometimes they are one and the same. When I am around friends and family, I am sated by the conversations and laughter and arguments and silence; and I rely less on food and internet to do that. But when I am by myself with no one to engage with, food and TV fulfill that need.

The effects of loneliness are pervasive and truly astounding. The first step is realising you have a problem and then taking the necessary steps to mitigate said problem. For Lent, I tried to replace my addiction to food and phone with more productive things, and it has honestly been touch and go. Still I have definitely been better with the sugar intake and I can see this in my skin. The trick is to fill the lonely moments with more productive things-reading, writing. cooking (ha!), colouring, creating a scrapbook/vision board. My goal is to fill the loneliness with something more tangible, to replace the snacks with creativity, and to make something more fulfilling. The real test will be saying no to sweets that I am offered, but sadly I have not reached that level yet.

What have I realised in the first week of the new decade? Something I have always known: I eat junk to fill the boredom, and it is wreaking havoc on my skin and teeth.

I am excited for all these lessons and realisations, and despite how raggedy this year is turning out, I am still looking forward to ending this year a better version of myself.