Look, I wouldn't say I moved from England to the U.S. because of the candy ("sweets," if you want to use the proper English term), but it sure didn't hurt.
America during the holidays is an embarrassment of riches, from sugar cookies to gingerbread to candy canes and every delicious morsel in between. So it won't come as a surprise that, come January, I was... not feeling so great. (And, I mean, maybe all of that mulled wine played a role? Who can say!)
I decided this was going to be my year. Not the year I would take up anything too drastic, like long-distance running, or even running to the bus stop, but the year that I would take small, manageable steps to not feel like a walking trash can.
I knew I wouldn't last a week without sugary snacks—I have an entire shelf dedicated to the British snacks I hoard from trips home—but maybe I could, you know, stop eating candy at work like it's my job (spoiler: it's not). Maybe I could stop using a bar of chocolate as a pick-me-up at 2 p.m. and then lapsing into a mental coma by 3 p.m. Maybe I could replace said bar of chocolate with a healthier, low-sugar alt (I opted for Chobani® Less Sugar Greek yogurt (opens in new tab)).
[Editor's note: Chobani® Less Sugar Greek yogurt has 50% less sugar than other yogurts*. *Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt: avg. 9g sugar; other yogurts: avg. 18g sugar per 5.3oz serving.]
Maybe I'd even, God forbid, eat a piece of fruit instead.
Thus began my resolution to eat less sugary snacks. (The one exception from this whole experiment? My tea. Come on, I'm English). This devotion, I swore to myself, would begin the very second I recovered from my New Year's hangover. Which was January 3, if you're wondering. Look, I'm nearly 30. Here's how it went.
The first week of January is, by all accounts, a dark time. Quite literally, it's dark out, and it's freezing cold, and you still haven't paid off your credit card bill for all the presents you bought your dog for Christmas. The first week of January, I imagined, would be my Everest.
Plot twist: I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it felt to be back in a routine. Go to work. Make bad jokes at your coworkers. Walk the dog. Heat up leftovers. Curl up on the couch with a great January book. No holiday parties to attend, no old friends in town, plenty of naps. It felt great!
And I was surprised by how easy it became, after just a few days, to lean on healthy snacks instead of the chips and popcorn that had become a staple of my work diet during December. Instead, I turned to dried apples, trail mix, edamame from a nearby sushi place, different varieties of Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt, and whatever fruit I could dig up in the work kitchen.
Those first few days, saying no to brownies and Funfetti cake slices was a heartbreak I can't quite put into words, but by the first Friday, something kicked in that was like, "Dude, you'll feel better if you just eat the yogurt."
Having ambitiously banned myself from my British Snack Shelf in Week One, this was about the time when I decided that breaking into it in moderation wouldn't hurt. At home, in the warm cocoon of my apartment, I'd let myself indulge (if I felt sluggish while catching up on This Is Us, so be it!)
I resolved to stay on the less-sugar straightway whenever I was working at home, though. Editing and writing during award shows or reality TV recaps required my A-game, a.k.a. not blissfully unconscious on my sofa with an empty packet of gummy bears in my lap.
This was also when I discovered an unexpected side effect: I was planning my day better. When I ate yogurt with berries and oats for breakfast instead of the everything bagels with cream cheese I usually favored, I didn't "crash" around mid-morning and have to prop myself up with multiple cups of tea.
In line with my 2019 resolution to make this My Year (vague, but effective!), I began writing down my goals for the day in an honest-to-God notebook after breakfast—plan out the next edition of Couples + Money (opens in new tab), look through applications for our newest Marie Claire fellow, brainstorm ideas for 2020 coverage (opens in new tab), you name it. When I was done, I'd cross it out in a blue pen and smile smugly to myself. I know, guys, I hate myself a little bit, too.
My pipe dream to take up Exercise with a capital E was going nowhere, but I still felt more awake and capable at work than I had for most of the winter. (I won't lie: I used this as an excuse for why I didn't need to work out, anyway.)
I even began to crave some of my healthy snacks when I got hungry—"Ooh, time for my dried apple!" or "I think I'll try a new flavor of yogurt!" I could help crack open a cake that was delivered to my attention, but I didn't want to eat it.
Who had I become?
A post shared by Jenny Hollander (@jennyhollander) (opens in new tab)
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Food affects everyone differently, of course, but I began to realize that the sugar-packed treats of last year often saw my mind feeling slippy and lazy, and I was more likely to spend time scrolling through Twitter or looking through emails without reading them properly. Which is fine for not being at work (give me cookies with my Bachelor marathon or give me death), but wasn't all that conducive to, you know, working.
The snacks I'd been eating recently weren't making me superhuman, but they were making it easier to jump from one thing to another without losing my focus.
Okay, so maybe I wasn't going to scale Kilimanjaro this year or take up ultramarathons (or, for that matter, regular marathons), but I didn't hate the idea of doing this on a regular basis in 2019. I was more productive, more engaged in meetings, and less sleepy during the post-lunch lull.
Time will tell, but I'm still eating my dried fruit and yogurt at work in lieu of milk chocolate and gummy bears, and I'm... really into it? I'm also drinking a lot more water, and maybe I'm imagining it, but I can't help but think that my skin looks better.
This all sounds painfully obvious, I know, but to me it's something of a revelation. Just don't talk to me about giving up sugar in my tea, okay? I have my limits.
*Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt: 50% less sugar then other yogurts. (Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt: avg. 9g sugar; other yogurts: avg. 18g, per 5.3oz serving).
**Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt Crunch: 30% less sugar than other mix-in yogurts. (Chobani® Less Sugar Greek Yogurt Crunch: avg. 11g sugar; other mix-in yogurts: avg. 16g sugar, per 4.5oz serving).
Jenny is the Director of Content Strategy at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books in 2024.
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