O is for… one week (low sugar challenge)

The letter OThis post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Yes folks. In the same month I write a post about the evils of dieting, and how important food is, I’m now writing a post about restricting a food group.

Bear with me.

First, ‘sugar’ is actually a misnomer. What we call sugar covers a range of different substances and combinations of substances. Here is an article with more information than you ever wanted to know about different types of sugar. It may be possible to cut all of these out, but it would be difficult and pretty stupid. Our cells require sugar to function, particularly our brain. Don’t deprive the brain of sugar! It will only end badly.

However, because sugar is required and we need a fair amount of it, we evolved to love sugar. And, in their attempts to make a profit, food companies have been adding more and more sugar to various foods and drinks. Eating this kind of food results in major energy spikes that are not really utilised in a sedentary lifestyle.

(Disclaimer: I am not a food expert, and I pretty much failed biology. I am keeping things lose here because I don’t really understand the science. I encourage you to read other articles as well.)

After the high, you crash, for various complex reasons relating to insulin. Some types of super-sweet sugar (e.g. high fructose corn syrup) also does other things, like turning off the feeling of being full. You can enter an addictive cycle of sugar spiking. Eventually you might end up with type-2 diabetes.

So much for that.

I’ve been slowly hooking into a sugar cycle over the past couple of years. Dessert used to be a treat; now it’s standard. I dump sugar on my porridge, buy a muffin to have with my lunch, and consume ice-cream at the end of the day. Alongside that, I stopped walking to and from work (around 6 miles a day) after I moved, with the result that all of that sugar-fuel is effectively just clogging me up and making me irritable.

So I have decided to take a step towards better health as it were, by ditching the ultra-sweet refined-sugar loaded desserts. Anything with added sugar is out. Natural sugar is a-okay (remember: sugar is essential!)

Low-sugar challenge – today’s tally:

Breakfast: organic energy drink (fruit juice + caffeine basically)
Lunch: Gammon, roast potatoes, parsnip and peas
Dinner: Chicken and dumpling stew
Pudding: A microwaved baked apple, vaguely based on this recipe. It was pretty good, but I think oven baked (or stewed?) would be tastier.

I’ll keep a tally over the next week… and a summary of the week at about the ‘U’ mark.

Got any naturally sweet recipes? One thing I’m expecting to find helpful is liquorice tea, which is super sweet!

N is for… Nature Reserves

The letter NThis post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge.

If you’re anything like me, you occasionally need to go outside. Not just for five minutes, not just for a breath of fresh air: but properly outside. If I don’t spend at least a few days each year wandering around some beautiful landscape I get cranky.

One of my dreams is to reach a place financially/professionally where I can spend a significant portion of each day outside in the sun (and rain!). In the meantime, a long weekend here and there has to hold me over.

Sadly, it’s not always easy finding the kind of open space that lets you ‘get away from it all’. Green space is at a premium, but thankfully there are a few places that are looking after land in a way that is beneficial for wildlife (and what’s beneficial for wildlife is usually beneficial for people).

Want to find a nature reserve or national park near you? The following organisations all have protected green space across the UK that you can visit.

The Wildlife Trusts
National Trust
Natural England

What’s your favourite place to visit for some stunning scenery?

L is for…. LucasArts

This post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

This is going to be a quickie (I’ve spent the day hillwalking in the beautiful peak district, and am feeling non-bloggy). I wanted to mention that LucasArts (my all time favourite game studio when I was growing up) closed down on 3 April. True, point-and-click games are a thing of the past (although Kickstarter is bringing at least one back!) but in my youth I adored them.

You can, thankfully, play a lot of the old games by using ScummVM. I heartily recommend it, if you haven’t played classics like Day of the Tentacle or Full Throttle before.

See you Monday with a music themed post!

H is for Home Movies

The letter HThis post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

Basically is about one of my (many) favourite cartoon shows.

I’m a sucker for cartoons. They are almost all I watch these days – that, and the occasional science fiction-esque TV series.

But cartoons vary wildly in quality; from the truly idiotic Aqua Teen Hunger Force to the endless vapidness of the more recent Simpsons to the stellar brilliance of (most of) My Little Pony.

Home Movies is definitely on the better end of cartoons. And, handily, it starts with the letter H and therefore fits nicely into this themed challenge.

It’s pretty old now, the four seasons aired from 1999 to 2004, but I still rewatch it from time to time.

The show focuses on lead-character Brendan Small, an 8-year old, who makes movies incessantly, assisted by his friends Melissa and Jason. The show is pretty grown-up, with adult themes and situations, although the show as a whole is rated PG.

One of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is because of the free-form, sarcastic and realistic script. The show uses retroscripting, by which scenes are plotted but then the actors improv the actual dialogue. The result is more fluid, in my opinion, and avoids the terribly obvious boom-boom-bang punchline jokes in other shows that suffer from having been scripted to within an inch of their lives.

The relationships between the characters also feel grown up and complex. Nobody is reduced to ‘mother’ or ‘estranged-father’ – the characters all feel like they have multiple parts to their personality.

The show is has lots of music (Brendan Small went on to help with Metalocalypse, an insanely violent show about a death-metal group) and the movies-inside-a-movie are often hilarious.

Enough talk from me. Go watch them!

F is for… fitness

The letter FThis post is part of the A-Z Blog Challenge.

First: some history. When I was a foolish teenager I hated sports. PE (physical education) remains the only class I ever truanted from (to go and play Dungeons & Dragons – what can I say, I was your typical rebel). I always walked a lot, so stayed relatively fit by walking to work etc but sport, running, getting fit… these were all things I had no interest in.

Then I went from walking to work to walking to a bus stop a few feet from my house. At the same time, I started getting tired, lethargic and depressed. It wasn’t just the lack of exercise that did it, but that certainly didn’t help.

Over the next couple of years I dabbled with different things, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I discovered how much impact regular exercise really had. I started a weekly yoga class, and found myself so upbeat and energetic after the class that I began to love going. After a couple of months I added a weekly karate class… then a weekly zumba class… then upped my karate to three times a week, and started cycling to get there. I had never felt better, although the cost made me wince a little.

I started looking for things I could do at home, and discovered youtube videos, bodyweight exercises and ‘fitspiration’. All of a sudden I was hooked.

When I moved to Oxford in January last year I left all my classes behind, but I joined a gym and even paid for a personal trainer. I started doing pull-ups, running 5k, and discovered that the rowing machine was actually… kind of fun.

Keeping things varied definitely helps. Having some outside pressure helps too – classes are great because people expect you to turn up, and comment if you don’t! The particular gym I went to was great, because they give you a free workout plan and every time you go in one of the trainers signs the session off. Motivation!

My life has been a bit chaotic recently, but I’m trying to get back on track next week. Now that I’m back in Towcester (long story!) I’m looking forward to getting back into my old routine which looks like this!

  •  Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Zumba
  • Wednesday: Hatha Yoga
  • Thursday: Zumba
  • Friday: Karate
  • Saturday: Karate
  • Sunday: Walk

I also wanted to share some great workout/fitness websites that I visit regularly:

  • Zuzka Light’s video channel: Zuzanna posts a workout every week (ZWOW), each one a tough 15 minute or so bodyweight/weights challenge. There are loads of backdated ones, or you can work out each week and become part of the community.
  • Nerdfitness: Motivational blog, plus free exercise videos and workouts. I tend to disregard the food advice (I love bread too much to ever go Paleo) but the emphasis on fresh whole foods is definitely better than many alternatives.
  • The Fitnessista: Regular recipes and workout suggestions, monthly challenges, and a friendly attitude that keeps me coming back for more.

What are your favourite exercises? Are you a gym rat or a long distance runner? Do you prefer to work out alone or with people? And what stops you from exercising?

A is for… new beginnings

The Letter A

Welcome to the very first blog post on suziehunt.co.uk.

Holy crap, I think that calls for some fanfare. *blows a trumpet and bangs a drum*

In order to get things moving, I have decided to participate in the A-Z Blogging challenge. This basically means I have to write 25 blogs posts this month, with a fairly arbitrary A-Z structure. That’s okay. Prompts are a good thing.

Today’s post is inspired by the letter A.

I could write about aardvarks. Arachnids. Avocado. But instead of giving you a recipe for avocado on toast (try it! It’s delicious.) I’m going to get a bit more abstract and talk about beginnings, since A is the start of the alphabet and… well, you get it.

So let me tell you about this blog. Topics will be pretty unstructured. I’m not going to even attempt to provide writing tips, or how to self publish successfully tips. I will share some personal anecdotes from my journey of writing and publishing, but ultimately I’m making about 99c a month from this whole deal, so you probably want to do the opposite of what I do.

I’m interested in lots of other things. Like food. So I will share recipes (avocado on toast, man, just do it) and occasionally foodgasms. I’m also interested in media, new media, social media, the way digital revolution changes society. In my other life – the one that pays me more than 99c a month – I work in digital communications. Blogging has been good to me. It got me my first offer of a book deal (under a pseudonym, natch, and it eventually fell through). It got me an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco to review some video games. It got me my first real job, as PR & Community Manager for a start-up video game company. Blogging has also connected me with people all around the world, to the point where I know the secret dreams, fears and hopes of people I’ve never met.

So, yeah, I might share some thoughts about blogging and online relationships and playfulness and digital nomads.

I’m also super interested in the environment, formerly a card-carrying hippy, now I work for an environmental charity. I worry a lot about vanishing resources, climate shift, and the great rapacious monster that is unbridled capitalism. I’m also fascinated by the way technology allows us to circumvent a lot of predicted problems. I’m fundamentally an optimist, I guess, and keep the faith that tech and new ways of working/living will enable us to manage our damage.

I’ll probably participate in blogging challenges, so look out for weirdly themed series of posts.

Welcome aboard. I’m sure this will be a fun ride. As always, questions, comments, strange tangents and crazed ramblings are welcome. Just don’t be boring.