10 lessons I learned from 28 days without “sugar”

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Before I go onto the lessons, here a few words on the kind of challenge I set out on and the motivation behind it :

But WHY? Just out of simple curiosity really and not for any health or weight issues… I knew sugar is apparently more addictive than cocaine. A friend of mine had done the challenge before and I admired the strength it took and wondered if I’d be able to do it.

Why 28 days and not 30? It was indeed supposed to be a 30 day challenge but ironically the first and last days were total flops. On the first day, I had decided not to eat any sugars, some of my visiting cousins offered me cookies from Saudi Arabia which I could not refuse (hostess duties oblige…) plus it was my mom’s birthday, a family friend had cooked an exquisite gourmet and it would have been impolite to refuse (guest duties oblige…). The final day, I was feeling very weak with hunger during a music festival I was helping out in and was in desperate need of food (there was no non-sweet snacks to munch on unfortunately). When one of the organisers offered me home made waffles, I just couldn’t refuse 🙂

 

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Not the homemade waffles I indulged in… (Photo from Pixabay)

 

What kind of challenge was it and what do you mean by “no sugar”? One of the hard lessons I learned was that EVERYTHING has sugar… Pre-made meals, almost all spreads, most juices, fries sauces, alcohol (duh…) and even some CHIPS!!! So I had to decide how to set up the challenge in a way that worked for me while being aware of the fact I would not be able to go completely without “sugar”. Basically I took out all sweet snacks : No candies, chocolate, patisseries, cakes, cookies, croissants and what nots, ice cream, sauces, spreads, honey. What I didn’t leave out : all starches (wheat, rice, pastas…), alcohol ( a girl’s gotta drink her misery away if she can’t eat it away…), fruits (those are HEALTHY sugars right?) and pre-made meals when I didn’t have time or if I wasn’t able to check the label…

Lessons I’ve learned

  1. I’m a complete and total sugar addict although that wasn’t really news to me. What surprised me though was how deep the “addiction” went. For example, I noticed everyday around 4-5pm I would unconsciously stumble into the kitchen in search of some sweetness. I also think I sometimes had a tendency to snack on sweets out of boredom at certain times of the day.
  2. I had the power to say no. It was powerful to learn that when these urges to eat sugar arised, I could reason myself out of indulging in the next sweet thing I saw. My main reasoning I would repeat to myself when I felt like doing this was that I would have plenty of other opportunities to eat these foods in the future (except for homemade waffles… which of course, you understand my transgression…)
  3. EVERYTHING has sugar. But I’ve talked about this already…
  4. There is such a thing as healthy snacking. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as many cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, plums, apples and freshly pressed orange juices before in my life! A word of advice for anyone tempted by this challenge : Do it during berry season!
  5. I realized other addictions I had. For example I realised how addicted I was binge watching YouTube videos and got present to the fact that I also had a choice to give into this or not…
  6. When I feel miserable, I feel like sugar. When I don’t get sugar I feel even more miserable! and the vicious cycle goes one… I realised it’s much easier to distract myself by eating comfort foods than to actually deal with the emotions I was feeling.
  7. If a girl is in that time of the month and she doesn’t get any chocolate… RUUUUUN!!! Okay this is just building on lesson 6 but it was true. I must recognize that I was a b*tch at that time and even if I “could” just blame it on the PMS (which is no excuse I know), I knew the absence of sugar made it much worse for me and my close family.
  8. You can’t help but talk about your addiction. It takes up so much of your energy and thoughts… Seriously I can’t tell you how boring and annoying I must have sounded to all my friends during this time. I felt I had to talk at least 4-5 times about my challenge to whoever was listening!
  9. Trying to prove someone wrong is a very very powerful motivator… When I started the challenge, my boyfriend who knows me terribly well, said in a provocative way, I wouldn’t be able to last a month. Although I know he wasn’t discouraging me to do the challenge, I still felt this need to prove to him and mostly to myself I could do it. Although I didn’t last a whole month, I was happy with the results and did surpass myself (I figured I probably would have cheated at some point after two weeks…)
  10. I miss the idea of sweets more than the actual taste. I won’t deny it was excrutiatingly difficult for me a certain times of the challenge. Once the challenge was over, I thought I would just go nuts on all the food I’ve missed but honestly I didn’t actually miss the foods as much as I thought I would. I started with a bit of dark chocolate, salted buttered caramel and of course the waffles. Although the first taste of the chocolate melting in my mouth was divine, after the first bite, I sort of felt like I’d had “enough” 😮 which is something I never really experienced before with chocolate (enough is just NEVER enough when it comes to chocolate I always thought to myself…)

A few positive results

  • I wish I could say I lost some weight but honestly my weight has been stable all through the challenge. I did cut out a lot of snacks but I did also compensate with eating a lot more fatty foods and general a little more.
  • More energy from all the vitamins in the fruit I was eating.
  • It felt easier me to resist other types of addiction mostly over connected-ness to the net and social media and to procrastinate less on what matters to me.
  • I don’t really know if it is linked to the eating less sugar but this month has been one of the most creative periods ever… Feeling sugar “starved” at times made me often quite uneasy. Cravings make for a feeling of dissatisfaction (although I knew exactly why I was dissatisfied in fact) and maybe this sense of dissatisfaction somehow tended to nourish my creativity… I felt I needed to fill my mind with other thoughts and activities such as working on my new blog and focusing on my recital programs. I’ve probably wrote about 5-6 draft posts since the start of my challenge and that is not counting the time that went into designing the new blog and learning about the new CMS I’m using.

What now? I’m still a sugar addict but a conscious one at that now… I’ll still allow myself to indulge in sweet delights but I feel it will probably be a lot less and more mindfully from now on.

If you’ve done some similar challenge or are interested in doing something like this, don’t hesitate to leave a little comment 🙂

Creating meaningful content takes time

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Miserable fail

So I guess I failed… Completely failed to give myself an achievable goal for setting up the new blog. So if you read my previous article, in all of two weeks I was expecting and committing to :

  • Watch 4+ hours of tutorial on how to Use Drupal and Read a book on the matter
  • Choose my theme
  • Design the entire structure of the blog around said theme
  • Set up the menus and pages in the structure
  • Write up the content for all the important pages
  • Select, re-edit and post a few selected articles from my old blog to my new blog
  • Write and post another 10 music related articles for the new blog (okay maybe not ten but I wanted to post a few new articles…)
  • Fix all the “small” glitches on every view of the new blog
  • Learn HTML and CSS basic skills
  • And MUCH MUCH more…

Does anyone else see the problem here? So ok I may have had just a few unrealistic ambitions. Wanting my blog to look amazing and the content to be meaningful and awesome but forgetting the most important : these things take time… LOTS of it.

There is so much I still need to learn before really presenting this “musical” blog to you in the way it can serve me and you, the readers, best.

Setting unrealistic goals really got me discouraged after the high of the first few days. I spent most days, procrastinating on the blog “work” because I really knew there was so much to do and that I would not be able to set anything up in the timeframe I gave myself. Also the fact that I had no idea where to BEGIN when I started working on the blog did not actually help.

Lessons learned

Soooo after my big time fail of the previous challenge, I learned some valuable lessons and implemented new “rules” for the project :

  1. No deadlines : I have come to accept that creating something new takes time… and how much of it, I cannot really say so I’m just go with the flow and I guess you will have to learn the important value patience along with me 🙂
  2. Divide and conquer : I’ve basically broken up all my weekly goals that I want to accomplish for the blog in 30 minute chunks because I realised, any more than that, I started to get frustrated and discouraged.
  3. I got an accountability buddy… or 3 : one of my friends checks out the site every evening which really helps me keep things moving forward however slow the progress. On top of this, I also share weekly goals for the blog with two other people from the Live Your Legend facebook group I’m in.
  4. Talking about my future blog to other people : One important lesson I learned was the more I shared this idea of a blog for musicians with people, the more people were enthusiastic and curious about it. It made the feel REAL to me plus it also allowed me to start creating a list of followers… (why does it feel like I’m creating a sect and inviting people into it when I call them that? Oh well…)

So here goes! With these new set of rules, we’ll see how things progress… I will let you know how the process is going from time to time and will still be posting some other random fun articles for you in the meantime.

Why the new blog is taking FOREVER to build

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Apologies for not posting more often lately! My energy has gone more towards working on my next blog but it is taking far more time than I expected. Here’s why :

  1. I’m a real techno-dummy. I decided about 2 months ago I wanted to create a new blog which was more focused on music and a bit less on what popped into my head at any given moment. But I wasn’t happy with using wordpress anymore as a CMS (Content Management System. I had to ask my dear tech-savey boyfriend to tell me what that was and let me know there are other options out there!) I wanted to find something less limitingespecially if I was going to share some of my improvs from the 30 day improv challenge I did a few months ago. So I decided to try out different CMS such as concrete 5, Joomla, Drupal…
  2. I’m an impatient one at that. Here’s the thing : I want the amazing blog layout and content but I want it quick and easy. Unfortunately, things don’t work that way. Especially when learning and testing out a new system, it’s like learning a new language, it takes time to figure out where things are and you learn mostly through trial and error. Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with that kind of  patience so I dabbled with a few systems without fully learning any of them and with no real results…
  3. I’m now taking time to really Learn how to use my new CMS. I eventually settled on using Drupal after short and disappointing tries at Concrete 5 and WordPress again. But this time, I’m doing it right… How to books, Video tutorials, the whole shebang. I’m developing this skill now because I know it will serve me in the future to design professional sites (a music school, personal artist portfolio…)
  4. I don’t know exactly what I want the content of  my blog to be : I’m torn between starting a niche blog VS a general Lifestyle blog, a professional blog VS a personal blog. In an ideal world I’d like to do 4 different sites/blogs that focus on each one of these but I know myself enough to know that 1 site will be already hard enough to manage and develop for now.
  5. I still don’t have a clear idea of the structure of my blog. Any structure for a site should be well thought out beforehand to best fulfil the users’ needs or else, prepare for a very complicated and inefficient website! Content and Structure go hand in hand. Hence, once I figure out the purpose and content of the blog, the structure will naturally flow I hope…

butterfly and cocoon

Please bear with me in this long process. I’m happy to say things are progressing well and I’m truly enjoying learning this new skill. I’m fixing the deadline to be the 31st of July to publish and share with you my new site! With the help of a supportive and techy boyfriend as well as a new accountability team, I’m hoping to launch the new blog in time!!!

The true reason behind why I perform

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piano hand

Since my wrist injury last year, I’ve felt in a rut about performing on stage. This rut wasn’t built overnight either. The feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction and stress about performing as a pianist were festering years before this.

When I started my musical studies, I had some silly ideas about what a successful career as a pianist should look like and I had got it in my head that the only true path to success had to be as a soloist. However, I realized the past few years I didn’t had the patience or talent or even true ambition to be a concert pianist and I realized I was okay with that. So one day, I decided to stop pursuing someone else’s dream and start creating my own musical path. My fall was a wake up call for me. It made me realize that I was okay if my whole identity did not revolve around one instrument and that on the contrary, I needed diversity in my occupations to truly be fulfilled. Focusing on something other than my piano for a year allowed me to pursue many different paths and learn a lot about myself and what I want and don’t want in my career.

However, during this year of exploration, I also unintentionally put a stop to performing. I didn’t perform once outside of public exams and preparation performances for these exams. Of course, I could argue that with my wrist needing time to heal, I wasn’t able to  prepare programmes but even after I fully recovered (around march this year), I felt uninspired and unmotivated to practice deliberately, prepare concert programmes and search for projects anymore. I resigned myself to the idea that a career a performer was not in the cards for me and unconsciously stopped trying to create one for myself.

But here’s the thing, for the first time, I realize I miss it. I miss the stage, the excitement and the nervousness. I miss the bare vulnerability of being in front of a public and not knowing what will happen. After reading this wonderful post from Celeste Lovick posted on her sister’s blog, I got reminded of why I missed it so much : I still have a lot of love to share on stage.

In the beginning of my studies, the intention behind every performance was to be a concertist. It was a lot of pressure, a lot of disappointments and not much joy at all… The rare few times I truly enjoyed performing was when I let go of all of the expectations and pressure truly played out of love. Love for the music I was playing, love for people I was performing with and for, love for the experience of self discovery… I always loved performing in random places such as train stations because I wouldn’t have a care in the world about my music needing to be perfect or people needing to like my music or about making a name for myself. However, outside of those exceptional rare moments, I had lost most of my sense of wonder or enjoyment on stage because of this underlying intention.

I realize now that sharing love on stage is a a far stronger and more inspiring intention than seeking “success”. Love drives my decisions, relationships and my Art. Why not my performances too?

 

A new direction, new ideas and a new Website in the making

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Construction Crews Work On FL Road Projects, As State Eyes Stimulus Relief

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – FEBRUARY 17: A constuction work sign is seen during a repaving project by the Florida Department of Transportation on February 17, 2009 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. States across the nation are hoping that with the signing of the $787 billion stimulus bill by President Barack Obama today that they will see an influx of federal money for infrastructure projects and to help the economy recover. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

I apologize I have not posted more often lately. I’ve had a difficult time writing and sharing lately with you guys mostly because I’ve been questioning my motivations with this blog and the idea behind wisdom and beauty 101 simply hasn’t been resonating with me anymore for a while. I’ve found my ramblings and last posts to be so random, disorganized and sporadic and I’ve been wondering what purpose does this all serve and is it worth it?

At the same time, I feel at this point in my life, that I’m looking to focus more my energy on what’s most important and currently that is developing as an artist, that is as a music writer, pianist and teaching. While I enjoyed what I’ve accomplished in this blog and what a great learning experience it’s been, I feel I’m ready to expand in a new direction and so I’m currently working on a new blog that would more centred around music.

However, a lot of questions still arise since I’ve decided to create this new Blog/Website and I want to ask your imput on just one of these questions :

Should there be a clear divide between personal and professional blogging?

What I loved and then eventually bothered me with wisdom and Beauty 101 was that the posts I shared were generally personal and covered a wide range of different interests of mine. And that’s who I am in reality : I’m a notorious share bear (virtually as well as physically) and I’ve always prided to be a diverse, multi-interest person (see one of my favorite blogs on multipotentialites created by Emilie Wapnick for more on this subject). However, as I’m looking to expand professionally as a musician, I’m wondering if it is best to keep the personal sharing and my other non-musical interests in a different space altogether even if for me, music is as much a part of my life of all the rest.

I’d love to hear your take on this so don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below and of course, more to come on the new blog/website which will premier July 15!

Train station performances and stepping out of your comfort zone

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Play me, I’m yours”

Every year, a belgian piano store installs a piano in the train station near my school for about 3 weeks. And every year, I take this as a personal challenge to force myself to perform in front of random strangers. I dare myself to go there and play. If the piano is free, I must play. If I have 10 minutes to spare before taking a train or going to a class, I must play. If I have a piece I’ve just worked on and need to test out, I must play it there. And I do this as many times as I can during that time.

Patterns start to arise

Over time, I start to notice the same thing over and over again. I dreaded the moments before I had to play. Especially the first time, it felt terrible. The excitement, the fear, the inevitable screw ups of performing something for complete strangers in difficult situations… All those emotions would be boiling inside me for the whole train ride heading to the station.

Then, after I arrived at the station, came eventually the feelings of comparison when listening to others play before me : the «I’m not good enough» talk or sometimes, the a little less gracious «I’m better than you» thoughts…

When I would play, I dealt with the distracting noises, with the fear and frustration of making mistakes, with the worry about the publics reaction (or «non reaction»)…

Lots of mixed emotions usually arised but in the end always, I had at least the satisfaction of knowing that I stepped out of my comfort zone for just a moment, regardless of whether it was good or bad experience (which usually was a mix of both).

I’ve played the game and challenged myself this way every year now for 5 years every time the piano gets set up in the Namur station. And it amazes me to see how the fears and thought patterns remain the same over the years regardless if I was a poor little amateur pianist or a master student. But the difference now is I start to recognize them and even welcome these familiar feelings because I know they are there to warn me of an ‘uncomfortable’ but they can’t stop me from playing.

Eventually the voices get a bit kinder when I play. The fears, doubts and feelings become easier to manage and it becomes a joy to share a musical moment with random strangers in the most random place. I start to be present and grateful for this wonderful gift life offers once in a while!

So this weekend, my friends, I invite you to step out of your comfort zone for a moment and see what’s on the other side. Do something you’ve been afraid of doing, start that uncomfortable conversation you’ve been avoiding, confront the difficult situation and see what comes out of it! I promise you it will never be even half as bad as what you imagine…

A time to plant seeds of peace

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A short video of an incredible story on forgiveness for this cold fresh start of spring!

True strength can be found in the darkest places… 

No time better than the present to plant those seeds of peace so I invite you to do one thing this weekend : go forgive… anyone, anything! Even better practice self forgiveness, self love and see your world transform before your eyes!