KnowSugar™ – a personal service design challenge

On the surface it appears such a simple thing to do – change one thing in your diet and commit to that change for one week. My #knowsugar challenge – having visited the KnowSugar™ pop-up shop in Dundee last Friday (8th August, 2014) – was to NOT eat sweeties and in my case, this is specifically chocolate.

Let me first provide a short pre-amble…I like to think I lead an active, healthy lifestyle. I regularly exercise and have a relatively well-balanced diet. This stems from my parents who shared their love of basketball and hillwalking with my sisters and I as we were growing up. I grew up in a world saturated in sport with gymnastics then athletics becoming my personal passions. When the physical investment lessened for me (in my late teens/early twenties), it picked up for my youngest sister and as such, elite sport continued to be an important part of family life. The added bonus in this active lifestyle was my mum being a nutritionist and a great teacher, ensuring we read and understood the labels on foods, and that we were able to hand pick quality fresh fruit and vegetables, and we were confident at cooking a range of meals from a young age. Despite this background and bizarrely, perhaps (to a degree) because of this, I have a close affinity with chocolate. Well…that’s the excuse I use!

#KnowSugar gets me thinking directly about what I’ve been aware of for some time, that my acquaintance with chocolate is in need of review and my excuses which are used to justify only to myself, the ‘need’ to have a chocolate bar. The reality is, the excuses are simply that, excuses and not true reason. So, this week I held up a mirror to this tendency and asked myself what it is I genuinely need to change in order to respect my body more and give it the best possible chance of coping with the adventures of life I enjoy.

Here’s what  the ‘mirror’ revealed – my top three excuses as to why I include a bar of chocolate in my diet everyday:

Excuse 1 (this is the most frequently used excuse): If I’m to keep my concentration up and get this work done I’ll need to get something to eat and quickly. ‘Hello vending machine and it’s really good to see you Mr Snicker!’ Perfect, I don’t have to walk to the shop (300 metres away from my office building) to buy something. The run/cycle/weight training session this morning was intense and has left me depleted of energy – that’s why I feel as if I don’t have enough energy and because I’ve been exercising I don’t have to worry about the number of calories in the chocolate bar, not really.

Excuse 2: I am not tired. No, really I am not tired. I just need to sit down for five minutes with a cup of tea. A wee bit of chocolate always makes tea more enjoyable and it’ll keep me going until the next mealtime. Let’s see what’s in the ‘sweetie drawer’. There’s a mini mars bar and a mini milky way. I’ll have both of those. The thing is, everything will feel better once I’ve had these. I’ll feel rejuvenated and I’ll be able to bash on with the ‘to do’ list.

Excuse 3: I deserve a treat! It’s the weekend and I have been busy all week and if I can’t have a treat, then what is the point of working so hard?

Let’s Make a Change

Chef Michael Moore's Book

Chef Michael Moore’s Book

The first step in this process saw me asking to borrow one of mum’s books from her library, specifically top Chef Michael Moore’s book ‘Blood Sugar’. I remember mum talking about how well he explained what sugar does to your body and that it was much more than just another recipe book. Michael lives with diabetes and one day he suffered a major stroke while out to dinner with his family, an event that changed his outlook on life and food forever. His view is that ‘being a diabetic doesn’t mean you are stuck in a gastronomic wilderness. You can have great food that’s unexpected and exciting. It’s all about keeping your blood sugar under control and balancing the ingredients to help you maintain good health’. Packed with inspiration “Blood Sugar” includes nutritional tips, food balance and ideas for a healthy life, and stunning recipes for home-cooking, entertaining and family life. While I don’t suffer from diabetes, reading this book struck me as a perfect place to start my challenge.

The second step saw me planning my meals and doing a shopping list. It also saw me consciously thinking about how food needs to be included in my days to support the type of work and activity I was undertaking.

How did I Do?
Pretty good. I did forget one day and took a bite out of a Twix but very quickly remembered and reminded myself I was on the #knowsugar challenge. Other than this small blip, no chocolate passed my lips. But make no mistake, the challenge was definitely challenging! I regularly wanted to have a bar of chocolate and had to spend time more time than I expected planning my day with food – so as to compensate for the drop in energy levels I experience at work.

Next Week
The bigger picture – I suspect – is a hope that the change of behaviour carries on beyond this one week and becomes a natural part of my approach to a healthier lifestyle and-or reducing the chance of getting diabetes. I respect this and wonder if I can rise to the real challenge? I’ll certainly give it a go.

Want to know more about KnowSugar™?
It is a great example of service design and can be found at


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