Once in a while I post about my personal and professional quest to kick the refined sugar habit because its diabolical granules deplete every part of my life, writing productivity included.
Let’s just say I’ve lost some ground recently. As in, I’m expecting hummingbirds might try to feed from my veins at any moment. My morning walk through the woods might be less Disney princess, more Hitchcock.
How My Writer Brain Responds to ‘Failure’
My writer brain piped up with this consolation: This relapse makes you a better story! And having a weakness makes you interesting. Writers such as myself try to steer clear of one-dimensional characters. In the case of this story, the one about a certain sugarphile (me) not ingesting her poison of choice. . .the plot is playing out with some drama. It’s essential to not berate ourselves over failures because life is going to be one ‘failure’ after another. What, are we going to be down about that all the time?
But also, interesting characters don’t keep failing the same way, at least not on the very same problem or issue. Even if progress is a millimeter, it needs to happen–a story of a person not re-approaching their problem is just as boring as one where they have no problems.
To be enduringly interesting to myself, then, I cannot surrender to human frailty and call it a day. I need to try again as prescribed by one of my favorite phrases on the subject: “Never quit quitting.”
For me, refined sugar is nothing less than a physically and psychologically addictive substance with no health plusses, only minuses. It took me a long time to finally admit I cannot be moderate about it and that’s why I talk about it in terms of elimination, not moderation. Hopefully that doesn’t feel extreme to you, but if it does, your relationship with sugar might be less toxic than mine. I’m not convinced my view of refined sugar is the view for everyone else.
The Success of New Ground Gained
Whenever I fail at something–and I use that word benignly not packed with tons of negative emotion–I like to come back at it with an awareness that I am not right back where I started. I’ve gained something just by trying. Often that gain is imperceptible unless I actively reflect on it.
So I did. Although I didn’t make it to where I want to be (no refined sugar as a lifelong standard of living), I have 5 new insights:
1. The Phenomenon of the Third Cookie.
This is so fascinating to me. I opened a bag of some of my favorite Trader Joe’s Maple cookies this week and I ate one. For some reason, I was highly aware and present and realized it didn’t truly taste good. The outsides tasted klunky and blah. Cookie #2 also did not taste good. Sure, it tasted mapley and sugary but in a shrill, exaggerated way that wasn’t truly awesome.
I kept eating and realized I was doing so on ‘faith’ that I would like how it tasted and that a sugar rush would be obtained. Cookie #3 tasted the way I’ve wired myself to think cookies taste–like a maple fairy infused my whole being with deliciousness and happiness. So did Cookies 4, 5, 6, and so on.
You know what? Cookies taste like Cookie #1. They don’t actually taste like Cookie #3.
Because I’m misguided, I tried it again the next day with different cookies. The tantalizing chocolate Mother’s cookies with the corrugated outsides. Same thing. I’ve noticed it before, that refined sugar is not naturally delicious. It’s something artificial we’ve developed a taste and addiction for. The positive side of this is I can say this to myself as another way to rewire my body and mind.
2. Honoring My Existing Leverage.
I’m Mormon and have lived a health code known as the word of wisdom all my life (no alcohol, no coffee, no drugs, etc). Those are such no’s in my mind that I don’t even think twice about them. I can leverage that to getting off sugar. I can think of those things and realize I know how to say no. We all have no’s like this we can leverage, whether it’s a health code like this, something we’re allergic to, or arsenic!
I am trying to mentally move sugar into this category so it’s a no-brainer. It’s difficult because I have abused sugar and on some deep level have wired myself into thinking it’s more beneficial to me than harmful, when the opposite is true.
3. Fairness has its place, but not in an internal addiction struggle.
Saying ‘life isn’t fair’ has always felt a little too umbrella for me. Plenty of things in life are fair and we certainly should work to make life more fair because we humans are probably a major part of why life isn’t fair. So I’m someone who believes in standing up for our fair share.
But I can’t think of how things should be for my body, mind, or self in terms of what’s fair. I can’t see other people eating gorgeous chocolate cake and think, “My body and mind should be able to process that the way theirs does. They don’t have a problem. So I shouldn’t have to live like I have a problem.”
Someone else handling something does not entitle me to what I can’t handle.
Other people CANNOT be part of this equation of mastering myself. Fairness is a topic for other realms of life, but it has no place in an internal battle. It weighs me down so I can’t strike, which takes me to…
4. I have to strike and be on the offensive. Defense is not a complete addiction strategy.
With my sugar addiction, the good force is equal to the bad force inside myself. If you put a cookie in front of me, I can’t defend myself with reason or fortitude. If I’m not conditioned to already be moving forward to strike before that cookie hits the table, I’m going to consider allowing myself to be overcome by the power of the cookie!
So better than defense is a killer offense, in my book. Here’s a list of my new offensive strategies, and brace yourself, this is gonna get weird fast:
- Make an arsenal of snacks every Sunday, even if they go to waste. I make almost all my own food so I’ve written a list reminding myself of the 40+ no-sugar meals I make that are scrumptious and take like 10-15 minutes.
- Violently smash cookies or others like the enemies they are. Have fun with it. Last night I lit a firework under a bag of Trader Joe’s maple leaf cookies, crying out, “This is poison.” Very cathartic and illustrative, because my brain wants those for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Incidentally, the teenage boys across the alley said they were proud of me. So if you give me a sugary gift, I’ll probably smile and then smash it under my car tire as I drive away.
- Identify sugar as poison out loud if no one’s around to be annoyed by it. Example, commercials or billboards. If the product has sugar, I’ll say, “That contains poison,” thus stopping the seduction and manipulation cycle. Another example, considering ketchup at the grocery store. Hold the ketchup and say, “This contains poison.” All this in the name of rewiring this brain.
- Stand on my hands when I crave sugar. I know, weird, but it sends a surge to my brain and that’s probably what I’m really craving. Then I’ll go chug water and have a different snack immediately before the powers of the handstand subside and I’m brain-drained again.
- Take as many indulgent naps as it takes and use my predetermined place to lock myself in and literally cry because I want a chocolate chip cookie so bad, until the craze passes.
- Utilize the best backup in the universe. This time I’m being smart enough to ask for spiritual help beyond my own by consistently integrating this goal into my prayers and stuff.
5. The G Word.
Defense is still important. Here’s a new flavor of defense I’m trying out. I preface this with a confession that platitudes about gratitude make my skin crawl. It’s not that I don’t value the power of gratitude, it’s just one of those band-aids we tend to espouse as a cure-all and often connotes not processing what is causing us pain. I’m not about that.
But I read a scripture about repentance and change this morning and it suggested ‘praying continually and offering up gratitude’. Pretty basic, but my mind created a new link about gratitude as defense. Gratitude might be a power or a shield so I can survive an internal attack. Maybe it allows me to call myself out, that I’m wanting more than my share.
Sugar is more than my share, because I personally can’t have it and have a whole life. I believe in sugar rushes–I’ll even go so far as to say I believe in them as much as I do feeling healthy. Sugar rushes seem to ignite creativity and a sense of comforting euphoria. So in this sense, gratitude gives that essential marginal strength to be the victor between two evenly matched forces within myself, by creating a larger perspective on what is ‘due me’.
Not that I’m planning on failing again and again–every new fight has to be attacked as the one that will bring the wall down–but I obviously have a lot more inner work to do before I master this fight so I have to be in it for the long haul. And after all, this is just the first of many more climbs toward health-related vistas, but for those, I’ll have the leverage of that time I finally conquered sugar!
If you’re into no-sugar as well, please comment with any relevant links or resources. I need all the help and inspiration I can get!
You may also be interested in : But Have You Been Willing to Get Crazy? 20 Ways to Sacrifice More to Be a Writer