I’m a woman who can’t handle sugar.
You know how an alcoholic just can’t stop drinking? That’s me with sugar.
For me, there has never been chewing one piece of gum. There is only chewing through the whole pack in an afternoon — or an hour.
For me, there never has been such a thing as eating one cookie. There is only eating several, and then looking into an empty package, bewildered, about how this could have happened — again.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then trust that I have a different response to insulin than you.
In 2005, finding myself at the utter mercy of sugar, I gave it up, along with white flour and other foods that, when I started eating, I couldn’t really stop.
I made a commitment to let go of the substances that messed with my state of being, and to start eating in a way that supported the life I wanted to lead.
For the past seven years I’ve been entirely off refined sugar (and its buddies like honey and agave), and with a handful of exceptions, off of white flour too. (Yes, I eat fruit.)
I haven’t written about this, because, it’s a topic littered with land mines and one that deserves so much care. I don’t want to set up any more “shoulds” for women around food, but giving it up has been a big part of my journey.
What are the lessons I have learned from my sugar story that might be of use to you? What have I learned from my letting go of a substance that didn’t serve me, and from figuring out, day to day over seven years, how to keep living free of it?
I learned to be my own authority. I had to find the quiet, mature woman inside of me who could make a decision about what really worked for her body – whether or not her doctor, her friends, or her culture understood. I had to experiment my way to my own treatment regimen.
I learned SELF-DISCIPLINE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Trying to quit via self-discipline never worked — in fact, thinking that my eating could be impacted by self-discipline was what kept me stuck in the addictive cycle for years.
So if it wasn’t self-discipline that led me to say “no,” what was it? This trifecta: a magical combination of 1) knowing the pain of the old way 2) deep, to-the-floor-of-me-self-love and 3) supportive new structures and routines in my life.
Most of the important changes in my life have come because the pain of the old way swelled and rose up like a tight knot in my chest. Out of pain, I began to be open to change.
And yet, something met the suffering, and it was self-care, self-love. There came a moment when I clearly felt, “Honey, I don’t want to you to go through this anymore. You deserve better.” This isn’t about affirmations. We need to actually feel that deep self love that comes up like a wave and, with its fierce energy, pushes us past our habitual ways into the new unknown.
But all the self-love in the world wouldn’t have mattered if I didn’t manifest it by giving myself the lifestyle changes and supports that made the actual behavior change possible.
Here’s what I mean. I had turned to sugar when I was exhausted, so I found that to stay off of it, I had to immediately develop a more sane work schedule — with breaks and less extreme hours. I needed to learn to sleep more, both at night and with a previously unknown to me practice known as napping.
And, I had turned to sugar instead of processing difficult emotions, so I needed to make new regular routines of journaling about what was happening in my life or calling friends to talk about it. I needed to take more time to process my life if I wasn’t going to need a substance to help me numb out.
That was and is the magical trifecta:
knowing the pain of the old way
supportive structures and routines
Notice that self-discipline is nowhere on the list.
People often ask me if, after seven years, I miss desserts or sandwiches, or jam on toast. Did I miss not tasting wedding cake at my wedding? Nope. I asked the caterer to put some figs — my favorite fruit – next to the cake, but to be honest, I forgot to taste them because I was too busy dancing with the dearest people in my life.
That’s a pretty good metaphor for how this whole thing has played out.
In the end, foods are material things, and material things are nothing compared to the riches of self actualization.
Now, a few important notes on all this, since this is such a tricky topic:
I don’t want you to give up sugar. I’m not trying to convert a population here. I am so happy many people can enjoy it in moderation and, frankly, I hope I come back in my next lifetime as one of them. I look forward to the root beer floats.
But everyone has substances or behaviors in their lives – whether obsessive internet social media stuff or green tea lattes or shopping — that take you away from your sober, clear minded, autonomous self, that take you away from bright joy and from creating what you really want to create while you are here on earth.
I want to invite you to set healthy boundaries around those things. I want you to ask yourself, What would I do differently in relation to that substance, if I was making a grand embrace of myself and the life I want to lead?
And I want you to remember you can’t make positive behavior change without vast self-love and supportive new structures in your life.
I also want you to know, that, in my opinion, this post is not enough to help you quit your x. So please don’t try to do it based solely on this and then feel bad if you fail. This post is my story, with an invitation to start thinking about this topic as it manifests in your own life. If it strikes a major chord, I’ll see what more I can share or what resources I can recommend.
I’m really curious what this post — and this topic — raises for you. Please tell me!