I love this intention that my good friend Sage Cohen created for herself for 2018. It’s clear, it’s concise, it’s easy to remember, and it’s exactly what she wants for herself. While I have my own intention for this year (live from a generous heart), I’m also going to adopt Sage’s as well.
My 2017 intention was to develop a spaciousness practice and I’ve been pretty successful. That effort included some simplifying of my to-do lists each day, saying no thanks to invitations that weren’t a Hell yes!, and lowering my expectations of what I could get done. But I can see that deepening this practice even more with the goal of simplifying my life will bring additional benefits. It’s hard to live from a generous heart when we’re harried and hassled by too many obligations and commitments.
I also want to amplify my well-being. For me, that means not only continued abstinence from sugar and flour but upping the vigor of my exercise and stretching more. As I move into my 70s, I want to be the exception: fit, flexible, feeling fine. I’ve already spent a lot of days, months, and years fat, marginally healthy, and full of guilt and self-loathing. I’m so done with that.
What would simplifying and amplifying look like for you?
“Just start your new practice now, with the next meal, with the next impulse to eat.” —Leo Babauta
It’s not surprising that we postpone our freedom from sugar and food addiction. “I’ll do that next Monday. I’ll wait until the first of the month. I’ll start after my birthday.” Why? Because we don’t really want to stop eating the way we’re eating. We want the problem to go away, but we don’t want to step into the change. So we decide we’ll wait a few more days for the miracle to occur.
What we don’t want to acknowledge is that the miracle occurs after we step into the change. It happens after we give away or throw away all the foods that trigger us to binge. It happens after we commit to our best health and well-being. It happens after we stop pretending we can eat like normal people.
The miracle of long-term abstinence from trigger foods like sugar and flour comes bit by bit as we put abstinent days into abstinent months and years. The cravings disappear, the pounds drop away, and a whole new life is available. You can start that miracle today, with your next meal, with your next impulse to eat. It’s so worth it.
Check out the support available at www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.com.
For most of us food addicts, eating usually seems the kindest thing we can do for ourselves. We’re emotionally upset, we’re physically craving, and fixing that seems to be the very best thing to do. But, of course, it isn’t. It’s just about the worst thing we can do because it perpetuates the addictive cycle of crave, use, crave, use, crave.
To move into recovery, we have to break this cycle and allow our brains to rewire by continually and consistently choosing some other responses to the triggers of emotional upset or physical craving. We have to learn to call a friend or take a walk or pet a cat or dance or do silent screaming—pretty much anything but eating.
Doing this can be supported by a commitment to kindness to ourselves. We can see eating only healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, clean meats and fish) as kindness. We can see drinking lots of water as kindness. We can see exercise as kindness. And we can see not eating when it isn’t meal time as kindness. Not eating can become as important to us as wearing a seat belt, flossing, and getting enough sleep.
How might kindness support your recovery?
“None of us is ever able to part with our survival strategies without significant support and the cultivation of replacement strategies.” —Brene Brown
Developing new strategies has been instrumental in my 26 months of abstinence from sugar and flour, my major weight loss (78 pounds), and my freedom and ease with eating and food.
I’ve put all those strategies into my online support program, 52 Conversations for a Sweeter Life between Meals (www.lifebetweenmealscoaching.com). There’s a 13-week starter kit as well as a full year of support. All January, the full-year program is 20% off (Code: 20-off). That makes it less than $3 a week.
Is it time for you to join the conversation and get the support you need?
My family celebrates the Christmas holidays the weekend before the 25th. Two of us have birthdays that earlier weekend and rather than two big celebrations (birthday and Christmas), we combine it into one. This is my third holiday season abstaining from sugar and flour, and I can say with relief that it gets easier every year. But there are still some tough moments. That’s where the 4-minute break comes in handy.
I’m talking about dessert time. I discovered the 4-minute break a year ago at Thanksgiving when I’d attended a big potluck. Dinner was leisurely and there were plenty of things on my food plan to choose from. I helped with dishes and then went back into the dining room just as everyone was going through the buffet line again, only this time to get pie and brownies and ice cream and whipped cream. So I went to the bathroom. I took a long time washing my hands, combing my hair, counting my wrinkles. I was gone about 4 minutes.
When I came back, everyone was done. I didn’t have to look at it, smell it, want it. It was not an issue. I practiced that again this year when my family was having bowls of ice cream. I could have had a piece of fruit but I didn’t want it or need it, and I don’t eat now just to eat with others. I didn’t even want what they were having but I didn’t want to be confronted with it so I just excused myself.
Sometimes stepping away is the safest thing we can do.
One of the enduring myths about sugar and food addiction is that it’s the food itself that is the problem. That how good it tastes is why we binge or overeat. But for those of us who are enchained by food, we know that’s not true. Most of us don’t even savor or enjoy the foods we are using. Instead, food is the misguided solution to the one or many other problems that plague us.
I began self-medicating with food as a child. It was the only thing I could figure out in the face of my mother’s inconsistent moods, my boredom and restless in school, my fears of nuclear war, cancer, abandonment. Eating a lot of sugar or buttered toast didn’t make me happy, but it made me much less miserable for a few minutes. And it worked well enough for me to develop a habit of using food that way. Yes, the food was tasty but I ate it so fast, I didn’t enjoy it. I just wanted relief.
I do believe that sugar has an addictive component for some of us (me included) but even when I’m not eating sugar at all, I still want to use food to relieve any misery. So my challenge—and maybe yours—is to both find new ways to relieve misery and to eliminate as much misery as we can.
What new ways to relieve misery can you imagine?
Over the years of seeking a way out of food addiction, I read lots of advice that encouraged me to taper off my use of sugar and flour. “Give up the hardest thing first” was the first suggestion, so I gave up ice cream. Then a few months later, I gave up candy. Then I gave up anything that was a dessert. This all took about a year.
The trouble was I was still eating sugar-sweetened jam on pancakes and toast, putting honey on my oatmeal and cornbread, using agave in recipes. In other words, I was still eating sugar. (Our brains—and tongues—don’t distinguish between the kinds of sweet.) For me, tapering off was long and hard and even though it created a sense of abstinence, it was a false success because eating some sweets kept the need for sweet going in my system.
I’ve now been abstinent from sugar and flour for 25 months. I’m not cured but I’m in remission from this form of addiction. I had to go cold turkey to get there. From one day to the next, no sugar, no flour of any kind. It has worked for me.
Might going cold turkey be the best thing you could do for your body and your peace of mind?
Active addiction, I’ve come to understand, is reactionary. We feel upset and we react. We feel bored and we react. We get angry and we react. Reaction comes quickly. It doesn’t usually involve much thought or reflection. We feel the negative feeling and we just react. For us food addicts, that means eating something we know isn’t good for us and usually eat too much of it. Sometimes we’ll even eat too much of what is good for us, anything to make the feelings go away.
As a person who desires long-term recovery from sugar and food addiction, I’m learning about my need to respond rather than react. The difference means I have to slow down and make a conscious decision about how I am going to deal with what’s happening. Responding means considering my options and remembering that there’s always an option that doesn’t involve food.
Reacting is quick and impulsive and can be fueled by our habits. Responding takes thought and choice and it takes practice. But it can help lead us to the freedom from being run or overrun by food that we’re seeking.
How could you move from reacting to responding?
Addiction, yours and mine, thrives on resignation, that feeling that we’re stuck and there’s no way out, so why bother trying. Resignation is a major factor in why long-term recovery from any form of addiction is low (about 10%). We make some small forays into eating better and eating less. Maybe we go so far as to clean out our cupboards and our fridge. Maybe we join a professional weight-loss group and have some small success. But then we go back to our old ways and resign ourselves to the same old misery. Recovery seems too hard, too impossible, too daunting. It seems easier just to stay resigned.
But freedom is possible. It really is. However, it requires us to step into the possibility of abstinence and a healthy relationship with food and stay there through perseverance and persistence, through supporting each other and reducing our negative stresses. Possibility is the opposite of resignation. It’s hopeful, healthy, and free. That’s what I want. How about you?
How might you keep the possibility of peace and freedom with food alive in your life?
Here’s something you may not want to hear. It’s not possible to have a stress-free life. In fact, it’s not even desirable. Many of us don’t realize that our bodies need stress. Think of the important stresses of weight-lifting to build muscle or of climbing stairs to build good cardiovascular health.
There are also good emotional stresses. Excitement and anticipation are two of these. So is falling in love, whether it’s your partner, your child or grandchild, your puppy or kitten, a piece of music. Intense feelings are a good stressor for the body, the mind, and the spirit.
Most of us food addicts have a different feeling about stress. We relate to it as fueling our cravings, our compulsion, our need and desire to eat for relief. We feel burdened by stresses about money, relationships, work, chores, health: too much of some and too little of others.
I’d like to suggest that we can choose better stresses to have in our lives. We can actively work to resolve financial stress, work stress, health issues, and relationship difficulties so that we can open ourselves up to the good stresses of happiness and joy.
How might you go about choosing better stresses?