May 23, 2017

The Sugar Problem - a Different Perspective

I've written about sugar addiction and my various plans to try to tackle it.  A couple years ago I had a pretty successful run for 2.5 months.  I was exercising, putting good food in my body, keeping a strict limit on my sugar intake, tracking it all, and even losing weight.  This wasn't my main focus, but it's an easier result to measure than "feel more energetic" or "be healthier."

When I slipped back into my old habits, I wasn't terribly upset.  But the past year as I've tried several times to get that momentum back and nothing, not even pregnancy and breastfeeding, was enough to keep me motivated, I started to get disheartened.

I thought, "I only did it once because it was a challenge.  Now I know I can and I never will again."  "If even having a child and being a role model isn't enough motivation, what will be?"  "When is it going to click?"  "Why can't I get this?"  "I guess I'm never going to do it."

BUT then I had an epiphany!  (As I do.)

I didn't give up alcohol all at once.  I toyed with the idea for YEARS.  I tried it out first, with a 1 month abstinence challenge.  Nothing really clicked.  I just gradually pulled away from it and quit altogether when I was ready.

This is a huge mindset change.  Instead of calling it, and myself, a failure every time I "fall off the bandwagon" I can see an overall pattern emerging.

I have spent more time pursuing healthy habits in the last few years than ever before in my life.  I might not always make it that long, but the time in between healthy bursts is decreasing.

Maybe instead of trying and failing, it's similar to giving up alcohol.  Maybe I'm slowly gearing up towards it.

Right now the idea of giving up sweets forever sounds awful.  Incomprehensible.

But maybe one day it won't.

One of Gretchen Rubin's habit strategies was identity.  I've been thinking of myself as a failure for not following through with good habits.  But if I instead think of myself as a generally healthy person who occasionally backslides, this will help me return and gradually decrease the frequency and magnitude of backslides.

Like Gretchen said, our habits are very tied to our identities.  So thinking, and knowing, that I'm a healthy person who occasionally needs help to get going, is going to be way more useful than kicking myself for being a failure who doesn't care enough.

I'm starting another "good burst" right now.  I'm going to apply as many of Gretchen's strategies as I can to make this not an occasional thing, but the regular.  (Primarily planned exceptions, paired activities, and accountability.)

For whatever reason, I see it as a scatter plot in my mind.  A linear curve.  All I see at one particular time is that particular data point, and on the chart they can look scattered and random, but the average is trending up.

Why the heavy focus on "giving up" sugar?  Because I'm an abstainer.  Gretchen says, "After the first bite, moderators want something less and less.  Abstainers want it the same amount or more as they continue to eat."

So I'm not worried about the sugars in fruit, or putting a blanket rule on carbs.  When I talk about giving up sugar what I really mean is giving up the foods that trigger cravings for me.

And, like I said, I'm not ready right now.  But I now believe that I will be at some point, and until then I just need to keep working at it, little by little.

Are you an abstainer or a moderator?  How does your identity tie in to your habits?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. I have a bad sugar addiction too!!! And I thought that for sure I would gain back all my willpower and old habits after I had Zoe, but I have not!!! The motivation just isnt there like it used to be. After reading what you said the difference of an abstainer and moderator is...I would have to agree that I am an abstainer as well. I am trying to take gradual steps to getting back on track as well and it is harder this time around. I wish you all the luck with your progress!

  2. I'm a fan of your transition into healthy/productive. The whole doing things when you're naturally motivated or giving up stuff over a period of time so it feels more nature and less forced. I feel like that's sound advice and much more doable than stopping anything cold-turkey.

  3. I am absolutely an abstainer too. I remember reading a part in Better than Before that talked about how it is harder to go back to something after you've fallen off the wagon...I think she was talking about her sister doing low-carb really well and then getting to a the set of a movie and falling off the wagon and having SUCH a hard time re-starting back where she was. I too have experienced this and it is similar to what you're talking about. But overall, progression in ANY way is still progression and it sounds like you have some awesome plans to keep at it!!! I love your posts about Gretchen Rubin :)

  4. I am 110% abstainer.
    I have noticed that once in awhile I lose the taste for certain things and, in this case, it's easy to avoid it. Like Starbucks, candy, etc. I've been on a low-carb kick lately (doctor's orders) and I HATE it but there's some things I've eliminated from my diet that I likely won't go back to just because I don't want them anymore. Funny how that works.

  5. I struggle with sugar so much too, and like you have tried and had some success, but never stuck with it. Using Myfitnesspal helped a little bit because it forced me to SEE the amount of sugar in things, even though it wasn't a huge surprise. I'd say I'm definitely an abstainer too-- but I love how you're looking at this and I can't wait to hear how it goes for you.


Talk to me! I'm friendly. I won't bite.

P.S. If you use Blogger and you want to get email replies to your comments, use your blogger profile instead of Google+ and make sure the box is checked next to "show my email address."