If you’ve ever struggled with constant cravings and thoughts of food, you know what you want:
You want to feel free with food. You want to be able to eat well, enjoy what you eat, and have that food support your body.
And you’d like to do all that without thoughts of food dominating your mind, and without having cravings command your attention all the time.
In my experience, the food people are least free with is sugar.
And that’s where the wisdom of St. Augustine can help us.
St. Augustine said.
"Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation."
Of course, he was a saint, so your mileage may vary, but there is something to be said for his approach.
Let’s dig in to this idea of “abstinence vs moderation" by starting with former smokers.
How do you think former smokers answer this question:
“Is it easier to just smoke a few cigarettes a day [moderation], or to not smoke at all [complete abstinence]?"
Almost unanimously, people who have quit smoking will tell you that it's easier to not smoke at all than it is to only smoke a few cigarettes a day.
They say it's easier to simply never smoke at all than it is to spend their mental energy constantly asking themselves:
- “Is it okay to have another cigarette now?"
- “Should I wait a while before the next one?"
- “Have I had too many?"
- “Is it okay if I take one of tomorrow’s cigarettes and smoke it today?"
…and so on.
While there are some people who can smoke a few cigarettes a day and not spend their lives thinking about it, most former smokers seem to be physiologically wired to be more at peace—and feel more free—if they don't smoke at all.
When it comes to cigarettes, it seems like there are two types of people:
- there are a few smokers who can smoke moderately, without the effort of trying to be moderate coming to dominate their lives, and
- there is a much greater number of former smokers who are simply better off being abstinent, and never entertaining the idea of smoking at all.
The big takeaway is this:
Most former smokers feel more free when they don’t smoke at all, and less free when they try to be moderate and only smoke a few cigarettes a day.
The exact same thing is true for many people about sugar.
How much do you think about sugar?
For instance, for me (and people like me), complete abstinence from sugar is actually easier than moderation, because if I'm trying to be moderate with sugar, I’m not free, because I spend too much time and energy thinking about it.
I find myself asking,
- "Is it time now?"
- "Can I have another cookie [or whatever] now?"
- "Can I eat one more and still be 'moderate’?"
- “Can I 'borrow' a cookie from tomorrow and eat it now?"
...and so on.
For me—and for many of us—that constant mental chatter is the cost of “moderation."
Do you feel free with food?
If you can relate to that, then I have one simple question for you:
Do you feel free with food when you are being “moderate” with sugar?
I can tell you that, for me, when thoughts of food and cravings dominate my mind, I do not feel free. And that is not how I want to live my life.
I want to be
- internally simple,
- at peace, and
- feeling free.
For me, trying to be "moderate" with sugar destroys my ability to be any of those things.
THE COGNITIVE COST OF BEING MODERATE
Psychologists call all that mental chatter a “cognitive cost.” “Cognitive cost” is any extra load placed on the mind. For instance, transitioning from working on one project to working on another project has a “cognitive cost” (here’s a link to a video I did about “cognitive cost” and focus). Cognitive cost is tiring.
If you’re trying to be “moderate” with sugar, but you are constantly thinking about what you can eat next, and if you are constantly experiencing cravings, then the “cognitive cost” of moderation is going to be exhausting.
…while the cognitive cost of abstinence will be much lower.
TIME TO GET HONEST
I tell you all this to help you get honest with yourself. I’ll repeat (and slightly modify) our quote from St. Augustine:
"Complete abstinence is [often] easier than perfect moderation."
So tell yourself the truth. Are you a person who can be moderate with sugar? Or, once you start eating sugar, does it take over your mind, and deprive you of your peace and freedom?
If this blog has one purpose, it’s to help you become free with food. And some of us need to be abstinent with sugar in order to have that freedom.
It is possible to live a life without eating refined sugar, and for that life to full, rich, and happy. It is possible to have healthy eating habits and not feel like you are missing out on the best of life. It takes some effort, but you can do it, and you'll end up being more free and more at peace than you've ever been before.
If you are a person who needs to not eat sugar, I want to help you. You may benefit from reading my recent post, "How to be at Peace about not Eating Sugar."
You may also benefit from downloading my 3 page PDF guide, "3 Steps to Being at Peace with Not Eating Sugar."