My wife, Fawn, made me go crazy.
No, honestly, it's all her fault! ;)
She bought a package of cookies, opened it up, ate one, then wandered off, leaving the rest on the kitchen counter.
This bothered me. I wasn't bothered by her buying the cookies. I was bothered by her eating one and then so easily stepping away.
I found her in the bedroom. "Aren't you going to eat more of those cookies?," I demanded.
"Cookies?" she said. "Oh yeah, there are some cookies. I'll probably have another one in a few days."
"Don't you find yourself thinking about them?" I asked her. "Don't they call out to you, telling you that you should come eat more of them?"
My wife looked at me like I had suggested she break a brick out of the wall and eat it. "Of course not," she said. "I had one, that was enough. What is wrong with you?"
"You make me crazy," I explained.
My wife doesn't make me crazy. Sugar does
In my experience, there are two types of people when it comes to sugary foods:
There are people like my wife, Fawn, who can buy a package of cookies, open the package, eat one cookie, and walk away, leaving the package on the kitchen counter.
She won't think about the cookies, will walk by them dozens of times without thinking about them, and may eat another cookie a couple of days later. For her, perfect moderation with sugar is easy.
It's the opposite with me (and perhaps with you, too). If I buy a package of cookies and eat one, it doesn't matter where I am...I can hear those cookies calling to me, telling me I should come have more. And usually they don't stop taking over my brain until the last one is eaten.
The truth is, my wife doesn't make me crazy. Sugar does.
The good news and the bad news
Sometimes clients tell me, "I'm one of those people who can't eat just one cookie and stop, and I want to change. I want to become one of those people who can eat one cookie and walk away."
If that's you, I have good news and bad news.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first.
The bad news is this:
I haven't seen much evidence that it's possible to go from being someone whose cannot be moderate with sugar to becoming someone who can be moderate with sugar.
People who become "sugar addicts" seem to be similar to people who become alcohol or other drug addicts. There seems to be something about the way we are wired physiologically that lets sugar get its "hooks" into our consciousness if we eat it regularly. If you need to stay away from sugar, you need to stay away from sugar.
But don't worry! There is also good news. Though we have to explore for a moment to find it.
For many people, the idea that they are wired in such a way that they simply have to stay away from sugar is simply intolerable.
In fact, the idea that you might have to live your life without eating sugar might even be heartbreaking.
So to find the good news, we have to answer the question, "Why is the idea of a life without sugar so upsetting?"
I've asked clients this question (and asked it of myself), and the answer always boils down to some version of,
"If I can't eat sugar, I won't be able to live a full, rich and happy life."
If that were true—if it were true that you won't be able to be really, truly be happy if you don't eat sugar—then not being able to eat sugar would be terrible news.
But the good news is,
You can live happily without eating sugar
—and not in some second-rate, "consolation prize" way of living—
but a truly rich, full, and happy life.
Let me give you an example of how an overweight client of mine found the "good news" in this situation for himself.
My client told me,
"I want to be able to eat a little bit of sugary foods and stop—but once I start eating sweets I can't control myself. I know I need to stop eating sugar entirely, but that seems like too much to ask."
"Okay, I said to him. "Let's explore this. Why is the idea of stopping eating sugar 'too much to ask'?"
After some discussion, he found his answer to my question—the typical answer people usually find. He said,
"Eating sugar makes me happy. If I don't eat sugar, I can't have a happy life. So I have to choose. I can either
- eat sugar, have happiness, and be fat, or
- not eat sugar, be unhappy, and be slim."
"Wow," I said. "Believing that is a hard way to live."
"It sure is," he said, "It's pretty discouraging, but I don't see any other way to be."
I then guided him through a process designed to bring love and compassion to the part of him that had become discouraged (I've added a link to a quick write-up of that process at the end of this post, so you can do it for yourself).
As he began to bring compassion to the part of himself that had become discouraged by the seeming impossibility of his situation, he started to visibly relax.
He said, "Wow, I really see how hard it has been for me to believe that I can't be fit unless I accept being miserable. I really feel compassion for that part. I feel love for that part of me, pouring in. For the first time I feel supported about my health, rather than feeling like I'm being scolded and shamed for being overweight."
He sat with that new sense of love for a while, then suddenly started laughing. "Wait a minute!" he said. "This is ridiculous! I've been thinking that I can't be happy unless I'm eating sugar, but there have been plenty of times in my life where I've eaten all the sugar I want. And guess what: I've been miserable during those periods!"
He paused and laughed to himself again. "I've been thinking that eating sugar makes me happy, but honestly that's not true at all. When I'm eating sugar on a regular basis, thoughts about sweets take over my brain. I find myself constantly thinking about what sweet thing I will eat next, and plotting how I'm going to get it. It's terrible and I feel helpless and out of control! Eating sugar doesn't actually make me happy at all!"
He chuckled again and continued. "In fact," he said, "I'm starting to see that there's really no relationship between the amount of sugar I eat and how happy I am. The amount of sugar I eat and the amount of happiness I experience are not connected at all. If anything, it seems I'd actually be happier having sugar out of my life entirely!"
Armed with this new feeling of conviction, he was able to immediately stop eating sugar. At our next weekly coaching session he told me, "It feels so good. While it's definitely true that I have less sugar-related pleasure, the bigger truth is that I'm having so much more inner peace and happiness that it's totally worth it."
I asked him about sugar cravings. "Sure," he said, "I feel cravings sometimes. But I feel like a lighthouse, and the cravings are waves pounding at that lighthouse. Those waves can pound all they want; that lighthouse is not moving. It's the same inside of me. Now that I really see what sugar does to me, those cravings can't make me change my resolve. It's like they don't even matter."
There is a better way
If you are one of those folks who—like me—goes a little crazy when you eat sugar, it can be heartbreaking to think that if you stop eating sugar, you can't have a fully happy life. But my experience is, if you bring compassion to the part of you that believes that, you can start to live knowing that your happiness isn't controlled by sugar after all. And it's much easier to stop eating sugar when you know the truth: you don't need it in order to be happy.
You may know, in your head, that you should stop eating sugar. But until you are at peace about that idea, you won't be able to let sugar go. Click here to download my new 3 page PDF guide, "3 Steps to Being at Peace with Not Eating Sugar."