Hello! I don’t know how to say it so I’m just going to ask. Have you every attempted to change your diet? maybe cut down on those pesky carbs and saying hello to celery and peanut butter instead? Have you maybe even gone as far as changing your grocery shopping list, bulking up on healthy foods while leaving the junk food on the shelf? If you have then perhaps you, like me, have realized quitting sugar cold turkey is a lot harder than you initially thought.
I don’t consider myself as having an addictive personality, that’s because I don’t have anything in my life that can be considered an addiction. That is until I tried to cut sugar, and sweets out of my diet. Just in the last few days since I began to watch my diet I realized how many sugary treats I eat during my day. I also began to notice the cravings, how strong they can be and how long they last. I’ve heard that a craving only lasts about 10-20 minute. I call BS on that! I’ve had cravings last up to three days! But, I’m preaching to the quire here, if you’re reading this I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.
As you may have read in my previous post I want to make working out a habit, habit #2 to be exact (yes I’m still taking cold showers every day, here’s a link if you haven’t read that post, https://jmakes.tv/2018/01/02/day-50/ ). Needless to say, working out while eating junk food is like trying to light a fire underwater, you just won’t get the results you’re hoping for. So, with that said I’m going to use knowledge of habits, willpower and addictions to make the sugar monster less scary and tackle his ass into submission.
There is so much knowledge on addiction that I could dedicate a whole blog post to just understanding what it is, but I will summarize for practical purposes. Addiction is essentially anything that gets your brain to release dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with the “good good” feeling we all love so much) in larger amounts than normal. Naturally, after the dopamine is processed there is a vacuum left that leaves the person feeling low, depressed, and craving another dopamine boost. This cycle repeats, and worsens until either the person’s mental and physical health deteriorates or the person kicks the addiction.
Humans are creatures of habits, most of the things we do are out of habit. Essentially, habits run our lives and we don’t even notice it (here’s a link if you want to understand habits, and how to make/break them https://jmakes.tv/2018/01/18/understanding-habits/ ). In short all habits consist of a cue, a routine and lastly a reward. Habits and addiction sometimes go hand in hand. Have you ever been about to light a cigarette/jay or about to eat a sweet treat and thought, “I don’t actually want this” yet you still watched yourself do it anyway? Well that’s because you’ve been doing that activity so long and so consistently that it has become automatic. So, analyzing your habits can shed light on why you indulge in the first place, which in turn will make it easier to solve the root of the problem and not just the symptom.
In the book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength” by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney I learned that willpower is like a muscle. The more you work it out and use it, the stronger it becomes. Also, like a muscle it can become depleted and drained after prolonged use. One thing I specifically found interesting was the Zeigarnik Effect, which in short is the brain’s ability to recall incomplete task better than completed ones. This effect is the reason songs get stuck in your head. Test it out, listen to a song and half way through turn it off, watch how that song will be stuck in your head all day. Just like a snack will if you normally would indulge but resist the urge. The solution to the song example is to listen to the whole song, but you can’t indulge in the snack, soooo what do you do?? Well in the book it explains that simply telling yourself you will have it later calms the urge. In other words, saying “I’ll have it later” is a more effective way of resisting the urge than saying “NO! I will not have that!” If anything the latter will make you crave it more.
Putting It All Together:
I know I have an addiction to sugar. I know because, #1. Eating pastries and sweets is a habit that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. #2. When I don’t eat sugar, I can’t stop thinking about it, my body feels weak and tired, I get irritable and cranky, which are only a few sugar withdrawal symptoms. #3. When I do eat chocolate cake, I feel as happy and high as the fatty eating cake that I am (though not for long). I also know from experience that creating a new habit and replacing an old one is hard, and time consuming, but it is doable and totally possible. I know there will be times where I’ll be weak and cave, but I also know that’s not the end of the world, and I cannot allow one flop to ruin my day. I know as the days pass it will become harder and harder before it becomes easier, but eventually my taste buds will change, the craving will be gone and I will stand on the other side victorious!
How To Do It:
- Take Notes: take notes of when you have sugar craving, so you know if it’s the time of day or your environment that triggers the craving. Take notes of when you usually have a sugary treat, so you can replace the treat with a healthier alternative. Take notes of how you resist the temptation, because simply saying no, and staring at the snack is a game of chicken you’re going to lose. The end game is to then counter attack, having a fruit or nuts available to quench the craving when you know they will hit, while telling yourself “I will have it later”, until the protein hits your system and the craving subsides.
- DON’T TORTURE YOURSELF: remember this is going to take time and depending on how deep in the sugar game you are, it can take longer to kick the habit. So don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t trick yourself into indulging all day because you had that one treat. That will only make it harder tomorrow or worse it may discourage you all together. Also, don’t make yourself feel like a piece of garbage for having a hard time quitting sugar. If you’re an emotional eater, that will only make you want sugary treats even more. Instead allow yourself to feel the craving, close your eyes and acknowledge the emotion. This may seem counter intuitive but don’t knock it till you try it.
- Prepare for success: everyone says this, and it’s so important I will say it again. Get rid of all the sugary snacks in your house and stock up on good sources of protein, fats and nutrients. If you have temptation in your home, its only a matter of time till you cave. You’re not a robot, you’re a human and like all of us when our willpower is depleted, we will cave.
- DON’T GIVE UP: don’t you ever stop trying, even if you indulge for a day, or two, or three. Don’t lose sight of the end goal, get back up on your feet and try again, and again. You decide who wins, simply decide it will be you.
I’ll leave you with this: We are not alone, we are not the only ones trying to eat better be healthier and improve our lifestyle. Some people are ahead, some people are behind, but we’re all on the same line. You might feel like it’s taking too much time, but remember time passes anyway, so you might as well spend it slowly inching your way towards your goals.