After I wrote Overcoming Sugar Addiction, I really thought I had “it” – I thought that I was over and done with sugar.
Life had other plans. I’ve shared how humbled, embarrassed, and discouraged I felt when I went back to eating sugar during these past few years, an incredibly difficult time for me.
I also learned. A lot. Things I never would’ve learned had I stayed perfectly abstinent. As humbling as these lessons were, I’m grateful for them, because they helped me grow my love and compassion for myself and surrender my desire for control. (Obviously, I was not willing to give up that desire for control very easily….)
I want to share 3 important things with you that I learned during that time. I hope that this knowledge will make your path to sugar freedom much more gentle, kind, compassionate – and fun!
So here goes:
1. I learned that going back to sugar is *not* the end of the world. It really isn’t. When I focus on learning/growth and not perfection, a sugar slip is simply another chance to learn – it doesn’t have to turn into a binge where it all goes to pot. It’s just a part of the ebb and flow of my daily life. Whew – what a relief. I do not have to be perfect to be sugar free. Neither do you. (Are you exhaling in relief along with me?!)
In fact, I now plan for the fact that I will eat sugar at some point, no matter how conscious and intentional I am. Holy cow, I have found a “middle way,” even with a sugar abstinence! This is what that looks like for me – When I eat too many naturally sweetened/starchy things in a meal – like fruit, starchy vegetables, or my favorite treat, unsweetened carob – I just learn, adjust and move on. The irony is that I make healthier choices when I relax, because it’s not so do or die. There are also less “verboten” foods and that feels better to my heart, too. It’s more sustainable for me than saying, “I will only eat protein and nonstarchy veggies.”
2. Do you think that I eat perfectly? Heck no. Do you think that healing is about eating perfectly? Heck no! I know I can project all these ideas of healing – what it looks like, what it “should” be, how it should look, what I should look like/weigh, what I should eat, how I should eat – onto this label of “being healed from sugar addiction.” Pretty soon, that label becomes a straitjacket.
Then, instead of focusing on all that you’ve learned, how much you’ve grown, or all that you do well, the mind holds up that “healed ideal” and says, “Nope. Net yet. You still eat in front of the TV. Or in the car. Or standing up. You ate too much at lunch. At dinner. For a snack. You eat potato chips. No, you’re not healed yet.” We compare ourselves to the ideal and we fall short; we feel despair. We feel like we’re not enough – the voice of “who do you think you are to claim to be healed?” pops up, and ouch, ouch, ouch. We get anxious and tight and stressed out, which only makes us want to binge in a “hell with it” gesture of giving up…
The idea of arriving at some perfect place where my eating habits are perfect all the time – like I eat only whole foods, and always sitting down, in a perfectly relaxed state, and I pray over every meal, and I mindfully taste every bite, and I make the highest and best eating choice every time, and on and on – is an illusion that does not exist. Healing is possible. Perfection is not. I’m letting go of healing as perfection.
Like you, I do the very best I can. That means that sometimes I eat in my car. (I have four children. I spend a lot of time in my car.) Sometimes I eat while doing something else. Sometimes I make the less than perfect choice, particularly when my blood sugar is low and my brain is screaming for food. Sometimes I get really excited and eat too many tortilla chips at the Mexican restaurant. (We have amazing Mexican food here in Austin.)
And it is okay. I have come so, so far, and I have so much peace about how I eat and I will celebrate. All of it. When I make the less than ideal choice, I learn and move on.
(Giving up this idea of a perfect place is not saying, “What the hell. Anything goes.” It’s more of holding onto our food ideals with a little more levity, a little more space, and a lot more forgiveness. My friend Abby call this “softening expectations.”)
This is also where it gets ironic. In my experience, the less we strive towards an ideal, the more we naturally unfold. The ego – and all its need to prove its worth and feel like its meeting the “right” eating standard – softens. As we relax our striving we become more of who we are – a being who wants to make healthy food choices not to meet a standard but because we value ourselves, our bodies and our health.
3. I learned that my sugar addiction isn’t something to overcome – or control – as much as something to care for.
This shift – of care not control – has made all the difference. It is the care, not overcoming, that helps me honor my body’s need to stay off sugar. I care for it with the best of my ability by not eating sugar (which means doing lots of other things to care for myself so I don’t eat it – not eating sugar is really the very last step in a long line of nurturing things like eating regular meals, resting, caring for my precious, highly sensitive body, and more…) I am *not* perfect and yet I am intentional. And that is okay, and enough, and what has brought about the healing.
I find the daily care – rather than a moment of overcoming – an invitation to love myself. It’s filled with humility, which opens my heart to myself and to others, and grows my compassion. And yet….I’ll be honest here – my mind would still love to just be “overcome!” To be on the other side – where I’m a perfectly together human being who is perfect, who honors ALL her intentions perfectly, who never hurts again; who has THE answer.
But my heart does not want the answer. What my heart wants is love – to love even this, and this, and this – and that includes all my precious, tender human messiness and my sweet, sugar sensitive body and all the mistakes I make along the way.
My sugar sensitivity is another opportunity for me to practice care, acceptance, and opening to life on its own terms. When I am kind to myself not to overcome something, not to fix anything, but kind simply because being kind to myself is a very, very loving thing to do – I come home. I find rest. I feel at peace. I am able to rest even in the midst of challenges like a sugar sensitive body.
That is my daily journey. Not how do I overcome sugar. But how much can I love; how much can I care for my sweet sugar sensitive self. How much can I love no matter where I find myself – in body, mind or spirit – today.
Love this!! My goal is to manage, not conquer, my food issues. When I shift to management, things become easier and more fluid – not so rigid and tight.
I'm so glad you are finding this for yourself, too Karly. I love your voice in this post – you sound so relaxed and inviting of your self.
And you had me at tortilla chips. Mexican food is proof God loves us. 🙂
I love this! It echoes my own sentiments and struggles with sugar sensitivity exactly! Authoritarianism isn't the answer–loving self-acceptance and gentle self-discipline is. I also live in Austin with its abundance of restaurant choices, yet have managed to find a niche when I eat out at least twice weekly.
I just adore this website and so deeply appreciate all your posts. I always relate so much to what you're saying and I love how you say it. This post was precisely what I needed to read today. I have many miles to go in my own healing but you continue to really help me along the way.
Thank you, once again, Karly, for your honesty in sharing your truth and life experience with me and the world. I love your description of caring for your "sweet sugar sensitive self" – a description that applies to me, as well. It is so deeply tender to think of myself in those terms and it helps me to honor that part of myself, my sensitivity and especially my sugar sensitivity, that I thought for so long was a curse – I now see it and feel it to be a gift from above because it has taught me so much. From my sensitive heart to yours, thank you.
I feel grateful that you could relate and that this was what you needed to hear today!
Yeah for you – I'm so glad you found us.
Well said, Joyce! Authoritarianism only makes me want to run for the hills! There is something wise in me that says, "No, don't listen to that."
I love the way you put it – loving self acceptance and gentle self discipline do work so much better.
And how fun that you are my Austin neighbor!
Yes, yes – manage, not conquer. Well said, Jill. And I love this, too – it definitely speaks to my experience: "When I shift to management, things become easier and more fluid not so rigid and tight."
Lastly, you made me laugh out loud with this quote: "Mexican food is proof God loves us." And God loves us well.
Yes, yes, yes!
I feel so grateful that this spoke to you. Yes, our sweet sensitive (and sugar sensitive) selves are so precious, aren't they?
I think we all need more tenderness. My heart sure does.
Karly, I was wondering if your book will be available in audio format. I would love to be able to listen to it as well as read it. Thanks! (I was referring to Overcoming Sugar Addiction)
I am so deeply grateful you have come along. I found you late one night when I couldn't sleep and decided to google "sugar addiction."
After reading this post, I feel like my soul and body were just wrapped in a soft, warm blanket. So restful…and loving.
"But my heart does not want the answer. What my heart wants is love…" These words…they kinda leave me speechless. At first they pierce (ouch) but then I can settle in the truth…ahhhhh!
Thank you for all you do!
Ah, that warm soothing blanket – I'm so glad that was your experience. Yes, yes, let it wrap you in love.
I feel happy you found us and welcome you.
PS – Your art is beautiful. I especially love the rocks. (I have a thing for rocks. And trees. And the moon. And….)
It's on the projects "to do" list. I've had several people email lately with this request, so thank you for letting me know as this helps me prioritize my time.
Any others out there who vote yes for an audio version of the book?
Karly does it again… you just saved me tons of suffering that I no longer have to endure. Sometimes perfection invades my healing as well… and although going back into sugar could have been a rough road for you… it totally benefits me that you shared this journey. Yes I am breathing a DEEP heavy sigh of RELIEF!!! Soften expectations… I love that term.
I feel *so* happy that this article kept you from unnecessary suffering. Yeeeesss!!!
My favorite quote on perfection comes from Anne Lamott – "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."
We are breathing that deep, deep sigh of relief together. Progress, not perfection. Growth, not perfection.
Amen and amen and amen.
Dear Karly: I also would love an audio version of Overcoming Sugar Addiction. I love your voice and it seems like you are talking directly to me – like friend to friend. I find your voice not only relaxing, but inspiring – an audio incentive. Plus I could listen to it on the way to & from work – especially from work since that is when I want to reward myself for getting through the day or try to forget the day by eating sweets. I hope you will consider putting your wonderful book on audio. Thank you, Bonnie
All I have to say is THANK YOU! Thank you so much for creating a website, book etc for all of us that need help and comfort. I am so glad I found your website. I want to heal but I was dreading the 30 day lift and even attempting to go sugar free. Being 100% free of sugar 24/7/365 seemed very overwhelming and depressing. Your post has given me so much hope. And I also like what Jill says "My goal is to manage, not conquer, my food issues." I can do this!! 🙂 🙂 🙂