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.