How to Hack Your (Sugar) Addiction
My name is Diana and I was addicted to sweets. Literally.
But over 6 months ago, I decided I was going to free myself. And I did.
Today, I want to show you how I got the mental toughness to pull this through. Here's what we're gonna talk about next:
- Getting leverage: finding the reasons that truly matter to you.
- Getting insight: understanding the story you've been telling to justify yourself.
- Creating a new identity: telling a better story.
- Creating habits: Reinforce the identity every day.
- Creating the right environment: setting yourself up for success.
1. Getting leverage:
I wrote a post about the reasons why I wanted to give up sugar and you can get a better grasp of what it does in the body if you read it, but for me, the list breaks down to the following points:
- It made me feel guilty and disappointed with myself soo often!
- It took away my energy and vitality.
- It made me be a hypocrite.
- It made me think of food all the time.
- It distracted me from what I was truly thinking or feeling and made it okay for me not to handle my own issues. Having ice cream is easier than a having a hard conversation.
- It robbed me of my self control.
- It made me gain weight.
- It fastens ageing and deteriorates skin, teeth and bones. And I want to look freakin' sexy and vibrant even when I'm older!
- It's generally very acidic in the body and creates an environment for trouble: like candida overgrowth, low immune system and it even opens the doors for more serious conditions that I don't even want to think about.
- It does not align with my goals of creating an altogether healthy & energetic lifestyle.
- It made me think that my health could easily go down the drain, because I just didn't prioritise it, so I could have more desserts.
Alright, these are the things that pushed me over the edge, but you need to make your own list, with the reasons that truly speak to you. Maybe it's something even more personal, maybe it's part of something bigger, you're the only one who knows what you're truly passionate about.
I'm really passionate about being in charge, about doing what I think is right, so that was what I used as leverage for myself most. Some people need to break rules to feel free, I needed to make rules for myself to create a sense of freedom.
We're all different that way. Write down things that make you, you.
2. Getting insight:
When I was a kid, I wasn't too interested in candy or chocolate. I would rather have had some salty peanuts or pretzels. But as I grew up, I started falling in the habits of the people around me. A boyfriend in particular had a sweet tooth. It wasn't too long until I started growing one too.
In my early twenties, I started falling in love with all desserts I could possibly get my hands on. Andrei is also a well known ice cream fanatic.
One thing that was on my mind from early on, was the fact that sugary foods aren't too great for my waist line and well, lookin' sexy was high on my priority list. So I started poking my nose to find out for myself if it was true.
It all added up and made a case agains sugar, but being skinny wasn't as tasty as that ice cream cake. At least, not to me.
Being skinny may not have cut it, but being healthy did.
You see, both my parents are doctors and growing up, diseases were a topic in my household that I couldn't really avoid. I started growing an awareness of the fact that health is rather fragile. I was scared that me or my family might get sick.
The helplessness of that thought terrified me.
With all their professional pressure, my parents had their own way of keeping sane. They developed a philosophy that health is a matter of luck. You could get sick, or you could live to be a hundred, you never know. — So why not enjoy life as is, while you have it?
Like most of us, they too think bad things only happen to others.
This belief kept them happy. But it also kept them having a reckless lifestyle. From bad sleeping habits, to bad eating habits, to an unwillingness to change. So, while both my parents are health experts, both their beliefs led them to chill and enjoy a big bottle of coke every day, even if they knew better.
Their philosophy slowly deteriorated their vitality, their mood and eventually, their health..
My brother grew up in the same environment as I did and adopted the same beliefs as our folks. In our family, I was the only one proactively looking out for my health.
It wasn't because I was so smart. It was because I was damn right terrified.
It scared me to my bones, that I had no control about my own destiny. I couldn't live like my parents did. It may have liberated them, but it sure as hell didn't help me. I felt trapped. I needed to believe I had a say in my own vitality.
So I started looking for proof.
And what do you know? The more you search, the more you find.
To this day I believe every action is a reaction and that everything I do will have an impact on my future. Our cells are dying and being born constantly. We are becoming entirely new people from the inside out as we speak.
I also started having a more empowering belief about diseases. Nowadays they're not the enemy anymore, but the body trying to keep balance, to show me that I'm doing something wrong or that my environment is hurting me. They're signs of disfunction, they're the effect — not the cause.
I believe there is room for change and so much more than we can imagine today, is up to us. I believe our bodies and our mind are so much smarter than we know and I am truthfully excited of what the future science and medicine will reveal.
So what's my belief about health?
There is a recipe for health, as I believe there is a recipe for happiness, for love or for success. The only challenge for me, was to learn the recipe.
And I am still learning. But I do want to apply everything I learn. It gives me the weapons against my fears and it adds to my liberty — to who I am.
So, while sugar addiction isn't such a big deal for most people, to me it's a part of my life philosophy. It's deeply tied to my belief that I am in control of my life and that this responsibility is something to be thankful of, not frightened about.
This is my story related to sugar. It explains the whys and the why nots, it also talks about who I’ve been and who I’ve become.
This is what you need too: A story.
This is the ultimate tool that will help you achieve this goal, or any other.
You have to make a good habit part of your identity. If you won't, you'll always slip back and you'll live a life at least a little bit worse than it could have been.
In psychology, the most powerful force in the human existence is the need to be consistent with ones thoughts and perceived identity.
There is nothing stronger, than what you think of yourself deep down, that will be your life experience and that will eventually be your legacy. The good news is that, no matter how deep a belief runs, it can always be changed. And it can happen in an instant.
Here's how you'll do that:
Take out a piece of paper and a pen.
Answer the following question:
- What role does sugar play in my life?
- How do sugary foods answer the needs I have? What are these needs?
- How have I become the type of person that can't help herself from having sweets?
Write down the story you've been telling yourself up to now, about who you are and how that relates to why you eat sugar.
3. Creating a new identity
Now, this is the important part:
Inserting a new, more empowering story instead.
Remember how I framed mine? How I talked about my parents and my entourage and how I was scared of illnesses and how quitting sugar made me feel more like myself, because I believed in self control and in designing my own life according to my principles?
Well, here's a secret: it's all invented.
Of course I believe and live by all of it, but I had to come up with all of that fist!
Think about how you can reframe your past, how you can be the hero that rises from the ashes of the old you. How the hard times have helped you be this strong person with this amazing will to be better!
Personality is not a fixed trait.
It evolved and it has evolved pretty randomly for the best part of your life. Your life experience has been shapes by the identity you've prescribed for yourself.
You believe that what you used to do was because of who you are, but it's mostly just habit. By changing what you do, you'll also start changing who you believe yourself to be and thus how you'll behave in other circumstances as well.
You are not a type of person, you are a being that continuously evolves, unless you inhibit all growth by confusing your habits with your personality and keep doing the same things, the same way, because you think you're stuck being the same person!
Right now, you have the power to create a new side of yourself from scratch, just the way you want it to be. Then you're going to act the part until you live and breathe it!
Remember I told you I have a brother that just doesn't care about his diet at all? Well, we grew up in the exact same environment and had the almost the same childhood experience. It's just how we framed it differently that made the difference!
When you're done. I want you to review the new story you've written for yourself. How does it feel?
- Does it sound like somebody you'd admire?
- Does it make sense, in the context of your life?
- Does it already make you infinitely proud, just by the mere thought that it might be true one day?
If it does, perfect! If it doesn't, then you're not done. Go deeper, get more creative.
Ask yourself better questions!
Just think what that kind of energy would do to your daily life! Just think how you'll never have to feel guilty, ever again. Think of your radiating skin, of your strong principles and character.
Think of the fact that you will no longer put in junk in the body that loves you and will be there for you until the very end.
Think of self respect. Think of loosing weight. Think of the fact that you're already doing something, that most people would take another few decades to even consider!
The world is changing, and you're literally part of that change!
Alright. I hope I got you excited, because it really is an exciting step.
4. Creating new habits
What we'll do next, is think about past times we've changed for the better.
At our age, about everyone has already let go of at least one bad habit and changed in at least one way. Find an example, make it vivid in your mind.
To me, it was quitting soft drinks. I was only about 16 when I made that decision, but to this day, I kept to it.
What made the shift for you? What did you think about?
How did you think about it? What did you do? What was the percise actions you took? Did it happen fast or slow? How did you feel after you knew you will never-ever turn around?
Write down the answers that pop up in your mind.
You see, you already KNOW how it's done, because you've already done it.
Everything you need to do, is use the same tactics you successfully did in the past.
Here are some examples of techniques, when you run out of ideas:
- Create accountability with friends or social media: Let EVERYONE know about your plan!
- Monitor your progress or journal your path daily, weekly, monthly.
- Get extreme clarity about the subject. Know precisely what you're after!
- Make it convenient. Set everything up around you to make succeeding inevitable.
- Avoid places or people that trigger the bad habit.
Alright. Now, the last thing we need to figure out, is how you'll fill that gap.
Taking sugar out of your life will leave you with some empty space you need to fill with something else that will serve the exact same need.
Let's say you're the type of person that will have a bucket of ice cream when upset. Not eating sugar won't free you of having disappointments in your life or having though days. — That's why you need a plan.
When the going gets hard and you would normally dig in a chunk of chocolate chip ice cream to mend your emotions, what will you do instead?
Think for a minute.
What are you laking in those moments?
I'm quite sure it isn't an organic need for sugar, but rather some comfort in a familiar habit. Comforting is a solution, but to the effect, not the cause.
Generally, you should try to identify the cause of the discomfort. What is truly going wrong in your life? What could make it better?
Most of the time, it's poor communication. Make it a habit to call a friend when you need support.
Don't call for a chocolate, okay? It really won't answer.
Okay. Now, I want you to make clear "If-Then Plans".
Here's how they go:
If X happens, I will do Y.
- If I'm bored (and would normally go to the kitchen for some cookies), then I will stand up, shake it up and grab a glass of water or call my best friend.
- If I'm feeling down, then I will put on some shoes and go take a walk to think this through.
- If I feel like I'm missing out, then I will take 10 deep breaths and think of the benefits of what I am doing, then share them with who ever is there to listen.
- If I lack energy, then I will stretch out and make myself the most colorful fruit salad this world has ever seen.
- If I crave ice cream, I'll make myself a batch of healthy, delicious nice cream. (Click here for 3 easy, no-sugar ice cream recipes.)
I don't care what you're substitution is, as long as it's something that answers the exact same need you have.
In order to do so, first, you need to identify it. It may be a need for distraction, connection, familiarity or attention.
Remember, it's not rocket science. Most emotional needs can be met with a long walk, a good talk or just refocusing on your breath for a few minutes. You just need to understand yourself first.
5. Creating the right environment
The next step, is to reinforce the new belief and thus, the new identity by making it a part of your lifestyle.
The hardest part, is that it needs to become the image that others have for you too.
You see, this is the tricky part about family and friends. They love you, right? That means they don't want to lose you (the you that they know well), which can be translated in: they don't want you to change.
By changing, you become less of who they know. And that's scary for them, even if the change is for the better.
You'll encounter resistance from the closest people to you, but they will eventually turn around and accept the new you, if you are consistent with what you say and do for the long term.
To make it easier for them, take them through your mental path. Tell them everything you've written down today and why it all matters to you. Tell them the story of who you were and who you're going to become. Let them know that their support will massively impact how you can attain your goals and that you're grateful to have them along side you, even if it isn't something that's important to them.
Make sure you eliminate all the bad habit triggers you have laying around. The easiest way not to have cookies, is by not having them in the house!
Try to go to places where people make healthier choices, to avoid people that make you fall back in bad habits or just surround yourself with motivational or inspirational content. Read things on the subject, put a little note on your monitor or set up a daily alarm to remind yourself what you're fighting for and why it's easy for you.
- Come up with a list of personal reasons why you want this behaviour to change.
- Understand the story you've been telling yourself in order to justify that behaviour.
- Create a new and sexy story for yourself, that makes sense in the context of your life.
- Reinforce your new identity every day, until it sticks, by acting on it, talking about it and reminding yourself of all the benefits.
- Use the tactics and techniques you've used in the past to change an unwanted behaviour.
- Create CLEAR and effective If-Then Plans to meet all the needs you've identified.
- Control your environment!
You heard me! Be absolutely exhilarated of your accomplishment, you totally deserve it! Plan ahead how you'll reward yourself, then do it!
Now, it's always easier to get momentum when you have some help.
Find a friend and do this together. Share your inspiration with him or her and create a clean start for yourself, no matter if it's sugar, smoking or anything else you've been feeling guilty about lately.
I'm all here to help or answer any other questions.