Sugar – in all its forms: candy, chocolate, ice cream – is the demon I am constantly negotiating with. The sugar demon has some little friends I’m also always trying to talk down: anger, frustration, fatigue are the goblins that poke the monster of gorging on sugar into action. I feel guilty and sorry about what I’ve done to myself and my efforts to be healthy as I reach for another handful of M&Ms, but the demon has a script for that: “So what?” I ask myself, with its urging. “This will calm you down; you’ll go back to eating healthy as soon as this is finished. Finish it so it won’t tempt you anymore.”
The problem is, I know that my demon is tricking me. I remain in the throes of its voice after the M&Ms are gone, prone to the next sweet or salty treat that comes my way. There I am, finishing the half-gallon of chocolate chip mint.
And my demon shames me, mocking at the latest broken resolve, watching how my husband doesn’t eat out of the carton or keep eating out of an open bag or a bowl of candy so that I am reminded I am different when it comes to treats, I am a creature of cravings whereas my husband is free.
Beating Back the Demon
Luckily, I have an arsenal to fight with. Some are day-to-day practices: managing the food that comes into the house, meditation, working out five or six days a week and working honestly with an eating counselor. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “bad food.” I believe in portions and accountability. Although it has taken me years to be willing to track my food, now that I can do so online with my mobile phone I can figure the points and restaurant calories before buying something or eating out. Knowing these numbers is usually an unpleasant eye-opener and stops me in my tracks. If I can commit to an appropriate portion of ice cream or French fries, I’m safe, but it takes rigorousness on my part to track every mouthful. I am able to be consistent with tracking for a couple of weeks before I stop and start winging it. Funny how I can eyeball an appropriate amount of chicken but not of ice cream.
Then there is the ammunition that takes a special kind of mindfulness. These are, for lack of a better phrase, “life guides,” or ways of talking to myself with respect and logic. In recent years I have realized what working out hard is and I give myself credit for showing up at the gym when I don’t want to be sure, using the rule of staying for at least20 minutes, after which time, I am inevitably hooked in and finish.
The longest I’ve been able to remain sugar-free in the nearly eight years since beginning to release the extra 40 pounds I carried is about three weeks. So I have to be ready to adapt and adjust if I slip. Throw out the ice cream, rest if I’m tired and have a healthy snack if I’m hungry and craving candy. I dig in and restructure the food in my house and make menu/snack plans. I’ve discovered that if I can go two weeks controlling my food environment then it becomes easier to ignore cravings.
I live by the motto “persistence, not perfection,” doing what I can every day to improve my health. If I’ve finished off some food I shouldn’t have bought, I can still eat nutritiously and go to the gym. I’ve learned that my bouts with overeating sugar will end after a few days and I hang onto that hope, born of experience. Detoxing from sugar is yet another demon because while I’m going through it I obsess over not giving in and the feelings of failure if I do slip.
I try not to wake the demons. It’s not so much that my weight is at risk as it is that I need the mental space to really live and enjoy my life and to make progress toward the best health I can achieve.