For the past three weeks, I have given up processed sugar. But this is not going to be a blog about diet and weight loss, or how sugar affects your moods. It’s a blog about the mindset of our vices, and how much of a toll they take on us. Before you read more about mine, please have your vice in mind. What is it: eating, smoking, facebook, wine?
My vice is sugar. In one sitting, I can happily down a box of maple creme sandwich cookies, or half a pan of brownies. I get a thrill from eating sugar, and even more of a thrill from gluttonously eating sugar. I have always been this way: I remember as a kid, sneaking down to the kitchen to gorge myself on my mom’s butterscotch baking chips. I used to think the only downside of my sugar binging was tooth decay, weight gain and yo-yoing moods, all of which I was happy to deal with in exchange for getting to keep my sugar. But when I recently swore it off, I realized that sugar was taking a far bigger toll on my life.
First off, I realized that sugar was beating out other, higher priorities for my attention. For example, even though I love going out with friends and dates to explore this fabulous city of mine, I found that I was staying in to have “cozy cookie nights” more often than I would care to admit. Or even if I did go out, I would come home and have my cookie binge later, which meant I would sleep in the next morning and not go for my morning run. Other times, I would be on the phone with my boss and start thinking about the plate of brownies I was going to make that evening, and should I put Reese’s Pieces or caramels in them, and the next thing I knew, I had lost track of the conversation. These are all small examples that I could make rules around, however, the point is that when we are in the mindset of our vices, the immediacy of the craving drowns out the voices of other priorities that may be more important. In those moments, Mr. Sugar becomes my single-minded fixation; the only problem is that he is not the one that is going to bring me lasting joy in my life.
I also realized that sugar was a substitute for feeling. Had a rough day? Let’s eat some ice cream. Feeling on top of the world after a great presentation? Let’s have some brownies. Not quite sure what to do with myself when I felt strong emotions, I would divert my attention toward a nice sugary indulgence instead, and then when I was done, the feelings would have passed. Presto. But without experiencing all of those feelings, I wasn’t able to truly celebrate my accomplishments, or process the lessons I needed to learn. I realized that I was missing out on the ride of life.
Once I stopped eating sugar, I went through a series of phases in transitioning from the sugar mind to the free mind. In phase 1, I lamented how empty life seemed without my sugar. If I can’t eat my sandwich cookies, what joy is left in the world? I literally thought that. Oy. If I hadn’t built up my personal integrity by that point, I would have for sure gone back to sugar in this phase. Then came phase 2, a shocked euphoria that I had survived a whole five days without sugar, and maybe this WAS possible after all. Finally, I hit phase 3, a lasting world of a calm, steady-state in which eating held its rightful place in my priority scheme: to nourish me.
Once I had gived up sugar, I was amazed by how much mental space was cleared up for other things in my life. Instead of fantasizing about my next sugar fix, I could spend time dreaming about my community, my future adventures, or my career. Instead of looking forward to an evening on the town being over so that I could eat my cookies, I could focus on having a great evening. In this mindset, I truly feel like I have the 10,000 foot view of myself and my life; in the sugar mind, I was in the weeds of immediacy.
One of the main desires of my clients is to have more time and energy to focus on the things that are important to them. My advice to them and you: try getting rid of your main vice, and watch the space open up.
What one vice do you want to take down? What does your vice mind sound like?
P.S.- Want to learn how to take down old habits and vices and design new ones? I lead a weekend workshop where I teach you how: the Life Coaching Crash Course. Register using promo code: Daily100 to save $100. I promise, these two days will 3 change your life. (Locations include: NY, Boston, DC, Florida, California)
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Dr. Samantha Sutton is a Senior Coach and Vice President and Director of Courses and Seminars at The Handel Group®. Samantha designs and leads the Handel Group’s® flagship workshop, the Life Coaching Crash Course. Samantha additionally coaches at universities such as Stanford and MIT. Prior to becoming a coach, Samantha received a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT.