Once we are on our spiritual path, it seems there is the never ending journey of shedding what no longer serves, moving through blockages, changing aspects of ourselves which are holding us back, welcoming in the new.
One aspect which I have been grappling with for many years, decades in fact, is my diet. It’s often the first thing we start to work on in our personal development, and for me it has been one of the hardest to change. What I eat is a real barometer for how I am coping with life.
Over recent years I have been working on adopting a diet more in line with our ancient ancestors, before agriculture. It’s known as the paleo diet, and its basic premise is no or low grains, legumes and sugar, as our hunter-gather friends didn’t have a great deal of access to these foods.
I have found that, with some organisation and discipline, I could manage a low grain diet, but I really struggled to cut out the sugar. At best all I could manage was to replace it with natural sweeteners, and that meant getting through a lot of honey!
A few years ago I watched a film called ‘That Sugar Film’. It is a Michael Moore style documentary produced by an Australian chap, and his point is that we are addicted to sugar, and these so called low fat ‘diet’ foods are actually bad for us.
Since then it was in my awareness that sugar had a hold on me, but I couldn’t find it in myself to give it up, and so I just ate a bit more honey instead and pushed it to the back of my mind.
That was until January this year when something happened that completely changed my perspective.
I had a health scare.
I found a lump and was referred for tests for cancer. It was a routine procedure, but for a week or so I suddenly had the possibility of a potential end date in my life.
For the first two days, as the news sunk in, I looked into ways that, if I were diagnosed with cancer, I could self heal. One of these ways is to give up sugar, as it’s the sugar that the cancer cells feed off. As I mulled this over a voice inside me said ‘I don’t want to give up sugar, I won’t do it’.
Bang. There it was. That was the voice of the addiction. What I was saying was I would rather die than give it up.
I was astounded at how powerful the addiction was, and what a hold it had on me. So I decided there and then, in those few days, that I would give it up forever.
Now I understand that it takes 21 days to kick a habit, and for the body to reset itself and start to burn fat as the primary energy source. So with my sights set on the end of January, also my 40th birthday, I started my mission.
What an exhausting month that was. In fact I pretty much wrote off the rest of the month. I slept a lot, lay on the sofa a lot, and stopped doing very much at all. My body was wired to grab an easy source of energy to keep on going, and so once I stopped giving it that energy form, I lost my oomph. It carried on a few weeks more, and then rebooted.
So how do I feel now?
The biggest thing is the feeling that something no longer has a hold over me. It is a sense of freedom I just didn’t expect to get, as I didn’t realise I was held down so much by something seemingly so innocent.
My energy levels are consistent and I don’t get the peaks and troughs that I would experience before.
And I don’t get so hungry, so I eat less. Before, when I felt hungry, I would get a real craving, like an urgency that I had to eat something quickly, a panic in fact. Now that just isn’t there.
As a bonus, and a big bonus, I have lost weight – over a stone in fact.
What to consider
So my advice if this has resonated with you at all, would be:
- Take time out, and lower your expectations as to what you are going to achieve in your usual day-to-day activities during the initial weeks. I don’t say this lightly, as most people have an employer who expects a certain and consistent level of performance from their employees. But I don’t know how I would have managed to do this when I worked for the corporations years ago. I expect I would have had to take a holiday.
- Do some research first. Learn about what is happening to your body as you switch from sugar burning to fat burning. Having this awareness really helps during the process as your body changes and responds
- Understand what foods you need to give up. It’s not just refined sugar. It’s natural sugars, and also foods which turn quickly to sugar, including grains and legumes. These all need to go. After our body has reset itself, you can have them back into your diet from time to time.
- Prioritise your time. With any revised eating regime, I have found it’s all about making time to be in the kitchen. Without this, the temptation to reach for convenience foods is too great. So I set up speakers in the kitchen to listen to podcasts and music, and assigned myself to spending a good hour on food preparation most days of the week.
- The age-old advice of finding new recipes which will keep you interested and engaged, and resist the sugar grabbing temptations.
- Remember that sugar is said to be the third most addictive substance in the world, so this is likely not to be easy. As with most things which are a challenge, it’s a road to self discovery.
A great author to follow is Mark Sissons. He has a few books to read, and recipe books too, as well as a regular blog. His 21 day total body transformation is a good start, although I wouldn’t have been able to manage the exercise part of his programme. Focusing on my diet was enough.
So, looking back on this year so far in some ways I don’t feel like I have achieved much. My to do list largely got put to one side, and it seems like I have been really unproductive. But actually I have ticked off a real biggie. If I do nothing else in 2017 I will have made a huge achievement.
It feels really good to have kicked a life-long addiction which was holding me down, and I never even planned it. That health scare turned out to be a real blessing in disguise – a wake up call from the Universe. Maybe, just maybe my next 40 years will be sugar free.