For the last two weeks I’ve been participating in the ‘No sugar challenge’. Attempting to increase my awareness of the ingredients in the products I buy and rid my diet of unnecessary, added sugars.
All in all, it went pretty well. I have more energy, my mood is more even, the ‘afternoon slump’ has disappeared and I’ve signed up for another round just to make sure the changes I’ve made get a chance to become habits.
What’s been most surprising about the challenge are the responses I get from others when I tell them about it.
“But I can’t drink my coffee without sugar”
“I need a cookie or a ____ (insert your vice here) mid-afternoon to get through my day”
“I wish I had your willpower”
The words ‘can’t’ and ‘need’ imply that some terrible fate will befall you if you don’t indulge. Yes, your coffee might taste different without the sugar, but give yourself a week to re-train your taste buds and you won’t miss it (trust me, I just gave up a 20 year addiction to chocolate syrup in my morning coffee and the world didn’t come to an end). No, you don’t need that mid-afternoon treat, try a piece of fruit instead; in a few days it will seem sweet enough and as an added bonus, they’ll be no pre-dinner sugar crash!
As for ‘willpower’, it’s not some magical virtue that you either have or don’t have. We are all tempted by something, be it food, alcohol or expensive yarn. It’s simple impulse control. Making a thoughtful decision about what you will or won’t do, knowing that your decision has consequences and may hinder or help you to reach your goals.
We expect children to control their impulses to hit their friends. As adults, we practice impulse control on a daily basis. We refrain from telling our boss what we really think of him. Although we may be tempted, we don’t ram our car into the vehicle that just cut us off. We don’t tell our best friend that her new boyfriend is a cad. Yet when it comes to food, we blame our inability to curb those impulses on ‘willpower’.
The thing about ‘willpower’ is, it’s just a word we use to rationalize poor decisions.
This week, practice making mindful decisions about nutrition. Think about the consequences of your actions before you indulge. Make a habit of controlling your impulses. Join me in the two week no sugar challenge.
Before you know it, your friends will be commenting on your ‘willpower’!