Willpower

Starting tomorrow, I go sugar-free for 30 days. I’m not the only one moved to do something about out-of-control sugar habits, and I find this very comforting. I feel better knowing I’m not alone and because this is a safe place to speak about it openly and find support. None of us have to get sober or struggle with sugar habits in a vacuum.

The possibility of failure still troubles me. Soon after I posted my intent to go sugar-free for 30, my husband shared this article on willpower depletion, which made me feel like an irresponsible twat for whining about sugar binges on a sober blog. It warns that willpower is a limited resource in any given day. The more we use to do the things we don’t really want to do, like dealing with whiny kids at home or a messy project at work, the less we have later in the day to avoid destructive temptations like that glass (okay, bottles) of wine. If it came down to it, I’d take sobriety over kicking a cookie habit any day.

Fortunately, willpower is like a muscle you can build over time. It comes gradually when you establish and repeat good habits that reward you in new, improved ways. I couldn’t think of a better way to describe sobriety. At first it was really hard and I felt more deprived than good about what I was doing. Gradually, clearer thinking from sobriety helped me feel ready to focus on areas in my life that I’d neglected, and this created a chain reaction of good feelings. Sobriety created its own rewards.

But until I got there, sugar was of great comfort in the early days of sobriety when I had little else to look forward to after a hard day. That sounds pretty sad, but there is nothing sad about pursuing sobriety as a goal.

This article offers some great tips on how to build willpower. Limiting choices and keeping a tidy environment are two things that help me stay on track. I just don’t thrive in chaos.

I’m off to spend the day in the city with my family. Since it’s the last day before starting the sugar-free challenge, I may possibly have a black-and-white cookie that is only inches smaller than my head. I am having my coffee sugar-free this morning. The real work begins tomorrow and I feel excited and ready.

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27 thoughts on “Willpower

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  1. I was doing really well with the Atkins diet, no candy, no cookies, no pasta…then I went to my in-laws last night for dinner. We were supposed to go out to eat and I was planning my salad all day, but no, they decided to cook for us. Spaghetti! My favorite! I had to be polite, right? Sounds like the same excuses I made when I was drinking. Ha Ha Ha! The good news is that the sugar cravings have already abated noticeably.

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  2. I’m excited too! I tend to take this sugar thing like an all or nothing…you’d think being sober I would have learned a thing or too about eating an elephant. Your 30 day challenge has reminded me that I only have to do it one day (or 30 of them) at a time. After that I can decide what I want to do.

    What a concept!

    Thanks for the reminder! I’ll be checking in with you as the month moves along. Tonight however, I am going to have some pecan pie.

    Sherry

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  3. I’m with you too. As you know, I’m making baby steps toward a whole foods, Paleo type diet. Weaning myself off of all the sugar, flours, additives, etc. I’m looking at it as being in it for the long haul- the same as sobriety. The more I read about the health dangers, inflammation, auto-immune disruptions, and under-handed deception by the packaged foods industries, the more I want to live a clean and natural life.

    I’m reading “Hungry For Change (Ditch the Diets, Conquer the Cravings, and Eat Your Way to Lifelong Health)” by Colquhoun and Bosch (the producers of Food Matters), and it’s been a pretty good entry level read. I checked it out from the library. Anyway, Jason Vale is a contributor to the book, and he shares this gem:

    “I’ve been on so many diets,” says Vale, “and I would immediately start to feel deprived. Think about that. If I weren’t on a diet I could have gone sometimes to two o’clock in the afternoon without thinking about food or even consuming any food. I never thought about it. But the very second I told my brain that I was on a diet, I went into the mode of can’t. What I mean by can’t is this: CANT, constant and never-ending tantrum. That’s all it is, a tantrum. And it’s constant and never-ending.

    “Now if you go from ‘I want that but I can’t have it’ to ‘I can have it but I don’t want it,’ there’s a major paradigm shift.”

    Then it’s not so much willpower, as it is choice. Sounds a lot like sobriety too, doesn’t it?

    So I’m trying to look at it as a journey (your favorite word) and not a diet. I’m excited too!

    Enjoy that cookie today!!!

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    1. I really like Paleo, I feel good when I’m not eating dairy, gluten, or soy. There’s a great cookbook called “Well Fed” http://www.theclothesmakethegirl.com/wellfed/ that I love love love. I also try to remember there are soooo many things I can have, stop worrying about what I can’t. And just like with staying sober having good options is crucial. I can have it, but I don’t want it. Genius! I send good willpower-y vibes your way!

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      1. Hi Amy, I’ve been meaning to stop by your blog–I’m glad you said hi to me here!

        I’m so glad you mentioned that book. I saw it on Amazon and the preview looked AH-MA-ZING. I will definitely get it later this week and we can compare recipes! I also like the preview of “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” by Cordain http://www.amazon.com/The-Paleo-Diet-Athletes-Nutritional/dp/160961917X since I do a lot of running. My fear is giving up a lot of the grainy carbs and having my endurance take a hit. But I also suffer bad allergies, so I’m curious if they’ll clear up with cleaner eating.

        I ate a LOT of sugar in my first six months sober, and I don’t regret one single jelly bean or cookie. Do whatever it takes to stay sober right now. That’s the most important thing. Your sobriety has to come first, or nothing else can come second. Eat the cookies. πŸ˜‰

        I look forward to getting to know you, I’ve loved seeing your comments. Happy New Year!

        -Christy

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    2. I will look up Hungry for Change at my library. I still haven’t read any Jason Vale, but can identify with the “can’t” feeling. I have noticed in the last year that I want less junk, overall. I am hopeful this will happen more if I go at change the right way. Thanks for your comment!

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  4. I’m with you and your time starts….now! 1st of January here in New Zealand, 7.30am and today is the first day of my sugar free January. I’ve got a friend doing it with me locally too. I’m so looking forward to a) seeing how different I feel and b) getting in the habit of checking the sugar content of packaged foods. Plus it feels treaty that unlike my sobriety which is forever, this sugar free thing is only for one month. Ha! One month off anything should be a doddle… right? Happy New Year to you BBB xxx

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  5. Make sure you fix yourself up some of those cocoa walnut balls for when the sugar bitch attacks! Back off sugar bitch! πŸ™‚ (hold hands in karate stance. shout hiya!)

    I wonder about the wisdom of me giving up sugar. BUT! I don’t want to trade eating 8 cookies a night for the wine. Just building another bad habit. And if it comes down to it I will eat 57 cookies to avoid taking one little drink.

    I feel better when my surroundings are clean and organized too. It makes me feel sane, not weeded, and in control. Maybe every time I want to eat a sweet I should clean something. πŸ˜‰

    Best wishes to everyone and Happy New Year. πŸ™‚

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  6. Last night we purged a birthday cake, a bag of mini-Reese cups, cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and some other various candies from the house. We’re ready to go today!

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  7. I’m with you on day 1 of my 2nd Whole30. The sugar demon is a nasty bastard. I try and remember to surrender to my plan rather than fight with it. It’s tough! Day 3 was the worst last time, but somewhere in week 2 I started feeling great! You can do it!

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  8. For what it’s worth, i found that quitting drinking gave me some tools that i was able to use when i quit smoking, so i’d imagine all the lessons you’ve learned about putting down the drink will come in handy when you want to put down the sugar bowl!

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    1. Absolutely true, like finding new things to look forward to at the usual trigger times…like remembering that all cravings pass…even knowing that I can do this. It’s different because it’s only for 30 days, but this too makes it feel much easier and obtainable. Hopefully I will use and develop new tools for long-term change in my sugar bowl habits. Happy new year to you!

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  9. Your resolve is so incredibly wonderful. I love watching you fight for your freedom. I’m in your corner girl. I still love my cookies. Happy New Year. Enjoying your blog and looking forward to getting to know you in the new year. L

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  10. What great comments so far!

    I have been through several of these 30+ day quits (not to say they don’t work! I find that each time I do a sugar and high-carb fast, I crave it less and less. It’s something for me that does not really ever just “go away” — this wanting of sugar, and you have to find your own place with it. You may find that you “unhinge” easier, though). I can give some good tips to pushing through a craving! Whenever I would start craving sweets, and boy howdy was it BAD the first couple of weeks for me the first time I did this, I ate something with protein and a “good” fat. A slice of chicken breast with mayo. A sliced half of an avocado on salad with a nice low-carb dressing. Almonds. I made sure to have high-protein, low-carb and good fat snacks and I made sure to never let myself get hungry. Even a hard-boiled egg works, too. A deviled egg is even better, lol. Oh, celery with a nut butter is delicious, too, although peanuts trigger cravings for some, so I like to stick with sunflower butter or almond (making your own almond butter is SO easy if you have a food processor, and a lot cheaper, too). Back when I could eat dairy (I can’t now), I would eat some hard cheese, too (not a soft one — to much lactose, milk sugar, in them).

    Allowing myself a lot more protein and veggies in this time helped a lot. I did not count calories or any such thing. The goal is not necessarily to lose weight, it is to unhinge oneself from a dependency on a highly addictive food substance, IMO. So give yourself plenty of slack in the calorie department, and let yourself have the higher protein & good fat foods. (I’m not sure if that is what is in the “protocol” for what you are doing, just letting you know what got me through over 4 months of totally sugar free and low-carb eating.)

    I really learned to make some wonderful veggies in this time, too. Roasted brussels sprouts became one of my favorites, and I would love to eat them with dijon mustard and mayo (can you tell mayo was my friend in these times, lol — I often made my own, too, in order to ensure a sugar-free variety). Any veggies oven roasted, especially this time of year, are really tasty.

    Wow — even just typing that reminds me of how good I felt when I was doing this. Hmmm. Might be time for another sugar fast! I should at least cut down and make sure it is not an additive in anything I am eating. I am usually pretty careful, but, now and then get lax.

    Have courage! You can do it! You can do it with NO cheating! You will feel better if you attack it 100% that way, trust me. πŸ™‚
    Good luck, BBB, and hope that it is going well so far.
    Celeste

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  11. ok so day 3 here and already I’ve slipped up (didn’t think when handed an icecream cone doh)… but also I am discovering it’s all in the drinks man. It’s all in the drinks!! So much sugar in soft drinks.. I never really realised. So that’s the biggest thing I’m noticing already, having to make healthier drink choices…

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    1. Do you know how many times I’ve almost eaten/drank/licked sugary things in the past 3 days? I get how the ice cream thing happened. And damn those drinks!! It’s always the drinks. I’ve taken to afternoon herbal tea, which is starting to feel like a treat (this took awhile).

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  12. * It warns that willpower is a limited resource in any given day. ….
    I need to read this article today.

    All night, I tossed and turned trying to convince myself that tomorrow will be Day 1 “again”. I know my willpower is very limited. I’m an emotional over-eater too and want to give up booze and sugars! How does one do that in one day?

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