Holiday celebrations are over and January strikes. Along with hope and optimism that the new year brings, I am also plagued with an over-whelming need to write down on paper my 2015 plan and this year I have big audacious goals and also some nitty-gritty habits that I want to either entrench or change this year. I have been thinking about habits a lot lately and I have been reading up on the subject trying to work out why some habits are easily changed and some, despite all my best intentions, I seem to be quite incapable of changing.
I also have a bit of a shameful incident to share… read on.
As you would know from my previous posts, here and here, I am quite conscious about minimising sugar for health reasons. I have never actually quit sugar, just really cut back and replaced sugar at home with suitable alternatives such as rice malt syrup and stevia. The trouble with sugar is it is one of those things that just creeps up on me. I will be quite happy living without sugar for a while and effortlessly free of cravings, and then a square or two of chocolate here, an ice-cream with the kids there, a bad day and a bar of chocolate… And so on it goes, gradually gaining momentum… And then the cravings take hold and I found myself opening the bin looking for the half eaten piece of birthday cake that I had tossed and wondering if it is still edible!!! I was in the grip of a sugar frenzy and it felt impossible to step away.
Other habits I have found to be quite easy to change. I wanted to cut down to one coffee a day, however instead of changing the behaviour (drinking coffee) I just switched to de-caff. I haven’t looked back or even thought too much about it! Eventually I should be able to switch the de-caffs to peppermint tea, but in the meantime I feel I have succeeded with the goal of cutting down on caffeine.
Likewise with getting back into running. I spent most of last year carefully nursing my thyroid back to health (read about this here) and part of my strategy was to cut back on excessive exercise and stick to daily walks (with my pooch, Ralph – he’s currently recovering from accidental rat poison consumption, but that’s another story!). The side-effect of walks instead of runs/gym exercise was that I could feel myself losing my cardiovascular fitness and I really missed it. I also found my clothes getting a bit too snug. I wanted to get back into running, so I set myself a goal of running a 10km fun-run in March and instead of walking everyday, I started running for 3 or 4 mornings a week. Again, as I already had one habit already in place (getting out of bed early, putting on my runners and leaving the house) it wasn’t as hard as I expected as I just had to start running instead of walking and I found I can keep myself going as I can feel myself getting a little bit fitter each time. So far, so good.
However, the sugar habit is still to be tamed.
As an experiment on myself (you know I love experiments!) I am going to start the “I Quit Sugar” program tomorrow, mostly because I am intrigued to find out how this program will help me kick the sugar habit. My latest revelation, as I had my hand down the bin hunting for cake, was that abstinence is probably the only solution. And I don’t like that answer. Partly because I feel that I have had to give up so many food items already to manage my IBS and follow the low fodmap diet for life. Perhaps what I really need to think about now is “what is the cost of not changing?”.
I am sure that there are many of you who are currently in your own struggle with habits. Perhaps it is building the habit of sticking with the low fodmap diet? For me, this was one of the hardest things that I have had to do: getting onto the low fodmap diet and sticking with it (90% of the time!). I fell off the fodmap wagon hundreds of time and I climbed back on, because the cost of not changing was too high. Three years on and the habit of choosing low fodmap options is so entrenched that I rarely have to consciously think about it and the joy of the habit is that I don’t have the emotional battles in my head that I had for the first year. We are capable of change however it can take a long time for something to become an unconscious, easy, habit.
I’ll let you know how my experiment with sugar goes and if I end up deciding that complete sugar abstinence is the best thing for me. What I do know is that I do not want to be gripped by the sugar demons again…
All the best,