Wednesday, February 27, 2013


So I gave up sugar for Lent.
The most salient difference this has made in my life so far is that Lent is going by reeeaaally slow.  Some days it's remarkably easy.  Other days there doesn't seem to be a single moment that my brain isn't asking for something sweet.  I give it carrots, apples, yogurt with a little maple syrup.

"Noooooo," it says.  "I want cookie butter.  I want chocolate.  I want ice cream.  I want buttercream frosting."

There are so many sugary things to want...and so many marginally sweet things that have sugar in them, dammit!  The mozerella sticks at Trader Joe's, for example

There are some seemingly random things that can satisfy my sugar craving: roasted plantain chips, an apple sometimes.  When I'm really feeling the pinch, I let myself have a honey mint: creamed honey with peppermint oil dipped in unsweetened chocolate.

You might wonder why I would put myself through such a thing.  I'd say the proof is in the pudding. "I want pudding."

You don't really grasp the nature of a craving until you choose not to satisfy it.  You don't feel the emptiness underneath the urge until you just sit with it for a while.  It becomes obvious this is not an emptiness a spoonful of cookie butter can fill.  You can try to fill it with half the jar of cookie butter, but no, that won't work either, and sooner or later you'll figure that out and feel a bit foolish for being tricked into filling your belly with something that's not serving your body, or your soul.

Satisfying a craving leads to feeling satisfied...for a matter of seconds.  Then you want more.  Or else you start craving something else.  Yoga is really all about seeing that rollercoaster for what it is, and choosing to step off. 

If you make that choice, sooner or later you're going to have cravings, and you're going to have a choice: get back on the roller coaster, or just sit with it.  Turn it around in your hands.  See it for what it is.  Then have an apple with peanut butter.  A little cheese and prosciutto.  A big class of cool water, or a mug of herbal tea.

Meditate, read an article on line, try something new, go for a walk/run/swim/bike/dance/yoga.  Maybe take a nap.  My cravings are strongest when I'm sleepy because the rational part of me isn't functioning so well, and my ego is super quick to pick up the slack.  I've had two lapses so far, both connected to a recent partaking of certain substances that can lower inhibitions.  I don't have a solid plan in place for handling that temptation in the future, and intend to steer clear of substances until I do.

This practice isn't meshing so well with Meditation Challenge Month.  I know meditation would help matters, and I'm going to keep right on challenging myself to do it through the end of Lent and beyond, but it's extra hard to remember to schedule in meditation everyday when I'm doing battle with the whiny sugar-craving voice all day long.

Whether Lent is a meaningful season for you or not, late winter/early spring is a great time of year to make changes to your diet to give your vital organs a break.  You can cut out processed foods, alcohol, and cut down on dairy and meat to great effect.  The key to making this really helpful is not to go crazy and binge on all the stuff you said no for a time.  Reintroduce slowly, and thoughtfully.  I'm really hopeful that sugar will remain well in the backseat of my diet.  I'm learning that I don't need a serving of junk food everyday to feel happy.  That doesn't mean I can't have a serving of junk food if I really want one, but it should always be a carefully considered choice, not an automatic one.

Are you struggling to step away from something that isn't serving you?   Would you like to give up something for forty days and see where it leads?

Live Omily,

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