As a certified life coach who specialises in disordered eating and body image, you might be surprised to read that I once had a very dysfunctional relationship with food. The final diet I did – a sugar free diet- resulted in myself laying on the bathroom floor crying, all because I ate an apple.
Pretty full on right? Aside from how terribly sad that is- to cry over eating an apple- I’m not alone when I say that a sugar free diet made me completely ‘crazy’ around food.
Living a ‘sugar free’ lifestyle seems to be the ‘hot diet on the block’ right now. From documentaries, to e-programs to cookbooks, there are a lot of people hating, shaming, blaming and subsequently quitting sugar.
Despite popular opinion I’m not a fan of this whole ‘sugar free’ movement because I see it as just another diet ‘in disguise’.
It’s my belief that people want to quit sugar because they want to control their weight. When your weight dictates your core self worth (i.e. when you’re ‘thin’/’thinner’ you’ll be happier, beautiful, sexy, successful etc.) and you believe that sugar is ‘bad’, ‘fattening’ etc then I bet you’d want to control your sugar ‘addiction’ too.
That was essentially the thought process I had, when I decided to ‘quit’ sugar. I heard it’s poison and it has an affect on the body like cocaine, but all that aside, I was drawn to the promise that by quitting sugar I’d lose weight. I didn’t like my body all that much and I certainly believed the mentality that ‘losing weight equaled improved self esteem’- two pretty influential dieting motivators.
What I didn’t really understand (or perhaps did but didn’t want to face the ‘truth’) at the time was the phrase ‘diet’s don’t work’. I wasn’t aware that the stats on dieting show us that an overwhelming number of people who diet gain the weight back, if not gain even more weight. In other words you’ve got a better chance at permanent weight success by not dieting, than you do through dieting.
Despite the fact diets don’t work I’d be missing a very important point as to why I don’t think quitting sugar is a good idea if I didn’t state the following:
In my opinion it isn’t that sugar is bad per se that makes us ‘out of control around it’, it’s our perception and resulting food shaming behaviour that makes our behavior ‘out of control’.
In other words I believe that shaming sugar- which means labelling it as ‘bad’, ‘poison’ and likening its affects on the body to drugs etc., will inevitably result in feeling ‘crazy’ around it.
I’ve worked with a ton of clients from all over the world (including working on myself) to know that:
“The only time you will ever feel out of control around a specific food, is when you’re trying to control it to begin with”- Isabel Foxen Duke
The sugar free diet I did certainly taught me that food shaming doesn’t work out in your favour in the long run. At first I was able to maintain a sugar free life for 6 months. However, over time my ability to restrict sugar was less and less successful, to the point where I’d barely last a few hours before I couldn’t stop thinking and subsequently diving head first into the exact food I was trying to restrict.
No amount of willpower and self control can starve off the biological response that kicks in when our body feels deprived.
The best advice I can give you is that you’ll stop fighting sugar, when you stop trying to control it to begin with. In other words don’t quit sugar.
You’ll then be able to open your mind up to a new way of approaching a more harmonious relationship with sugar which can only occur if you allow yourself to eat it. Just allowing yourself to eat sugar after restricting yourself from it for years and trying to control your behavior around it can have massive positive outcomes on your relationship with sugar.
Trust me, the moment I stopped controlling sugar, sugar stopped controlling me.
I’m happy to say that I now eat apples without ending up on my bathroom floor crying, I can eat a chocolate biscuit and not eat the whole pack and I often forget I’ve got a block of chocolate in my cupboard.