Farewell my sweets

It has been over a year since I wrote about my sugar habit in this post: https://musingsimplicity.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/sweet-surrender/

Not much has changed. You could say I’m mindful about consuming sugar, but really I’m just aware of how addicted I am. No matter how much I engage in healthy habits, this sugar thing has got me beat. I find it easy to embrace a healthy lifestyle in all other areas but this one. It is the stubborn habit that has followed me around my entire life.

But it’s a new year and never too late for change. Recently, I read Gretchen Rubin’s article on habits:

http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/

She proposes that when it comes to managing indulgences, there are abstainers and there are moderators, and life is easier if we identify which one we are. I want to be a moderator. That sounds so healthy. So moderate. Everything in moderation, right? But alas, I am not a moderator. Not when it comes to sugar.

With sugar, I want what I want. One means two means three. There is no saving dessert for later or tomorrow, because if it’s there, I’m going to have it. Now. And if I have it one day, I must have it the next.

I tried the eating sweets only on special occasions idea of moderating, and I failed. Every occasion became special. Not just birthdays and holidays, which by the way, seem to come around an awful lot. But it was also special when my husband brought home Ben & Jerry’s from the grocery store. And it was special if we found ourselves near a bakery where we could get cannolis. And it was special when it was the weekend or the kids were home or we’re out to dinner or…

You see how that goes?

And there was the pre-sliced cheesecake I bought from Trader Joe’s and told myself I’d save  for Thanksgiving. When my husband asked if we could perhaps break into the cheesecake before the holiday, I was adamant. No, of course we can’t! Then I fessed up. We can’t because I’ve already sampled two pieces. If anyone was going to sample the cheesecake, it had to me. Obviously.  I was the sugar addict after all.

Then there was Christmas day when I walked into my parents’ house and headed straight to their freezer where I knew they stored the whoopie pies. I helped myself to the over- sized dessert before anyone had even begun the meal. It was like I was five years old again, but it was less cute now.

But recently, I think I hit rock bottom. On a mini-road trip with one of my daughters, we left the Norman Rockwell museum and were back on the road. My daughter decided she wanted an ice cream cone, and with limited choices nearby, would settle for a McDonald’s vanilla cone.

She is a person who can indulge in sweets moderately, so of course I obliged. Once I placed her order in the drive thru, I drove to the second window to pay. I was happy with myself that I had opted to abstain from the dessert. This was a rare event: being in the presence of someone else eating ice cream and not having any. Actually, it had never happened before.

It was then that I remembered the Mcflurry- that soft serve ice cream with the candy mixed in. I wanted one. I began my internal battle: to have or not to have, my superego and my id wrestling it out right there in the drive thru. We’d already ordered. The server handed me my daughter’s cone. It was time to pay and leave. I asked her to add a Mcflurry to our order. Seeming a bit annoyed, understandably, she said okay and walked away.

Then an alarm went off. A loud, ear piercing alarm sent the employees scurrying around inside. I should have left. Surely they were facing a bit of a crisis, maybe even a fire. For all I knew, they were being held by gun point at the cash register. Clearly, it was time to move on from the Mcflurry. But no, I wanted it dammit. I waited. And waited.

Eventually the girl reappeared, flustered and holding my sugar fix. I tried to pay her and she waved me away. Just go.

My daughter was in hysterics, laughing. At least I had amused someone.

Am I out of control ?

Then I remembered the gum.

Many years ago I was chewing a piece of sugarless gum when I felt a filling loosen in my mouth. It scared me and I instantly spat the gum out. I never chewed gum again. Plain and simple, I simply decided in that moment that I would not chew gum. I feared my filling would come out and it just didn’t seem worth it. I’ve never questioned it or even reassessed the choice. I just am someone who does not chew gum now. Period.

It was easy. It’s only gum, after all. I had no real attachment to gum.

But my point is this: I am an abstainer when it comes to something I think is not good for me. A clean break frees me from the decision, the attempts at moderating, the assessing  how much and when and where. If I think it might do me harm, I am better off just taking it off the table.

I think forty-something years of attempting to be a moderator of sugar consumption is enough time. I surrender. My body is talking to me and my mind is trying every which way to reason and bargain and promise. But alas, my body wins. I must say no.

Perhaps someday I will be able to moderate sugar.  Maybe I will become one of those people who can take two bites of cheesecake and then declare that it is too rich to have any more. (In the words of my sister, anyone who thinks cheesecake is filling hasn’t seen me eat cheesecake).

But for now at least, I am an abstainer. It is time to admit this and try it on for size. I am changing my belief about myself. I used to be someone who ate sugar regularly, and the more I had, the more I wanted.

Now, only now, I am someone who doesn’t eat sweets.

No dessert for me, thank you. I don’t eat dessert.

I hardly recognize those words. I’ve never said them before. Change is good.

Some say sugar is every bit as addictive as cocaine, and heroin. I know there are going to be moments when I will want to sell my soul for a brownie. But eventually, it will pass.

My body will thank me. My mind will thank me. Life will be sweeter without the burden of this sugar habit, this sweet poison that has followed me around relentlessly. Alas, I will be free.

My name is Dana. And I don’t eat sugar anymore. medium_7774382226End of story  .

Agenda is the new bible

  Let all things be done decently and in order  (1 Corinthians 14:40)

For many years, I  looked at the family calendar hanging on our kitchen wall each morning to stay aware of who had what, when and where.  My kids were good about keeping track of their own schedules, but it helped to know when I’d be the driver for an appointment, or when my husband’s work days shifted, and also to see what my upcoming commitments outside our family were.

Time moves on and kids grow up and now I’ve “graduated” from the family calendar to my own agenda. My daughters have all sung the praises for these books-of-the-organized which have helped them keep track of high school and college assignments, tests, performances, and any other important dates.  I could not live without my agenda are words that I heard uttered more than once in our home, and with utter conviction.

20141101_081457National Novel Writing Month has inspired me to fill my own agenda with the things that would help ensure a successful month of creativity.  Since writing and living well are intertwined for me, what serves one serves the other.  I took my time choosing an agenda, because it had to be the right agenda. It would symbolize order and commitment not only for November, but for the months ahead.  I wanted one with the days written left to write, like a book. I also wanted to be able see a whole month at a glance. When I found the perfect one, I penned in my schedule for the entire month.  At least for me, there is power in writing things down.

Writing group meetings, solo writing time, yoga classes (roughly the same time every couple days to keep it routine) fill my month.   I can glance at my agenda and see clearly when exercise takes place, and when writing takes place . Thanksgiving preparations, attending my daughter’s performance,  and my wedding anniversary celebration all have their precise times.   When it’s in writing, I don’t take it lightly or waste energy deciding what to do or in what order; there it is in black and white.  My agenda is like insurance for the habits and routine I want to live by all month, keeping me focused on my top priorities. 20141101_081348

Here is the most valuable thing I’ve learned:  we can allow life to flow through us, in all its perfect energy, or we can stay blocked.  Each day we are choosing one or the other.  It’s in the big choices but also in the seemingly small ones.  There is a magnificent order in the universe, but to tap into it, it helps to put our own lives in order.  When we do, we feel it and everything works better.  Choosing a plan and sticking to it is no easy gig for some, but figuring out what works best is part of the fun.  So here’s to agendas and the order that they symbolize. Here’s to choices set in ink. November may appear dreary and cold, but it is really full of potential and miracles if we can just make our way into that current.

Habits, routines and apps, oh my!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how daily habits can really make or break you, so to speak. I have found that if I put off my top priorities for ‘later in the day’, they don’t always happen.   What I do first thing in the morning has everything to do with what kind of day follows. So I gave my routine a mini overhaul. Now I walk-jog before breakfast, and start in on my writing shortly afterwards.  No matter what takes place the rest of the day, if I’ve exercised and written, I am invincible.

I appreciate the words of fiction writer Anna Quindlen when she describes the importance of her own routine.  During her interview with Gretchen Rubin (author of the Happiness Project), Quindlen says: I have a picket fence of habits to keep me on track.  I neither like nor dislike them; I just need them to do my work. I really like how she compares her habits to a picket fence- keeping productivity in and wasted time and energy out.  Her habits include eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch each day so as not to spend brain power on such decisions. This sounded rigid to me, until I recalled the many times I floundered for breakfast. Oatmeal? An egg? No, yogurt with fruit. Hmm, but we have this new cereal…

I think the key to forming lasting habits is to know yourself and what will actually work for you. Then do it. The beauty of a well formed habit is that we no longer have to think about it. We can use our precious energy for other things- things that really matter to us. Although I am not one of them, I understand that many people thrive on finding and using more and better technology for their everyday needs. Therefore, I did a simple search on some top habit forming apps available on iTunes.  Here are a few:

Carrot– This one is definitely the most amusing. It’s introduction is “Don’t Suck at Life”.  This app is your tough love coach- oh and it has a gender- it’s a girl. She will reward you and punish you, depending on how you are doing. You can earn points or carrots, or whatever she calls them. Those familiar with video games will speak her language.  If you like competition, and do well with negative reinforcement, this one is for you. Also, I read that it does not overload you with options when you start, so you probably won’t spend more time figuring out the features than you will engaging in the desired habit.

The Way of Life- The Ultimate Habit Maker-This one sounds very basic, and is data driven. The free version limits you to three habits, and you simply type them in and check off boxes each time that you meet your goal. You will get a visual of how you are doing as you go along.

Lift– If you are looking for short term support, this one lasts for just seven days, and it somehow involves community support.

Whatever your habit-forming style is, there is a way to succeed.  The distance between feeling like you suck at life, and feeling on top of the world, may just be a few simple habits away!