Sugar has been my substance of choice. Every time I felt stressed, I immediately turned to sugary foods for comfort. It seem to ease the stress and anxiety. (Do you relate?)
One day, I listened to a talk at an online Brain Change Summit (still love neuroscience!) about how an addiction researcher allowed his research participants, who were looking to quit smoking, to smoke.
“What?” they asked. “I thought we were here to quit smoking.”
“Just smoke,” the expert said. “But pay attention to the smoking.”
They did and one woman recalled her experience which—to summarize—was: “Yuck! It tastes like chemicals. Gross!”
The idea is when you pay attention to a behavior/habit and observe no real gain or even a negative experience as a result of the behavior, you may have reduced craving for said behavior/substance and step out of the habit loop.
This sounded interesting to me and so I decided to try it myself
—with sugar. Here’s what happened:
I first tried some sort of pastry, I believe. A cookie, perhaps? (Me not recalling it well tells you a great deal already.) Within 30-60 minutes of consuming this sugary substance, I notice my mind slowing down, shutting down, even. Focus became difficult, so I left my work at the table to take a nap. 1 1/2 hours later, I woke up. That was my first noticeable “sugar trip.”
I was like, okay, maybe it’s just this ONE time. I’ll try it with another sugary substance and see what happens. This second time was with coffee ice cream. (I remember this one better probably because I told someone about it soon after.) I made sure to take a look at my watch before I had some ice cream to get a more accurate reading of the time frame. Ice cream at 3pm. Grogginess at 3:30pm.
Yup, I was definitely feeling groggy, mind foggy. I had a difficult time concentrating and my brain function slowed down again. I don’t think I took a nap, but I did have to sit in my bed a bit. Again, no work.
As it turns out, the following days without sugar were more productive, with many more hours of work done (and feeling good about it too)! I seem to have lost some weight as well, as the fat around my belly seem to have decreased and not yo-yo drastically as it did in the past. (This is just by eyeballing myself in the mirror.)
At this point, I didn’t want to try anything sugary anymore. Those two experiences were enough to keep me from taking anymore sweets. Even holding a fun size Snickers bar today for a 3rd and final test got me feeling physically ill.
What I used to imagine as sugary yummy, goodness in my mouth and medicine for my anxiety has become a near gag reflex and panic attack when I tried a pinch of chocolate-filled bread (instead of the Snickers bar) today. Just a pinch! My heart started racing, immediate thirst, then brain fog. My body was not happy. I felt like pulling the piece of bread out of my esophagus.
So now I can’t have sweets. Not because I know cognitively that it’s not good for me. But because I am more aware of how my mind and body are physically affected by sugar. And the experiences have not been good. I still crave a little of the sweet taste, so something less sweet is fine, but nothing that is made with only or mostly sugar.
I also feel much better, happier, and healthier without it. Feeling alive and focused makes it easier for me to manage my stress and meditate.
Why go back?
I’m not sure what your relationship with sugar is (or any other kind of food or substance) and how your body is affected by it, as every body and mind differs in how it reacts to substances. However, I thought I’d shared this experience with you. Maybe if there’s a behavior, habit or addiction you’d like to pay attention to or you know someone who is struggling with addiction of any kind, this may help. 😊♥️