We all know eating less sugar is going to help with the waistline. It’s going to make you feel better, it’s going to give you more energy and it’s going to decrease your chances of a multitude of metabolic diseases. Quite often you probably know all of this but it still doesn’t stop you – right?
If you’re looking for more motivation, take some time to seriously consider what sugar is doing to your ability to deal with your feelings…
Suppressing feelings with sugar
If you’re eating sugar when you’re stressed, upset, frustrated or bored, ultimately, you’re avoiding something. Chances are the sugar is a way of numbing these difficult and uncomfortable feelings with a quick, cheap, accessible and let’s face it, rather appealing alternative.
The problem with this is that the longer and more often you go using sugar in this way, the worse you get at finding and practising alternatives. Forget what sugar’s doing to you physically, it’s inhibiting your ability to problem-solve and deal with difficult feelings. This is where dependence on it suddenly starts to grow from. It’s effectively suffocating your ability to develop a set of alternative healthy stress-coping mechanisms.
I suffered from this
When I was in the throes of emotional sugar eating, it would often happen before I gave myself a chance to acknowledge it. I vividly remember a difficult day at work a few years ago. I was up in Aberdeen running a workshop with 15 clients who weren’t out to give me an easy ride. I was out of my depth; the workshop (in my eyes) went horribly wrong and I struggled to hold back the tears whilst presenting towards the end. Every minute I was stood up there felt like an eternity. I get shivers still now remembering that workshop whilst writing this.
I came out immensely stressed, embarrassed and did not know what to do with myself. A few tubs of M&S goodies lay around and I dived into them without thinking, just hoping they would help me feel better. I didn’t enjoy them or appreciate them. I just ate loads (until I felt a bit sick) with the hope that I would feel better – because sugar usually did it for me. It was instinctive, impulsive and almost an act of desperation.
The danger in this was that I didn’t have alternative stress coping mechanisms in place. Well, unless you count crying in the toilets as one. Sugar had always worked and been there, it was just what I did when things got stressful at work – grab some cake or biscuits and a cup of tea. But this time it didn’t work. The stress was too intense and eating more sugar wasn’t working, it was just making me feel a bit sick and disgusted with myself.
This is urgent
Changing your relationship with sugar is even more important when instances like this occur and start to happen more frequently. Relying on sugar is not a healthy or sustainable way of regularly dealing with stress. The longer it’s used, the more narrow-minded you become to other coping mechanisms and more dependant you become on sugar. It’s why going to cold turkey can in a way feel like you’re literally chopping off your right arm and thus is not always the right solution for some.
If there’s a motivation to change your sugar habits today, let your ability to deal with your feelings be a highly motivating one to keep in mind.
A progressive process
Change here doesn’t happen overnight (don’t I know it). Habitually creating new coping mechanisms that work for you is a trial and error process that can be slow. It is highly personal to you and your situation.
What you can do for inspiration is look around at the people you know who don’t use sugar as a coping mechanism – what do they use? Exercise, breathing, meditation? There are many very healthy ways of dealing with stress that aren’t going to undermine the other things you want in life – whether that’s weight loss, control, or a healthy piece of mind. You want to seek reliable strategies that don’t propel you towards being dependant on a somewhat toxic substance and up your chances of being a diabetes statistic in the future.
What do I do now?
I’m far from perfect on this front still, but thankfully, I no longer dive into flapjack and rocky road tubs when I’ve had a bad day. I can appreciate that whilst I don’t eat sugar for stress anymore, I have still struggled with using food at times. It’s a progressive process and I’m on my own path with this.
Whilst the almonds or some other sugar-free foods are healthier, I have become aware of my emotional eating tendencies and I’m still exploring alternative coping mechanisms so I don’t just default to eating when nervous, stressed or bored. I find working at home harder, but becoming more conscious over the years has been my first step to change.
These days I time out in periods of stress – I just take a break to think. Strangely, if I’m really stressed at home, instead of going into the kitchen like I used to, I get into bed and think for 5 minutes. My bed has become my de-stress den!
Yoga and meditation works sometimes; so does blasting on some of my favourite songs really loud for 3 minutes, or looking through some old photos on my phone. Sometimes I get some new ideas from the clients I work with who are also addressing sugar-numbing emotional eating. Learn from those around you and take inspiration from wherever you can. Having some support can really help, even if it’s just for the accountability or fresh thinking. I’d love to support you with something I feel extremely passionate with, so do get in touch if you’re interested. I made sure to create whole sections of the Mentor Me Off Sugar detox programme to address these areas because I feel mindset, emotional eating etc. is equally, if not more important as getting the nutrition right.
Take action now
If you can recognise that sugar plays an unhealthy role in dealing with your feelings then start by becoming aware. Know that it’s a common problem and seek some support or commit to an attempted change – because you really can. Sugar is not the long term band aid to difficult feelings and you can change as much as I and the clients I’ve worked with have. Let this be your inspiration to get started…
My brand spanking new video series
This week I’m excited to launch something I’ve been working hard on which nicely fits with this post. It’s a completely free 4-day video series with lots of strategies, tips and advice to get you living the controlled low sugar life you want – including dealing with this very emotional side of sugar that I believe is a big part of things. I explain the 4 foundational pillars to living a sustainable, happy and practical low sugar lifestyle.
An accumulation of things I’ve learnt myself and through coaching others, the advice in these videos is practical, very ‘real’ and will help you avoid some of the classic emotional and social mistakes when it comes to healthy low sugar change. Sign up here to get the first video and let me know what you think.
Over to you
Do you use sugar to deal with difficult feelings? Can you recognise if it’s when you’re anxious, bored or stressed? Have you tried doing other things? This is a bold and brave one to share but you’ll build instant awareness by doing so and I would love to hear from you.