Whether to consume sugar or not has been on my mind a lot these days. For a good long while, I'd say at least several months to a year, I consumed very little sugar. I had recently learned just how bad it is for our bodies and I wanted to be healthy. So I made a distinct effort to cut it out of my diet.
Then around the start of February of this year I figured, I've been "good" for so long, I deserve a little sweet treat. You see, I used to eat lots of sugar! I grew up on it -- sugar cereal, candy, doughnuts, you name it. I have a definite sweet tooth. In fact, I'd say many sweet teeth, by how much I like sugar.
So a couple months ago I let in a little. I may eat a couple sugary cookies in a day, several pieces of candy, or a couple chocolate-covered strawberries (my mom got them for me for Valentine's Day). I even bought a semi-sugary cereal again. I was loving it.
Until I stopped kidding myself and reminded myself just how bad this stuff was to eat. Of course I knew this, it just tastes so darn good!
Here's the thing though. I don't believe in complete denial. If you like something, a lot, and it brings you pleasure, then denying yourself forever and always, will lead to resentment and anger.
At least it does for me.
The key is moderation. Knowing when to stop. Having one cookie and calling it a day. Not three or five. Having one mini Twix (like I did yesterday actually) and being satisfied -- not feeling the need to take a piece of each type of candy in the bowl. (Boy it was tempting.)
Sometimes just a bite or two of something is enough to satisfy the craving and desire. It's not about denying yourself completely.
I also believe as long as it's the exception and not the rule, it's not so bad. In the case of diet, if 90-95% of what you put into your mouth is healthy and nourishing to your body, then a single cookie is acceptable.
I know some people may disagree. Some people (maybe you) will say that it's better and easier not to eat any sugar at all, than to have little bits here and there. And that's fine too. Whatever works for you and makes you feel good, strong, and confident!
Perhaps it's the inner child in me, but when I feel like I can't have something, I get angry. Not a blow-up, tantrum, mind you, but my thoughts are angry thoughts. I'm talking about food here, but this applies to any area of life as well. I've noticed this response in jobs as well. Being told I can't do something or I have to do something immediately elicits the gears in my mind trying to figure out a way to do it my way. (Perhaps I have some authority issues too.)
But back to food. Sometimes if I just feel that I can have something, it's enough. I don't have to actually have whatever it is.
This works for me most of the time when considering whether to get Starbucks or not. I think, "Ooh, it sounds good," and it's like I can taste what it's going to taste like. The more I sit with this feeling (since I'm not usually at Starbucks right then anyway), the more the desire to actually get the drink subsides. And by the time I'm actually driving near a Starbucks, it's gone and I'm perfectly happy with not getting a sugary drink.
It's the knowing I can get one if I really want it that appeases my inner child. And sometimes I do get a drink. And I thoroughly enjoy it.
This same "trick" works with all foods. Just the other day I passed a sign for pizza and thought, "Pizza sounds really good." Now, there are worse things to eat than pizza, but pizza's not exactly healthy either. Especially not the "regular" kind from pizza places, full of cheese and fat.
Well, just as with the Starbucks, I let myself imagine getting a pizza and eating it. I knew when I got home, I could get a pizza. Either my own Tofurkey one in the freezer or whatever one I wanted. But by the time I got home, I no longer felt the overwhelming "need" for a pizza and was perfectly happy eating the vegan enchiladas I made a couple days ago.
This mindset may not sound like much. Maybe you guys already do this yourself. But it's relatively new to me. When I first went vegan about three years ago, I was strict about it. 100%. I chose to eat that way and was happy with my choice.
But a couple years into it, I started to feel deprived. It became less "I want to" and more "I have to."
Any time we do something solely out of obligation, committment, and a sense of reponsibility, and not because we really want to, over time resentment tends to build. And carrying around resentment and anger inside you is certainly not healthy.
That's when I gave myself permission to ease up. To act in love, and not strictly obligation. To accept that sometimes being kind to myself meant allowing myself to eat a regular cheese pizza from Noble Romans, for example, with a fountain drink. Again, as long as it's the exception and not the rule.
You may disagree. You may be different. You may be better off, and feel better, sticking 100% to whatever your diet of choice is. Maybe I'll get there eventually myself.
But for now, for me, denying myself every time, all the time, of something I used to consume a lot of, and enjoy.... I was becoming an unhappy person. And what I really want is to be happy.