I returned from India 3 weeks ago. My sugar habit returned with me.
What I felt in India was aliveness. I was living in the moment. The routine soothed me, even though I have never been a morning person. Yoga first thing, then breakfast. A period of rest before more yoga, meditation, breathing exercises. Lunch. Then came typing up a blog post, a spa treatment and dinner. It sounds like a dream. It was. There was no obvious sugar habit (which is my weakest dietary link) and I didn’t miss it at all. I felt full, alive, happy. It was if I was among the things that I know and love best. My mind was active and therefore the conversations with my Bestie were deep, important and moving.
Since my return, with all my good plans, I have crashed. A spectacular, one of a kind, fireworks blaring crash.
There were a few good days in the beginning when I did my hip exercises daily. Just two days ago, I did a full mala of the healing mantra. A mala is something like a rosary. They are beads to help you count the repetitions of a mantra, the same way a rosary helps you keep track of your prayers. My husband and I have talked about more yoga and meditation in our lives. Talked about. I have done a few sun salutations but there has been no routine.
There has been a full size dessert somewhere in my day, each day since I have been back. I have gained weight and feel bloated. My internal talk is nasty these days and the bitch just isn’t making any changes. She keeps gabbing up there and I keep up my sugar habit. I continuously write about this inability that so many of us seem to have.
The inability that we share is the one that prevents us from doing the things we know we SHOULD be doing. (Like.. breaking a sugar habit…. ;))
I am NOT talking pinterest here people. This is far from making all your lunches the shape of bunnies or prepping 30 days of meals in plastic bags in your freezers. I am talking about the BASICS. Drinking enough water, not overdoing sugar, having enough movement in your day. Having some semblance of moderation present in your life. I read this week that we suck at it because of the reward centers in our brains.
Neuroscience has known this for ages now. Here’s the breakdown of what happens.
- You had your first taste of ice cream and you LOVED it. The amount of pleasure chemicals your brain released skyrocketed.
- Your brain now creates an automatic pleasure loop that starts when you SEE ice cream, before you even eat it.
- You eat ice cream again and pleasure chemicals abound, less than before but still.
- The pleasure loop is enforced. And then again…and again..and again.
- You tell yourself you won’t have any ice cream and your brain is literally fighting against you.
- You falter. The spoon dips into the ice cream anyway. You activate the pleasure loop all the while thinking “Why did I just do that”. And the cycle just continues and continues.
It is your brain’s job to search for the reward. The reward has been defined by a repeated pattern. Your eyes know it. Your mouth knows it. So does your brain. Your body does as best at it can with it. The body here is a more reliable partner than the brain. As I sit here, bloated post today’s dessert – I wish I hadn’t had it. This is the same process that happens with addiction. Not everyone with food cravings has an addiction but it is an aspect that should be looked into. One of my favorite books is The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van der kolk. It is a bit dry in parts but it explains the science behind all of this beautifully.
But listen, all is not lost. There are ways to combat this behavior and I even know what they are. (Again.. Doesn’t mean I am doing them at the moment.. But I KNOW them ;)).
Here are 3 things you can do when you feel like your bad habits control you instead of the other way around.
- Be Honest. This is my favorite health tip and it fits here perfectly. I could easily hide my sugar brain from the world, but I talk about it often because I need to know I am being honest with myself about it. That doesn’t mean talking about it is enough. No scapegoating allowed! However, ignoring things and pretending they don’t happen is.. Well.. not smart.
- Meditate. I know, I know. I say this all the time. I’m serious. Start small if you have to. There are so many ways to learn the beginning steps out there. Headspace is a great tool to use. Their tagline is Meditation made simple for goodness sake. Meditation not only ALTERS YOUR BRAIN CHEMISTRY (wow!) but it also creates a space between an impulse and a reaction which allows you time to make a different choice.
- Start writing. Once you’ve done step one and gotten honest about what your habit is, you can dig deeper. When you notice it happening, the pull for you to repeat a behavior that doesn’t help you and that you’d like to stop – ask yourself “What am I feeling right now”? I have asked myself that question often these past few weeks. I have noticed that I feel empty post India trip. Creating the space to feel here as I did there is proving to be a challenge but one I know I must face if I am going to shift my current way of being.