This is a common fear around change that I’ve countered personally and am asked about often.
Let’s work with a common scenario of diet change – not going on a diet, but finding out you have a food allergy or intolerance and know you need to make a permanent shift.
Throughout this journey, I’ll speak to my own experience of removing sugar from my diet – not just once, but two times.
Isn’t it great when you are making progress towards a goal?
You’ve set off from a point in your life. You’re changing your mindset, the way you eat, how you treat yourself or your body and it feels great. Coming to a place where you make a decision and then begin to actively step into a new way of being is exciting. With a decision and a fresh course of action, you’re well on your way to an outcome you haven’t experienced before.
At first, it’s enough to know that you’re doing something different. You may not feel a whole lot of difference, but you begin a new habit with the faith that the changes over time are going to feel good.
Sugar is an example of a change I’ve made where I almost immediately feel the difference. Yes, I have cravings for ice cream and other tasty things, but when that feeling crops up I acknowledge it and use it as fuel for my commitment to myself.
You may have made a change where the shift isn’t so drastic – like starting to work out again for the first time in a few years.
You may be asking, why sugar?
I’ve recently taken it out of my diet again as of mid-June because I recognize that 1) there is irrefutable scientific evidence that it’s not good for your body 2) when I eat it, I can actually track a shift in my mental patterns to ones that are more negative and unproductive 3) when I have sugar consistently, I can see how it affects my moods, energy and how I feel about myself.
You’ve made a new habit and you see things begin to change in your life.
Hooray! You’re sticking with your new practice and start to recognize a shift in yourself and your experience of life. This is an exciting time. You are experiencing the fruits of your labor. And ooooh, they are sweet and delicious.
In my journey with sugar, I find that beyond the more immediate experience of a more positive mindset, the next experience milestone is having more energy. That moment is extremely satisfying. My boyfriend, Ben, will be the first to tell you that I am NOT a morning person. I am more of a morning slug. I wake up, attempt to open my eyes, my body feels heavy and I’m often processing and stepping out of my active dreamworld.
Off sugar, this slowly begins to change. I wake up more easily with a clearer head and greater pep in my step.
Often, at this point, a little voice pops up and says, “what if I back slide?”
When things start to go good, this is often when people worry about sliding back into an old way of being.
What if I just give it up? What if something happens, I’m triggered and start eating poorly again or stop exercising?
You may still have the question, “why on earth did she give up sugar twice?” In full disclosure, I did backslide with my sugar commitment. I went through a few major transitions in the past year – new location, new work, new clients, different clients. Here’s the thing – the slip was subtle. It got to a point where I was traveling a lot and felt like I had less control over my diet and sugar crept back in to a point where I stopped being vigilant about it.
Then, my body really started to feel the difference and I didn’t like it. I went on a cleanse in early March and did an elimination type diet – I took everything out except veggies, fruit and legumes and then bit by bit started adding meat, nuts and grains back in.
So yes, I was eating sugar again, but I knew it wasn’t good and I knew what I needed to do to take it out again.
With your new knowledge and practice, you can’t ever go back to the way you used to be.
It was time to be vigilant again. I made the commit to myself that it was again time to remove refined sugar from my diet and go back to reading labels and checking as much as possible to keep added sugars out of what I was eating.
Along with the decision to not keep anything sugary in the house, the combination of the two was a win.
A major mental shift I made was looking at this change as a permanent lifestyle choice. It’s something that I desire in my ongoing adventure to create the kind of life that I envision for myself. When I look at this as a step in a larger plan, it becomes a foundational piece required for my success and a lot easier to see in the context of my life – rather than a short term ploy or something I did “just for kicks.”
Know that even if you slip, you can always go back to the better habit. You can start again. It is generally not going to be the end of the world. There’s no need to feel bad about it. Simply make another decision and get yourself back on track.
Beyond attaining a new way of being, you are more aware of what is needed to keep your new habit going.
For me, I knew I needed to create space to cook and truly nourish myself. It also involved a conversation with Ben about making sure there wasn’t excess unhealthy foods in the house. I told him about my commitment so he would be able to support me through the transition.
Often, when we let go of something we create a void in our life that needs to be filled by something else. I let go of sugar. In that void, I created space to do yoga regularly. In fact, I’m doing yoga 5 times a week now – this is a reinforcement of this decision to continue treating my body well and becoming more healthy.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to stay on track:
1.What is needed to support your new habit?
2.Do you have someone you can check in with who is an accountability partner?
3.Is there anything else you need to introduce in your life to make sure your new habit continues?
4.Why are you making the change?
5.Is there a statement to say or a feeling you need to tap into regularly to reinforce why you made the decision to create this new habit?
6.What might trip you up in your quest to make this habit stick? If yes, what can you do to avoid those pitfalls?
Especially if you are trying to create a habit again for a second or third time, you have a big advantage.
You are keenly aware of the triggers that can allow you fall back into old behaviors.
Emotional stress. Work stress. Money stress. Change. Transition. A fight with your children or your spouse. Not taking care of yourself mentally or spiritually.
You may have one or a few things in particular that can set you off.
For me, it’s when I don’t have a solid routine to support myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually that things hit the danger zone of going off course.
It’s helpful to know when something is triggering you and when you’re making a decision consciously. This past weekend, I was at a friend’s wedding. The bride’s mother made homemade gluten free ice cream sandwiches. Of course they had sugar in them.
Did I eat one? Heck yeah I did. It was my first time eating sugar in over 6 weeks. I experienced a wickedly fun sugar rush and hopped on the dance floor to burn it all off.
I’m making a lifestyle choice, but I’m not depriving myself of treats 100% of the time. If I eat sugar one time during the week, that’s okay in my book. But I’m choosing to have it when I’m really going to enjoy it. This might not work for everyone. For some, it may be an all or nothing thing, especially if you’ve been specifically told by a health professional.
It’s key to find your own path with your habit.
1.Do you need to set boundaries with yourself?
2.Do you need to communicate your new habit with friends to let them know it’s something you’re working on?
3.Would a check in with yourself each week or every couple of weeks help you to stay on track?
Let this fear go as it does not contribute to your life – it is a waste of your energy.
At the end of the day, we’re not supposed to be perfect.
Mistake making is part of the process and that might include breaking your new habit once or twice.
If this happens, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. It doesn’t help if you berate or beat on yourself for falling down.
Strengthen your internal conviction, know that you can do it and head towards your goal.
Life takes practice.
Stay focused on your progress and commitment to your new habit.
Place your attention on what you want to grow in your life – your new habit. Take an attitude of a careful gardener, do what you can to support the growth of your new seedlings.
What can you do to remind yourself of your commitment each and every day?
You can do this – you are doing it and each day you make that commitment you are following through on, you build your own self trust and reinforce the new and positive neuropathways you are creating for your life to shift.