How many of you decided that you were going to start off the year by saying no to ‘the sugar?' (or something else) Maybe you participated in a dry month to give both your liver and your body a break. Perhaps you've taken things a step further and tried detox all the sugar out of your system from whatever celebration you last had. No matter the reasoning, no matter the type of sugar, the real contemplation needs to be made over how you can stick with this. Let me even broaden this concept; the below information can be useful when it comes to forming almost any kind of good habit or eliminating a bad one, not just around the goal of eliminating sugar.
First you need to know yourself. I found some of Gretchen Rubin’s theory about habit-making to be pretty helpful, so ask yourself what kind of person are you when it comes to expectations? See if you can relate to any of the four categories below:
1. Upholder – You respond readily to both inner and outer expectations; you like to know what’s expected of you, avoid making mistakes or letting others down, meet deadlines or finish early, feel anxious around breaking rules
Ex: You declare you will not have sugar this month, so you don’t – because you said you wouldn’t
2. Questioner – You meet expectations only if you believe it’s justified; resist anything that lacks a sound purpose, do exhaustive research, follow the thought of ‘what needs to get done today and why’
Ex: You decide to not have sugar this month, but only after you did some research and learned that eliminating sugar is overall great for your health, promotes better digestion, clearer skin and can help you lose those last couple of pesky pounds
3. Obligor – You respond readily to outer expectations but struggle with inner expectations; you’re motivated by external accountability, make time for other people’s priorities at the expense of your own, go great lengths to meet responsibilities
Ex: You agree to eliminate sugar this month because your office is having a contest; or you have a friend who is doing it too and really needs you to support them, and you of course don’t want to let them down
4. Rebel – You resist all expectations; you work toward you own goals in your own way, highly value authenticity and self-determination, refuse to do what you’re ‘supposed’ to do or what you’re told to do
Ex: You decide to not participate in the consumption of sugar because you wanted to see if you could do it
So, for whatever your reason, you have made your commitment. Now, how are you going to go about maintaining it?
Well, let’s talk about one more thing first. Are you an abstainer, or a moderator? Knowing this can help you determine what kind of support you will need along the way. See which of the following you resonate with more [and be honest here, don’t pick the one that you want to be, pick the one that you actually are].
Moderators: indulge moderately; do better when avoiding strict rules
Ex: You have a bar of chocolate in your pantry, and you can easily consume only one square per day
Abstainers: all-or-nothing habits; it’s easier to say no to something once and be done with the whole issue than to go back and forth again and again
Ex: You have a bar of chocolate in your pantry, and you cannot consume only one square per day, you can consume the entire bar in one sitting
Once you’ve decided which one of these you are, you can eliminate some of the decision making that comes down the road. If you know that you are an abstainer, set yourself up for success by knowing in advance what works for you.
1. Make sure it’s realistic
There’s nothing worse than setting a goal and feeling like a failure for not achieving it. To avoid that, take a look at your goal. Does it seem realistic, for you, honestly. If it doesn’t, can you break it down into smaller goals that do actually seem doable?
2. Don’t play games with yourself.
Say no one time so that you do not have to continue to say no to every individual thing that follows. If you have said no thank you to sugar for the month, then you are not drinking alcohol, you are not putting sugar in your coffee, you are not eating processed foods, you are not substituting what you would normally eat for fake version that has some other type of sugar in it. Don’t bargain with yourself, or make up if-then rules.
Ex: If I eat perfectly today, then tomorrow I can have just a little bit of *insert thing here*
3. Make it convenient to be successful
Go through your house, car, office, locker – whatever – and get rid of anything that might be tempting or questionable. You don’t necessarily have to throw it out, so give it to a friend or donate it
Tell friends/family members/coworkers that you’re going sugar free, so if you are out to eat or at happy hour, it doesn’t have to be a big thing that you need to explain over and over again
Prepare. In this case – meal prep. No matter the degree of sugar free you are going – meal prepping can make life significantly easier; you don’t have to worry about reading labels or being tempted by those ‘forbidden’ foods, there’s less chance of impulsive purchases, and most importantly – when you’re hungry - all you have to do is open the fridge and eat
4. Implement Safeguards
Safeguards are there to help protect us against impulsive decisions by planning in advance.
Instead of resisting temptations, try to anticipate and minimize possible temptations that might arise
Catch yourself right away if you stumble
Ex: If you have a slip up, instead of dramatizing it, which we know leads to the ‘oh f*** it’ phase, acknowledge what happened and then start over at your very next opportunity. Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t play the pity card of ‘oh but I messed up today, so the whole day is just a waste, I’ll just start over tomorrow…’ we all know this is a cop out
Take pleasure and enjoyment in knowing that you put effort into providing yourself with best case scenario, and prepared for worst-case scenarios
The statistics show that the odds are not ever in your favor, in fact, they are completely against you. But you now have the knowledge not only about yourself, but about how to really tackle your next resolution, goal, whatever! You don't have to wait to try something new, or wait until next year to try something that you may have ‘failed’ at the first time. The best time to do something is right now because your commitment level absolutely starts to decrease as soon as you start putting things off until tomorrow. You can always begin again! That might be hourly, daily, weekly - who cares!