One of the biggest mindshifts you can make around giving up sugar - or indeed giving up anything - is to move from a state of self-imposed deprivation to one of decision. This is as powerful and as underrated as the story of the guinea worm... and I bet you've never heard of that one either, have you?
Most people put themselves into a state of self-imposed deprivation when they give up sugar. I must not have it. I'm not allowed it. I wish I could have it. This is hard. All I can think about is...
They are pitting their desires against their good intentions. This is the definition of self-deprivation.
But think for a moment about the concept of deprivation. Images of neglect, of the unwashed and hungry. It is wrong.
However, people who think self-deprivation will work are operating out of the inappropriate guilt and shame of the compulsive eater. (***INSERT LINK to minsdift on guilt ****) This will always backfire.
Self-deprivation equals internal conflict. It tries to deny the importance of your deeply ingrained neurochemical reward system (see the vidoe on The Sugar Rollercoaster for a reminder). But because that system is linked to your survival it will always beat your good intentions.
You need to move beyond those kneejerk reactions like "let's balance out our guilt with some self-deprivation" to find a more powerful motivator to power you through the discomfort of unhooking yourself from sugar.
Let me prove it to you.
But first, a health pop quiz.
Q: What is the only human disease in history to have been completely eradicated?
Q: Which disease is set to become the second human disease to be completely eradicated?
A: Guinea worm disease.
You have probably never heard of this malady, but what is most astonishing about it is that guinea worm disease will be the first illness ever to be eradicated without the help of a vaccine or medicine.
The guinea worm is a parasite that used to ruin the lives of millions of Africans. Guinea worm disease was caught by drinking water infected with the lavae. In 1986, 3.5 million people were inacapitated by this horrific epidemic.
In 2016, this figure had dropped to 25.
This amazing turnaround came about because of behavioural change - teaching people to fiter drinking water and reducing exposure to the infected. There is no known cure.
But it also came about partly because people learned to switch from a self-deprivation mindset to one of decision.
Let me explain.
The guinea worm hatches out in the intestine of the infected then after a year it emerges from the body, which is agonising for the sufferer.
There is one thing that provides relief during this - water.
But if a sufferer plunges their body into the nearest water source, they risk infecting their community.
Kerry .... in his book.... explains how part of the public health initiative was to get sufferers to change how they saw themselves at these intensely difficult moments. Somehow (and it is quite astounding to us living sanitary, first-world lives) they succeeded in moving people from
A) a state of self-deprivation, which as we know is one of internal conflict: "I am a victim of this disease. All I want is the relief of the water"
B) a state of decision, where you accept suffering: "This is very very hard, but I can do this". You consciously accept that survival drive to end pain and override it because your sense of self is driven by something higher, something more important.
By getting sufferers to stop reinfecting the water supply, they helped achieve this astounding 3.5 million to 25 drop in this nightmare of a disease.
How can you move from a state of self-deprivation to one of decision when it comes to your sugar cravings - or in fact any cravings?
Here are some ideas:
*1 Have a clear, highly specific vision of what you want from transforming your eating issues. How will your life change - paint a really detailed picture. What will the real, rock-solid confidence of managing your addiction give you the confidence to change - your job? Your relationship? Your finances? Write down the specific changes you want. This clear vision will help you override your conditioning.
*2 Who can you be a role model for - not in the future, but NOW? The very act of facing all this, by attempting to move from self-deprivation to decision qualifies you for role model status. In the world of blogging, there is a whole category of websites run by people called 'leading edge learners'. They claim no guru status - but they are sharing (and sometimes monetising) what they are learning and their growing expertise in whatever they are passionate about. I started out as a leading edge learner myself.
*2 Revisit the Pauly Principle and the story of Eugene - remember you are retraining yourself to automatically say no, and this struggle, this movement from self-deprivation to decision is part of this training. As long as you keep going, with all the so-called failures and diversions along the way, it will at some point become automatic. The other day I had cause to be angry - really angry. Even when I had vented my rage, I could not shake the simmering resentment all day. I went shopping and as I was walking past the dessert aisle, my eye was caught by a big slab of junk in beautifully presented see-through packaging. I thought how at one time that would have been magnetic for me, but it may as well have been made of cardboard, that is how meaningless it was for me. I have completely retrained my dopamine-serotonin reward system so I hunt for other feelgood escape routes from my stress - and this retraining programme is open to you. There are no prerequisite skills, no registration, no closing date, no pass or fail grade.
Self-deprivation or decision?
Decision - every time. 3,499,975 people can't be wrong.
It's not easy, but neither is the endless cycle of fleeting hope - deep inadequacy - fleeting hope that self-deprivation promises.