‘Pleasure is always derived from something outside you, whereas joy arises from within.’Eckhart Tolle
What brings you joy? Spending time with my dog (who I am separated from at the moment), reading, yoga, spending time with children, walking in the park, writing, podcasts, comedy, radio, telly and creativity bring me joy. I gain the most joy of all from laughing and spending time with friends or family. This does not happen often these days as no house visits or travel are permitted in Ireland at the moment. It is, however, a small price to pay to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
I like how Eckhart Tolle differentiates between pleasure and joy. I gave up alcohol in September (with a few appendices) and I have realised that relishing a glass of wine brought great pleasure, not joy. I quickly substituted alcohol with sweet treats; despite knowing that it was a quick-fix and so … November’s (inevitable!) intention and new habit is to give up sweet treats.
Just How Strict Will You Be?
Not very! I am going to cut out cakes, biscuits, chocolate bars and pastries, which I have consumed regularly for decades and every day for months. I am going to allow myself chocolate covered rice cakes, fruit, ketchup, yoghurt and jam (but not together!). I know this is not ideal but in contrast to my current diet, it will be a detox. I have often failed by trying to erect a halo on my head, which led to an ‘f it! I’ve broken it now; no point even trying’ attitude.
If it weren’t for emotional eating, I would have kicked my sugar habit a long time ago. I have been given numerous health reasons over the years to give up sweet treats but I have always found a loophole or justification.
You might wonder if you are an emotional eater or not. I would surmise that if you have a tendency towards it, it is easy to identify. For example, I remember being disappointed when I was a child that a friend didn’t show up for what we’d now call a play-date. I was about ten. I felt overwhelmed with upset and I didn’t know where to ‘put’ the emotion; so I ate a packet of all-chocolate viscounts alone in my bedroom to take care of business. It worked … and it continues to work. Eating sweet treats has felt more like a target than an experience lately and it has not been relaxing.
When eating more than we need starts to feel panicky or anxiety-laden in and of itself, the emotional aspect is undeniable.
How Do I Do It?
If it were easy, we would all have done it a long time ago. However, the following will be my crutches as I ward off the sweet treats and they might help you, too:
- Eat hearty meals. In my opinion, calorie-counting and cutting sweet treats at the same time is a barbarous act of self-denial that cannot be sustained. I find that eating decent portions and being full after each meal prevents me from filling the gap with sugar.
- Look in the mirror While I appreciate that spiritual enlightenment has nothing to do with the external, the external often mirrors the internal. I have had a reoccurrence of adult acne, which could be due to a combination of wearing a mask all day (maskne), vitamin B6 supplementation, lack of sleep and hormonal imbalance. However, eating sweet treats every single day could be wreaking havoc with my hormones. The acne is not disappearing in response to topical glycolic acid, zinc, oral probiotics or double cleansing. When I look in the mirror and see aggressive red spots on my cheeks that didn’t trouble my face even as a teenager, it reminds me why kicking this sugar habit is important. I have heard adult acne being described as diabetes of the skin, which supports the excess sugar theory. I won’t lie: I feel like crap when I look in the mirror!
- How are you feeling? Instead of eating mindlessly and using sugar to numb feelings, I am going to ask how I am feeling. I read a book about addiction by Deepak Chopra many years ago; he described addiction as a poor substitute for joy, which echoes Tolle’s contrast between pleasure and joy. When I peel back the excitement at eating a bar of chocolate/pastry/bun/slice of cake/stack of biscuits, it is about purpose. Laughable as it may seem, eating a bar of chocolate with a cup of tea after work gives me not only pleasure but purpose. Yet, the cumulative effect of it on my skin suggests my system needs a break.
After all, I thought it would be much more difficult than it was to give up alcohol(*at home — I’ll support local pubs and restaurants with a few tipples once they re-open). I was surprised to learn that much of it was habit. I imagine giving up sweet treats to be more challenging because it is an entrenched habit that I have had since childhood. During the hairier moments, I will take comfort in books, sublime 60s music and Rainer Maria Rilke’s words below (while finding creative ways to enjoy a sweet treat sans refined sugar such as these yummy brownies, which are great with a dollop of natural yoghurt).
Do you, like me, need to give your system a break from sweet treats? If you’re going to join me on this journey, let me know in the comments below (if you’d like to share). Wishing you peace, strength, luck and clear skin.
‘Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is finalRainer Maria Rilke