I was recently one of the panelists on the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation's talk on life after cancer. One of the first questions that came up in the Q&A section was about sugar: Should I reduce my sugar?
Instead of entering a massive explanation on the negativities of sugar, I suggested the person start thinking about the kinds of things they wanted to start eating.
This isn’t the first time people have asked me about sugar. And afterwards we as the panel discussed how many times people ask specifically about sugar. It seems we are a people addicted to sugar whilst also obsessing about sugar!
Personally, in my pre-cancer life I used to eat a lot of sugar, mostly in the form of processed foods just like anyone consuming the traditional “western standard diet”. Aside from those “hidden” sugars that make up so much of the ingredients in processed foods, I also enjoyed my fair share of cakes, biscuits and chocolate. I knew it wasn’t good for me. But it was so damn tasty, and well, soothing.
Now? I do have some xylitol in the cupboard for sweetening when I occasionally have a cup of english breakfast tea (green tea being my preferred daytime drink). I like the occasional slice of dark chocolate. I avoid processed cakes and biscuits - they really don’t taste good! If I’m at a market day I might occasionally enjoy a slice of homemade chocolate cake. But the overwhelming majority of my food has been cooked from scratch, either by my own hot little hands or that of my husband. So I basically don’t eat sugar. But thats because my taste buds have changed and I simply don’t like sugar, its too sweet.
And I did all this without ever forcing myself to give up or feeling guilty about sugar. I’m not telling you all this to make myself sound amazing. I’m telling you so that you can see what happens over time when you ask yourself the right questions.
Just for the record, yes, I can confirm that sugar is not good for us. But you didn’t need me to tell you that right? You’ve probably known that since you were 7 years old and your dentist told you it would rot your teeth. It has no nutritional value, it has a huge - and until fairly recently - underestimated impact on the physiological processes inside us that leads to inflammation and potentially a lot of chronic illness, including heart disease and potentially cancer.
So why, when someone asks me should I reduce my sugar, would I answer “I prefer to focus on what you should be adding in?”
It’s not because I don’t understand the physical impact of sugar. Its because I understand the emotional and psychological impact of recovering from cancer.
I understand how scary it is, how life is now filled with overwhelm, and fear, and wondering if you are going to die, and did I cause this, and a constant undercurrent of panic that bubbles just beneath the surface, threatening to rear its ugly head at any turn.
And I understand that where you focus your attention is hugely important. If you spend your time focussing on all the things that can possibly kill you (and for the record, there are plenty more areas than sugar!), you’ll be forever in a state of paralysis and fear.
Now tell me, how do you take that energy - of feeling scared, panicked and worried - and do anything useful with it? That energy deflates you, de-energises you, depresses you, desponds you and in a way decreases you.
The question isn’t should I reduce sugar, the question must always be what helps my body and mind to heal and recover?
Or perhaps one of the below questions:
What gives my body the elements it needs to function at its best?
What nourishes me?
What makes me feel amazing?
What does my body need now in this moment?
The answer to those above questions will clearly not be sugar. But you already know that. Perhaps the most likely answers will be in the realm of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, healthy proteins and fats, plenty of water, exercise, to relax, to slow down, to call a friend, to be kind to myself, to have a cry, to find a hug, to ask for help, to be more mindful…. and well I could go on and on.
So tell me when you ask yourself these questions how do you feel? Uplifted, positive, motivated?
When you come at a problem from an angle of deprivation, guilt or restriction, that’s the energy you are left to work with. And I can tell you that you don’t get much done in that space.
You’ve been through enough. So now start focussing on the positive bountiful things in life that are available to you that you want to move towards. Stop concentrating on all the wrongs out there and what you want to move away from, and put your precious energy into what is life-giving and nurturing to you.
From this place you are more likely to start taking positive actions in your life that will really enable you to heal and recover and be at your vibrant best. And change becomes easy.
This may sound simplistic, but I know from experience that this small adjustment in mindset leaves you feeling empowered, lighter and happier - and isn’t that really what you’re searching for?
If you know that vegetables are something that your body could do with some more of, check out how to increase vegetables in your life easily.
Plus if you live in Auckland, last call for the next course kicking off on March 7th, only 3 places left!
Someone listening to the BCF webinar also enquired into whether I could offer Life 2.0 via an online course, so please contact me if this interests you on firstname.lastname@example.org. If I get enough people I’ll run it!