Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3rd, 2014 Never Say Never

June 3rd, 2014 Never Say Never

The title of yesterday's blog "Free From All That Noise," was a celebration of sorts for walking into the YMCA yesterday afternoon with a positive/determined spirit. This attitude and perspective being a complete 180 from a Y trip not too long ago. Last night I declared "That breakthrough Y trip a while back literally set me free from all that noise."  I said it with a firm belief, 100% conviction, very similar, in fact--to the declarations I made while initially losing my weight. Remember, "I'll never see 400 pounds again," and "I'll never see 300 pounds again," and my favorite, "275 pounds gone forever!"  To say "never" suggests an all-knowing certainty. And let's be honest, none of us mere mortals possess that kind of power. I start tonight's edition with this as a way to say thank you to Janis, a reader of this blog with much appreciated insights, for challenging me to examine it further. And also because it's an important point to share.

Her comment on the June 2nd post:
"One quick comment -- glad to see you back, BTW -- about your experience at the Y. You may walk in one day in the future and for whatever reason feel insecure or nervous about being there. Don't be surprised or punked by this, just ride it out. The comment you made -- "That breakthrough Y trip a while back literally set me free from all that noise" -- indicates that you may still be thinking of these challenges as things that you can solve once and then be fine forever after. Unfortunately, all people tend to hit walls repeatedly. A problem that you think has been solved will probably rear its head again at some point in the future. It doesn't mean you failed, it doesn't mean that you're no good, and it doesn't mean that the original epiphany was worthless. It just means that, like all challenges, they're never fully solved.

So this is just a quick word of warning. You've already realized this about your relationship with food, but you may find it popping up regarding exercise as well. Be wary of thinking that any problem is solved once and then it never arises again. If you fall prey to that thinking, then when the problem arises again -- as it inevitably will -- you may end up thinking that the world is coming to an end when it's not. :-)"

I kind of felt like she was speaking to me from the future, like she could see it happening and was coming back here to warn me. It was a wonderful, extremely insightful, much appreciated and spot on analysis from her. 
Janis, sincerely, thank you.

I walked into the Y this afternoon, fresh from an internal struggle. I made light of it on Twitter, but it was a serious little tug of war in my head. One thought wanted to go straight home, relax, maybe take a short nap and postpone my workout until after my conference call support group tonight. The other thought was more concerned about time management and getting to bed at a decent hour for a change, insisting on getting in there and getting a nice workout in the books. The 2nd thought won out. I walked in to the Y feeling the same confidence and determination I did yesterday. I pray that I always feel this way and when I don't, I pray I'll remember Janis's wise words, "It doesn't mean you failed, it doesn't mean that you're no good, and it doesn't mean that the original epiphany was worthless. It just means that, like all challenges, they're never fully solved...you may end up thinking that the world is coming to an end when it's not."

I'm immensely grateful for the support I receive. It means the world to me.

As this blog progresses, some days are more average than others--and as much as I enjoy exploring things on a deep and personal level, some days will be just short recaps of the days events. This post isn't one of those, however--on days like that, I plan on adding a feature called The DDWL AMA (ask me anything).

I spend a good amount of time thoroughly answering email questions. I've decided to occasionally feature a question and answer from my email sean@transformationroad.com. I'll always ask permission to use the email question and at least the first name of the person asking the question.

I've written quite a bit lately about my near 100% abstinence from sugar and how it's affected me over the course of the last 40 plus days. Colleen asked a question recently and I replied with a long answer and a short answer:    

Hi Sean,

I love reading your blog every day!  Also your food always looks delicious!  I am also addicted to sugar and have one question. Will you ever go back to eating ice cream, cake, desserts ever again?


My reply:

Thank you for your readership and support!! Great question.  Short answer at the end. But brevity has never been my strong suit... so...

This was one of the biggest points of contention for me since I started losing weight in 2008.
I lost 275 pounds eating cake, ice cream and desserts--all within reasonable portions at appropriate times.
Using prior success as a reference, It made it very hard to get to a place of acceptance for abstinence, where I am now.

How did I stay consistent for as long as I did, despite all the sugary foods in moderation?
In hindsight, I clearly see how my support and accountability system importance level was set so high, I didn't dare give in to the struggle, temptation and the obsessive like attraction to "getting more." There were a lot of prayers and meditation--surrounding myself with people, instead of isolating--and connecting as much as possible with a variety of support sources.

When I basically abandoned almost every support and accountability component I had leaned on for so long--then it was a very different dynamic. Suddenly I was dramatically weakened.
When the bio-chemical reactions of sugar addiction swirled through my brain, I followed it's lead without question--as if possessed. I traded one struggle for another. Instead of struggling against the compulsions to binge, I gave in--then struggled with the regret, shame and embarrassment associated with weight gain and the guilt associated with doing the very things I wanted to be diametrically opposed to. 

I was very much NOT wanting to let go of the sugar or, the option to enjoy it occasionally in portioned doses... My denial was slowly revealed and chipped away by learning. What ended up happening is, I kept researching the effects of sugar, specifically the addictive nature of it, and then as if I was destined to hear--I kept having conversations with people in recovery from food addiction---people who have what I want--years of maintenance behind them--and 100% of them said the same thing in relation to sugar and how it creates a bio-chemical reaction in our pleasure sensors---and then sets off the addictive cycle of, "I gotta have more and NOW!!!!" 

I can't say I'm 100% sugar free, because of my non-flavored plain coffee creamer. The tiny amount doesn't seem to have the same effect as larger more obvious amounts. I'm sugar free enough to experience the most amazing benefits I once thought were impossible to find for me. No binges and no urges to binge. So many people described their experience to me--and they described this feeling--but still, until I actually committed to the effort needed to personally "test" it, it was like they were speaking of some mythical fantasy. I do recognize that I have a similar and many ways stronger support and accountability system in place now--but even still--I'm not fighting to maintain control. There's a peace and calm about my approach that I'm absolutely in love with.  If trading the occasional sugar for this feeling is the deal...then I'll sign a lifetime contract. That's the long answer to my perspective.

Will I ever go back to eating ice cream, cakes and other sugar laden things? I pray I never do. My short answer is no, I don't plan on ever going back. I now know, understand and appreciate what I must do in order to stay abstinent.  I also know that if I ever decide to abandon the principles and practices of my personal recovery, I'll surely go straight back to the very familiar reality of an unmanageable and chaotic existence.

It's important to note that fortunately, not everyone is a food and/or sugar addict. For some, the basic fundamentals of eating less, exercising more and developing an "in moderation" approach to food is the answer. I wanted it to be my answer. And as much as I wanted to wish it into being--summoning the law of attraction and constantly telling myself I was someone who could be okay with a non-addict approach to recovery--I finally realized it wasn't me. And it's okay. I'm okay. And I have a wonderful, rich and fulfilling life ahead of me without sugar.

The acceptance of and fully embracing my personal truth of addiction, along with some life changing epiphanies about identity and self-worth, have sent me straight to a very positive place. I love this feeling and I wouldn't trade it for all the Snickers Bars and mint chocolate chip shakes in the world.  Truth is, all it takes for that transaction to happen is one Snickers or shake. 

I'm happily abstinent from sugar.

I hope all that was of help to you Colleen,
My best always,

If you have a question to submit for The DDWL AMA, send it to Sean@transformationroad.com I'll do my best to answer it honestly and openly.

I suppose I should have ended that reply with "I'm happily 97% abstinent from sugar." It certainly seems to be working for me. And I'm very happy it is...My goodness, it was getting pretty dark. Now it seems much brighter; better.

After my workout I made a quick trip to the store for more pineapple (found it on sale again--this time $1.29 each! That's ridiculously cheap for a whole pineapple!), some chicken breasts, asparagus and grapes. I'm trying to ensure that I'm getting enough variety in the foods I enjoy. The 1700 calorie bank I'm allowing seems to be plenty. In fact, some days I'm falling a little short.

I came home and made "oven-fried" chicken breast (coated with water, dry potato flakes and seasonings), asparagus, red roasted potatoes topped with salt/pepper, garlic powder and mozzarella, plus a side of pineapple. It was an amazing dinner and definitely something different! I did learn something good to know... When I checked the calorie count and serving information on the bag of red potatoes it said the serving size was approximately 4 potatoes or 148g for 100 calories. Good thing I weigh and measure everything. I started to weigh 4 small potatoes and realized it was double the serving size. Two potatoes, not four as suggested by the "serving size," checked in at just under the 148g's. I've discovered this same discrepancy on a few other things. Now, I never go by their "approximate" anything--I weigh it for either ounces or grams depending on the item.

We had a fantastic group support conference call this evening. It felt wonderful to start another six week group! If you're ever interested in being involved, send me an email and I'll make sure you're notified of upcoming groups.

I'm hitting the pillow tonight feeling great about this day.  I'm reminding myself--stay calm and carry on one day at a time.  As the one and only Jack Sh*t recently commented, "Now you just need to keep on keeping on keeping on."

Indeed Jack. Thank you.

Thank you for reading,


  1. I've never considered myself a sugar addict, I don't like sweet things much and I can happily have a low carb meal without even noticing (my husband will cruise the kitchen afterwards and make toast or something, he is active and not overweight but he sure likes his carbs!). Nevertheless I am just finishing my second week of being unintentionally low sugar, unintentional because I am trying to eat "real" food rather than because I am staying away from sugar; I have a sachet of sugar (3 grams, a small teaspoon) in my tea twice a day and a piece of chocolate a few times a week but that is pretty much it. And I certainly have had a major reduction in food cravings. It is very weird to me that food just isn't as important as usual. I have to eat because I get hungry, not because I really want some whatever. So maybe even people like me, who would much rather have something salty like cheese than sweet like ice-cream, benefit from reducing sugar intake.

  2. That whole positive confession/law of attraction thing can be tricky. It can easily turn from a statement of positive truth to snowing oneself with carefully crafted wishful thinking, forcefully and spiritually proclaimed. We begin with "Whatsoever is good...think on these things." and end up with frantic blathering.

    It takes the concept of faith and turns it into magical thinking. We go from shedding our unhealthy, negative, doomsaying of seing a glass as half empty to the healthy, hopefilled, positive place of stating that the glass is half full---then, somehow, because that worked so well, we run headlong into magical thinking and declare that the same half-full glass is full to overflowing.

    Oddly, those hyper-positive, to heck with reality, "positive affirmations" are fear-based. We become afraid that if we speak of the half-filled glass we'll doom ourselves to never having a full glass.

    The peace you're feeling isn't only the absence of sugar, it is also the presence of truth. Funny how that works, isn't it?. :)

    This post is an excellent example of how to get it right.


    1. What a thought-provoking reply, Deb! I will be heading on over to your blog next! :)

  3. Being a former sugar addict, I can confirm every benefit and then some Sean mentions from no added sugar. More importantly, in my case I needed to first eliminate artificial sweeteners before I could tap into the amazing transformation caused by cutting out the added sweetness to foods. I do allow small amounts of added sugar, up to 25 grams per day specifically from salad dressings, bbq sauce and dark chocolate. I will notice a small difference of hunger at zero grams vs 25 grams if I do not include enough vegetables. For example using 25 grams of added sugar from BBQ sauce with no vegetables is something I learned to avoid. Most days my added sugar on daily basis is from the little bit of my favorite salad dressing I add add to my usual six servings of kale , spinach, and chard salad mix and always be sure I get at least ten servings of vegetables the few days per month I might use BBQ sauce.

    I am going much about 85% or greater dark chocolate. As far as dark chocolate is concerned it may be the most important foods I eat everyday. Right up there with the spinach, kale, swiss chard salad mix and blueberries. Always 120 calories per day which is from two 60 calorie pieces of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie 86% Cacao . Each piece has just 1 gram of sugar, is full of antioxidants, vitamins & minerals, lowers risk of cavities, can help lower risk of cancer, good for the brain, lowers blood pressure and good for the heart. During my first three months of sugar free I had three or four days where I broke down and allowed myself to have my ultimate favorite, chocolate treat 6 white lint truffles. I was craving chocolate some, I went over my sugar those days, I ate them right before falling asleep so they did not affect my hunger issues the next day. I remember them tasting too sweet, not as good as I remembered, but something that still seemed to satisfity whatever craving it was. It was not until I introduced myself with 86% dark chocolate, perfect not sweet coca taste which confirmed what I suspected. I was not craving the sugar but instead missed my love for the taste of chocolate or more specifically Cacao. It's important to use 85% or greater, which has very little added sugar. 70% is too sweet and has too much added sugar. These intense dark 86% Ghirardelli will taste very bitter compared to 70% dark chocolate when eating sweets and deserts. Once I started consuming 86% dark chocolate daily, it's as if I tripled my already iron clad resistance to sweets. My resistance to sugar which was already a lifetime commitment tripled!

    My lifetime commitment to no artificial sweeteners and very little added sugar is difference between life and death. If I get asked the question. ("Will you ever go back to eating ice cream, cake, desserts ever again?") Absolutely no chance, its the most important daily choice I will make the rest of my life. Regardless how easy it is now, I will always continue to make this the highest priority, level of commitment the rest of my life. I am taking no chances, will continue to and find every little edge I can through food and nutrition.

    Jon - WEWRTFO

  4. Wow, great advice from Janis. She is so right, those problems we have and thing we have conquered, have a way of rearing their ugly heads up over and over again. It's never a done deal. I guess it's okay to use "never" in that context, right? Keep on keeping on keeping on Sean! I'm right here with you.

  5. HI Sean! I'm new to your blog.

    Since I read Wheat Belly and The End of Overeating, and discovered the primal blueprint...I do my best to remain sugar-free. (donuts are sitting not 10 feet from me at work, as we speak.) (I just don't open the box and even look.) Funny, although I would've described myself as a carb and starch addict prior...it was much easier giving up grains than it has been giving up sugar. (4 onion rings, 2-3 times a month aside.) But I get a little better at it every month, and now it's only during times of personal crisis that I sometimes succumb. I agree with you that the calm and empowerment from saying no is much more long-lasting than the flavor in the mouth.

    Good job!!

  6. Glad to help. :-) I've had it pop up on me as well, mostly anxiety about my job. I've got a great one, but we do have a LOT on our plates here, and I will sometimes hit these strange emotional coasts where I will feel so completely in control of everything that I can't imagine being anxious or lying awake worrying again. It feels so right and natural that I think I've got it licked for good. Then a week later, I'm lying in bed sweating and consumed by worry and unable to sleep at all and thinking to myself, "Weren't you over this last week?! WTF?!"

    Then I get over that hump and feel better ... and then another hump will show up eventually. I spent a lot of time thinking there was something wrong with me because of it -- "Why can't I just hold onto those times of confidence?" -- before I hit middle age and realized that there's nothing wrong with me. It's just how life is.

  7. I too have to stay away from sugar. It not only creates very strong cravings but it also changes my mental strength to stay away from them.
    I have found that when I eat them my arthritis acts up a lot. So for me too the answer is a definite no to sugar.

  8. One more comment because I can't shut up ever: Don't forget that cutting out addictive things IS "going easy on yourself."

    Right now, you're trying to focus on a task that's very difficult and challenging for you, and that is still unfamiliar: living your life at a healthy weight. Imagine trying to focus on any other difficult, unfamiliar task that requires great concentration, like repairing a watch for the first time. Now imagine doing it if there were a TV blaring away incredibly annoying music right next to your ear that isn't even tuned in properly so that it's full of static.

    Wouldn't you want to make it easier on yourself -- and reach out to shut the damn TV off so you could concentrate?

    Right now, sugar for you is that TV. It nags and chatters at you and interferes with your focus while you're trying to accomplish something that's hard, unfamiliar, and really important. Reaching out and shutting it off IS going easy on yourself.

    There are definitely people for whom sugar doesn't chatter and blare away in their ear, and this advice won't hold for them. But if in all honesty, you realize that it does hold for you ... then be kind to yourself and give yourself the mental peace and quiet you need to meet your challenges. Shut it off.

  9. Great post and great comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one, and appreciate the reinforcement of my belief that there is something physiological and psychological at work when it comes to sugar, and it goes beyond mere will power.

  10. I wished moderation was my answer too. In fact, I signed off every post as, Eating less, moving more. Sadly, after losing 92 pounds, that didn't cut it. I am sugar free and very low carb and it seems to have eliminated the cravings to overeat. But, I really appreciated Janis's comment yesterday and from it realized it may not always be the case.

    I have done some replacing with low carb, truvia sweetened items. I know some do not believe in allowing the sweet receptors to be turned on at all, even with Stevia. I do not find it affecting my cravings and thus far the substitute recipes have been very satisfying.

  11. And by the way Janis, could you be my life coach?? :) You sound like a wise one.

  12. I lost all of my weight (220 pounds were lost) while I still had the occasional sugar. I did not think sugar itself was my problem. I stayed away from HFCS and all over corn syrups but sugar, I thought I had that situation under control. Until some of the weight came back on and would not stay off. I would go up and down 20 pounds over and over again every time I got into what became 'occasional' binges of sugar foods followed by salty, creamy, spicy foods and then ending again with sweets.

    Then the day came when I could not put the sugar down and I just had to accept that I had crossed that invisible line that separates the normal eater from the addict. Once the line is crossed it is gone forever. Once I accepted that I was powerless over the sugar I found what I needed to let it go. I hope it will never be a substance I ever use again. One day at a time, Sean. You are moving in the right direction.

  13. It’s hard to find knowledgeable people regarding.but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks for sharing this with others.


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