Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sugar addiction: Does talking about it help?

I'm a veteran of many years of talk therapy. I've had great counselors and some lousy ones but the ones who have been the most efffective are those who have encouraged me to find solutions and do something.

For the last ten years or so, I've been talking about my relationship with sugar, my weight, my relationship with my body, and all of that and its relationship with my past. I've talked about it with friends, with my sister who is a fitness coach, with my other sister who struggles like I do, with my women's groups, even with a special food-problem support group I organized for chronic overeaters. None of that talk ever shifted very much.

When I'd talk about the issue, especially with women, they had lots of suggestions about how I could go about losing weight or staying off sugar. Their suggestions were logical, rational. But it isn't possible to approach an irrational action, bingeing on sugar, with a rational suggestion. Their advice came from their well-meaning logic; my solution needed to come from my own heart.

Then early in January, at my goals and tasks group, I brought it up once again and got lots of supportive suggestions. And I had an aha (sometimes it takes forever to get there!). I realized, really realized, that if talking about it worked, I'd be thin and sugar-free. If other people's ideas about how I could do it worked, I'd be thin and sugar-free. It had to be me doing it, not me talking about it.

Recently, in a chat group I'm in on finding meaning in our lives, a participant quoted teacher and psychologist Eric Maisel as recommending taking a problem into action rather than talking about it. I like that phrase: taking the problem into action.

As a well-tested sugar addict, I knew what I needed to do. I needed to give up sugar, I needed to take action with my cravings, even if that action was sit with it, I needed to stop talking and act in my own behalf.

Yes, I'm still talking about it, hence the blog. But I'm moving into more and more action. Putting down the half-gallon of ice cream, the six-pack of cupcakes, the bag of little Snickers. Putting my health and emotional well-being ahead of my old habits. It isn't easy but it's much more effective than talking about it.


Me said...

Agreed. The inside-out approach doesn't always work. I'm a big fan of behavioral activation. If we wait for the right reasons or feelings to take action, we may never get there! Taking action first; however, frequently results in a different perspective or feeling. Outside-in! As one of my mentors used to say, just because your mind is saying you can't walk to the door, this doesn't mean you've lost use of your arms, legs, etc. Less thinking, more doing.

Cynthia said...

Hi, dear Jill. I often say to my students in Intro Counseling something very similar to what you wrote in this blog. "If good suggestions healed people, everyone would be well because friends and family are full of good suggestions." And smart people have too many good ideas to put into practice in a century.
As I read your blog, I'm inspired by your honesty and by the way you take on the small moments and small details.
Some of the behaviors that are most helpful to me are least dramatic and least visible to others. Noticing and attending fall into this category. Noticing what moves me into the kitchen or elsewhere is something I can practice. Sounds easy, huh? But as you say in a later blog, mindfulness is hard work. I think talking helps us to do the job.