If It Takes 30 Days To Start a New Habit I’m on Track!

Ok so I gave you all the excuses and rationalisations for my slippery slide into the sugar abyss in my last post.

And I ended by saying that things have been so much better this year.

I have kicked my sugar habit over the last five weeks and it stands (or rather lies) defeated.

Why exactly am I doing better and what exactly am I doing?

I’ll answer the easier question first.

Setting a credible goal

As someone with a sweet tooth living in a house of others similarly inclined, quitting sugar except on birthdays and special occasions would not have been a realistic goal. I would have failed once again. As Tim Ferriss argues in his various books on weight loss and other experiments, it’s easier to keep up a long term discipline if you have scheduled indulgences. And then you can indulge guilt-free once you stick with your own prescribed limits.

I allow myself one or two sweet indulgences on Sundays and Saturdays plus one sweetened hot drink. I haven’t yet worked out a strategy for special occasions but they will not be an excuse for overindulging

During the week I have tea or coffee without sugar or herbal, green or white teas which don’t need sugar at all.

Now if you're going to have coffee without sugar it's got to be really good coffee!

Now if you’re going to have coffee without sugar it’s got to be really good coffee!

I have available unsweetened oat biscuits (Nairn is a brand with a tasty range), unsweetened full fat Greek Style yoghurt, dessicated coconut, coconut chips and lots of fruit. The strategy is to have satisfactory options for snacking at all times so hunger won’t be an excuse for biscuits that invite you to have another and another.

I allow myself dried fruit in cereal and a few dates or some quantities of other dried fruit as part of snacks. I’ve re-introduced seeds (pumpkin and sunflower), having worked out that even if there is a small nut contamination my daughter’s nut allergy does not seem to be acting up despite her sharing my kitchen and meal space.

Tomato ketchup and chutney in a deli sandwich are not off-limits. It’s no point making it too hard. I polished off the last bit of jam on a lingering last slice of extra toast today that neither I nor my equally food-waste conscious friend wanted to see waste. Dry toast, wasted toast or half a teaspoon of strawberry jam? The ethical answer is obvious!

Discipline for a Moment

Of interest it’s much easier to avoid sugar on any given day than to limit it. Because once you go for that first slice of that delicious black Forest cake or sweet bread or whatever your fancy, it’s harder to say ‘no’ to the second slice than the first. Once you’ve abandoned the discipline you then say, ‘Oh well, might as well make today a Cheat Day. I’ve been good all week!’ Then you find another excuse to cheat later. And give up the satisfaction of showing yourself how disciplined you can be!

As Peter Bregman points out in his brilliant book 18 Minutes, (and I’m paraphrasing here), you don’t need to be disciplined all day long, just in the face of temptation, at the point of decision making. And I’ve experienced that surge of confidence that comes with sticking to my cheaper (healthier?) green tea rather than going for the sweetened hot cocoa I’m craving. It just feels good to know you are loving yourself by taking charge and taking better care of yourself. And as Bregman himself says, that is the feel good factor that motivates you next time. Even if it gives you a smaller dopamine kick than the sugar you craved, it’s a high that won’t expand your waistline.

Peter Bregman's 18 Minutes was my special find for getting my year off to a great start!

Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes was my special find for getting my year off to a great start!

Bregman lost several pounds just because he quit one thing, sugar. And in 18 Minutes (which is a personal development support book not a health book), he also shares that for some people the one thing they may need to do differently may not be sugar. And it’s true. Some people lose weight by cutting out wheat flour, others by eating more fruit and veg and cutting out dairy. We need to look not at everything we could possibly change that might make a difference but rather identify that One Thing that would make the most difference to us. Is it a mid-morning breakfast ritual of syrupy, milky coffee, bagels and then a donut, all of which is adding up to about 300 such breakfasts and God-knows-how-many calories every year?

And while you figure out what your one thing might be has my one change made any difference?

Yes it’s making a difference!

I’m thrilled to say that I believe it has made a difference! That PMS accompaniment (acne flare ups), that has plagued me for years has receded. Who needs greater inspiration than that?

One thorn to that anecdotal story: I also reduced my milk intake drastically for the month of January. Was it the dairy free element or the reduced sugar element that defeated the acne? Well having resumed my dairy soon I will know for sure.

My energy levels are higher overall and my PMS mood symptoms less severe.

It sounds like a testimonial for a health supplement sold in a Network Marketing Business model! In fact I’m sure I’ve had precisely this combination of benefits when I drank and marketed mangosteen juice (the XanGo brand) back in the mid-noughties.

Co-incidence? Not at all. Remember Peter Bregman and that idea of just one thing. Sometimes one thing that you add or subtract can make a tremendous difference! The Math is crazy.

Adding a supplement or removing a bad habit can help your body be more balanced and less stressed. So it works better. Elementary really. This is not an ad for a supplement though. Removing a bad habit usually works out cheaper than adding an awesome supplement.

I’m not ‘anti-supplement’. We have Vitamin D3 and elderberry in our kitchen and I will buy a shot of wheatgrass at the mall health food bar. I’m just saying, you might want to have one healthy habit that will make a real difference to you this year.

Last but not least though, it was a change in attitude that has allowed me to stick with my new habit.

Last year I said to myself, “I’ve been having too much sugar. I need to cut back. I’ll start by quitting for six weeks.” But the passion for the goal was not there.

This year I started with resolve and determination. I was going to make a lifelong lifestyle commitment. Simple. I was doing it because if I didn’t I would be facing diabetes, guilt and all its complications.


As already hinted it is so much easier to have none than some.

But the biggest temptation presents itself when I am stressed. “After what I just had to deal with  I deserve a break!”

Though I’ve held my own so far, for the long term I really need to re-programme my brain to reach for a different de-stressing mechanism! I haven’t chosen one yet but quiet meditative time seems like a great candidate!

Suppose you want to go further and cut down on refined sugars and fast carbs (refined rice, wheat etc) in general?

Well that’s a bigger challenge, a bigger lifestyle change but well worth it. Here’s a link to one of our previous posts which is a good starter guide for such a worthy ambition:


Stay Well! I’m off to an apple, unsweetened oat biscuits and a cup of unsweetened coffee!

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