You are what you don't eat.

Sunday May 12, 2013

Sugar, apparently, is the new food villain. Over the past years, a stream of books have linked excessive sugar intake to all kinds of physical and mental ailments. According to this view, sugar is toxic. The problem is that most of the sugar we eat isn't the nice white stuff we spoon into our tea or coffee, but fructose put into manufactured foods (particularly low fat products) to add flavour. While some of the claims are over-the-top and not supported by science, there seems to be little doubt that reducing your sugar intake can reduce mood swings, give you more energy and help you sleep better - things we'd all like.

While looking into the subject, we came across a useful psychological insight from Rick Foster, co-author of an excellent book called How We Choose To Be Happy. According to Foster, 'Years of research tells me that going straight to 'intentionality' is the best first step to happiness.'

Foster says that what he has learned from extremely happy people is that they actively choose how they're going to react to situations. They choose what attitude they're going to have and how they're going to behave.

When Foster decided to live a zero-sugar life style, he drew on his own happiness studies for inspiration. Instead of setting himself a goal (such as losing 20 pounds over six months) he crafted a set of intentions. For example: 'I'm going to be the kind of person who takes care of himself by not eating sugar.' 'I intend to be mindful of what I eat.' 'I'm going to identify all the sources of sugar I ingest daily.'

Foster points out that there is an orthodoxy in the diet world that insists we need goals. But while some people seem to need goals, that was very much not the case with him. As he says: 'My intentions worked just fine. They were more like having an internal picture of how I wanted to be as an 'eater' and how I saw myself as being healthy over time.'

For the record, Foster lost 25 lbs-11.5 kgs and now sleeps more soundly than ever before.

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