“It’s the sugar’s fault,” is a common refrain Caleb uses when he is dancing around the house and especially happy.
Notice, I didn’t say ‘hyper.”
Our Caleb is a gleeful soul and he is especially joyous after having a bowl of ice cream or a couple of brownies. He’ll chime, “It’s the sugar’s fault.” He’ll laugh and then dance about the house some more.
At the age of 13, Caleb understands that sugar is affecting him – at least in some happy-clappy-dancing way.
Psychologists, on the other hand, may have a more scientific answer for Caleb’s behavior. In our bodies, we have a neurotransmitter that specifically assists in controlling our brains’ reward and pleasure points. This neurotransmitter is called dopamine. Dopamine will regulate our movement and emotional responses which enable us to not only identify rewards and pleasure in our midst, but to take action to move toward them and attain them.
Thus, it’s actually normal human behavior to seek out people, opportunities, and things that give us that ‘very good feeling.’ The dopamine neurotransmitter rewards us for it.
Yet, we must be cautious. This neurotransmitter has no wait-a-minute-is-this-really-that-good-for-me? filter. If we like it, we will seek it. And when we attain that pleasure, we’ll be temporarily rewarded with a satisfying sensation. So, we’ll do it again. And again. And again. Unfortunately, one of the very real and very serious consequences of all of this pleasure-seeking and rewards business, is that such behaviors may lead to an addiction. Or it may result in someone to choosing to rely and depend upon this person, activity, substance, etc. because of the pleasures they gain, instead of seeking out and depending upon their God.
This is a hard and difficult truth.
No one wants to admit, especially in Christian circles, that we are trusting and depending upon anything more than our Lord Jesus Christ. Right?
Yet, this is exactly what I am choosing to unearth in my life as I go sugar-free in 2017.
When I am stressed or feeling compromised, my dopamine neurotransmitter has reminded me that chocolate has provided relief and temporary solace in the past – thus, it can do it again for me – now now.
I’m not going to blame and shame the dopamine. Like I said, it has no filter of what is healthy for me and what is not.
And I’m not going to blame and shame myself, either. That doesn’t accomplish anything but make me feel terrible about myself.
What can I do?
Is it possible to retrain my dopamine transmitter to reward me when I choose a healthy food option instead of the carrot cake, brownies, zucchini bread, sugar cookies, Russian tea biscuits, chocolate truffles and more that are currently in play in my kitchen? Yes, our family has been gifted with all of these yummy delights and decadent love this week. Right at the time that I have chosen to go sugar-free in 2017.
So, is it possible?
Can I just say ‘no’ and walk away from the carrot cake and brownies?
Before I answer, I want to share this quote from Christopher Columbus, “You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
To reach further into this analogy, I believe I must board the no-sugar vessel. I must release anything that anchors me to that feel-good sugar feeling and then set sail. There will be high waves of fear and anxiety. There will be storms of affliction. There will be traps of temptation. There will also be predators that attack my resolve. However, even as I transverse these dangerous and challenging waters, there will also be my Captain.
And it is to Him that I will set my focus for this journey to reach new adventurous sights!
In my Bible reading today, the Lord affirmed my no-sugar-life choice for 2017:
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. Psalm 31: 1-5 (NIV)
As I read and meditate upon these words: “Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God” I envision myself aboard that sugar-free ship that I’ve described. I’ve committed myself to this voyage and I am trusting and depending upon my Captain to help me reach my goal – delivering me – safe and secure.
We’ve heard this phrase before, haven’t we?
Jesus offered these words on the cross, “Into your hands, I commit my spirit.” He displayed his resolute and complete trust in His Heavenly Father as he died for the salvation of all. Stephen, believed to be the first martyr of the Christian faith, repeated this phrase as he was being stoned to death. In each of these settings, we see the exhortation to trust in God with every ounce of our being – even in the advent of struggle and death.
Thus, for me, in order to achieve a sugar-free life in 2017 means that all of those pleasure-seeking sugar transmitters will be fighting to live even as I need them to die and I need to die to them as well. It is in such times I must also say, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Deliver me from my chocolate-wants and take me forward to healthy living in You.”
Friends, I’m only three days aboard this sugar-free ship. I will journey for another 362 days of 2017 to reach an altogether new harbor.
Gratefully, I am on board.
I am committed to the sugar-free journey.
And we’ll see what forces we greet along the way as I trust in the navigation and care of my Captain and Lord.
Yes, I’m on board.
Anyone want to climb on board for part of this sugar-free voyage with me?
Image retrieved from Vermont Sail Freight Project