Minimalist Manager Challenge Part 1: No Sugar

I’ve just started a #minimalistmanager challenge.

For 15 days, I will be trying a variety of tasks that will stretch me… and also allow me to move past barriers and toward my strategic business goals.

My first task is to consume No Sugar for 24 Hours.

What is a Minimalist Management Challenge?

The idea behind the Minimalist Management philosophy is that we can benefit by reducing our reliance on unneeded things, while increasing the appreciation for the world around us.

I believe there are 4 essential areas that underlay this mindset:

  • Care for Self
  • Organize Surroundings
  • Prioritize Time
  • Help Others

In each analysis, I will also include a Post-Mortem Evaluation of the task. This will help me determine root causes of actions that could be holding me back as a business owner. This will examine:

  1. what happened
  2. what went well
  3. what didn’t go well, and
  4. how we can adjust for the future

There are 6 purposes for this challenge. I want to…

  1. decrease my reliance on non-renewable materials, on unhealthy habits, and on unhelpful buoys/support/bracing
  2. increase my productivity
  3. enhance relationships with others
  4. improve my health and well-being
  5. live more simply
  6. appreciate each moment

Check out my first post for more background on why I decided to start this challenge in the first place.

I decided to take a risk by randomly selecting the order of my challenge tasks by using a pull-it-out-of-a-hat method. Normally, I like to plan out my schedule ahead of time. But in this case, I made it simple and allowed fate to take over.

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Autumn is here, and it’s time for a new #minimalistmanager challenge! I’ll be experiencing tasks that get me closer to business goals, even if it’s uncomfortable… like eating #nosugar (tomorrow’s objective) 🍭🛑. Want to join me? Here’s how: . . . Pick 9 activities that feel slightly uncomfortable but move you toward your goals in four areas: • Care for Self • Organize Surroundings • Prioritize Time • Help Others If you own a business, consider ways to stretch yourself as an owner. Set aside a period of time to work on your challenge (I recommend 9 to 15 days). Write down your challenge tasks. Each day, pick one card out of a hat 🎩. [I scheduled 15 days with 9 activities; the extra days are to recognize and celebrate growth, or consider why it didn’t go so well.] I’ll be posting updates about my challenge here: https://laconteconsulting.com/blog Join me, and let me know what you learn about yourself!

A post shared by Grace LaConte (@lacontestrategy) on

Each of the tasks are things that push me outside my comfort zone.

  • Part 1: No Sugar
  • Part 2: Create a Vision Board
  • Part 3: Leftie Day
  • Part 4: Organize Office
  • Part 5: No Facebook
  • Part 6: Send Thank-You Notes
  • Part 7: Get Offline
  • Part 8: Meditate 3x
  • Part 9: Work at a New Location

I had no idea that this one would stretch me as much as it did.

Let’s get into the first of 9 tasks and see how it went!

Part 1 of My Challenge: No Sugar

Sugar, wonderful sugar!

Who doesn’t like to eat sweets?

While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of sugary goodness here and there, an excess of sugar in our diets puts us at increased risk of developing health problems… like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other (mostly preventable) illnesses.

I wanted to test my ability to withstand the cultural pressure of constantly snacking on sweets by going 24 hours without eating anything that has added sugar.

Essential Area

This task fit one category very well:

  • Care for Self
  • Organize Surroundings
  • Prioritize Time
  • Help Others

Post-Mortem Evaluation

The goal for today was to eat a No-Sugar diet, which is exactly what it sounds like:

Avoid all sugar that is natural (molasses, honey), processed (white or brown or powdered sugar), or sugar substitutes (Splenda, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, etc.—all of which I’m highly sensitive to and need to avoid anyway).

We know that healthy and nutritious food contributes to mental clarity, physical endurance, and emotional well-being.

These aspects can have a huge impact on our ability to be effective in running a business. So I believe that adding consciousness to eating habits is very important to avoiding risk as a business owner.

1. What happened

Breakfast was pretty easy. I started with huge mug of peppermint and green tea:

To that, I added a hearty plate of 3 eggs, bacon, fresh tomatoes, fried red onions, and cauliflower pancakes.

The morning went well; no snacking or sneaking food. But by lunchtime, I was shocked to discover that all I could think about was SUGAR.

Sugary drinks, sugary cookies, sugary popsicles.

Sugar, sugar, sugar!

I couldn’t get the craving out of my head. It took a lot of self control to stay on course and eat a no-sugar lunch.

This included another big cup of tea, a glass of water, bowl of fresh veggies (yellow peppers and sugar snap peas), some Colby Jack cheese, and a few tablespoons of almond butter.

The afternoon went by pretty quickly, although the cravings came and went. Supper consisted of a Tikka Masala curry chicken (using Patak’s curry paste, which is inexpensive, has all-natural ingredients, and tastes AMAZING).

As a side dish, I added steamed spinach with Lowry’s seasoning salt (my grandfather shared a love of steamed spinach with me when I was little) and a nice glass of white wine.

After supper, I ran some errands and stopped at Starbucks for an evening snack. Instead of choosing my usual Caramel Latte or Chai Tea Latte, I searched for low-sugar options and discovered that they offer a Low-Sugar Chai Tea Latte, which I ordered with almond milk (less flavor, but no guilt).

While sipping, I spent time reading about the ups and downs of Lance Armstrong’s career in “Lance Armstrong’s War” by Daniel Coyle (@harpercollinsus).

2. What went well

My No-Sugar Day included a lot of good things.

Mentally, I was able to focus more than usual. I also kicked a coffee habit 3 weeks ago while battling a chest cold (which still hasn’t gone away, as you can hear in my video).

I also felt much better physically: less grogginess, less fatigue, more energy.

And emotionally, although I had a few painful moments (read about it next), the day ended with a sense of purpose and excitement.

3. What didn’t go well

There was one big surprise that I did not expect.

Story Time

Many years ago, I suffered from a compulsive overeating disorder. It started when I went to college at age 18 and had the freedom to eat anything I wanted, at any time, in any amount.

At the time, I was entering an era of independence, but had not properly acknowledged and addressed some traumatic experiences from the past. In an effort to overcome those memories, my response was to hide those painful feelings (remember Fight-Flight-Freeze?) by eating high-calorie food until I felt stuffed.

It wasn’t a healthy response, but unfortunately there was no support system to get proper mental health counseling.

Eating disorders are very complicated; and unfortunately, I knew a lot about the effects and root causes but kept my interest academic only. These types of disorders are typically caused by events in childhood and adolescence, and there is a component of self-loathing that makes it difficult for the person to acknowledge. Self-punishing behavior like extreme dieting (anorexia), purging (bulimia), and my choice of overeating (binging) are all dysfunctional actions that come from a deeper cause.

In the past few years, I’ve sought out help from a trained counselor (you can read about it here). With her help and a lot of introspection, I finally re-entered some very painful memories from the past and started to make sense of them. But this particular task, avoiding sugar, brought back even more memories that I didn’t realize were tied into those events.

My weight gain increased rapidly, from 120 pounds as a college freshman to well over 200 (I stopped looking at a scale after 193 pounds).

Emotional eaters attempt to soothe the pain by constantly eating, often alone and in secret. It also leads to making decisions that can permanently damage relationships: lying, stealing, and manipulating others to get the next “fix” [similar to a drug user].

My overeating addiction ended when I was 21, after a sudden realization that my increasing weight was leading me to a life of misery and, eventually, an early death.

I finally realized the depth of my problem when I was invited to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding. During the final fitting, it was obvious that her sister was strongly urging her to disinvite me because of my size.

On the flight home, I realized how profoundly unhappy I was. In my mind, I imagined my life if things continued: I would keep gaining 20 pounds a year. I would have more joint and back pain and feel emotionally disconnected from my closest friends. I would live hermit-like existence and eat large quantities of food all alone.

The idea of continuing like this for the rest of my life was unbearable. (This technique is called the Scrooge Effect; you can read about it here.)

During the plane ride home, while shifting in my narrow seat, I made a decision to course-correct. A friend who had lost nearly 100 pounds had given me a book on low-carb dieting months earlier. On the flight, I read the book and wrote down my goals. I decided to change everything:

  • Wake up at 6:30 a.m.
  • Lift weights and run as far as I could every morning (starting with a very slow 1/4-mile jog).
  • Eat nothing but protein, fat, and vegetables for 2 weeks.
  • Drink no liquid but water, at least 5 times a day.
  • Walk as much as possible.
  • Stop eating after 8 p.m.
  • Sleep for 8 hours a night.

Those first 2 weeks were hard. But I kept at it and was shocked to see a significant change: weight loss, less physical pain, and I felt better than I had in years.

That was 17 years ago. I’ve had some ups and downs since then, but yesterday’s No-Sugar Day was the first time I consciously limited my diet since that first jump-start.

A lot of the old feelings came back:

“You can’t live without eating a tiny snack!”

“It’s JUST one cookie. Go ahead.”

“There’s barely any sugar in it!”

“Nobody will know.”

“After all that work, you deserve it.”

The hardest thing about this challenge was facing those old fears and negative voices again.

Unlike the previous Minimalist Manager challenge 3 years ago, this time I felt more prepared because of the emphasis I’ve placed on becoming mentally healthy. Skipping that step 3 years ago put me at risk; I could have given in to the temptation to self-medicate. By recognizing the signs this time, an emotionally taxing challenge turned into a moment of self-reflection instead.

4. How I can adjust for the future

This time, my challenge is to spend 15 days completing 9 tasks. Today was a “skip day.” It surprised me how little I was craving sugar even though I wasn’t exactly avoiding it.

This is a great reminder that setting self-imposed limitations can have a wider impact. No, I won’t need to cut out all sugar forever. That’s the danger of the Diet Industry: to create a completely artificial environment where all delicious things are evil, and cutting them out will result in success. But once we go “off the diet,” all the weight comes back.

Talking about “artificial,” I decided to looked up the root word (etymology). We often use this word to describe an imitation or substitute of something that is original and natural. When a person is artificial, they are insincere and false. An artificial food takes the qualities of an original food and presents them in a fictitious way (tofurkey, anyone?).

But the actual etymology of the word artificial surprised me.

Artificial: “a clever, artful, or creative skill”
It comes from the Latin word artifex, meaning “craftsman, artist, master of an art.” The root words are ars- meaning “art” + -fex meaning “to do or make.”

So the true definition of artificial is “creating something with a self-imposed limitation in order to recognize the value and beauty of our consciousness, of the world around us, and of the relationships we share.”

When we create artistic limitation, it can add more meaning… It allows us to master a skill.

We are able to create art by simplifying and minimizing an aspect of life.

And that’s exactly what the Minimalist Manager Challenge does. I choose to take away or eliminate something temporarily, in order to appreciate a deeper meaning.

Summary

My “No-Sugar Day” turned into a really fascinating dive into past experiences, pushing my limits, and recognizing some strengths that I’ve developed thanks to the help of a mental health counselor.

Overall, the day was a success. I did feel tempted to take a bite of something sweet all afternoon. But the balance of protein and healthy carbs in every meal helped the cravings to go away.


Special Note

This topic may cause you to feel uncomfortable. If you are struggling to make sense of a past traumatic experience or feel unable to move past a difficult barrier in your life, I encourage you to connect with a licensed mental health professional.

Getting help from a counselor has transformed my perspective and allowed me to heal from some very painful experiences. It also gave me the tools to empathize with what others go through, which has made me more effective as a strategist and consultant.

If you’re interested in finding a licensed counselor, the extensive list at Psychology Today is a good place to start.


Watch the video from my No Sugar day, where I explain:

  • why I chose to do this challenge,
  • the unexpected reminders of a food addiction & overeating disorder I struggled with as a young adult, and
  • which foods I chose to eat and to avoid.

Follow my #MinimalistManager journey:

Stay tuned for the next installment, where I discuss creating a Strategic Vision Board.


Grace LaConte is a Strategic Risk Expert who helps service business owners find and fix hidden risks that keep them from achieving long-term success. Using her experience as a Risk Officer in the healthcare and technology fields, Grace shares a refreshingly honest approach to uncovering hidden risks and opportunities. Learn more at http://laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Twitter @lacontestrategy.

 

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