Monday, January 14, 2019

Spiritual Lessons from the No Sugar Challenge

In January 2015, I took part in the No Sugar Challenge at my gym. I jumped in. I talked to any and every person I could who was also participating in the contest. I was amazed at just how much sugar is in EVERYTHING. I never would have made this change on my own, but the timing and the fact that I was part of a group (we had to sign up and pay for this!) led to success. 
I began to read labels, make better choices, use new recipes and of course see results. The results however, weren't what you might expect. I didn't drop inches or lbs. but rather, I gained a sharper focus and mindset. What went in my body was much cleaner and far less processed and, with all due respect, what came out was no different. The No Sugar Challenge got me to to look at food much differently; I gained a lot. Chief among my realizations, is the affirmation that an individual's success is made possible by, through and in a community. We hear this truth all the time: it takes a man or woman is an island....and there is no I in team (but there is a me) this post won't reveal anything new. It will however, remind you and us to lean in to one look for opportunities to do so and encourage others to do the same.

In June of that same year, I went to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. I was interested in this sports mecca and participated in a 3-day golf clinic with my friend Lisa. We ate and stayed "on campus" with over 200 athletes of all ages. I remember heading to the dining hall anxious to see what pro athlete might be eating next to us. I was so busy looking around and talking to our table mates, that I didn't pay much attention to a certain type of food that was no where to be found. 

At IMG, I suspect that sugar is a banned substance. No muffins or sugar cereals, no cookies after lunch, no dessert bar, fro-yo, nothing. The only way to end your meal on a sweet note would be with fruit. The no sugar challenge was a reality at IMG. While Lisa and I eventually made a run for some sugary snacks, I was intrigued by how a community can influence a group of people for good. The institution made this collective decision and I suppose the athletes are better for it. 

This Fall, I talked to my students in Ethics about something that might start out appealing...something that can be very can be as addictive as sugar: gossip. Pope Francis wrote about its dangers and urged the faithful to refrain from this disrespectful, unkind and sometimes cruel act. In "The Tyranny of Talk," The Holy Father said
“It’s so rotten, gossip,” he said in February. “At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.”
His words resonated with my students and with me. We face the temptation to think less of others, to ever so slightly delight in their misgivings and add what we know; that is gossip! In high school gossip is all too real, but it doesn't end there. As we age and mature, we ought to make better decisions and grow in wisdom and kindness. The reality of gossip reminds us we fall short at every age. Pope Francis' words also resonated with my relationship to sugar.
hands down, my favorite dessert
Susie Cakes makes my favorite dessert in the world: their signature birthday cake. At the beginning, it tastes wonderful, but if I don't exercise some self control, it fills my stomach not with bitterness, but with a substance that in no way sustains me. Sugar ultimately leaves me hollow and agitated. My system is no longer in balance. Yes, we get hyper from too much sugar for a reason.  The analogy is far from perfect, but it is moving in the right direction.

I began to wonder how the school where I teach might be different were we to conduct a "No Gossip Challenge." We could inform one another of how gossip affects a person's mental, emotional and spiritual self. In this case, we might do away with labels! We would need to encourage one another and share the challenges within the challenge. We could check in and have a metaphorical "weigh in" six weeks later.

I have always believed that good societies are comprised of excellent individuals—and yet great people are what make a society outstanding. There is a symbiotic relationship—one driving the other. In this new year, let us take on challenges to become more loving, healthier, kinder and more like Christ for the good of ourselves AND one another....and eat a little less sugar!

Photo credits
Susie Cakes
Sugar Break up
Stop the Sugar

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