The damage sugar causes is no secret and Chinese medicine has long recognised the havoc “too much of the sweet taste” can wreak. Yet the Sugar Monster proves a Nemesis for most of us.
Following yet another valiant (and so far successful!) attempt at liberating myself from its sickly grasp, I thought I’d share 3 strategies that employ Chinese medical theory, which seem to work for me...
1) Relax your Liver.
We’re told that “the sweet taste relaxes the Liver”. What this means in practice is that sweet tasting foods make us feel calmer when we get stressed, frustrated or angry - so we instinctively reach for sugar when we feel this way.
The Liver in Chinese medicalese refers to a collection of physiological and psychological processes, only some of which relate to the Western notion of the liver. The (Chinese) Liver has a lot to do with anger and it’s family of emotions, including tension, stress, frustration and so on. So, when the Liver gets into a spot of bother, we feel these emotions more keenly and reach for the sugar more rapidly.
Like sugar, exercise relaxes the Liver. It also goes one better than sugar by preventing the Liver from getting worked up in the first place. Daily exercise in the morning does the best job. It needn’t be anything vigorous. Just 10 minutes of Tai Chi Qigong or a brisk 20-minute walk will keep your Liver lovely and the Sugar Monster at bay.
2) Go easy on your Spleen.
Like your Liver, your Spleen (uppercase S) does a lot more than your spleen (lowercase s). Amongst other vital jobs, your Spleen (which happens to include your pancreas) keeps your blood sugar stable and helps to control your appetite.
Things that give your Spleen a knock include too much sitting, too much concentrating and too much worrying. So, sitting at a computer fretting over a spreadsheet isn’t going to make the Sugar Monster any easier to resist.
Some solutions include taking a ‘brain break’ every 45 minutes and doing some of your computer work standing up. Try not to spend time at your computer unnecessarily, and plan time away from worry doing something that takes your mind off your troubles.
3) Support your Earth.
In Daoist philosophy, the Wu Xing describes 5 different aspects of all the facets of life and the interactions between them. These 5 aspects are rather poetically named after the 5 Elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.
Each aspect (or Element) has a taste associated with it. When an Element of your life is out of kilter, you will tend to want to eat more of it’s associated flavour. The Earth Element’s flavour is sweet, so keeping your Earth in good shape will help keep the Sugar Monster docile.
There are some great Tai Chi Qigong routines designed specifically to support your Earth Element (like the one we're teaching in our Late Summer Tai Chi Qigong workshop) and some beautifully named Earth acupuncture points like Earth Granary and Encircling Glory.
Another one of the best things you can do for your Earth Element is to follow a regular routine. That means regular bedtimes, regular work hours, regular times to relax and unwind, and regular meal times. This way, your body knows what to expect and when to expect it. This makes sense from a Western medical perspective too, as eating, exercising and resting at regular times keeps your blood sugar stable and the Sugar Monster away.