There were plenty of things to blow Sydney McLaughlin’s concentration. The 400-meter hurdler was under strain from the months of preparation. There were bad practices, three false starts, and a meet delay.
Glaringly, right in front of her was her chief rival, the woman who beat her last time, Delilah Muhammad. Sydney figured she’d have to catch Delilah, whose explosive start out of the blocks was unbeatable.
But in the midst of her doubts and distractions, Jesus spoke to her heart: Just focus on Me.
Not only did Sydney beat her rival in the Olympic qualifiers a month ago, she set a new world record, breaking the 52 second barrier that no woman has ever bested in the 400 meter hurdles.
“The Lord took the weight off my shoulders,” she wrote later on Instagram. “It was the best race plan I could have ever assembled.”
The 21-year-old from New Jersey took the gold in Tokyo, beating her own record with a time of 51.46 seconds. She’s been called the new “face of track.”
It all began with a chocolate bar.
For her first race as a little tyke, her parents promised her a chocolate bar if she won. Her mom was a high school track star, and her dad was a semi-finalist in 400 meters for the 1984 Olympic Trials. Running, she says, “runs” in the family.
She started at age six, following in the footsteps of her older brother and older sister, who ran track.
Her first track meet was two towns away, and that’s when she got promised the chocolate bar. She won and enjoyed her candy.
So concerned diet experts are targeting sugar consumption. Unfortunately sugar already has been targeting you — usually with great success.
If you feel your own powerlessness, you’re not alone. Like starting a fitness routine, there are right ways and wrong ways to start a sugar-reduction plan.
Today. Right now.
Here’s seven tips to slay sugar:
1. Your stomach doesn’t really care. Your brain does. Find alternative rewards for your brain: Sugar fires off dopamine production in your brain, a key component of addiction. Unlike a balanced meal (which can also trigger dopamine but tapers off if repeated), sugar keeps flooding the brain with warm fuzzies. It is this overactive reward system that creates craving.
Suggestion: Source the pleasure hormone elsewhere:
Consume large quantities of meat and other proteins, specifically Tyrosine which can be found in almonds, avocados, bananas, chocolate, coffee, eggs, green tea and watermelon.
Eat yogurt, kimchee, pickles, some cheeses or other foods rich in probiotics.
Get enough sleep.
Consider supplements as curcumin, ginkgo biloba, L-theanine, acetyl-l-tyrosine
Get a massage. Hug your family. Get a pet.
Learn something new. Make new discoveries. Develop and satisfy your curiosity.
Divide your duties into small tasks and check them off as you go. A sense of accomplishment releases dopamine.
Other reward hormones: Other feel-good hormones also provide potent sugar substitutes:
Endorphins — from significant exercise. Go to the gym.
Serotonin — from feeling significant or important. Socialize.
Oxytocin — from feeling cherished, cuddled, intimate or trusted. Get support from family and friends. Cultivate relationships.
Adrenaline — from fear or competition. Ride a roller coaster, make a high risk investment, or watch a horror movie.
2. Rewire your brain. Neurobiologists are changing the way we see human weakness (addiction). A bad habit is not simply dusted away — or ridiculed by the strong. It’s actually rooted in your brain. It turns out that there are neural highways in your gray matter. The more you reinforce any behavior, the more electro-chemical pulses are fired along certain pathways. Dendrites are even added to the most used thoroughfares, and pulses are sped up.
Yikes! your brain literally aids and abets your addiction.
To forge a new path is to head off through brambles and crawlers; it will be slow go. You’re off the beaten path, so the walking is not easy. This is not only bad news because it’s not impossible, just hard. You can “re-wire” your brain, but you need to be realistic. It might takes weeks, months, even years.
Suggestion: Journal your progress. Set small goals towards a larger objective. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. If you “fall off the wagon,” get back immediately. Get a empathetic support group or accountability partner. Repetition is the key to forming both bad and good habits, so try to steer clear of sugar over and over.
3. Identify negative emotions. There’s a reason why they’re called “comfort foods.” The are a happy-reset button. What are the emotional storm clouds you escape from? Here are a few common factors inducing sugar addiction:
Stress — The inability to handle stress well is ripe fruit for escapism.
Fear/ anxiety — Ditto above.
Boredom — The dull lulls of life make you want to zest up your life with some tasty morsels.
Loneliness — Social isolation, anxiety and rejection bring a heavy emotional cost.
Frustration — Failure and setbacks bring depression, from which you naturally want to take a break.
Suggestions: Developing strategies for these and other negative emotions may require some outside help from a trusted counselor. You might get inspiration from a good book or some motivational videos on YouTube. Journaling can help you analyze, dissect and give you the objectivity to overcome these. Get a hobby, take up gaming, learn a new language or play the guitar. Read the four other tips for cutting sugar without stress.
For six months, Yvette Castillo was homeless, popping pills and drinking alcohol. She was pregnant and found refuge in abandoned house with crack addicts where she was raped.
“I was trusting the drugs instead of trusted God to make me happy,” Yvette said in a YouTube testimony. “I thought it was an easier solution, but it wasn’t.”
Yvette now lives in Houston with her husband and kids and goes to church. She’s come a long way from the beginning of her downfall at three-years-old, when she was first molested.
Raised by an alcoholic father and a mother who also disappointed her, Yvette became a troubled teen. With hate raging within from deep hurts, she actually invoked the powers of darkness one day while alone in her bedroom.
“I said, ‘Give me the power to hurt everyone, to stop people from messing with me.’” she said. “I didn’t know that I was making a pact with the devil. I knew who I was talking to, but I didn’t know how serious it was.”
She fought everyone at school who looked at her funny and disrespected her teachers. She was cutting and using drugs. Not youth camp, not juvenile hall, not counselors could help her change course.
She gave birth to a child at 14 years old.
“Not even my child stopped me from doing bad things,” she said. “It was a force that had taken over me, and nobody could stop me.”
Kicked out of school and her house, Yvette fell into the clutches of an abusive boyfriend.
“He hit me. He mistreated me. And I felt like I deserved every bit of it.”
In the midst of her ordeal, she had two abortions.
Leaving that boyfriend is how she became homeless. Pregnant and alone, she tried to mask the inner pain with pills and alcohol, which she paid for by stealing.
“I no longer had a heart,” she said. “I couldn’t love my kids. I couldn’t love myself. I was so drained.”
When all is comfortable, we find a zillion reasons to NOT pray. When bills pile up, desperation spurs on prayers that gallop into Heaven and demand a response.
Not an overload, but a healthy measure of anxiety sharpens your prayer life. Thus, Moses pleads, Elijah cries, Job complains, the Psalmists breaks his heart before God. Even Jesus: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with LOUD CRIES AND TEARS to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” — Heb. 5:7 NIV.
“You must pray with all your might,” said Gen. William Booth. “That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God…This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame.”
And C. H. Spurgeon declared: “Let us agonize in prayer.”
Angst-powered prayers, driven by need are far more effective than feeble mumblings from the half-asleep. Do you want revival fires from prayer? Do you want finances to flow? Then, let anxiety into your prayer closet.