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Monday, August 12, 2013

Viceless: Being sober, sugar-free and more for THREE DAMN MONTHS

Three months of no sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten or caffeine are complete!(Ok, ok. I didn't make it on my challenge of not watching TV alone for 3 months. Only 2 1/2 months of no solo TV watching happened. Hey, not bad! Calling it a win and a learning experience. Who knew I was more addicted to TV than alcohol? Not me. It was such a constant temptation to watch some TV that I think it's going to need it's own separate effort.)

Yes! I can be this happy while being Viceless.
So what happens now? Do I have a Viceless future ahead of me? Gosh, darn it, I'm still not sure. I've had a tiny bite of my friends homemade goat cheese (Yes! I have friends with a goat farm. Check them out!) and I'm sure some hidden ingredients have snuck into my food because I haven't been a stickler about everything at restaurants but overall, I'm pretty damn Viceless. I feel good and am not looking to mess with that. Still, I'm not declaring a future of Vicelessness. I've already made a large commitment that conflicts with Viceless living. Before all of this Vicelessness started, I was committed to spending a month in Italy and going on a bunch of wine tours. Cry me a river, right? I'm basically set up to do a Viceful experiment. What happens if I fully give into all of my vices for a month? The land of cheese, gluten-filled pizza, gelato, wine and espresso is going to be an interesting test. The only thing I probably won't be doing is watching much TV since it will be in Italian.

Here are my main take aways from 3 months of Viceless living:

1) Alcohol is more of a habit than a need. I was doing a lot of research on changing habits over the past 3 months and came upon some interesting information about alcohol. The book Making Habits, Breaking Habits by Jeremy Dean taught me that alcohol is mainly a craving for the relaxation or socializing that we associate with our early use. A study proved that college students socialize with alcohol and years later, when they are craving fun or relaxation, people tend to turn to alcohol instead of just the socialization. They assume they need the alcohol. This is a false assumption.

I've proven the seemingly impossible. Yes, I can have fun, relax and socialize without alcohol! That is one of my biggest learnings from my experiment. I can even go to a bar, wedding or any social situation that would normally involve alcohol and have just as much fun sober as I would drinking. In fact, I recently attended a wedding sober. The groom, days later, was shocked to learn that I wasn't drinking. Apparently, my incredible dance moves and soda water with lime fooled him into assuming I was getting crunk with alcohol.

Not drinking is amazing for two primary reasons: I save a ton of money and have no hangover or drag the next day. My perspective about alcohol has totally changed. Drinking is a lot less of an influence on my good time than I would have thought before going Viceless.

Dairy-free, agave sweetened ice cream is a
loophole in Vicelessness that worked
for me. I know agave is actually super high
in fructose and no better than refined sugar,
but it isn't available at most news stands,
 so it works for me. 
2) Limitations are my new best friend. Shocking, right?
I am not to be trusted around sugar! Seriously, I've been abusing fruit and agave during my Viceless time. I still want every snickers bar I see. I love sweetness! I have an embarrassing sugar addiction and I'm going to need more time away from sugar before I can have it in moderation.  But, I did learn a helpful tool to use for cutting back on anything...

I learned that I can massively cut back on my addictions by placing restrictions that don't make me crazy but do limit me. By saying no to refined sugar and a hesitant yes to any sugar like sweeteners such as agave, maple syrup, etc, I was able to cut way back on my sugary treat consumption. I still had a few desserts a week but, overall, I curbed my sweets in a way that didn't test my self-control. Refined sugar treats are everywhere and I simply said no. Luckily, ice cream made with agave is hard to come by and, therefore, I didn't eat sweet treats as frequently or in as great a quality. What was key for me though was that I didn't feel restricted so I didn't trigger a binge (when I feel trapped, I rebel). I had enough options but was able to say no to deserts and candy that came up in social situations. Hey, whatever works, right?

3) Whatever works, for you, specifically... One of my closest friends also stopped drinking about a month before I did. Neither of us were alcoholics in need of rehab. The outside world didn't understand why either of us would find it necessary to give up drinking. We were moderate social drinkers (well, maybe a bit more than moderate). For our own personal reasons, we both felt the need to give up alcohol and have done so successfully for a period of time. Beyond the comfort of companionship as I tried out a new lifestyle change, another benefit of having a friend taking on a similar challenge at the same time is that I learned that individuals take on big, successful challenges in totally unique ways.

I really, really want to tell everyone to take on a huge challenge that is limited to a specific amount of time. I love the process and want to force it on you.  I greatly improved my skiing by setting out to ski 100 days in one season. I revolutionized my perspective on my vices by giving them up cold turkey for 3 months. I went from LA party girl to Wyoming badass by fully throwing myself into skiing, mountain biking, and international travel and documenting it all in this public blog. Going big for a documented project with time restraints works great for me when I'm trying to instigate big change.

That doesn't mean it's going to work for you. For instance, my sober friend says that her sobriety has lasted only because she is planning on not drinking forever. Giving herself a time limit on the commitment would cause her to crack. The time limit keeps me going as I try out something new. If I thought that I was never ever going to have another drink or piece of candy, I would be drinking from a bottle of wine and pairing it with peanut M&Ms as I write this post.

When I was in Nicaragua, learning to surf with a different close friend, I kept tripping over uneven road and ground. My dear friend pegged me on that trip, "You are great at huge steps. Here you are kicking ass as you learn to surf but the small steps really trip you up." Yep! That's me! I'm better with a big public challenge than a small change. I know that now.

The question is, who are you? How do you best accomplish? How and where have you had successes in the past and what can you apply from that previous process to speed up your future accomplishments?

This is what I love about career/life coaching. I don't have the answers for you but I sure can help you speed up and simplify the process of you finding your own answer. You are unique and specific. You have your own way of succeeding. No one is going to know what is exactly right for you.

4) Lean in.  I'm obsessed with the concept of leaning toward something. One of my favorite teachers, Gabrielle Bernstein, has introduced me to the concept. While I was in New York over the summer, I attended Gabrielle's workshop, Finally Full. She spoke a lot about spirituality, food, meditation and sprinkled in was her own experiences with food. Gabby says she leans toward vegan. She also seems to lean toward sugar-free. Leaning toward means that she is mainly one way, but if she wants something that goes against her typical actions, she will have it. It's about being one way mainly and  occasionally deviating.

Leaning into making changes with
Gabrielle Bernstein.
This is a phrase and philosophy that I believe fits nicely into lives. It cuts out demands and restrictions that can be both un-fun and actually counter-productive. (We all know that when we are told we can't have something, we start to really, really want that something.) Right now though, most of my vices seem too fresh to assume I could just lean into them without fully reverting to my old ways. This is what I'll be monitoring as I start testing out some vices. Can I lean in? How far can I lean into a habit without it becoming a vice?

What are some of your best ways for achieving balance in your life? What are your best ways for accomplishing change that brings you closer to your goals? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below! While I don't know exactly what is right for you, I do know that getting a new perspective can be very enlightening. Taking on this Viceless challenge has given me an opportunity to speak to so many people about their own vices and methods for happiness and productivity. I've learned a great deal from you all. It's been an honor to share my new perspectives and learn so many new ones along the way. I'm  extremely grateful for everyone who supported me as I completed 3 months of Viceless living!


  1. This is awesome! I'm on a similar journey and this post has encouraged some self reflection of my own! (Almost 5 months, vegetarian, non-processed foods, leaning vegan, leaning raw) it has been great thus far and true, I have learned so much about myself... Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Imani! It's great to hear from others on a similar journey. It feels good to be trying to be our best selves, huh? Please stay in touch!