Sustainability and my best friend Processed Sugar


  1. Capable of continuing for a long time at the same level
  2. Using methods that do not harm the environment

“Can you write on something to do with our topic of Sustainability?” I was asked. “Why yes”, I replied – at which point my brain went utterly blank.

So I trotted to the dictionary to get some inspiration, and once I’d got the 2 definitions you see above I knew that I had my topic because I’ve been practising one aspect of sustainability for years, and so have all my lovely clients and so, I expect, have you.

I am more than capable of continuing certain things at the same level for year after year. That’s not a problem. Never has been and I suspect never will be. There are certain habits and beliefs that I maintain with no apparent effort and no shift in the status quo.

Let me give you some examples.

I have sustained a life-long, mostly loving, relationship with Processed Sugar from as far back as I can remember. We did once break up for a couple of years when I fell passionately in love with the GI diet, and although I still flirt with GI and pretend that we’ll get back together again one day, I think he knows that my heart really belongs to my Sugar.

Since puberty I’ve also been best friends with Sitting Still. Before puberty I was quite the little athlete – I once even broke the school high jump record and had try outs for the athletics and hockey team. But then puberty and puppy fat appeared and that was it – I decided that I had a body that was designed for comfort not speed, and that’s the way it’s stayed ever since, apart from a brief obsession with cycling when I was in love with GI.

Now clearly, it would be better for my environment (ie my health) if I were to end these long-running relationships. I know that, and yet I carry on as before, just as you might continue to drink, smoke or do any of the other harmful things we all do even though we know we shouldn’t.

And why? Because, in the short term, all of these bad habits make us feel better. And until they actually start to make us NOT feel better as we’re doing them, we’re going to carry on.

But I also used to maintain some other bad habits, just as my lovely clients have and just as I know you have.

I spent many, many years sustaining the belief that I had to prove I was right in every possible circumstance, to cover up for my belief in my own inferiority.

I’ve worked with lovely clients who have a sustained belief that they don’t deserve to be happy because of a chance remark they misinterpreted in childhood.

And I’ve worked with lovely clients who have escaped from abusive relationships but have maintained the poor self-image they developed as a result of how their abuser treated them.

In none of these cases did any of us feel better as a result of believing the things we did about ourselves, so why, you might ask, did we continue to do so?

I would argue that it’s a case of self-protection. If we put ourselves down first, have no expectations for ourselves and continually tell ourselves not to expect anything good because we don’t deserve it, then, we think, we’re prepared for the very worst that life can throw at us. We expect crap, so we look for crap, so we get crap – sustained crap, a lifetime of crap.

But what I and my lovely clients have all discovered is that, when you sit down and look sustained negative or limiting beliefs in the eye, they have a habit of withering away.

And when they start to wither, you can decide to hold some new, more empowering beliefs that will sustain both you AND your environment for long into the future.

I now believe that I am the equal of everyone and inferior to no-one as a human being. That has freed me of my need to prove that I’m better, and allowed me to learn so much from other people and about myself.

I made a conscious choice to change how I felt about myself and the things I believed about myself, and my life is radically improved as a result.

And although I pretend otherwise, I’m also making a conscious choice to continue to eat refined sugar and avoid exercise. I can joke about it and promise myself to do things better tomorrow, and make excuses for why I “need” to eat this slab of cake that’s just somehow fallen onto my plate, but ultimately I know that I’m choosing to sustain a habit that’s doing me no good.

And you know what? I can live with that, for now. It was more important to me to work on my inner self, and create new and positive beliefs about myself, than it was to sustain my new-found taste for healthy eating and exercise when I fell for GI.

We each have our own motivations for wanting to change things in our lives – and for not wanting to change things. The trick is to identify what you want for yourself that’s better than what you’ve got now, and decide whether that’s enough of a motivation for you to start doing things differently.

If it is, you’ll find it easy to make and sustain the changes that will get you to where you want to be.

If it’s not, it won’t be too long before you slip back into your old ways.

For me, internal change and growth is still the most important things by far. As part of that process I’ve freed myself from the tyranny of Guilt, Shame and Fear and so I now have no qualms whatsoever about reaching for a slice of cake, a mug of tea and settling down with a good book.

Because I’m Worth It.


Cathy Dean is the UK’s leading International Coach for mid-life women. You can find out more about Cathy and her work by visiting

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