Doctor Neha: Hi everybody today we’ve got a wonderful guest. Juliana, welcome. Thank you. And, uh, Juliana, what have you been thinking about? What uh, what communication question, what health question, what’s on your mind?
Dr. Juliana: Well lately what I’ve been thinking about is my sugar addiction. It’s really bad. I mean, I know it sounds a little dramatic, but it’s really bad.
Well that is just coming right out of the gate. How did you diagnose yourself? By the way, I should let you guys know that are watching. Juliana is a physician. She’s a surgeon and uh, she is self-diagnosing. So that sounds like you’re cutting right to the chase. So tell me how, what’s the data that makes you think that that is true?
Well, because I love sugar and especially I can eat, I can try to eat a good breakfast and I can try to eat a good lunch. But then at around two o’clock I’m like desperately searching for chocolate and for sugar in any form. And I really liked, I will go down sometimes to the door downstairs and I’ll get like 10 Laffy Taffy, anything or, or write a bunch of chocolates, like caramels. Like I’m really, I really have a very bad sugar addiction. And the problem is, is that once you eat the Lamprey Taffy, you would hope that it might satisfy you if you had 10 but it does not then fine for a little while. And then again, you want more sugar.
All right, so let’s back it up here. So we both went to medical school, we’d like to think not that long ago. Um, and how much did you learn in medical school about food and sugar and what it does to you?
Dr. Juliana: Practically nothing.
Doctor Neha: Practically nothing, right? No one ever taught us about food and wellness. If they talked to us, it was about an end-stage diabetic that was going to go into ketoacidosis because their sugars got so high and what to do emergently to bring them back. Right?
Dr. Juliana: Right.
Doctor Neha: So let’s cut ourselves some slack because our schooling to get us here was all about pushing through our body’s natural rhythms. So the question I would begin with is, where and when do you push through your own fatigue and how good are you at your own self-care—sleeping on time, waking on time, giving yourself regular rest, all of that? How much do you work with your body’s regular rhythms?
Dr. Juliana: I would say I’m pretty good about sleeping. I definitely wake up early to exercise. I don’t eat crap at home in general because I don’t want my kids to see me eat it. I’d be embarrassed for them to see me eat 10 Laffy Taffys. I don’t want them to think that’s an acceptable way to behave.
Doctor Neha: It’s only acceptable at work not at home!
Dr. Juliana: At work, I do have to push through everything. I have to finish the day, right? So I get particularly exhausted after lunch, and that’s when I decide that I need to eat sweets to push through the day.
Doctor Neha: So when you leave work, you get to rest?
Dr. Juliana: Not really. I go home, and usually we’re taking the kids all around to their sports and their music and everything that they need to do. But we usually do have dinner together. I’m lucky—either my mom who lives with us or my housekeeper usually makes something for dinner. So usually when I get home, I can eat and we have a little bit of your time to decompress. And then it’s a matter of going to all the different activities.
Doctor Neha: Okay. So, um, what, what was breakfast and lunch look like? Tell me.
Dr. Juliana: Well, I just read this book. So now I’m altering things, but it’s different at different times. I often would have yogurt and granola with berries for breakfast and then at lunch usually I’d have a salad or a soup. I started doing some overnight oats sometimes, but then that’s basically all sugar. So I decided I needed to have less sugar. So now I’m doing some smoothies with some high-quality fats and berries and almond butter and avocado.
Doctor Neha: All right. What are some of your resources that you’re getting that we can share with the people watching? So they get to know what the doctors are learning.
Dr. Juliana: I was listening to Dr. Mark Hyman and reading his book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? Because I was wondering, what the heck should I eat?
Doctor Neha: Good title! And so you got some new recipes and you tried them. So what you did was you took the sugar out of your morning and now your system is…you’ve probably kept your same schedule of running or working out in the morning (“I exercise and then I go to work”). So you haven’t changed when you’re getting up or how you’re working out, and you still have your same busy day. And by the way, about two o’clock is your break before your second job, which is taking the kids everywhere—your evening job. You’re saying, it might feel like you’re in a different environment, but I bet the pace is still go, go, go.
Dr. Juliana: Yes it is.
Doctor Neha: Thank goodness you have some help from your mom. I’m just wondering if we haven’t gotten to “what are you hungry for?” because it’s not the sugar.
Dr. Juliana: Energy maybe. Also coffee is involved. In the morning I’m on green tea…
Doctor Neha: …I feel like we’re talking about an affair—“and coffee is also involved…I thought it was sugar that I was addicted to but coffee is also involved.”
Dr. Juliana: Exactly. It is like a secret affair. My children don’t know that I eat like this. I literally am hiding in my office eating Laffy Taffy. It’s really bad.
Doctor Neha: Right. You know what I love about you—now the whole Internet knows! And your kids, when they get old enough to Google your name, they will know too. I think it’s true that there are ways we all cope. What happens is— whether it’s energy, whether it’s sleep, whether it’s something emotional—as physicians we deal with a lot of emotional trauma every day. There are good days; there are not so good days and how well we are able to process that in real time. Sleep helps with that. So I’m glad you sleep well because when you sleep, not only does your body heal your physical self, but it’s also the time when your immune system is scanning your body for cancer cells to help get rid of any mutations, any foreigners. Our immune system is going crazy at night—and at night, our job in sleeping is for it to help heal us emotionally.
So one thing I’m thinking about with food is usually when you need 10 Laffy Taffys and it doesn’t fill you up. It’s because you’re using a short fix that isn’t solving the problem on the level where it is created. So the first thing you said is energy. So if it’s not on the physical sugar level, it’s on an actual energetic level for you. Give me your first hit intuitively on what it is the sugar and the coffee are trying to make up for. What are they making up for? What is it that you really are hungry for?
Dr. Juliana: I think fatigue—just trying to finish and power through everything, not getting a chance to take a break or take a nap. I have to keep going, so then I turned toward something external to try to help me have energy to keep going.
Doctor Neha: I’m wondering also how important is excellence to you?
Dr. Juliana: Extremely.
Doctor Neha: So you’re not just going to do something, but you’re going to do it really well.
Dr. Juliana: Yeah.
Doctor Neha: So whether it’s the dishes at night or seeing a patient during the day or making sure your kids have exactly what they need, the level at which you are functioning is to make sure everybody else has what they need. They’re your patients, your children—everybody else has what they need. Your system is telling you that you need something.
Dr. Juliana: Right.
Doctor Neha: And the Laffy Taffys aren’t doing it. They are a way to get you through five minutes, but they’re not a way to give you what you really need.
Dr. Juliana: Right.
Doctor Neha: So I’m wondering what might you be able to let go of, to delegate or shake off as not as important so that you can give yourself a little bit of energy back. A little bit of resourcefulness back. What’s the first thing that comes to you? What do you need to let go of?
Dr. Juliana: I don’t know. I don’t know how to let go of my job. I don’t really have a lot of room to delegate there. I usually good at delegating things at home, but I’m a perfectionist, so I like the countertop wiped off the way I want it wiped off, not the way anyone else wipes it off. They’re very haphazard; they leave a lot of crumbs. And then I’ll get mice—and I just don’t want mice. So then I have to do it myself. But I guess I could let go some. I could try to be less of a perfectionist.
Doctor Neha: And maybe a good way, Juliana, to do that is for the next seven days, on your phone keep track of the people, interactions, tasks and engagements that give you energy and the ones that drain you of energy. At the end of the week, take a look to see if there are any patterns—such as around excellence and holding everything to such a high regard. Now listen, if there are mice, because you don’t wipe the counter, well, you’ve got to wipe the counter because that’s a cleanliness issue. But I bet somewhere along the way, you’re going to start noticing the things that drain you and that some of them aren’t worth 10 Laffy Taffys in your secret life during the day.
So as you start to change what you eat, you also have to change what you nourish yourself with, not just a physical level, but on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. The next time you have an urge to go get the Laffy Taffy, instead of going to get it, for a moment, pause, check into your body, and ask, where do you feel it? What is that? And then put your hand on that part of your stomach, your chest, your body. Do you know where it is?
Dr. Juliana: It’s my stomach usually.
Doctor Neha: Okay. And can you describe the feeling?
Dr. Juliana: Emptiness. I know I’m not hungry because I just ate lunch usually. But it feels like hunger.
Doctor Neha: So when you put your hand there, it’s almost like dropping in not on a food level because you just ate and you’re full. It’s more like what’s the emotion?
Oh, I got it. I just got it ready. So I want you to imagine putting Laffy Taffy, one piece in your mouth. And as it’s hitting your palate—the first one that one that you ran downstairs to get—tell me what you feel emotionally when it’s hitting your mouth.
Dr. Juliana: I don’t know. It tastes good, and I feel happy.
Doctor Neha: Yeah, maybe peaceful, joy, comfort.
Dr. Juliana: Yeah.
Doctor Neha: You’re not a drug addict. You’re absolutely what everybody else experiences in another version. They love their almond chocolate bar. They love their toffee coffee crunch or ice cream. They love hot pizza. Everybody has a version of this. As a health professional, all you’re saying is “I feel a little out of alignment. I’m trying to help people get to help. I’m trying to be an amazing role model for my children. And a part of me that feels that, with all of this going on, I need sugar.” That feels pretty benign to me, darling. But I see that it’s an issue. So tell me what the emotions are you feeling when a piece of taffy is first going in your mouth?
Dr. Juliana: Joy, and I feel like capable of tackling whatever I need to tackle. Sometimes I’ll have like a million consult letters I need to write. And I cannot possibly write these or I cannot even research. So I feel like I need something to help to get to the point where I can tackle things. So I feel more invincible, more able to do what I need to do.
Doctor Neha: Great. So we just have to figure out how to space things for you in a way where you feel joy doing them. Basically what you’re doing is assisting your way through, numbing out the fatigue and the tiredness to get through your day so that you can go to your second job in the evening even though you have help. I know a woman like you wouldn’t be asking for help if you didn’t have a ton on your plate.
Dr. Juliana: Right.
Doctor Neha: Also the issue of helping other people—I’m guilty of this as well because I say yes before I think about what it’s going do to me. Someone needs my help, so we are programmed to say yes. What kind of a doctor says no to someone who asks for help?
Dr. Juliana: Right.
Doctor Neha: That was ingrained in us too. So get curious. Would you be willing to do that seven-day energy exercise? And I’ll follow up with you and we’ll see how you did.
Dr. Juliana: Definitely.
Doctor Neha: For all of you out there who know your days are insanely busy and some days you go to work in the day and in the evening you have another job that you go to, notice the rhythms of your body and when you try to get healthier, go on a diet, take out sugar, where you’re trying to reduce it and your body doesn’t let you, it’s because it’s not actually all just on a physical level. Something else is happening on a mental, emotional, social or spiritual level for you. And by spiritual level, what I really mean is being connected to what you value and what matters to you—that you get up every morning and believe that the work you do in the world and who you are matters. So you might want to look on one of the other levels. Do a seven-day energy intake to get a better assessment of where the issue is happening. Because it’s not the Laffy Taffy that you’re hungry for. What are you hungry for?
Thanks, Juliana. Thanks for being with us.
Dr. Juliana: Thank you.
Awareness Prescription for Sugar Addiction
Take a bite of your favorite sweet. Savor it.
What emotions does it elicit (joy, pleasure, comfort, peace, etc.)?
Here’s the twist: In what aspects of your life are you lacking those emotions / experiences (joy, pleasure, comfort, peace, etc.)?
What would it take to replace the short-term sugar-strategy with what you actually need to feel joyful, comforted or peaceful?
Notice how your body and heart feel at the mere thought of truly having what you need. Are you ready to make the change?