Some days I wake up with a hangover pounding in my head. Just a few mornings ago for instance. Only, I haven’t had a drink in eight months.
I did, however, consume my body-weight in sugar over the few days surrounding Christmas.
This may sound like an exaggeration (and it may be a teeny little bit of one), but really, I eat sugar like a crazed person. The Friday after Christmas, I ate half a large bag of M&M’s by myself. In one sitting. I only ate half because that was all that was left in the bag -but hey, that’s only like 900 calories, right?
And that was the least impressive of all my sugar devouring activities of the last few days.
I’m telling you, this girl can’t eat a full meal to save her life, but give me a table full of desserts and I will eat it all.
That said, I think I am ready to cut sugar out of my diet –for reals. I’ve tried this before you see, for very brief and noncommittal periods, but I am serious this time. I have hit my sugar addiction bottom.
Many people recommend cutting sugar out slowly, or until you are able to eat it in moderation. Psh. Since when have I done anything in moderation?
Like most alcoholics, I tried that moderation thing with my drinking. To quote the AA Big Book: “If anyone who is showing inability to control his drinking can do the right-about-face and drink like a gentleman, our hats are off to him. Heaven knows, we have tried hard enough and long enough to drink like other people! Here are some of the methods we have tried: Drinking beer only, limiting the number of drinks, never drinking alone, never drinking in the morning, drinking only at home, drinking only at parties, never having it in the house, never drinking during business hours, switching from scotch to brandy, drinking only natural wines, agreeing to resign if ever drunk on the job, taking a trip, not taking a trip, taking more physical exercise, reading inspirational books -we could increase the list ad infinitum.” I did my fair share of moderation attempts. What I learned about myself, and about addiction, is that cutting something off completely is more achievable than learning to control a substance that is already controlling you.
I would say that I am at the point of addiction in my relationship with sugar.
Oh yeah. So bad.
Sugar has been the great love of my life since I was a kid.
Now, none of this is news to me. Rather, I’ve been in a state of mild apathy about it -except those few times I lackadaisically pretended to do something to change it. I was pondering this a lot over Christmas though, as I shoved cookies and chocolate and peppermint bark and fudge and butterscotch haystacks and chocolate covered almonds and peanut butter bon bons . . . wow, those are all so good –wait a minute while I reconsider my decision to abstain from sugar . . . ok, anyway, I thought about my relationship with sugar a lot over the Christmas holiday. My ruminating was somewhat in proportion to my sugar intake.
It’s really those moments when you find yourself eating and eating, and not even because it tastes good anymore but because it’s some kind of compulsion, and you are trying to fill some nebulous hole with sugar and endorphins and dopamine, it’s those moments that get you reconsidering your actions. I’ve had too many of those of late, to continue ignoring them.
Sugar has the same initially soothing affect that any drug does -women everywhere understand this about chocolate (right?). Your brain even reacts to it in the same way it would a drug –though there is still debate about whether sugar is really addictive. If you’re interested, or find yourself bored and in need of something to do, there are definitely some interesting studies on sugar and addiction. One of them shows that even cocaine addicted mice will switch to sugar when given the option. Naturally, I am transferring my sugar addiction to cocaine.
Really though, my love of sugar has definitely far overstepped the line between enjoying something and self-medicating with something. When you find a substance that, even briefly, soothes those crazy thoughts and staggering emotions, when you find something that makes all the noise in your life go quiet, you want to recapture that feeling as often as you can. You do it with booze, you do it with relationships, with tv. With sugar. It’s a trick I learned as a young child -sugar makes me feel good. Sugar makes the miserable just a little more palatable.
Obviously, this is not going to be an easy transition (I’m already wanting to murder anyone who comes within ten feet of me). I also have some innate animosity toward people who refuse to eat sugar. My older brother stopped eating sugar years ago, and that drove me absolutely crazy. “Who does that?” I always wondered. I have serious resentment issues with people who say things like “Oh, I don’t eat sugar” or “No thanks, I don’t really like dessert.” What is wrong with you people?! How could you possibly hate yourself so much as to deprive yourself of sugar? It is clear that I have some disconcerting attachment issues with sugar. I may also need some therapy for the internal discord taking place as I cut sugar from my diet.
However, I am noticing already that I am eating better since going off sugar (read: I am actually eating real people food for once). Since a good 90% of my diet has consisted of sugar, I am having to be extremely intentional both about making sure I eat in general, and making sure I eat things that aren’t full of sugar. Neither of these things am I naturally inclined to.
I am finding though, that I am not naturally inclined to most of the good things in life. I think that makes all these efforts, big and little, feel that much more like a beautiful and significant undertaking. And the achievement of them a victory.
Day five and feeling like a champ already.
Photo credit: Lauri Andler