My Addiction

My name is Haley and I’ve been sugar-free for about a week now.

Okay, let’s be honest, I binged on cookies during my emotional melt-down on Tuesday… but aside from that, about a week…

I’ll be the first to admit my drug-like addiction to sugar.  When I’m upset I use it to cope.  And it works immediately.  When I am eating sugar, I crave it constantly.  Suddenly the bright rows of candy start screaming “you need me!” in line at the grocery store.  Like most Americans, I never realized I had an addiction.  When my naturopath asked me to eliminate it from my diet a few years back (to see how it would help my allergies and overall mood) I thought it’d be easy.  Boy was I ever wrong.  Making the conscious decision to limit my sugar has brought to light a very complicated and painful relationship.

“The truth is, most American consumers are so addicted to sugar that they will deny their addictions in the same way that a crack or heroin addict might. And yet, when it comes down to it, sugar controls their behavior. If they don’t have their sugar in the morning (in their coffee, pancakes and cereals), sugar at lunch (in the salad dressing, pasta sauce, soda and restaurant food) and sugar at dinner (there’s sugar in pizza, ketchup and BBQ sauce, plus virtually all restaurant foods), then they suffer serious withdrawal symptoms and go crazy with moodiness and irritability. They start blaming everyone around them for silly things, and they may even become sweaty and light-headed.” –

So, why am I talking about this today?

Well, disregarding the blurry not-smart-phone picture, check out what I’m dealing with this morning at the office:

That would be a buffet of desserts–“Chocolate Lover’s Delight” cake, red velvet cake, coffee cake, THREE butter pound cakes and cookies (choc chip and molasses)–leftover from last night’s student event (I work on a college campus).

You’re kidding me, right? I know it’s horrible for me and that my body will immediately reject everything by giving me a pounding headache, but it still looks so good!

My struggle with sugar is pretty straight-forward and easy to handle when I’m at home: I simply don’t have it in the house (and won’t bring it in the house).  Ben is a huge support (plus he doesn’t have a sweet tooth).  But when I’m out and about–especially at work, where I spend the majority of my day–I tend to veer off-track.  When I turn down any type of sugar I get strange looks or patronizing comments about me being “so healthy” (as if it’s a bad thing?).

In a culture where food is central to community,

I’ve discovered a few tips that have helped me avoid the sugar trap.

  • Eat nutritious food. Food higher in protein and complex carbs tend to keep me satisfied longer.  And let’s face it–if I’m hungry, the urge to eat sweets is tenfold.
  • Don’t skip meals. For one, your energy level, attention span and productivity suffers when you skip meals.  Keeping your blood sugar levels stable will help you make smarter nutrition choices overall, particularly in the face of red velvet cake.
  • Plan ahead. I know, I know… busy schedules make this a difficult task, but trust me, if you can pack your own healthy snacks and lunch, you’ll save money and make less impulse decisions.
  • Step away. Literally.  In staff meetings with food I face my back to the food so that I’m not constantly thinking about it.  Out of sight, out of mind 🙂
  • If you must have it, practice moderation. This one doesn’t work for me.  In my case, it’s all or nothing (three pieces of cake or none).  But at least I know that about myself. Be mindful about what it is you’re putting into your body and why. What emotions surface for you?  How do you feel half an hour later?  Tune in.  Your body is your biggest assessment tool.
  • Make yourself accountable. Let others know of your efforts to live a sugar-free lifestyle (especially those close to you).  Chances are, when that cake is staring you down, you’ll find strength in your support net.  Plus, who wants to go back on their word?
  • Do it for yourself. In the end, you are ultimately responsible for your own health and well-being.  Don’t allow others to make you feel guilty about choosing to listen to your body.

More Sugar Research:

  • Sugar throws off the body’s homeostasis, can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease
  • Sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body: causes chromium and copper deficiencies and interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium
  • Sugar can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and crankiness in children
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach
  • Sugar can interfere with your absorption of protein
  • Your body changes sugar into 2 to 5 times more fat in the bloodstream than it does starch
  • The rapid absorption of sugar promotes excessive food intake in obese subjects

-Nancy Appleton, Ph.D, Author of the book “Lick the Sugar Habit” (list compiled from a variety of medical journals and scientific publications).

Now I’m not saying that one should never eat sugar, but it has made a huge difference in my health to cut way back.  I feel better all-around when I’m “clean” of the substance. I’m still working on the moderation piece– I wish it were easy for me to have a piece of cake one day and not crave it for another week, but my body and mind just don’t work that way.  Until they finally make that connection, I’ll keep practicing mindfulness and recognizing the numerous reminders that there are much more luscious and delicious alternatives.


Oh, and you’ll be proud to know that I haven’t laid a single finger on that dessert buffet table (the closest I’ve been to that buffet was to take that photo)!  🙂

What is your relationship with sugar like? Have you ever explored it?

If you’re curious about your relationship with sugar, I encourage you to practice mindfulness around the issue.

And If you’re willing to take it to the next level, omit all refined sugars (and sugar substitutes–not even Splenda–if need be, you can have honey) from your diet for two weeks and evaluate your mood, temperament, productivity and physical body (some say it helps decrease inflamation in the joints).  This one is very tricky as there are hidden sugars in just about everything (any type of corn syrup counts too!).  You’ll have to read the label on everything you eat–including ketchup, soups, and dips.


5 thoughts on “My Addiction

  1. Momma says:

    I am also an addict and have 6 days sugar free-ish… I love ketchup (sugar), sweet dressings, etc. so I’m one of those who loves it in everything….

    This is a great article and I so appreciate you putting it out there! You are amazing. I don’t know how long I could resist the buffet of desserts… torture!! Good for you.

    I really am finding that if I just say no, it’s easier than trying to do one or two because then it’s ON and I can’t stop… like they say with other addictions, “One is too many, a thousand never enough.”

    LOVE YOU!!

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