Confessions of a Sugar Addict
Today when I was warming up at CrossFit, a few of us were talking about how Thin Mint GS cookies used to have that thin layer of mint crème in them. And then about 10 years ago they stopped it, resulting in a far inferior cookie – according to me and the tall guy with the minimal shoes.
As long as I can remember having autonomy over my finances, I’ve been sneaking and hoarding sweets. The earliest memory I have of buying candy is probably 4th grade. I remember organizing and eating my Halloween candy methodically in the 2 or 3 days after the holiday. For a time in high school, I drank 3-6 cans of Pepsi from the vending machine daily. I stashed 2 litres of Pepsi under the desk in my childhood room and would shake it till it was flat, and then slowly drink it every night.
These are small examples to illustrate how profound of a role sweets have played in my health over the years. Sugar has been my nemesis, my shadow, and my shield from pain. It’s what calls the addict deep out of my heritage. Bless my mom’s heart, we never had an ounce of sugar in the house growing up. But I found my way there.
On Sept 13, 2016 I read this article (as part of my CE course work) about blood physics that talks about blood pressure and the major causes of blood viscosity (the thickness and stickiness of blood). And here’s a visual of blood moving through your veins under a microscope!
In this article by Katy Bowman, smoking, stress, changes in blood vessel geometry and…blood sugar are all things that create blood viscosity, which creates turbulence. Turbulent blood through the vessels can create plaque. She compared the thickness of sugary blood to that syrupy stuff that I was getting pumped into my Starbucks white mocha every week. I got super grossed out and decided to quit…FOREVER.
After I read that article, I went out and bought a going away gift, a package of double stuff oreos. Then I ate the middle out of almost all of them.
Again, I ate almost an entire package of just the middle of Double Stuff Oreos. Then I threw the rest away. I predictably felt like crap in the morning and was happy that I was finally finished. It felt different than all of the other times I’ve quit - for a week or 10 days or those 4 years I convinced myself that I didn’t like ice cream. It felt like the easiest choice I had made in a while.
But the ease of the decision didn’t have nothing of the physical needing of sugar. The process is so familiar it seems normal. When I am low energy physically or emotionally, agitated, touched out, overwhelmed or hormonal, I reach for sugar. The reprieve from the discomfort of feeling whatever it was comes quickly, and then there’s the crash. Repeat.
I have been reluctant to talk about sugar as an addiction because comparatively, it “isn’t that bad”. But for me it is. I recognize the addiction behaviors and feelings and withdrawal. Eating sugar is thick with a sense of shame. Over the years I have tracked the ill effects on me. From weakening my body and mind to undermining my relationship to others and myself. My family is riddled with addicts and the common thread is of course pain. To avoid that pain, there are lots of choices, and I’ve been shy about owning my own.
I got back to zero after the cookie fiasco, but then I was a little wiggly on the rules. Dark chocolate became acceptable during PMS, then before PMS, then hot chocolate occasionally was ok, THEN I would randomly rationalize other sweet stuff with what I lovingly refer to as my “sugar brain”.
Yesterday I decided it was time to reup my commitment to health and start quitting again. So today I had a minor meltdown in the store and *almost* bought a donut. Please don’t judge. There is nothing wrong with donuts. They are delicious and fluffy. But for me they reflect a dark light. “Eeeeeeeat meeeeeeeee,” they call, “You’ll feel so much better…”
But I woman’d up, took a deep breath and RAN out of the store (sometimes the only solution).
I am a more stable human being without a steady stream of sugar in my system. I can handle the ups and downs of family life, doing the daily duties of running our household and my erratic emotional life is slightly less so.
So I’m moving back home to the proverbial basement of my low sugar childhood. I’m sure the donuts will not stop calling me. Or the chocolate milk, red vines and kettle corn. But I’m interested in waking up in my life. And that means dealing with my relationship to my addiction. Choosing to stay present instead of numbing out. And learning, every day, how to commit more wholly to self care.
We all have the capacity to heal our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. When we heal ourselves, we can show the world our true magic, and give future generations not only an example of wholeness, but a healed perspective on moving through our lives. Go with courage. You can do it, I know you can.