Sugar- The Sweetest Legal Addiction

Sugar is one of my favorite things. Perhaps you can relate.

Some of my fondest childhood memories involve being pumped full of red licorice and butterscotch buttons at my grandparent’s house. The sound of the mechanical crank on their hand-twist gumball machine makes my heart pound to this day. What bliss to feel sugared butter ease its way down my throat. What joy as soft licorice gave way between my teeth.

Over time, the expression of love itself became linked to sugar. “Sweet-heart”, “Honey”, “Sweetie-pie”; all these phrases meant acceptance and warmth. Chocolate for Valentine's Day equaled adoration. 

As I surfed social scenes, I began to realize I was not alone. There were a plethora of words allowing others to feel love through a sweetooth.

The first time I heard someone say, “Give mama some sugar.” I knew I’d found my phrase d’etre. It solved everything. Starting my period? Give mama some sugar. Feeling despondent over my lack of disposable income? Mama. Sugar. Stat.

Now, I knew that sugar was not the healthiest thing for me. My mother’s favorite sentence during the years I had cancer was, “Sugar, poison!” You’d think the thought of cancer would be enough to put me off the stuff, but no. As soon as I was in remission, I threw myself off the sugar-free wagon like an addict toward cocaine. There was nothing like chocolate chip cookies to make a cold day warm or a bald kid comforted.

Sugar is power. Only hitch was, I didn’t have it. It had me.

I’ve been a shade off normal most of my life. With that, my willpower has evolved, making me stronger and more comfortable choosing my own path. Some might call me a rebel, I think I dance to my own music. I don’t like being controlled and will do everything in my power to break free from it.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that one of my dearest loves was also attempting to run my life. I probably wouldn’t have thought much about sugar’s agenda if it hadn’t been for chronic low energy.

In Denmark they have a phrase to describe people who look healthy, but aren’t. The rough translation is “Skinny-fat”, meaning, skinny on the outside, fat on the inside. That wasn’t me though. I walked daily, was well within my ideal BMI and ate a goodly portion of vegetables with every meal. Heck, I even bought only organic food stuffs. Luckily, they make organic sugar.

Still, I never would have suspected sugar were it not for a fortuitous run in with my masseur. I had no idea he was a nutritionist at the time, but when I mentioned one of my chief complaints was always feeling tired, he said, “Why don’t you come in for a free nutrition evaluation? I bet we can pinpoint what’s at the root.” Sold.

What we discovered is that I was eating a healthy portion of sugar every day. “That’s the first thing that has to go.” he said. “Nothing compromises the immune system like sugar.”

“No problem,” I thought, “I can give this up for two weeks.”

The first day was alright until I had a tricky situation at work. Instantly, my mind flew to the nearest kiosk where they always had warm oatmeal cookies.

“That’d take the edge off.” I resisted, but the voice was insistent. An inner dialogue began.

Jaime: I don’t need this. It makes me tired and grumpy.
Body: This cookie is the only solution to your woes.
Jaime: You sound like an addict.
Body: I’m the voice of truth. Recall the soft, gooey inspiration two floors down.
Jaime: Shut up.
Body: I’m stressed out. Feed me, bitch.
Jaime: I’m trying to help you heal.
Body: Me too. Cookie.

Sugar had been a symbol of freedom and rebellion until this moment. As I guiltily trotted downstairs to get the cookie, I felt like I was hiding a habit worthy of shame. Why would I eat something I knew was bad for me? Why would I devour the sugar in front of me when every rational voice in my head screamed, “DON’T DO IT!!!”

I looked up “addiction”, feeling rather ridiculous. Sugar? Come on. It’s not an addictive substance. It’s one of the pillars of America for goodness sake, “Burgers, Fries and Apple Pies”, right? This is what I read:
1.       Compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
I began to really consider what going sugarless meant for two weeks. No pick-me-up cookies in the morning. No peanut butter unless the ingredients were carefully vetted. No French Toast. No banana bread at Starbucks or my Pumpkin Spice latte at lunch. No oreos after dinner. No ice-cream to combat PMS. No cookie baking on the weekends, no sampling the bakery treats at the farmer’s markets. My life suddenly became very sad.

It was like discovering your parents aren’t really your parents. That’s how deep my shock ran. Laugh if you must, and then go ahead and try to cut every form of sugar out of your diet for two weeks.

That means read the ingredients on everything. Keep a journal of what you think, feel, desire and resent. Be brutally honest.

I failed the two week test every time I tried it until October 2013. The only reason I succeeded then was because I had developed debilitating allergies, chronic fatigue and a six month old baby. I needed relief worse than I needed sugar. You might call it my rock bottom, come-to-Jesus moment.

During the previous year I’d started saying, “I need to associate sugar with something really awful in order to kick this.” I hated that I couldn’t just walk away, but I knew the pull was stronger than my ability to resist. It took feeling completely miserable to finally crack sugar’s hold on me.

Around my six month, sugar free mark, the documentary “Fed Up” came out. In it, they showed that lab rats will consistently choose sugar over cocaine when offered. I knew the feeling. Why would I grab a needle when I could lose myself in a warm Krispy Kreme donut?

Now that I’ve been on the bandwagon for over a year, I can honestly say that sugar is the most addictive consumable I have ever encountered. The fact that it is not only legal, but also pushed on us and our children from day one is something I consider often. Do I still love sugar? You bet I do; the way an alcoholic loves the bottle and a smoker loves nicotine.

To really empower my sweetooth, I surround myself with healthy food, emotional support and continually develop a positive relationship with myself. My body knows what’s good for me and is much quicker to let me know when I’m feeding it junk. For that, I am eternally grateful.

May you all experience growing health and vitality as your continue to invest in your well-being.


Popular posts from this blog

Taking A Life

The World We Know Is Possible

Being a Writer and Parent