If you’re like me, the thought of this made you literally lol or at least smile. No one else is around? Is it possible to make sweet, sweet love to a plate of warm cookies?
The cookie scenario is from a book I read after yet another shameful post about my troubling relationship with cookies prompted Below Her Means to recommend Potatoes Not Prozac. I had no idea this book existed, though I know from reading enough recovery blogs that alcoholics love their sweets. It seems we shift from too much booze to too much sugar, which is hardly surprising since booze is mostly sugar. But I had never found any theories on why we make this switch or why we might be drawn to alcohol in the first place, and now I can’t put this book down.
The author, Kathleen DesMaisons, believes sugar-sensitive people have an inherited biochemical tendency towards unstable blood sugar levels and low levels of serotonin and beta-endorphins. We naturally seek out sugar to fix these shortfalls, which kicks our pleasure receptors into overdrive and sets up a powerful cycle for cravings. This is why the chocolate chip cookie question made me laugh. Maybe someone could resist them, but it never crossed my mind. I was already pouring myself a glass of cold milk.
I’ve heard people talk about sugar highs and crashes, but I can’t say this fits my experience. Many times I crave sweet things more than I craved booze in the beginning months of sobriety, but I wouldn’t say I feel high after a sugar binge. It’s safer to say I feel normal but with a heaping side of shame, which is why I was drawn to south beach diet back in March. South Beach is all about eating more lean protein and lower glycemic-index foods to stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce sugar cravings. I remember looking at their list of foods to avoid and seeing two of my long-time favorites: pineapple and beets. This was the first time I felt like maybe I really was born this way.
My father has a drawer in his kitchen for hard candies and jelly beans. My great-grandmother used to eat fun-sized Milky Ways before bed because she said they helped her sleep. My anxiety-prone grandmother brings along a bag of butterscotch discs when she goes grocery shopping because she says it makes her feel calmer. My family jokes about these quirks because our natural draw to sugar is so powerful we don’t know what to make of it. This family history of sugar-lovers is an early red flag according to Potatoes Not Prozac. We can’t fight genetics, but we can change the way we eat.
I did take off weight and had fewer cravings (and subsequent shame) when I followed south beach diet. I kept the weight off and have continued to lose more, albeit at a much slower rate, probably because I regularly have forbidden things like ice cream and, yes, even pineapples and beets. The sugar cravings came back once I started giving into them, but I still focus on eating more lean protein, vegetables and whole grains. Breakfast and lunch are really easy for me to control for some reason. So I eat well when I can and recently started keeping a food journal to track what I eat and what my moods are. I am completely oblivious to a link between the two, but I’m pretty sure I’ll see one if I keep at it.
That’s another thing I like about Potatoes Not Prozac. The solution seems like one bred of common sense and patience. It doesn’t promise overnight success and even warns against quick fixes. This and its 7-step process (which is slightly different in the older edition book I got at the library) reminds me of a certain 12-step program many alcoholics are already familiar with, though that shouldn’t be a turn-off for those not fond of formal recovery programs. Slow and steady wins the race is the message I take away. If you mess up, keep trying and find what works for you. Eventually you’ll get there.
Ultimately I need to cut out sugar binges because they make me feel worse about myself than I did in the first place. That’s a road I’ve already been down with alcohol. Sugar is harder to avoid, for sure, so I’m not looking to cut it out entirely. That doesn’t feel realistic for me. Anyway, I’m getting too far ahead of myself as usual. For now, I will do step 1, which is journal what you eat and how you feel because it’s easy enough to do and because I love pretending to be a scientist.
In that vein, I’d love to know your reaction to the warm-plate-of-cookies scenario. What would you do?