Give me some sugar

I’ve written about my struggle with sweet, sweet sugar too many times to count, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find I’m still learning new things.

I’ve had a sweet tooth my whole life, but in sobriety I’d lost my trusty emotional cushion of booze and instinctively turned to sugar. While part of me wishes I could just live with it, I’ve worked really hard over the last five years to lose more than 40 pounds through better diet and exercise, and sugar binges sabotage that. Plus it doesn’t feel good to feel out of control.

I’m writing about it this morning because some new ideas came my way via where else but the sober blogs.

First, More to Me Than This wrote this excellent piece on how sugar affects the brain and how it has affected her personally since getting sober. I would say it’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve realized how much I’d been self-medicating with sugar, so her insight and ideas really impressed me.

When I started the herbal cleanse I mentioned in my last post, I took most refined sugar out of my diet. I say most because I did allow ice cream on two special occasions that fell within the cleanse period. In the past when I’ve attempted to wrangle sugar, ice cream was strictly forbidden.

I observed some new things this time around.

Moderation with sugar is pleasurable!

When I drank moderately, I hated it. I used to count drinks and as I got closer to the maximum number I’d allotted, I would feel every ounce of pleasure drain away. I didn’t enjoy a mild buzz. I wanted more.

When I eat dessert moderately, I enjoy the taste and textures. I’ve never really noticed an emotional effect from sugar, but I believe the reward centers of my brain are feeling it plenty. When I don’t overdo it, I also don’t suffer the post-binge crash, though there has been a curious emotional reaction more recently.

The guilt is still there, but maybe not forever

The secretive binges and shame I feel from overindulging in dessert remind me so much of how I used to drink. When I ate ice cream these last two times, I enjoyed the experience but not the guilt I felt while eating it. I wondered where this anxiety and fear came from. I was eating moderate servings. I wasn’t doing it every day. This wasn’t a binge, so why was I reacting like it was?

For me, I think it’s that I don’t trust myself yet. And with good reason. Enjoying sugar moderately is not something I have much experience with in sobriety.

When I ate the ice cream these last two times, part of me was thinking “oh no, here we go again.” Only I didn’t keep going back and I got back to healthy eating with the next meal. I also noticed my mood overall has been better when I eat sugar moderately compared to when I cut it out completely.

How will I know I’m cured?

I predict a continuation of cycles of eating better and overindulging with cravings. This doesn’t sound like much of a cure, huh? My hope is that with continued, consistent practice of making better choices about what I choose to eat, the eating-better cycles will last longer and the binges will slink back from whence they came. This will happen over time, like it already has. I have seen improvement in the last three years, so I can reasonably expect to see more if I continue seeking it.

A “cure” might be asking for a small slice of cake because I know it will satisfy. My hope is that I can enjoy dessert occasionally…moderately.

The last thing I wanted to share (via Sober Truths) is a TED-Ed on how sugar affects the brain. Watch if you have 5 minutes!

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27 thoughts on “Give me some sugar

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  1. Love the TED video that I just watched with my kids – my daughter has a particularly sweet tooth and I’m hoping this may have helped re-educate her a bit!! As for me, I do the sugar binge thing too but it isn’t as constant as the boozing was so don’t feel quite so compelled (yet) to deal with it 🙂

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    1. Other lesser vices helped me to cope during earlier sobriety. There’s an expression “first things first” that applies here. And I have one daughter who loves sugar like I do. The other one voluntarily goes for fruit or healthier treats. Some of it is just our nature.

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  2. Thanks Kristen 🙂 I watched the video with my girls too! I thought it was great. My 7 yo said, “Mmm. That was interesting.” 4yo said, “Can I have a Frozen song now?” Suppose it was better than asking for ice-cream 😉 xx

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  3. You’re awesome and I have no doubt you’ll be able to come to peace with sugar.
    BIG confession here…I’m actually a dietitian and have the worse diet ever. I’m very good with fruits, veggies and lean protein, but have yet to kick the sugar habit. I need a t-shirt that says, “Will run for sugar” because that’s really the only reason I ever started running.
    I can manage the calorie load, but haven’t met a cookie, cupcake or 10 tubs of frosting that I didn’t like. Loved the video and love your approach. It has me thinking, too….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sugar is what got me into running too! I found I could eat it and still keep my weight down. I just ran away with it a little, haha. Wasn’t that video great? I liked it too. Thanks, Michelle!

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  4. Love that video! I like sugar but I can moderate my intake so there’s no guilt for me. I did notice that when I stopped eating wheat, I stopped craving sugar as much. I occasionally have wheat now and when I do, I start craving sweets like mad. It sounds like you’re getting to know your body and its triggers!

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    1. The idea of triggers is something I will pay more attention to. I tried to do it before, but everything seemed to trigger cravings. Now I don’t think that’s the case. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  5. Growing up, sugar was always my drug of choice. And thanks to your Ted video my suspicion that it’s addictive has been confirmed. My problem was that I ate more sugary things than I did healthy food so that weight was never an issue, but eventually how I felt was. Sugar also increases inflammation in your body. My joints ached, my head ached, I had no energy. My stomach hurt.

    I rarely eat sugar now. I read the labels on things. I buy sugar-free. I don’t drink sodas or sugary drinks. I eat plain yogurt. Occassionally I will have ice cream or a piece of dark chocolate. It has to be something special not just run-of-the-mill sweets or I don’t eat it. My tolerance for sugar is so low now that if I eat too much of it or eat it too often, I feel like crap, and that is a good deterent.

    It didn’t happen overnight, though. I think Karen (above) is right. Getting to know your body is key. Good for you for trying. I have no doubt you’ll be successful.

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    1. I want to be like you when I grow up 🙂 seriously, you’ve given hope. I like the idea of never settling for a treat. I’ve had some luck with that at home in the past year. Thanks Mary!

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      1. Hey K – and I want to add a few thoughts – promise to be as succinct as possible – ha!

        I learned a whole bunch of stuff this spring because my immune system crashed after I caught a parasite in Fla. Was the worst thing to happen to me p- but now it is also one of the best. yes! While working with the docs to problem solve – and while being a detective to find what my body needed and finding the most effective healing aides – well I learned a whole bunch of stuff I did “not” want to learn.

        In a way I “did” sorta want to learn it – because as noted before – I ALWAYS knew that my inside gut could be healthier – I was in fine shape and felt okay – but we know our bodies…

        and quite frankly I did not know “what” to do – and it took illness to be my sobering wake up call. I am on my third month without sugar and I do not even miss it because I feel satisfied. It is weird because I just crave real food. I had a few sips of my husband’s milkshake and it was so potent – and tasty – but I did not feel like I was missing out by not having my own – because I was satisfied. That still shocks me….

        Years ago I heard Kim Alexis (a former model from Buffalo) share that many times when we crave anything – (beer, sugar or ice… ha!) we are either dehydrated or have an imbalance in nutrition.

        and my big finding is that it is all about keeping a healthy inner terrain (got it from a former blogger) and so what we put into our bodies will either fortify or pull from immunity and impact our terrain.

        Would you eat brownies with a little bit of fecal matter mixed in? No. Brownies with poo sounds horrible. And while refined sugar in food does not get us sick like bacteria might – it does pull from health. Sugar is SO not good for humans – and it meets a short term need – and we are conditioned to think it is a treat or indulgence.

        bottom line – sugar is a poison to the body. It is less toxic than aspartame and chemicals that have been noted to kill animals quicker and with more tumors – but the seductive innocence of sugar is something that was sobering for me to see. I do not even want to go there with this – but many countries view Americans as “sugar pigs” and some people believe that certain bioterrorism could be targeting food item additives that feed off of this sugar intake – but no more of that talk –

        except to say that everyone needs to know that there is a huge fungal connection to cancer. research it – cancer patients many times have very unique strains of yeast and fungi in their bodies

        The human body is so amazingly tough to where we can combat sugar intake for a long while – but at the cellular level it adds up. and so while it sounds extremist to say get off sugar and try not to have chemicals like aspartame – well it is really just going against conditioning – a paradigm shift.

        I am still learning- but it is more just “primal” to not eat crappy sugar.

        we are so conditioned in this culture to not only celebrate with alcohol – but conditioned to eat sugar all the time as if it is normal – and while some fruit sugars are -there is a reason as to why certain ones are seasonal. apple a day – yeah – but well, this modern culture of ours is eating way too much. Food is amazing – but let’s indulge with some salty, bitter, and sour stuff – let us indulge with things that give life and add to health.

        Change is hard – and for me – it took an illness – and then many arduous days of trusting God for strength and INSIGHT because our bodies are all so unique.

        in closing, the “heathy terrain” blogger guy also asserts that many things are related to parasite overload. everyone has “some” parasites – (fact) mites, inner things, etc. – but not all are pathogenic – but then sometimes overloads happen and then that is when people either get on meds for the rest of their lives and let their health spiral downward – or they aggressively CLEAN their gut – and clean the colon once and for all = which then makes one not even crave certain things.

        thanks for letting me share that here. 🙂
        hugs ❤

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      2. Hey K – I am also getting read to take a summer pause and so I wish you a great summer – and send a sister hug to you my blogging friend. ❤ ❤

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  6. Hi Kristen! I am attempting to comment using my phone, hopefully I know what the heck I am doing! The idea of binges “slinking back from whence they came” has me in stitches, what a visual I just had! The goal of moderation as you described made me take a deep breath and release it… exactly what I dream of as well. And why can’t that dream come true? God knows we have climbed mountains steeper than this! Good job on eating the sugar moderately, you’re living the dream!

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    1. Food addiction mimics alcohol addiction, but I’m not interested in abstinence of any kind of food. Progress has definitely been made by introducing healthier eating habits and getting back on track when I slip. All things I learned in recovery!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the first post I read on your blog was on sugar…and the first time I commented was on that post.

    so here we meet again. lol.

    We’ve been up and around this thing for a while, haven’t we? I’ve struggled with it mightily. Gave it up for many months, relapsed, back on the wagon, relapsed…on and off, etc. I always had the lurking notion that I could control it. Now, having said that, I too have been having some success in moderating it. Now, by moderating, I mean that it’s moderate for ME. ha ha – the loophole!

    But in all seriousness, the running has helped me big time in this. Knowing how sugar afffects my body helps too, as I know when to cut back or avoid because I know that I don’t want to crash. I haven’t crashed in a while, and it’s nice to have that energy back. AND it’s nice to go out for ice cream or whatnot with the fam and actually be able to have. I don’t feel for wanting, but I don’t feel glutinous. I am not where I want to be (my late night cereals aren’t the best thing for me), but I’m getting there…and it feels good.

    Great post – so glad to hear you’re in a good place with this too. We are works-in-progress, and compared to that first post I read of yours…you’re looking damn fine!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, Paul! You’ve been my partner in crime in this. And yeah, I do want to be able to go out for ice cream with the fam. That is literally what I keep coming back to. Thank you for reminding me how common this is for some of us. You’re the best.

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  8. Thanks for sharing the vid. Info is power. I wonder, is dessert every night overdoing it? Ha! I dunno. I feel like for me I can’t eat/drink a lot of things including alcohol, dairy, wheat. Why restrict myself more? But your point about sugar in moderation makes me wonder. Maybe having dessert every OTHER night wouldn’t be so bad 😉

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    1. No, I don’t think dessert every night is overdoing it. At my worst, I was hitting it hard in the late afternoon and still having dessert every night. I do still give myself a treat every night, often something sweet but sugar free. Having something to look forward to feels important.

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  9. Thanks so much – very, very helpful resources. I have often thought that when I went through my inpatient detox and treatment a bunch of years ago it would have been broadly based and not just on alcohol and drugs.

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  10. Okay, so I was checking my last few emails before bed and WISEgeek sent one about what else? sugar! the timing was spot on – and just came to share it 🙂

    “Sugar overconsumption might cause cancer and contribute to heart disease, research suggests. This is thought to be the result of extra stress put on the body during the metabolizing of fructose, or the sugar found in certain plants. Unlike the carbohydrates found in vegetables and starches that are metabolized by all of the body’s cells, fructose is metabolized only by the liver. The increase in metabolizing blood sugar is thought to cause the cell mutations that result in cancer and raise the levels of triglycerides, or fat, in the bloodstream, which can cause heart disease.”

    http://www.wisegeek.com/does-sugar-overconsumption-really-cause-cancer-and-contribute-to-heart-disease.htm

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  11. I love this post so much. I have realized the same thing about myself. My wants to use sugar like I used alcohol. It is def. an addiction. I am trying really hard to find a happy place with balance. I’m sure it will be a long road. I’m glad you are at a happy place, maybe I should try that. You know…when we get back from vacay. Always a “better” time lol

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  12. Very informative,being a visual learner I found this very easy to understand.I am addicted to sugar and booze.I can really see how we can really loose control and our tricky little brains are the culprit.I am really driven by reward.I get bored really easy,then I’m off and running.Love your blog thanks for sharing.Posts like this really take so much of the shame away when you can really see it in another perceptive.

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