Sugar is my kryptonite.
I’m not a one biscuit kind of girl. If I snap that Kitkat: It’s. All. On.
All my life I’ve been a sweet tooth and all my life I have harboured shame about it. So much so that for years if I felt embarrassed or ashamed I could swear I could feel my bum growing bigger. If was as if instead of my cheeks blushing, my butt was expanding.
Candy is Dandy
As a child candy was dandy and I’d go nuts for donuts. But I also didn’t have luxury of being one of those willowy armed children who get told they have “hollow legs”. Nope. I was a sturdy kid with ringlets and a pot-belly. Because of this my love of all things chocolate covered was seen as an issue. It was surely to blame for my perky bum and doughy little arms, which were officially *shakes head* “not good”.
A Fear of Sugar
By the age of ten I had an associated fear of sugary foods. A love hate relationship. I wanted them. I loved them. But if I had just one bite I had failed myself and my family. I had succumbed to pleasure. I had let myself down and I was to blame for looking the way I did – which was actually fine by the way but supposedly the act of sacrificing candy would make me look better.
Sacrifice. The word itself says it all. Give something up. Going without. Depriving one’s self for the greater good. A trade of sorts. If you don’t eat that cream-egg now, you’ll feel better about yourself later.
I learned to try and deprive myself of sugary food. I go all out, living on celery and eventually, resentful that I should have to deprive myself in the first place, I’d fall off the wagon and eat all of the treats out of sadness and frustration. Like a big candy cry-wank.
Numbing through Sugar
Throughout my teenage years sugar was my go-to-sad-food. If I had a bad day I’d smash a bar of chocolate. If my boyfriend broke up with me – a bag of Pineapple Lumps. It was like I could escape the sadness and instead live on a puffy cloud made of marshmallow and sing along to Katy Perry songs. I knew it was bad for my health but I think that was why I did it; as a form of self-harm. One part comfort food, one part self-punishment with a pinch of self-sabotage.
As I grew into adulthood I noticed that other people were starting to turn to alcohol as a numbing agent. After a stressful day with the kids my friends would reach for a glass of wine, then sometimes the whole bottle when things got really hard.
For me it was always chocolate biscuits. Fuck, the kids were hard work today. Time to smash a packet of Squiggles. Then, in a sugar coma I would space out and watch T.V, waiting for the come down and the inevitable headache and regret. The next day I’d do it all again.
I could not eat sugar in moderation. After speaking with my friends who have battled addiction I realised that my sugar consumption was a kin to their alcohol use. If I started could not stop. It was all I thought about and my motivation for going places and getting through the day. What was the point of going to the park if we weren’t going to get an ice cream? If there was no chocolate after the bed time routine what would I have to look forward to all day?
After eating sugar I would feel sick, tired, irritable and anxious. I was addicted to sugar and it was having a detrimental effect on my health.
So, slowly but surely I started reducing my sugar intake. Instead of eating treats every night it became a weekend affair. I noticed that my skin looked better. My stomach felt better. I was less gassy and could no long compete in fart battles with my kids.
That’s when I watched That Sugar Film.
It was enlightening. I realized that I’d previously been eating a shit ton of sugar each day. When I included things like P.B.J sandwiches, cups of tea with honey, white pasta and bread I was shocked. My daily intake was easily around 20 teaspoons a day. Adults should only have around five.
Sugar’s Impact on my Hormones
Around the same time I began researching why I was feeling so hormonal. I had massive mood swings twice a month, horrendous abdominal pain, headaches, bloating and back pain. More and more I was having to pull of cool events because I was too tired, sick or sore to attend.
I saw and acupuncturist, a cranial osteopath and finally an Arvigo Therapist who realigned my uterus, recommended vaginal steaming and gave me incredible nutritional advice which was:
- Avoid gluten
- Reduce sugar as much as possible
- Eat good quality fats and proteins
- Eat as many plant foods as you can
- Drink water
The Sugar Detox
So I went for it. I cut gluten completely and slowly started cutting all sugar from my diet. The gluten was not too hard to cut out. I simply started using an organic, gluten free, sour dough bread and I switched to drinking earl grey tea which didn’t seem to need sweetening. At this stage I would still eat occasional sugar but I was getting better at limiting it. It was no longer a binge fest.
I started to feel so much better. My hormones normalised. I no longer had mega-PMS. My stomach stopped bloating. I had much more energy. I liked how things were going so I went even further and cut all processed sugar out of my diet.
Going Refined Sugar Free
This part was harder. The only sugar I would have, came from fruit and two pieces of very dark chocolate. I learned to love the sweetness of banana and my daily banana cacao smoothie was just as good as any other sweet treat.
I committed to my sugar free diet for a trial period of one month. I downloaded a sugar free app to my phone to count how many days I had been sugar free. If I ate any sugar I would have to restart the counter. At the times I really wanted to quit, I would check my counter and think about if I really wanted to re-set it.
On those days that really wanted a treat I would make avocado and banana chocolate mousse or gluten free banana bread. I thought they were delicious but my kids were not sold.
After the month was up I felt amazing. My skin was glowing. I’d lost body fat and increased muscle. My joints felt better. I no longer woke in the morning feeling achey and dopey. My mind felt super clear and I was less likely to lose my shit with my kids. I decided to keep up the sugar free awesomeness.
The really interesting change was discovered when I went to my hairdresser for a cut and colour. “Wow” she said, looking at my scalp. “Your psoriasis is completely gone! What did you do?”
“Is it?” I replied, slightly in shock. All my life I had had scalp psoriasis. I’d done everything I could to get rid of it. I’d applied oils, creams, smelly tar and steamed dock root. I’d taken disgusting skin tonics and used EFT. Nothing had ever worked. Until then. “Oh wow,” I went on. “I quit sugar!”
Soon the whole salon had converged around my head. They’d all seen my scalp. I’d been going there for years. They’d all offered their words of advice to treat my issue but to no avail. They were all speechless. “Maybe we should all quit sugar too?” said my hairdresser.
I was glad my psoriasis was gone but the news was bittersweet. I now had sound proof that one of my longest ailments had been caused by my diet.
Taking it too Far
As I left the salon that day I was excited by this new revelation. What if I stopped eating all sugar? I wondered. What if I reduced fruit too? What if I even stopped having my delicious clean food protein bars? I mean, they are made with dates. Dates are sugar. Yes. I best cut them too. All of it must go!
So basically I went a bit nuts. I got carried away. I cut all of the things. If I ate a piece of fruit I felt a bit naughty because somewhere along my research journey I had read that ‘sugar’s sugar’ so all of it was bad.
The thing about sugar is that we actually need it. We don’t need twinkies or M&Ms but we do need glucose – found in grains and root vegetables – and due to the fiber content of fruit we can actually digest the fructose in that banana without harming our liver. But I had forgotten this information.
Basically, I became obsessed. My mind was on sugar patrol 24/7. I didn’t feel awful in my body but I was craving sugar. I wanted something sweet but I would scold myself for baking my famed banana loaf.
A Sugar Free Obsession
The penny dropped when I found myself in the confectionery isle staring at the candy bars. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been there. Suddenly I realised that what had begun as I mission to become more healthy was slowly becoming an eating disorder. I was becoming food obsessed and I’d been there before. I had a flashback to my early 20s when I’d starve myself all day then binge on candy. I knew that if I didn’t get a handle on things pronto that I’d be headed right back into that cycle.
So. I took a block of chocolate off the shelf, marched to the checkout, paid and ate that bastard right there in the carpark!
Did I feel sick afterwards? Did I crash and get a headache? Absolutely!
But d’you know what? I didn’t die. The world did not end. I just ate some fucking chocolate and went about my day.
Now, sitting here in my post-holiday February bod, I am slowly once again trying to reduce my sugar intake. I can feel the soft tickly claws of the sugar demon closing around my neck. I am tired and grumpy and my skin looks a bit shit and yes, my psoriasis has returned. But one thing’s is for sure, I am not going to go for broke. I am not going to cut out all pleasures. I am going to enjoy my banana loaf and look forward to my night time fix of dark chocolate.
Keeping your Head Healthy
Obsessing over anything is never healthy. Just as the Law of Attraction says – the key is in relaxing and submitting. When we live in fear of failing we are actually self-perpetuating that so called failure.
I don’t want to feel obsessed. I just want to eat well and feel good. I want to find a healthy balance that allows me to enjoy life in all its imperfect glory.