“It’s not until your eyes adjust to the dark that you can finally grasp—and if you let it—be astonished, by the light of your own being.” ~Andréa Balt
Sugar was my best friend, my confidant, and my (not so secret) love. She provided me comfort and companionship. I went to her when I was happy, sad, anxious, excited, celebratory, scared, and broken-hearted. Social gatherings were centered around my infatuation with her.
I loved the taste, the experience, the social aspect. I loved the visual experience, the artistry, the display case of the perfectly frosted cupcakes and dusting of sprinkles. The colors and rows of smooth, rounded, crunchy on the outside and chewy, gooey deliciousness on the inside pistachio macaroons.
I loved sugar, but she didn’t love me back.
We fought, every day. I hated myself for the way I would feel when I woke up the morning after eating a box of cookies. I carried that struggle with me to every birthday, every look in the mirror, and even into my dreams and career aspirations.
The impact of sugar destroyed my confidence. I knew that my inner self was so much brighter and alive than what my outside appeared to be.
In my early twenties, I dated someone who was trying to quit smoking. I saw her struggle and recognized in it my own.
For the first time in my life, I said out loud that I was addicted to sugar. I told her that I couldn’t go a day, let alone a few hours, without eating it. That every time I said I was going to stop eating sugar, I would only be drawn in even more.
She dismissed me and my pain, and I felt belittled. She didn’t understand that my struggle was real too. I didn’t speak of it again, to anyone, for years. When we eventually broke up, I turned to my “real friend” Nutella, and she helped me dry the tears.
The winter after my thirtieth birthday was especially long, and filled with many mornings of food hangovers from overindulgences. One night I decided to watch a documentary that I had heard about the year before.
I sat on the bed, obviously with a pint of vegan chocolate cherry ice cream in hand, and started the movie. Within the first hour, it became very apparent to me that I needed to make a change.
I was watching heartbreaking stories of obese children being made fun of and struggling, devastatingly, without success to lose weight. And it wasn’t for lack of determination but for lack of education.
They were eating a “low-fat diet” and were completely oblivious to the high content of sugar they were ingesting.
The documentary summed up the nation’s disconnect of low-fat versus low-sugar, highlighting the suffering of the miseducated. But the difference between those kids and myself was that I knew what I was doing and I was still choosing the option that kept me feeling horrible about myself.
The pain of being the biggest girl in the room, feeling left out of shopping at cool stores, and having peers call you fat really tugged on my heartstrings. Tears streamed down my face. I knew that I owed it to myself—my younger and current self—to know what my life and my body would be like without the go-to comfort of a treat.
Here’s what my next few minutes, hours, and days looked like. Hopefully if you too have struggled with this attachment to sugar, this little plan I set out for myself will help you:
1. Put down the treat, right now. Don’t take another bite.
What if it’s that simple? What if putting down the treat really is all that needs to happen to change your life? In theory, yes, it is that simple. In reality, you’ll probably need to follow these next few steps.
But putting down the treat right now is a great start. Good for you!
2. Open up the dialogue with yourself, but come from a place of love.
If you’ve struggled with an attachment to sugar your whole life, as I have, think back to when you were a little kid. What were the dreams you had for yourself? Are you honoring them today by the choices you make?
If you wrote your inner child a letter, would you be proud of the person that you are today? It’s so easy to be mean and harsh with yourself, but your body is the only vessel that will keep you strong and healthy well past 100, so start your sweet-talking now, so to speak.
If you wouldn’t say it to your eight-year-old self, don’t say it to your forty-year-old self. Be your own best friend, cheerleader, and dream maker.
3. No is just an answer. But a series of no’s is…
A series of no’s will leave you feeling successful. One day at a time.
Next time you are shopping at the grocery store, keep walking past that container of peanut butter cups calling your name. The first time you do it, give your inner-self a high five, and take a moment to recognize that saying no was actually kind of easy. Empower yourself to keep walkin’!
4. Eliminate all sugar.
Yep, eliminate all sugar. Except fruit. Step aside, sugar, fruit is your new best friend. I had been in the habit of finishing dinner (and most lunches) with dessert.
Frozen fruit (specifically dark sweet cherries) was a godsend. It helped me transition my taste buds to a healthier, still satiating option. No alcohol, no honey, no stevia, no maple syrup. You don’t want to taste anything sweet. Your brain chemistry will light up like the fourth of July and you’ll be left wanting more.
Watch out for sauces, breads, pretty much anything packaged; companies love adding sugar to those guys.
Eventually you won’t find yourself needing something sweet after every meal and the cycle will break!
5. Keep perspective.
The fulfillment and satisfaction you receive from sugar is so momentary. You taste it, chew it, swallow it, and it’s gone. Remember this when you’re out to dinner. This will save you when the plates are cleared and the dessert menus are dropped.
If your friends order dessert in front of you, order a tea. Peppermint tea is a great option! This will keep your hands, mouth, and brain busy.
6. Replace your go-to. For good.
Go for a walk. Take up a new hobby. Stream of consciousness write for five or ten minutes until the craving goes away. Brush your teeth. Meditate. Call up a friend to chat. Put on your favorite song and dance!
I went to sugar to bury anxiety. Think about your behavior and relationship with sugar; is it a medication, a habit, a crutch so you don’t have to deal with something or someone? Tune in to your inner voice and see what it’s saying.
7. Mark the date on your calendar.
March 23rd. I remember it like it was yesterday. I made the decision to eliminate sugar from my life. It wasn’t a “fad diet” or “challenge for X number of days.”
While it was very exciting to say that it had been one week or one month since my last scoop of chocolate cherry, at no point was I looking to the future. It was purely about making good choices today, for this meal, at this moment.
As the days go on, you will find within yourself a strength you didn’t know you had simply by honoring yourself, your true self.
As time moves forward you will begin to feel a difference in the clarity of your thoughts and your confidence, and your body will follow suit. The weeks will pass, and it will be a series of good choices that will lead to your success.
For me, weeks turned into months and here we are, twenty-six weeks since that last bite of ice cream.
I don’t know what future me will decide when it comes to treats.
Right now there isn’t a place for frivolous foods that don’t enrich my body, but I can say for sure that present me is really happy. I have made room for myself to grow in so many ways, without the dark cloud of my sugar addiction weighing down on me.
I hope that this will give you the courage that you are seeking to make a change!
Donut smiley face image via Shutterstock