Monday, December 08, 2014

Cutting carbs like my life depends on it, part 2

In September I had blood work done that indicated that my blood sugar was high. The idea of developing diabetes terrifies me, so after that, I began reducing the amount of sweets and starchy foods I was eating. I didn't eliminate them, but I lowered the amount of sugar I had flowing through my system all day long.

More recently, I found out that one cause of painful menstrual cramps (the kind that ibuprofen can't even touch) is one's hormones being out of balance. For my painful periods, a specialist suggested that rather than go back on the birth control pill or find more powerful painkillers, I completely cut out all grains and sugars (including fruit and alcohol), all dairy products, caffeine and processed foods.


I didn't like how this sounded, but she explained to me that hormones are greatly affected by the amount of insulin in your bloodstream and what causes insulin levels to fluctuate is what you're eating. When I eat sugary and starchy foods, I cause blood sugar level spikes which result in my insulin levels rising. Those high insulin levels change my levels of progesterone and estrogen and it's those hormones that affect my menstrual cycle, including how much it goddamn hurts (caffeine and lactose also raise insulin).

Today is Day 14 of my new way of eating: vegetables, avocados, nuts, animal flesh, eggs, fish and potatoes (white and sweet). That's right; that's all I've been eating. I drink only water and unsweetened herbal tea. I use lots of ghee, butter, coconut oil and olive oil in my food. It's kind of like a version of the candida diet, which I've been on a few times in my life. The candida diet is never fun, but the results are always clear. Each time I've gone on this diet whatever physical problems I was suffering from turned around almost immediately, and so it is again. My last period was a hundred times better than the one before it! Relief! The pain was reduced so much that ibuprofen and acupuncture got me comfortably through, which stunned me after the debilitating cramping I'd had in November. My energy and digestion are also greatly improved and, of course, eating this way supports my effort to avoid diabetes, so I am now committed to doing this indefinitely.

This morning, I return to my doctor for another round of blood work. I'm almost excited to find out if I've managed to bring my blood sugar under control. If all this stripping away of the sweets I love hasn't succeeded, I don't want to think about what will. But I'm proud of myself and feel quite sure I've done it. In fact, I can't wait to get that needle in my arm and fill up those little vials with blood. It'll be days before the results come, but let's get on with it.

But there are sugar cravings. Old-fashioned donuts and red velvet cupcakes call to me, and the idea of eating nothing but vegetables, protein and potatoes for the rest of my life upsets me. Since childhood, sugar has been my favorite thing and since young adulthood it's been my drug of choice. I self-medicate with it, self-soothe with it and even knock myself unconscious with it by eating a big, sugary snack and then napping for up to three hours (a great way to avoid life). I don't like alcohol, so sugar has been the perfect coping mechanism throughout my whole life. Giving it up is hard.

But with the past few years of Emotional Freedom Technique, meditation and self-hypnosis, I've hacked away at my sugar addiction. EFT, meditation and hypnosis have helped me re-wire my brain so it's not as dependent on sugar to regulate my mood. Eating it less has made my taste buds more sensitive to it, so I don't need as much sugar to get that hit of sweetness on my tongue. I've been moving towards a reduced-sweets way of eating for a while now. It just took the monstrual cramps from hell to motivate me to completely eliminate sugar 100%.

When I start to despair that I'll never get to enjoy donuts again, I remind myself of what I've heard: it might take six months to a year of not eating sugar, but eventually those cravings go away. That sounds like it might require some ugly white-knuckling, but it also sounds too good to be true: can I, a lifelong sugar addict, forever stop craving heavily-frosted layer cakes? Really? I have doubt, but I'm holding on to hope. The previous times I did the candida diet, I was still very emotionally hooked on sugar and lots of my eating was emotion-driven. That's not true anymore and I'm hoping that if I can let go of the belief that no cookies means horrible deprivation, I can let go of one of my most destructive habits. I've got more EFT and meditation to do, but I'll do whatever it takes. I'm just as determined to break sugar's psychological hold over me as I am determined to keep that menstrual pain and diabetes diagnosis away.


Anonymous said...

Someone I know did the "paleo" diet and they insist that the cravings do subside eventually. But one cannot be sure that such matters are generalizable.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Thanks. I believe the cravings do go away eventually, but it can take several months. Maybe even years? And it's the white knuckling that scares me.

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