Monday, March 02, 2015

Sugar is NOT easy to shake

I listen to a lot of health discussions and read a lot of books and articles about the best ways to get the nutrition your body needs. One thing that grates on me every time is when someone describes their path to health and includes this: they used to be hooked on sugar, but decided to cut it from their diet and felt so much better that they made it a permanent change. My response is usually: well, how nice for them! It only took one cold-turkey period for them to kick the sugar habit for good. These people invariably encourage others to stop consuming sugar for just one week and insist that once you do, you'll feel such a difference that you won't go back to it.

Who are these people and who are they talking to? Do they think their audience is people who only add sugar to their beverages and eat sugary snacks because they don't feel like going to the store for vegetables and nuts? I have given up sugar several times in my life and each time I've felt the difference. Yes, my energy is better. Yes, I'm less hungry. Yes, I lose weight. Yes, natural foods without added sugar are delicious. But my connection to sugar isn't just physiological. Of course getting my body off sugar evens out my insulin levels, but my emotional connection to sweets has gotten me right back on that roller coaster, time and again.

People who assert that just feeling the difference will get you off sugar, sound completely detached from reality. They clearly don't have the true brain of an addict because sugar addicts can spend any length of time off of sugar, clearing it from our systems and feeling great, but we still want it. As a lifelong sugar addict, breaking the physical addiction was only part of what was necessary. I also needed to change my brain from craving sugar, even when it was out of my system, even when it had been months since I'd last had it. Yes, I've managed to go months without any sugar whatsoever, not even honey or dried fruit, and still the addiction lived in my body.

To health experts who encourage us to drop added sugar from our diets, as if we're changing brands of shampoo, I say "Hey, idiots! You're leaving out many steps necessary for a sugar addict to stop with the sweets!" Recovering from sugar addiction is damn hard and it has taken me over 20 years to even get close to my goal. I was 27 when I realized I had a problem and it's been a struggle ever since.

After years of working on my emotional dependence on sugar, using Emotional Freedom Technique, EMDR and Dr. Joe Dispenza's guided meditations, I'm finally re-wiring my brain to not turn to cookies every time I need an energy jump or feel bored or uncomfortable in some way. The high blood sugar scare I had last fall has gotten me off sweets yet again, but this time I finally have the tools to change my addict's brain. I'm very grateful to have found these tools because at the age of 48, I must change my eating habits to avoid a pre-diabetes condition.

But even though, since November 2014, I've managed to removed processed sugar from my daily life, my mind still turns to pastries when under stress. This is the last hurdle and it's a big one. When everything's going along fine, it doesn't feel so hard to calm my sweet tooth with sweetened tea, fruit, nuts and/or dark chocolate. But recently I had a week that shook my confidence and brought up my old fears of not being good enough and, man, did I want a frosted layer cake. I did some indulging and some white knuckling (that means forcing myself to NOT give in, as if I were holding on to something so hard my knuckles turned white*). It didn't turn into a binge like in the past, but I did have more starchy foods than usual. And I felt like a failure.

Fortunately, that week passed and so did those feelings. I keep meditating every morning, tapping through cravings and holding on to my faith in myself. I have faith that I will keep getting better and will release my addiction more and more. I'll weaken the brain pathways that connect feelings of well being with cookies, cake, candy, donuts and ice cream and strengthen the neural pathways that connect feelings of well being with breathing, movement and contact with friends. I'm going to beat this thing, dammit, but it won't be because some health guru encouraged me to eliminate sugar from my diet for just a week so I can see how good it feels and never let it back in again! I mean seriously, who does that?

*I added a translation function to my blog, so I might start explaining idioms. I'm sure my English speaking readers won't mind. You can even correct me if I get one wrong.

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