Since I’m not completely stupid I already have known that my relationship with sugar is a little, um, intense. I remember sneaking sweets as a child, raiding the whole apartment for candy and eating glasses of honey and boxes of powdered sugar. When I was a child all I ever drank was soda and cocoa. When as a teenager I started drinking juice instead of soda for health reasons that was a hard transition. When I was in my twenties and was afraid that I had scurvy I cut back on sugar drastically. I stopped putting sugar in my tea. Well, mostly.
Back as a teenager when I was still very Christian I tried to give up candy for Lent every year, I only managed that (and it was real hard) when I still ate big amounts of cookies and cake every day. I don’t think I ever had a day in my entire life where I didn’t eat sugar at all.
In the past years I made a lot of changes: I never eat candy against hunger anymore. I don’t have something sweet after every meal. I restrict the amount of chocolate I eat. And I was very, very proud of myself to finally having that problem under control.
Only I hadn’t. After two years of making little rules around my candy consumption I had to realize that I still am not able to sit in the kitchen and read in the evening without eating much more candy than I intended to. When we visited my parents on Christmas my mother made a point of putting big bowls of candy and cookies right under my nose (she is a little jealous because I lost so much weight and she gained a little). I couldn’t resist. And not like “Oh my god, I ate TWO COOKIES!” But still like “I don’t know how and when but I just inhaled the whole bowl.”
So when I thought about addiction in my family I realized that maybe my biggest addiction might be to sugar. And that maybe ties in with my compulsive eating. There are other things that I turn to when I eat compulsively (and I do that less and less) but most involve sugar. In the past when I went on a binge I was after the sugar high. I didn’t mind throwing in some bags of potato chips and a couple of beers but if I had to choose I’d have taken the sugar.
So now I can report how it feels to have abstained from sugar for a whole week. And I haven’t even drunk much. It is the third time ever that I even tried. The first time I started after reading Christine Kane’s post about “How to give up coffee in 7 easy steps“. I don’t like coffee and avoid it wherever I can but in that post she mentioned sugar and so I thought, “Why don’t I try to cut back on candy?” Notice that I didn’t think “Why don’t I cut back on sugar?” Because I knew of former experiences that if I wanted to reduce my candy consumption there had to be cookies or cake in this. The first time I tried for a week I succeeded. The second time I cut the week short due to something really important I no longer remember.
Then suddenly a week ago on Saturday I said, “I’m addicted to sugar. I won’t eat it anymore. Period.” Immediately I begun to see how much sugar I really was eating. It’s not only candy or chocolate. It is yoghurt, it is ketchup, soda, sometimes even vegetables. And I began scheming: what would I tell people when I was invited in the afternoon (eating cake and drinking coffee is an integral part of German social life), what would I tell my mother, whom would I tell? All this was completely irrational and only showed how important sugar was to me. There was no need of a big declaration. No need to prepare for if I ever would be invited to a party, I’d just say thank you. But in my mind it was a very big thing.
That Saturday we had a party at our house, about fifteen people, some with children. The first thing was that my mother-in-law made cake. I love cake. Of the people that came three brought cake and three brought chocolate. Two brought fruit salad. It was potluck but usually people bring more salad. The whole buffet had only three salty things and all the rest was sugary. Never have I been to a party in my life where there were so many sweets. That was my first test.
I failed. I started with trying the cake at 3 in the afternoon and only stopped for sleep. The next day I continued with cake and chocolate until at 3 on Sunday my husband said, “What are you doing I thought you didn’t want to eat sugar because you are addicted to it. I’d like to throw that stuff away.” And I nodded and said, “Go ahead.” He put the rest of our candy in a hiding place that is hard to reach.
Since then I have stayed “sober”. The first days I thought about sneaking candy while running errands. Every single day after lunch and dinner I get this craving for chocolate. It feels like it’s sucking me in. How can one end a meal without eating a little chocolate-y goodness afterwards? The first days it felt like there was a little, furry predatory beast inside of me that howled, “Feed me! Feed me!”
I didn’t. I haven’t felt withdrawal much. Yesterday we went on a walk and then into a café. I decided to give myself a treat. I ate a piece of cheesecake. I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would and it felt as if it was too much but of course I ate it anyway. And the little piece of chocolate that came with my latte. Yeah, I had it all. Milk which always sits very heavy in my stomach, coffee which I don’t like and cake and chocolate. We went back home and I thought, “That’s the way to go. Have sugar as a treat on Sundays.”
All was well. Only my PMS worsened. And I felt very moody. And I couldn’t sleep well. And I yelled at my husband. Of course that’s all the coffee’s fault.
Or not. Because during the week without sugar (apart from one cube of brown sugar in my enormous cup of morning tea) I felt calmer than ever before in my life. In the midst of my midlife-crisis there was a calmness inside of me that I have never known before.
So I’d say that I react sensitive to sugar. And I’d say my son does this too. He is devouring sweets and sugary yoghurts like crazy. And afterwards he is hyper. And in a bad mood. Angry.
Interestingly this week hasn’t been hard for me. It was a little weird when I went grocery shopping and realized what I couldn’t eat anymore but so what. I still don’t quite know what to eat for an afternoon snack. This week it has been nuts and raisins. (I don’t like fruit in its natural state.) But I’ll continue this. I feel better. I don’t want addiction in my life anymore. By the way I have been avoiding alcohol too. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore.
Who would have thought that possible…