“Is sugar toxic? It is when you consider how much the average American swallows each year—a whopping 130 pounds of added sugars. That’s about 22 teaspoons a day, way over the max set by the American Heart Association in 2009. New science shows that this overload of sugar—often stemming from hard-to-detect hidden added sugars—is affecting your body in all sorts of strange ways.”
My story with sugar dates back to early childhood, before I was even 10 years old. Whenever I visited my father during the summer months, I purchased bag fulls of candy, chocolates, caramels, and hid them under my mattress. Every day I would sneak candy and feel a relief from a nagging and persistent ache inside – anxiety, fear, self-loathing – at that age I had no idea what the emotion was, only that the candies made it go away.
Years and years later, after swearing off the stuff over and over and over again, with only short term respites (six months at the most) I was once again face-to-face with my demon poison.
Driving back from a particularly difficult day at an outpatient treatment facility where I was working full-time as an addictions counselor, I stopped off at the store to pick up some snacks for a long drive home. It was late, going on 11pm, and I was tired.
Some apples, seltzer water, and then down the candy aisle. I picked up some chocolate “turtles” and decided to purchase enough to last at least a couple of weeks.
The trip home was one immersed in thought, reflecting on numerous issues relating to self-doubt, reinforced by a particularly harsh supervisor and even more harsh program director.
As I unpacked the car in front of my house almost an hour later, I searched high and low for the chocolates – thinking it would be nice to decompress with a piece or two and a glass of milk before retiring for some much needed sleep. They were nowhere to be found.
It suddenly occurred to me that the empty plastic bag on the passenger seat was the original bag purchased at the store. How could it be empty?! Had I consumed that much?!
Thus began a very hard look at myself, and my need to reach for sugar every time I had an emotional reaction of insecurity, self-doubt, or turning against my self. Sugar had become my panacea, my numbing agent, and my alternate to alcohol and drugs in my life of sobriety.
I began with awareness. Each time I heard my inner dialogue engage in “sugar talk” I would acknowledge it, and take some deep breaths. Delay the cravings, breathe through the anxiety. Alternatives, such as fruit, chewing gum and sugarless sour candies also helped.
When I began the practice of drinking a full glass of warm water with one half a squeezed lemon each morning, something began to change. My taste buds slowly lost the desire for sugar. The mindfulness practice continued, along with a more engaged level of breathing techniques. A sense of commitment arose within me as I worked harder to strengthen my self-esteem and held longer to my center during difficult moments.
The practice paid off. I have not indulged in any sugar binges in almost two years. In the past 77 days, I have barely eaten any sugar, but for a very small bite of a cookie on Christmas Day, and tablespoon of a desert when out with a friend for dinner.
The results are well worth reporting: A greater sense of calm; a stronger awareness of the triggers that formerly had me reach for sugar; a deeper sense of self worth as I accomplish my intention one day at a time toward wellness; and of course, a body that feels less dragged down by sugar, healthier, and experiencing renewed energy levels.
How to begin? Start by reading labels on every single food you ingest. You will be amazed at the number of grams of sugar in everything from salad dressing (make your own) to spaghetti sauce. Becoming educated in what is inside our foods is a critical first step.
Go through your cupboards and assess what is a “sugar based” food, and what isn’t. If you are consuming sugared cereals or PopTarts for breakfast, your day is starting off with high levels of the processed white stuff. Try a protein shake made with Almond Milk and a banana for a longer term energy source. Green juicing is another healthy option that is sugar free and feeds your body at the cellular level.
The important thing to keep in mind is that, like everything, releasing the hold that sugar has on our lives is a process. Take it one day at a time, step by step, and you will begin to see the shift in your own life.
For more information, take a look at these resources:
Wellness Mama Blog
Women’s Health Magazine