Friday, November 16, 2012

The BB sugar experiment: The emotional stages of addiction

It is three months since I first started thinking about dealing with my addiction to sugar. Yes, despite what some people say, my belief is that sugar is addictive. I have gone through the same emotional stages of addiction in my effort to get sober from sugar addiction as I did when I gave up my other vices.

Just thinking about quitting sugar was akin to me contemplating giving up cocaine and alcohol back in the mid 00s. At first it seemed like a ridiculous idea and likely impossible to achieve, but somewhere, deep in my heart, I knew I had to do something. Too many things in my life were not right and all the indicators pointed to that one substance: Sugar.

I started Googling "sugar", "quitting sugar", "is sugar bad"... Those types of search terms. I wanted to know the truth about sugar. I was looking for a way out. I was in denial about my addiction and I wanted someone somewhere to tell me it was ok to keep eating that delicious substance. Kind of like wanting to believe that a couple of glasses of red wine a day was good for me. Or a gram or two of cocaine on the weekend was just me being young and cool and having a good time when really it was destroying me, one line at a time.

My sister or my mum would make comments that maybe Noo's issues with food were because I allowed him to eat too much sugary crap. I got defensive and rebuked that I didn't give him that much crap food, and anyway, how could they know there would be a connection? Maybe Noo was just a fussy eater. Just born that way! The both of them pissed me off. Plus, I'd already had to give up so many of my coping methods (like drink, drugs and ciggies) and I was getting angry at the thought of having to give up chocolate too.

I bought Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar and David Gillespie's The Sweet Poison Quit Plan. I started thinking about just how much sugar Noo and I bought and ate. We weren't just eating the added sugar that is found in bottled pasta sauces and yoghurt, we were also eating a huge amount chocolate and lollies. My lapband had helped me lose nearly 20kg but I'd put 6kg back on which made me realise I needed to do more and I made the decision Noo and I would give up sugar together.

Three weeks into our sugar sobriety I relapsed. I just couldn't let go of my crutch. I started bargaining with myself that I didn't have to give up sugar, I could just get my lapband tightened up and start heavily restricting my portion sizes again, but still get chocolate though. Or I could just accept myself as a fat girl and learn to love myself the way I was. Both of these options, while plausible, still didn't address my feeling physically like shit and my failure yet again to start doing something about my health and my weight was making me feel depressed.

On Friday 21 September I received an email from a friend who had signed up to Droptober - Just lose 2kg. I looked into this program and thought this is something I could commit to. From that first day I found out about Droptober something clicked and I stopped eating chocolate and lollies. A couple of weeks went by and I was eating more fruit and vegetables and good healthy meat. Before I knew it I wasn't even craving the white stuff any more. I became more aware of my body's hunger signals which came around three times a day rather than having that constant need to put something in my gob which comes with sugar addiction.

By the end of Droptober, the penny dropped: Not only had I lost 3.5kgs, got my taste buds back for good food and my cooking mojo returning after a long absence, but the headaches I'd been suffering for years had disappeared too. I'd been to the doctor so many times about these headaches that the next step was going to be a referral for a CT scan.

Five weeks sober from sugar and my headaches were gone!

Then the final proof that my sugar addiction is toxic to me was the return of the dreaded headaches this week after I indulged in my birthday cake on Tuesday and Wednesday and last night. Seven weeks of feeling healthy, energetic, well slept, and craving free came to an end on my 38th birthday.

It is not all doom and gloom though. Oh no. In fact, I couldn't be happier! I have finally reached the acceptance phase of the emotional stages of addiction. I have accepted that sugar (that is all sugar, minus whole fruit) is toxic and the deliciousness of it does not outweigh the cost eating it has on my body. Just like alcohol, sugar does bad things to me, just like nuts might do to someone who is allergic to them. I am allergic to sugar: It makes me anxious, depressed, moody, affects my concentration, gives me dreadful headaches and makes me fat, lethargic and stops me from being the person I want to be.

So back on the wagon I go. Being in the acceptance phase doesn't mean that it is going to be easy from here on in, but it is better than when I was in the denial phase.

Sobriety, whether from booze or from sugar takes constant work and vigilance.

Are you on the quit sugar bandwagon too? How are you going with it? What consequences do you suffer from when you overdo it with the white stuff?


Linking up with the fabulous Grace at With Some Grace for FYBF.


Cathy said...

I'm eating much healthier food, exercising and have definitely cut down on sugary sweets but that's all I can do for now. Admire your persistence - good luck xxx

Kelly HTandT said...

WOW V! That's amazing, both that you've managed to do it and also the results you've noticed! I'm an absolute sugar addict and for that reason I restrict my children's intake of it, I don't want them to end up like me. But I could never imagine eliminating if completely. For example, that one sugar I have in my tea? I need that. Tea is lovely with sugar.
I take my hat off to your perserverance, well done x

The Babbling Bandit said...

Hey Kelly. Thanks. It is hard at first but after a while I found it quite easy, that is until I fell off the wagon this week when I had a piece of birthday cake. The incentives are there to get back on the wagon though. The headaches alone are enough to help me stay 'clean'. V.

The Babbling Bandit said...

Thanks Cathy!

bachelormum said...

On reading this I thought it was really tough for you but if the physical affects of sugar make you feel bad then what you are doing is a good thing. I don't know much about being addicted to sugar, I know I like it but I don't crave it - I don't think I have an addictive personality - meaning that although I've indulged in a lot of things over my life I've always been able to stop when I wanted to more or less. I wonder whether its a personality thing more than an allergic reaction, meaning it is something you are born with in your mind makeup but may be able to address or control in a different way eg rather than cutting out all sugar, possibly thinking about how you respond to things you really love differently (you seem to be an all or nothing girl - which also means you are really focused and passionate about what you love but it can get out of hand) and whether you could slowly shift those response patterns so that instead of having to cut everything out you start telling yourself new messages about how u deal with stuff you really love, like sugar? It's just a thought and I don't want to put you off yr goals at all, it just seems a very hard thing for you to have to do xx

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