To sweets, that is. Sugar is my comfort when I can’t cope with the anxiety I feel way too much.
Sure, I’m a person of faith. I pray for comfort and give thanks for daily blessings. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or use drugs. I’m not even attached to a morning coffee or Coke.
But I am and always will be addicted to warm homemade cookies with nuts, Oreo concretes from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, a good cheesecake (or any cake), Twizzlers and Skittles, Snickers bars and a square or two of really, really good deep, rich, dark chocolate.
I bet you have your favorites, too. Just pause right here and salivate over those.
I’ve lived my life making sugar rules. You can have as much as you want. You can’t have any. You can only have it one day a week. You can only eat it on “dessert days,” three days a week. You can have three bites. You can only stare at the dessert in front of you, but you can’t eat it.
Have you been there? Which rule did you make and break the fastest?
But this summer I lost control. I even stabbed myself for chocolate. And then my friends and family made sure I had plenty so that I didn’t go to great lengths to get it. But, I noted other signs of addiction.
Admittedly, my health concerns have “grown exponentially” (as my doctor put it) throughout the year. From a diagnosis of a rare neuroendocrine tumor in my appendix to a shoulder injury resulting from surgery to the excision of an atypical mole to my third surgery in six months, I’ve overcome a lot this year.
So, of course, I deserve sugar to cope, right?
Wrong. I constantly craved sweets. They curbed my anxiety for the moment but consumed my thinking about what to choose next. Once again, dessert came after every meal and tried to fill every need. I didn’t gorge, but I always wanted a little something to satisfy my sweet tooth.
The sugar fed my craving but controlled me.
My mind was distracted, my spirit unsettled.
So here’s what I did.
On the 23rd of July, 2014, I had very large bowl of ice cream and put everything I wanted on top of it. On July 24th I woke up and stopped eating dessert.
I just stopped.
I treated this like the addiction in me that it was.
I did not give myself an end date when I could go back.
I just stopped and didn’t start eating it again.
Don’t think I have incredible willpower. I don’t. But, I just did it. I wanted to control my body, not have my body control me. And if it’s right for you, (which it isn’t for everyone) then you can, too.
1. Stop making it. Your family will protest, but they will live and be better for it. I’m a baker and regularly made dessert. I pinned and tried new recipes on a daily basis. Now, I buy ice cream and always have that for a family dessert choice. My kids still make cookies, but we wrap up the extras as soon as they’re cool and stick them in the freezer. When I don’t eat sugar, we all eat less of it.
2. Keep treats out of sight. Keep desserts for others out of your eyesight, literally. Put ice cream in the back of the freezer, chocolate on a high shelf. Have them put it in places where you’re not going to run into it all the time. Some people just don’t have it in the house. I had to ignore my Pinterest account for awhile.
3. Find new ways to cope with emotional needs. This is where my faith came in to help. And good relationships. I’ve learned exactly what brings me comfort, and I ask my family to help me with that. You may even want to try an addiction recovery program.
4. Don’t think you have to say yes. Social functions should be the easiest place for us to abstain, but we make it hard for each other to do that. Is this because we feel guilty doing whatever it is we are doing when others don’t? Peer pressure is real, and Mormons even do it to each other.
5. Say “No, thank you” and don’t explain. You don’t have to tell people you aren’t eating sugar. In fact, beyond your close family and friends, it may be better to not. It’s a big distraction when it becomes a party topic. I’ve found that with the abundance of unique dietary choices today, it’s best to keep the whats and whys to yourself. Just like everyone is not harmed by gluten, going sugar-free isn’t for everybody.
6. Eat fruit. I eat way more fruit now, usually some with every meal. Fresh fruit is best.
7. Use dried fruits moderately. Recipes exist for sugar free “desserts” made with dates, raisin, and figs. While I do eat some dried fruits on their own, I haven’t wanted to use these desserts as replacements, especially in the first three months of withdrawal. But I may try one for Christmas.
8. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Yuck. The idea was to eat better, not just different bad stuff. I chew a little Extra gum on occasion and use sugar-free breath mints, but that’s about it.
9. Realize you’re still going to want it. Admit when you do, but don’t dwell on it. Say it out loud and then eat something else like a piece of fruit (try frozen bananas, grapes or blueberries) or real orange juice without added sugar. Or, go do something else like play an instrument, take a hot bath or read something you love.
10. Count each day as a success. I have gone sugar free multiple times in my life. I hope this is the last. Even if it isn’t, I’ve successfully overcome my weakness today.
What about you? What are your tips for going sugar free? What are the physical and emotional benefits?