My sugar addiction started when I was a baby. My favorite baby food was Fruit Dessert from Gerber. Sometimes my mom said that this was all I would eat. At 40 years of age, I can still taste this in my mouth. It was pure joy, tangy and sweet, bursts of flavor, so yummy. It was almost like a thick, liquid Jello and it tasted soooo good. The reason why I remember consuming this is because I kept eating it, long past being a baby.
My love of sugar infused my entire life. My dad was Vice President of Transportation at Imperial Sugar in Sugar Land, Texas. You know those eggs made out of sugar with the little Easter scenes inside with chickens and bunnies trimmed in pink and yellow icing? Those were not decorations in my home. I ATE THEM!
I planned my meals around dessert. If I was going to eat a light meal, then I would eat a rich dessert, like cheesecake. If I was going to eat a heavier meal, then I might have angel food cake or sorbet for dessert.
My sugar consumption was serious business. So much so that I had devoted my career to it. I had plans for a bakery. I was going to call it Room for Dessert. Nothing gave me more joy than baking amazing desserts and watching people enjoy them. I wanted to spread my happiness to the world.
This is a picture of me making my first cake to sell.
It took me a while to realize that my sugar-induced happiness was an addiction, not just to food, but to life. If I felt happy, I celebrated with sugar. If I felt sad, I ate even more sugar. In order to heal, I had to realize that life isn’t always happy. Sometimes life hurts and that’s ok.
Here’s what happened…
While pursuing my dream of a bakery, my vitality collapsed. I could barely walk up a flight of stairs, and I was only 26 years old. Then, I started passing out in restaurants. I happened to go to a new medical doctor who was holistic, and she recommended that I go in for a glucose tolerance test. They didn’t prepare me for what happened next.
I showed up at the clinic first thing in the morning. They took my blood sugar and then I drank a syrupy sweet orange beverage, and they continued to measure my blood sugar every half hour. At a certain point, I started to feel faint and concerned that I couldn’t drive home. They sent me home early. I was breaking into a cold sweat when I walked through the door to my apartment. I ate a sugar-laden yogurt and lay down. The feelings passed.
A few days later, the test results came in, and my doctor diagnosed me with reactive hypoglycemia. My blood sugar rose to 145 and then shortly thereafter crashed down to 45, which was when I started to feel really funny during the test. She referred me to a nutritionist. I had to wait 6-weeks to get an appointment with her. In that time period, I got word from a friend of a friend who had gone through something similar and he had found relief through the Atkins diet. So I bought the Atkins book and began my low-carbohydrate journey.
I didn’t know that coming off sugar, cold turkey, would be so incredibly painful. I also didn’t know that elimination diets usually occur in stages so the following doesn’t occur:
All at once, I removed five foods from my diet: sugar, white flour, white rice, pasta, and alcohol. I cleaned our kitchen of all these foods, and there was nothing to eat. I sat and sobbed on the kitchen floor.
What was I going to do? My entire life was being undone. My soul’s purpose for being was gone. If I couldn’t eat or make desserts, who was I?
At that point, my roommate came home, asked what was going on, and I wept, “There is nothing to eat. I just can’t talk about it.” So I left for a walk.
I kept running these questions over and over in my mind. How was I going to live? I kept walking. It was a beautiful day. Wind in my hair. Blue skies. All of a sudden, I heard another voice in my head. A voice that I call God said, “Those foods will always be there. They aren’t going anywhere. Right now, you need to eat foods that nourish you. Focus on that.”
Immediately, I felt peace. I now understood in my bones that the foods we eat are a choice. My body was asking for something different. I saw that eating was a metaphor for life. In an instant, my world shifted. Why? Because I stayed in my pain. I didn’t run. I kept asking questions, and I received a gift. I realized that there is no good and bad. It all just is, and we make choices. Some would call this free will, right? All of a sudden, I felt hope. I felt like, ok, now I can do this. I can heal if I just stay with it.
But it wasn’t easy. Life without my drug of choice was hard. I felt depressed and had severe panic attacks, like the one I wrote about here:
“It all starts with butterflies in my stomach. I feel that something bad, very bad is about to happen, and yet, I cannot connect this feeling of impending doom to anything based in reality. It is puzzling. So this must be my intuition, my gut feelings, speaking to me. If that is the case, what are they trying to tell me…what do I need to prepare for? With that thought, my heart starts to beat a little faster, and I feel restless.
I look around trying to find the ‘impending doom,’ but I am safe in my apartment. Then surely something bad is going to happen in the near future. I do no know what it is or where is going to come from. Maybe I am going to die. I have always had a sixth-sense about things…maybe this is it for me. Maybe this is how you feel right before a deadly accident. My intuition is telling me to be aware…be careful.
Now, my heart is beating so fast I can feel it pumping. My breathing changes, and I am beginning to pant, very shallow breaths. I feel hot and cannot sit still…I find myself pacing around the room. Running my fingers through my hair and trying to take deep breaths. What is wrong with me? This is not normal behavior. Am I going nuts? What’s happening? Meanwhile, the butterflies are not staying in my stomach. They are flying up into my chest, making it even harder to breathe and my heart beats faster.
The butterflies continue to rise up and finally escape through my eyes in streams of sobbing tears. At this point, I have to stand against a wall to hold myself upright. During this same time of feeling so weak and disoriented, I just want to throw or hit something and scream. I feel as if I am going to explode. That is it…maybe I am just going spontaneously combust. Right here. Right now. Die right in my apartment.
All of a sudden I realize I am moaning and begging out loud to please make is stop. Get me out of my body! I need to call someone for help, but what can they do? Nobody will understand; I do not even understand what is happening. I would just make my parents worry, and my friends are going to think that I have completely lost it. After all, I am the stable one, the strong one, my friends come to me for advice, what will they think of me if they see me like this?
Oh my god…I have to get out of here. I need fresh air….can’t breathe. I just hope there is no one outside. No one can see me like this. Now I am a crying lunatic walking through the neighborhood. No matter what I do or try to think about, I cannot hold back my tears. It hurts!
My tears slowly start to subside, and I begin to feel incredibly sad and exhausted…completely drained. I have to figure out what is wrong with me. I cannot live like this. Something is not right. With my tears still flowing, I walk back home, wondering what is happening to me and what to do, but knowing that the worst has passed…at least for now. I hope…”
Now, I know that there was nothing wrong with me. Everything was right. My body was reorganizing itself without sugar and refined carbohydrates as a part of its experience. My brain chemistry and my body were in the process of finding a new normal.
It hurt, and I didn’t run from it. I leaned into it.
I’m pretty confident that if I had run to a psychiatrist to get anti-anxiety medications to relieve my pain, I would not have had an awakening!
I had a calendar in the kitchen where I would cross the hours off without sugar. Then the days off. Finally, the months. There were times when I would go to a party and eat the cake. I just wanted to look normal. With one bite of the cake, I salivated like a dog. I would have to get a napkin to wipe the saliva. My body was so primed for sugar. It was screaming at me to give me more! Give me more!
Saliva. Saliva. Saliva.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
It was so bizarre and totally out of my control.
At night I would dream of bingeing on cake, cookies, and ice cream. I would sit up in bed and think, “I’ve worked so hard! Why would I do this? No! No! No!” Sometimes I would start crying because the dream was so real. Then, I would look around the room and breathe a sigh of relief. Oh, thank god, it was only a dream.
You know who has these sorts of dreams? Drug addicts!
Recovering alcoholics dream of drinking alcohol.
Recovering smokers dream of smoking a cigarettes.
Recovering drug users dream of doing a line of cocaine.
Speaking of cocaine, a medical doctor recently showed me a picture he found online (like the one above). Sugar lights up the reward centers in our brains more than cocaine.
If you find yourself addicted to the drugs in our food supply, please realize that it’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility to name this and then turn it around.
My healing occurred when I stopped making sugar wrong. Sugar is right. It tastes so good and makes you feel even better. I found God through sugar. That can’t be wrong! But it is empty calories. There is no substance to it. It is pure energy that the human body just doesn’t know what to do with. Life got very uncomfortable for me and I realized that my body just couldn’t handle my diet anymore, and I had to change.
What we resist persists. The minute we make something wrong we want more of it. Find the right inside the wrong, and you will experience freedom. You will start to see paradox everywhere, and you will begin healing.
Maybe your situation isn’t as dramatic as mine. Sugar addiction exists on a spectrum. Some people can let sugar go, and it’s no big deal. Others, like myself, eliminate it and have to redefine what it means to be a human on this planet.
Wherever you are, take a good look at your diet and see where sugar has made it into your world. You might be surprised by what you find.
Need to make a change? Start by just observing. Take the pressure off yourself. If it helps, you can use this diet and activity journal to jot down what you’re eating and how you feel during the day. You may discover a surprising relationship between what you eat and how you feel.
Bottom line: our culture tells us that it if we’re not happy, then something is wrong. Out of this dynamic comes a food supply that is drugging us. First, we have to name and accept this reality and then, we have to make conscious choices. The only way to change the world is for each one of us to make wise purchases. Stop buying it, and it won’t exist. Vote with your dollars. You have power. Don’t play small.
And when life gets hard, get help. A good therapist is one of the best investments you will ever make. I’ve worked with Tina Lightner Morris since 2006. Having an objective person ask you the right questions is essential to unleashing your vitality and healing.
In the meantime, make sure you visit my homepage and subscribe to my email list, because tomorrow I will share with you the top three changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle that will make letting go of sugar that much easier. You really won’t want to miss it!
If I can do it, anyone can. Eat in peace!