So, for three weeks now, I’ve been weaning myself off sugar. Most people that are around me don’t even think I eat a lot of sugar, and, frankly, I didn’t either. I ate a lot of sugar in the past. It was not unusual on a particularly stressful day – or a lonely one – for me to eat a bag of Hershey’s Kisses or those little square wrapped Dove chocolates. One after one I’d unwrap for their little chocolatey kiss of comfort. Knowing what I know now, I was really wreaking havoc on my blood sugar. I ate it for comfort, but it probably made me feel much worse by the end than it did make me feel better. And, when I was done, I still hadn’t had enough. For, you see, there are never enough Hershey’s Kisses in the bag to numb my feelings. Damn.
Over the years I’ve learned to feel my feelings and move through them. I’ve learned healthier ways to process stuff than stuffing my face full of chocolate candy. I’m not saying I wouldn’t still like to do it from time to time, but I don’t do it regularly anymore. Okay, maybe I had a few too many when I was moving, but I didn’t eat a whole bag. I haven’t done that in awhile. A girlfriend confessed that she ate candy bars out of the trash the other day. They were wrapped, but she dug them out of the trash. I can one-up her on that. I know I’ve eaten cake out of the trash, and it wasn’t wrapped. Now, I made sure I didn’t eat the sides that were touching the garbage, but I ate it. In a moment where I made myself sick eating it, I threw it away, hoping it would deter me. But it didn’t. Because my emotional eating did not have values or pride. It ate with a vengeance and could never be satisfied. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s a choice not an obsession now.
I’ve watched people that I love emotionally eat, and it’s really sad. I know how they are feeling inside because I’ve been there. I also know that when I eat like that I’m often trying to hurt myself or punish myself because I can’t quit, I’m too fat or I don’t like the way my life is going. Maybe I don’t cut myself or beat myself up physically, but I can sure damage my body by eating too much unhealthy food. One of the reasons I stopped dieting years ago was because as soon as I would get mad at myself for “having” to diet, I would binge. Then, it would be a vicious cycle of deprivation and binging. It was so unhealthy – emotionally and physically.
My trainer Jessica suggested a sugar detox for the month of October. October can be a booby trap month with all the candy hanging around presumably for the kids. Don’t tell anybody, but I think more adults eat it than kids. At least that was the way it was in my house. Let’s stock up while it’s cheap! But, I’d eat it all and had to buy more. I had already started to cut back on sugar because my consumption was getting out of control again, so I joined in on the challenge. It’s not a diet. I’m really taking myself off a drug. I now understand how powerful sugar is for me. The first week of the detox I had powerful cravings for sugar, especially after lunch. That week I cut out all sugary treats and added sugar. For three days, I was lethargic, had a headache that came and went and was very low on energy. About the 4th day in, I started to feel better. I let myself eat as much as I wanted of savory foods but no coffee and no sugary stuff except natural sugars.
My friend Jean Ann pointed out to me that I needed to get almond milk and soy milk that was unsweetened. I told her in no uncertain terms that I was doing this gradually. I knew if I went cold turkey, I would sabotage myself. So, the second week, I went half and half in my tea lattes with unsweetened and sweetened soy milk. I went through the same withdrawal symptoms again. I also noticed that I lost 3 pounds just by cutting out sugar, AND ….. I was beginning to sleep really well. I haven’t slept that good in ages. I LOVED that! When I was running, my muscles were screaming for their fix. I could physically feel the lack of “kick” that sugar gives me in my running. It told me that I’ve been using the drug for energy and not utilizing my own natural energy. I want to get back to that. I also noticed that I wasn’t nearly as tired at night as I usually am. The roller coaster ride of the sugar highs and lows really drained my energy. In the past, I was usually dying at 9 PM to go to bed. By this second week, I was awake until 10 feeling pretty darn good. That was a treat!
This Monday was the final straw. I had committed to going completely unsweetened. My cane syrup has been gone from my diet for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t touched a grain of sugar. I didn’t think I’d even notice this last step until I took a look at the amount of sugar that was in my almond milk. 15g of sugars are in one cup of my sweetened vanilla almond milk. When you consider that a teaspoon of sugar is 4g, I was putting almost 4 teaspoons of sugar in my morning latte. Actually, since I use 1 1/2 cups, I was putting almost 6 teaspoons in my early morning drink before I even walked the dog. It is suggested that women have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day in our diet. Hell, I wasn’t even making it out the door before I was consuming that…. unconsciously. Needless to say, I did feel it when I cut back this week. I’m back to lethargy, bloatedness, tiredness and headaches. I feel better today, but yesterday was awful. I ran last night, and I could barely move. I went to bed at 8 PM, and I was exhausted. I have been sleeping REALLY good, though. I slept until 7 AM both weekend days. I haven’t done that in years. And, when I sleep, I sleep really sound.
This little sugar hiatus has showed me how dependent I am on sugar for energy. I’m also realizing that it’s impacting the way I feel on a daily basis and how I sleep at night. I’ll never cut out sugar completely. I love it, and I love sweet treats. But, I’m really going to make an effort to stay away from a daily habit of consuming it. For one thing, I feel so relieved not to have the intense cravings and ups and downs that I’m used to. Often, I’m fighting the urge to eat sugar all day long because I’m craving it so bad. But I’m not doing it now. I get the occasional 2PM craving, but it goes away if eat something savory. It frees my brain up to do the things I need to do.
I’ll add one other thing about this experiment. If sugar gets in our bloodstream and wreaks havoc with our blood sugar and our hormones, what do you think it does to us in the bedroom? I’ll just say this – if things aren’t like they used to be, and you’re thinking it’s age, you might want to try to give up sugar. See what happens. I’m pretty happy with the results. You can always go back to it if you want, but it’s definitely worth the try. There may be healthier, more active things you can do to keep your spirits up than eat chocolate. I’m just sayin’.
Some of the things I’m doing that help me get through the sugar withdrawals and cravings are:
- Making rice pudding that can be eaten warm or frozen to eat like ice cream. My friend Keri introduced me to black rice, and it is really sweet and yummy … and purple! I add some ricotta cheese, a little sour cream, frozen fruit, a little unsweetened coconut milk, nuts and unsweetened coconut. I eat it for breakfast and snacks. It’s definitely comfort food.
- Drink green tea all day long.
- Drink more water. Actually, my thirst for just water has increased since I cut out the sweet stuff.
- Eat fruit when my energy is low for a natural sugar high.
- Order a whole milk latte for a treat. Yes, there’s more fat, but I get the richness of the milk with its natural sugars for a lift.
- Use Stevia for sweetener when I need a little sweetness.
- Snack on crackers and pimiento cheese, nuts and dried figs and rice cakes and almond butter (get the unsweetened kind).
- Eat when I’m hungry. If I get too hungry, I’ll lose my willpower with the sugar.
- Allow myself a little more fat than normal – whole milk, whole milk ricotta, real butter and sour cream.