Freedom from Sugar

Six or seven years ago I was three days into a pretty arduous juice cleanse when I broke down and decided to “give in” to a seriously ravenous sugar craving. I sliced the last half of the pink lady apple I had in my fridge into thirds, grabbed a paper towel, and plopped down onto my bed to stare up at the ceiling as I savored every crisp sweet bite. That’s when my body reacted in a way I had never experienced before. As soon as the firm white flesh of that apple hit my tongue, my entire mouth filled with saliva. All it took was that one bite for the receptors to SCREAM: It’s here, the sugar is here, we got it!

This reaction, together with what I thought were inexplicable mood swings, served to convince me that I needed a permanent change in my relationship with sugar. For years before that I had been following an “everything in moderation” approach, which I thought was working for me. That was until I returned home from the gym one night, made my dinner, and just about had a panic attack when I realized the few squares of dark chocolate I thought I had stashed in the door of the fridge were gone. I must have finished the bar the night before. It was late. Probably 10pm. I had to be up at 5 for work. It would be ridiculous to leave the house again. But I felt like I might have to. I grew antsy and frustrated, even a little angry. I tore my tiny studio apart, desperate for something that would satisfy my sweet tooth. Finally, in a last-ditch effort, I dug my hand into the front pocket of an old backpack I used to use for work but hadn’t carried for months. I felt plastic! I clutched the smooth wrapping between my fingers and excitedly lifted my savior from the bag: a Kind Bar. It wasn’t a chocolate dipped one, but it’d do. I quickly tore off the wrapper and devoured it in three bites. A sense of relief came over me that was all too familiar.

As an alcoholic, there’s a sort of soothing that comes when that first drink of the night (or day, let’s be real) hits your lips. While I used to look forward to this feeling when I was drinking, it’s become more unwelcome since I’ve been sober for a while. I generally don’t want to need substances to make me feel a certain way, or even just okay.

Since recognizing the type of power sugar had over me all those years ago, it’s role in my life has changed dramatically. While “moderation” for one person might mean a bit of chocolate everyday, for me it means sweet treats are relegated to the weekend and holidays or special occasions. There are sweets around our office all the time. Literally every day. I see my co-workers debating with themselves with each new plate of cookies: Should I be good today? I didn’t have any of the cake yesterday so I can have a half a donut today, right? For me eliminating weekdays from the equation allows me to escape that debate in my head. It also allows me to not sound totally obnoxious when I constantly turn down treats. Saying I don’t eat sugar on the weekdays feels far more realistic and reasonable to people than saying I don’t eat it at all. And–it’s true! There’s no way I could or would live a completely sugar-free life. I love food too much and there’s just so much deliciousness to experience in the world!

When the holidays come around my weekday rule goes right out the window. I let myself indulge and agree to deal with the consequences later. I’ll admit as I get older, my binges get less and less exciting. There was a time where I’d go nuts and eat several donuts in one sitting (second time I’ve mentioned donuts, this is no accident) or I’d devour three or four of these delicious scratch-made dark chocolate peanut butter cups that they sell at the Whole Foods in my hometown. Nowadays though, my body is just not as well adapted to handle the big rushes of sugar. I feel sluggish, groggy, even nauseous at times. My hubs and I notice that after a few days of overdoing it on the sugar our moods are collectively diminished; we both start to feel kind of down and it usually takes us a minute to realize what the deal is. This past holiday we tried to keep a balance of not making ourselves sick, but still feeling free to celebrate with foods we love. After all, what’s Christmas without a few sugar cookies?

When you get sober and you’re in the early days, people tell you all the time: You never have to feel this way again if you don’t want to. They mean that you never again have to go through the hell that is early sobriety; relapse is not a requirement. You can stay, and do the work, and get better, and not have to feel all those excruciating feelings a second time. You have to go through a bit of pain to get past those tough early days, but you’re all the better for it when you come out on the other side.

I think changing our relationship with sugar is very similar. I know a lot of people who think they are lost causes–they drink soda, put sugar in their coffee, need a sweet bite after every meal; they’re convinced the stuff’s got em’ for good. But the truth is, if you can commit to two weeks or so of some serious detoxing–i.e. pain–you can break the cycle. Just like sobriety does not mean one is clenching their teeth for the rest of their life, living without daily sugar does not have to feel like a sacrifice.

I don’t believe in diets. I’m not afraid of fat, I don’t count calories, and I can’t subscribe to a way of eating that I can’t maintain on a regular basis. I have no desire to live on willpower. That’s what people in my office always think I’m doing when I pass on the donuts. They think I’m “strong”. The truth is, it has very little to do with strength or restraint. I actually have no desire for the donuts. Just like yeast, sugar fights to stay alive in our bodies–hence the cravings. If we give in to those cravings, they’ll stay alive, they will always be there. BUT-if we can employ willpower just temporarily, we can shut down the sugar-mill operating inside of us and halt that constant desire for something sweet.

I’ve found the easiest way for me to get back on track is to do a cleanse. Only I don’t put myself through that crazy juice cleanse I was describing to you earlier. I think the only way I would go back to an all juice deal is if I had the money to do a wellness retreat at a spa where you cleanse and get massages everyday and meditate. In my mind, that’s the only environment where that type of detoxing would really be beneficial. Give me three days of nothing but green juice and the stress of daily life and you’ll find me in a closet with a cheeseburger on the fourth day for sure.

This past week I finished two weeks of this cleanse . It’s nothing crazy, it’s shakes, supplements, and two clean meals a day. I’m almost never one to promote brands on my blog and that’s not really what I’m trying to do here. I just wanted to share something that helps me hit the reset button about every six months and allows me to live happily with very limited sugar. Lots of my blogger friends have communicated a struggle with this, especially after the holiday. If you’re like me and you realize that your sweets in “moderation” are sweets you have to have, and you don’t like that feeling, a cleanse might help you get out of that cycle. I find this plan especially useful because it can aid in identifying allergies and problem foods. I have more than one friend whose done this cleanse and stopped eating dairy after they realized how much better they felt after two weeks without it.

Obviously diet is super personal to each person. I don’t have a perfect body or a perfect eating plan. I’m not a health pro and I don’t pretend to be–all of this is just my experience, not advice. That being said, I love food, I love eating, and I love health and nutrition. After spending most of my youth gripped by eating disorders and much of my young adulthood trying to get skinny in a “healthy” way, feeling this good about food has not come easily and I feel compelled to share my progress when it feels appropriate. I thought I’d chime in now when lots of people might be struggling through resolution diets. There are ways of eating that don’t leave you longing and feeling deprived. 

 

How about you? Have you done a cleanse you felt was helpful in resetting your eating patterns? Do you diet? Do diets make you tired? How do you feel about your relationship with sugar? Have you ever tried to get off of it and realized you were more addicted than you initially thought? I LOVE to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

header: anda ambrosini

37 thoughts on “Freedom from Sugar

  1. Think I’ve told you before that I struggle with the sugar. I’ve managed phases if cutting it out and my sweet tooth has definitely lessened. The frustrating thing is, now if I binge on sugar I feel shit, but that doesn’t seem enough to make me stop!

    One of the things that helped me quit the drinking was how crappy I would feel after. But for some reason this isn’t working with the sugar. I know it’s crap for me, I know it will make me feel awful, but if it’s put infront of me I’ll scoff it down…..and then feel rubbish!

    I’ve tried a few different things over the last couple of years to try and sort out my diet. I get gut problems and I know I need to get to the bottom of why. Sugar is a definite issue. And I think maybe dairy to a degree. I might give your Plan a try and see if it helps me steer in the right direction 😁 xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it makes sense that you were able to cut out the alcohol but not the sugar. For one, both substances act similarly in your body, so with keeping the sugar you’re at least hitting on those receptors. But also, while sugar makes us feel like shit, the consequences are far less dramatic than overdoing it on the booze.
      Maybe try some sort of cleanse-i def think there is something too a cold turkey cut out. While it sucks at first, sometimes it’s the only way to get that addictive shit out of your body, so it actually stops craving it.

      Like

    1. No, definitely not. I try to eat some type of fruit every day–mostly berries, which are lower in sugar and high in antioxidants. But I would say how liberal I am with my fruit intake depends on what my fitness routine is–whether i’m training for something or whatever. During marathon training, I ate a banana in the morning before workouts/runs. Now that I’m not doing such heavy cardio, I abstain from the banana in hopes that I’ll burn fat during my strength training and cardio as opposed to burning the sugars I would get from the banana. If I’m craving fruit, I def eat it–my body has gotten pretty good at telling me what I need!

      Like

  2. I haven’t done a “cleanse” but I did complete a Whole 30, and I’ve been trying to eat 90%Whole30 since then. My first taste of sugary stuff sent me into shakes even though I’d been eating fruit, so I totally get your reaction and imagine it was stronger than mine. Thanks for sharing all this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Whole 30 seems like such a great plan– i haven’t completely looked through it ever but I am pretty sure it’s how i eat–meat and veggies, no/limited grains, etc. That’s so crazy that you got the shakes–isn’t it sort of freaky? You realize what a drug sugar really is! Reactions like that are what keep me wanting to really limit it in my life. Thanks lady!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m always kind of happy when people share their fight against sugar, because, like at an AA meeting, it helps me to feel like I’m not alone. Sugar is an addiction for some people, and it can wreck one’s life, even if not in the dramatic ways that alcohol and drugs can. That feeling of having to go out right away, even at midnight (or sneak into a roommate’s candy stash) to get something to satisfy my sweet tooth? Pretty awful.
    I found that the first week of staying off sugar is easy, because one feel’s one is cleaning out the system. It’s the second week that’s hardest. It usually takes me three weeks of consequent cutting out to get to the point of “eh, I don’t want it. It makes my teeth hurt”. The hardest part, during this time, is staying away from the sugar in processed foods. That’s why I try to keep those out of my system too

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are definitely NOT alone!!
      I know what you mean about it being the second week that is tough. I’ve found that too, only now it seems like things flip flop every time so I’m never really sure when the rocky road is coming. Now that I’ve been through it enough times though, I know how good it feels to come out on the other side, so I’m good at staying on the path!
      And yeah, processed food is basically the worst, for sugar and everything else. Real is the way to go!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never done a detox/cleanse but I certainly felt like I should’ve done one after this holiday season! I think because Jason and I made 2 types of cookies and then my mom gave me a container of Rolos on pretzels I was just non-stop indulging. I’m happy to say I’ve finally gotten back to my “normal” habit of usually a piece of chocolate or filled raspberry candy after lunch and usually one after dinner. I’ve always been a fan of the everything in moderation mentality as well though lately I have just naturally started to curb my sweet tooth and trying to find ways to cut back. I drink water all day except for breakfast in which I’d drink lemonade or juice. I recently switched that to chocolate milk which I know still has sugar but not nearly as much as the juice does. I just can’t stomach (literally) water first thing in the morning; it sits too heavy and makes me feel sick. My next attempt might be to switch to plain Greek yogurt and flavor it myself (can only tolerate it plain if I’m using it in place of sour cream) as I know the vanilla flavor I buy has more than enough sugar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about not being able to stomach plain water first thing in the morning. Have you ever tried an ACV drink? First thing every morning I actually drink two glasses of water each with a squeeze of lemon and a tablespoon or so apple cider vinegar (BRAGGS only, the one with the MOTHER). ACV on its own is really harsh but it’s not so bad with water and lemon. It’s got so many health benefits as well. I crave it now since I’ve been drinking it for years, I actually think of it as my lemonade!! When you mentioned you drank lemonade in the morning I thought of it right away. Anyway, much more settling to the stomach I think than plain water. Plus no sugar and mad health benefits!

      Like

  5. The only “diet” that ever works for me is counting calories, which I know isn’t super popular, but it works for me! I indulge in chocolate almost every day, although there have been weeks or months I haven’t, just to see if I could. Counting calories works for me – I’m only having a couple pieces of chocolate a day because I don’t want to put more than that in my app. 🙂

    For me, nothing is off limits, so I don’t feel the need to binge – I know I can just have more tomorrow. I do eat fewer calories during the weekdays, though, which is sometimes hard. But I’ve found how to maintain my weight at a level I’m happy with. It’s a constant struggle and learning experience to figure out what works for each of us!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The hell with popularity–so great you have found what works for you! It seems like accountability is a really great tool for a lot of people, that definitely makes sense to me. It seems like the app works along that line a bit.
      The calorie thing doesn’t work for me for a lot of reasons, the main one being that i don’t weigh myself. I don’t have a goal weight, it’s more of a feeling/fitting in my clothes. Also for me, two foods can have the exact same amount of calories but make me feel completely different. What I choose as my fuel makes such a difference in how my body performs so I’ve never been able to take the calories in/calories out approach. I’ve got a friend who pretty much feels good eating everything in moderation and I’ve always admired that. She eats bread, cheese–a lot of the stuff I tend to stay away from. Every BODY is different, right!?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, so true – everyone is so different! It’s great to work towards figuring out what works for you. By the way, similarly, my office has a constantly-filled candy/chocolate jar – only steps from where I sit. It’s… hard.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s w/Hypothyroidism, I asked about changing my diet and was told I didn’t need to?? I do try to stay away from the processed stuff, but there is something about Jiff peanut butter!! I try not to deny myself, but I also try not to overindulge as well. I started the AIP diet this week and by Wednesday I was Paleo ( I had nuts!!). I’m trying to figure out this bloat thing, maybe I need to give your plan a try and start from scratch??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To me the most beneficial thing about doing a cleanse is not losing weight–it’s figuring out what is working in my body and what isn’t. For me the only way i have been able to do that is to take things out for a while and then slowly add them back in. I ate dairy my WHOLE life, cheese was a huge staple in my diet. I was sure i digested it just fine. When I took it out for several weeks it was MIND BLOWING. I was like “oh, i thought having just a minimal amount of gas and bloating ALL the time was normal, I guess not!” It was crazy how different I felt without it. Then when I tried to add it back in after about a month I actually got nauseous! My body was like, “uh-uh, we like the new way, we are not going back!”
      It’s awesome to figure these things out I think. It’s great when we can do the very best we can for our bodies!

      Like

  7. Thanks for this post! I struggle BIG TIME with sugar. I am definitely of the “everything in moderation” mentality, which works well during times like marathon training, but gets a little more challenging during the off season. Sugar is absolutely my weakness and biggest addiction. I have a pretty hefty bowl of ice cream every.single.night and have been doing this since way back when I was in middle school. I celebrate Lent, which begins in a few weeks, and this year I am going to attempt giving up sugar all together for the 40 day period (we’ll see if I go back to my old ways once Lent is over, haha;). Last year I gave up ice cream, but just substituted cake or some other dessert food. We will see how it goes this year (I’m sure it will be much harder than I anticipate – I eat a TON of sugar). I think this will be my version of a cleanse! During this time I won’t be able to eat any sugar, which will help my body to detox from the ridiculous amounts that I currently consume.

    This post came at a great time and really gave me the motivation I need! Always love to read what you have to say!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course lady. I have a few friends like you who want to cut down their sugar and are also SO active. I think sometimes it’s even harder when you’re an athlete cause you work so hard and treating yourself feels justified, for good reason!
      I think for me, doing cleanses are helpful just cause i get to see how my body feels and performs without certain things. When I cut out grains and sugar, I started to feel like a whole new person. Now, I doubt I will be able to find even one runner to back me up on this cause runners are so pro-carb–but that’s just what i have found to be true for my body. Those foods create a lot of inflammation for me so they sort of contradict my athletic goals.
      You will figure this all out. Definitely use Lent to your advantage! Cutting our cold turkey is really tough–BUT, it’s the only way to actually really feel what it’s like to not have those foods in your body and be addicted to them. The first days/weeks can feel awful cause our bodies scream for what they want–but if you can manage to get over that hump, it can be really rewarding. (In my experience!).
      thanks girl. x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Absolutely! That’s really helpful to know! I’ve always heard that cutting out certain foods can make your body feel 1000% better, even when you didn’t think you felt that bad to begin with. I will see how 40 days goes without sugar 😉 if I see an improvement by the end I just might try a cleanse – you have inspired me!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve never done a cleanse, but I did clean up my eating habits last year. They definitely needed work! I’ve learned to love greens and other healthy vegetables. I’ve never given up sugar (I love chocolate and know that would be an absolute disaster and I’d probably be grumpy as get-out…ok, definitely noticeably grumpier), but I do have weeks or months that I stop drinking. I do enjoy beer, wine, and margaritas (they are great after a hard day, a hot day, a race, etc), but it’s just nice to take a week or whatever and keep my body clean with only green tea and water (I’m a pretty boring person otherwise in my choice of beverages).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Learning to love veggies has been one of the biggest gifts in my life I think. I crave greens all the time and it’s a good feeling! I am jealous of you that you’ve got a master chef in the house as well that prob does all sorts of delicious things with veggies!
      Beer, wine, and margaritas!! I think that was my WHOLE diet for a few years there, lol! If I could have just one or two of those after work everyday I would be right there with you girl, totally understand! It’s cool that you take time off from it every once in a while to reset–I bet that’s good for your hydration!
      ps–I’m pretty boring beverage wise these days ;).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve never been addicted to *substances.* Neither of my parents were addicted. I did have a cousins who turned their lives around after drugs. But they were so much older than me, that it didn’t affect me, other than overhearing stories. But for some reason, I’m very careful to not be “addicted” to substances. Honestly, diet Coke is probably my only substance *addiction.* I love the taste of it. However, in May 2015, I quit drinking it daily. Chris drinks it, so we have it in the house, and maybe 1-2 times a month I’m tempted to drink one. It’s a comfort to me if I have a stomach ache, and I have to have DC at the movies with the popcorn (water and butter does not mix, and I’m a popcorn fiend). I started drinking black and green tea in the winter at work b/c it’s so cold in my office. But if don’t drink caffeine, I don’t have a headaches, so that’s good! I guess other than sugar (For some reason something sweet always sounds good after dinner be a a caramel truffle or a strawberry), I’m pretty good at checking myself and shaking off things that I think might be teetering into “addiction” territory.

        Even when I had surgery over the summer, I was given like 30 oxys. I took two first day I recovered because stuff hurt, but the second day I was able to distinguish the “pain” from just “soreness,” and didn’t take any more. Chris was worried about me, but I know my body. I try to very hard to stay intune to it’s needs and wants. And then once a week was up, I flushed all the pills. I just did not want them in the house.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I have struggled a LOT with sugar in the past and largely try to avoid it because I realize it messes with my brain chemistry and with my sleep. I haven’t totally given it up and still keep an “emergency supply” of dark chocolate on hand for those times when I really just want something yummy. But in cutting WAY back on it, and also limiting flour intake as well, my body and mind are SO much happier. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Mexi! Yes! I limit my flour intake as well (that’s weekend only for me !) and it has made a huge difference in the way that I feel. One thing this plan I mentioned here in this post helped me with was realizing what food created inflammation in my body. I’ll never claim to have a gluten allergy–but when I eat grains and sugar, my joints are a stiff creaky mess and my stomach is BLOATED like crazy! Not things I’m a fan of living with. Like you, i am SO much happier without them.
      Thanks so much for your thoughts, please come back and share them again, so happy to have you!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for sharing further thoughts on this Cat, as you know I’ve struggled a little bit with impulse control for sugar (most recently in biscuit form)!

    The idea of a cleanse, reset, whatever term one wants to use, every so often is something that I will consider. On reflection, I feel like I may have gone through this to an extent without realising? For a few months at the end of last year, I was having no problem with impulse control and the majority of my snacks and deserts were fruit. When I fell away from that and got into the habit of gorging on biscuits, ice cream and whatever other sugary, processed snacks that I was drawn to in the supermarket aisles, I felt a little down that I couldn’t maintain it.

    But thinking of it from a reset perspective, or keeping those snacks for certain times (weekends or only after dinner, etc), I may be able to reframe that. Like you, I don’t have an intention to cut out sugars altogether (I enjoy ice cream and biscuits and chocolate too much), rather to get more of a handle on my impulse eating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course Paul. I’ve appreciated you sharing about your relationship with food/treats as well! It’s definitely not a good feeling when we feel like we can’t control ourselves. I think my real goal is to eat what I really want to eat–and to create a body that craves things that are good for me 90% of the time. Then there’s still a bit of room for biscuits ;).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve never done a cleanse, but I am at the end of the first week of a 21 day vegan ‘quick start.’ 21 days without dairy and meat. Not so hard so far…but we’ll see. I’m cooking two different meals, one for me, one for husband who doesn’t want to give up meat. That’s kind of hard, but it makes more leftovers because only one of us is eating each kind of food, so we can usually make one meal last for 2 or 3. I think anyway, being it’s only the first week. I have made a few vegan things in the past (I’ve been cooking vegan about 2x a week for over a year) that he will eat…so maybe over time I’ll convert him (and me!) I’ve never really had a sweet tooth, but my husband and his entire family always look for dessert after dinner. I used to bake for them, but haven’t in a long time. Better for all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Zarina Rapone

    I’m on a diet but I love sugary foods, everywhere I look they are always there and I could not help myself not to take a bite so at all times I’m so worried about my health especially on my diet. Now I began to eat healthy foods, exercise and take a natural health supplement you can find it here http://www.bloomshealth.com.au/.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I often have to hit the reset. I just swap out my afternoon tea “treat” for veggies and hummus for a few days. I know the first two weeks are going to be tough, but then I feel amazing! I guess I’m lucky that my allergies keep me from eating the treats that are at school continuously!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah allergies are a good excuse not to indulge for sure AJ. There are a lot of things i avoid or that for me are “home only” treats, cause if I eat them, I need to be near homebase, if you know what i mean! Helps make decisions at work a lot easier though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL I know exactly what you mean! I’ve had people say to me that they wish they had allergies, but they really don’t. Yes it makes it easier to say no, but it’s pretty horrific if I don’t.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s