When I was a teenager, I would break up Double Stuf Oreos and put them in my Froot Loops for breakfast. I have used a Red Vine as a soda straw. I can’t buy rainbow-colored candies – not because they make you gay, but because I have to keep eating them until there are the same amount of each color, and by then I might as well finish them and call it a day. There has never been a yogurt top that I haven’t licked. I once retrieved a can of chocolate frosting out of our kitchen trash. It had a lid on it, but still. My name is Jessica and I am a sugar addict.
Recognizing the fact that sugar is addictive and that all my food choices revolved around getting a sweet flavor was a game-changer for me. I used to work at a drug rehab center, and the phrase that was used was “drug of choice.” The behaviors of our clients were basically the same regardless of their drug of choice. Mine was legal, and it would take a lot longer to kill me. But the cold, hard truth was that I had arranged my life around getting it and nothing was going to stop me.
The thing is, I didn’t realize how much sugar I was eating at the time. I never exactly put my daily dose in a big pile and ate it at one sitting. I have been known to eat cake, pie, or chocolate chip cookies for breakfast – basically any time I had cake, pie, or cookies I was going to be eating them for breakfast. But if I had a 650-calorie Costco muffin, I thought that was a very healthy choice. I didn’t know it might be double the calories of the slice of pie. If I had, I wouldn’t have understood how that calorie count related to anything I ate later that day, or later that week. (That muffin is about 30% bigger than my typical dinner and has as much sugar as two cans of Coke).
The other thing is that I fully believed I ate health food. At least, I never ate fast food, and I only drank one can of soda a day. I actually ate vegetables and fresh fruit and whole wheat bread. I bought organic and I shopped at little hippie co-ops with bulk bins. Therefore, when I bought “all natural” cookies and “naturally sweetened” sodas and a billion trillion bushels of breakfast cereal, it was healthy. This is called the “halo effect.” If I drink a soda and eat a salad, the soda is cancelled out. Right? Also, I have it on good authority that nothing has calories if you eat it standing up. Or if you forget that you ate it.
It’s been my personal experience that sugar cravings diminish as consumption of cruciferous vegetables goes up. Unfortunately, high sugar consumption makes cruciferous vegetables taste disgusting. Sugar is not necessary for survival, and it may not even be biologically appropriate for humans. But I’ve met a lot of people who drink more soda than water (because “water tastes bad”) and eat more dessert foods than vegetables. We’re not hummingbirds. We don’t do well on that stuff. Yet it’s quite common for people to physically gag at the taste of – not just vegetables, but any food that contains fiber. The American diet is notoriously deficient in fiber, potassium, and magnesium, and that’s because we replace vegetables with stuff we’d rather eat. I mean, vital micronutrients? Bleah! Pass the frosting.
Last year, I trained for a marathon. I thought I was in heaven. I could run as much as I wanted and also eat as much as I wanted. Add an audio book and I was doing my three favorite things every day! I bought a bigger fanny pack so I could jog around town with a pouch full of vanilla fig bars. (She said “bigger fanny.”) I would eat three waffles for breakfast and two separate lunches. In spite of my all-consuming appetite, I started finding the taste of sweets unappetizing. Cookies started tasting like sweet lard. Donuts started tasting like stale duck bread with Pixy Stix on top. Finally, even dried fruit with added sweetener got to be too sweet. I have no idea how it happened, but becoming a marathoner permanently changed my ability to enjoy dessert foods – the exact opposite of what I would have expected.
For those who are struggling to eat healthier food, it’s an uphill battle as long as we cling to our “treats.” We have to stop seeing sugar as a reward. My dog is a good little boy, but that doesn’t mean he “deserves chocolate;” chocolate could send him to an agonizing, convulsive death. Sugar is the obstacle. Sugar makes us want to eat more sugar and it makes us hate eating the things our physical organisms need to be eating. Sugar makes everything else taste bad in comparison. It seems hard, but cutting out sugar makes everything else easier.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.