I’m going to share a story with you that is so personal. Some people will completely relate and others won’t and that’s OK. Forgive me for the long essay, but I figure I normally have such photo heavy posts, it’s OK every now and then to write a lot a mini novel.
I am completely and utterly addicted to sugar. That doesn’t sound so bad in comparison to if I had to say I was addicted to drugs. You’d be more shocked at the latter statement and yet sugar is almost the same as a drug (to my system.)
You either have a problem with sugar or you don’t. You probably don’t have such a strong addiction or even an addiction at all, if you are able to open up a packet of crisps, eat a handful (or until you’re satisfied) and then stop, fold the packet and put it away. The same goes for chocolate – if you can open up a slab, eat a few blocks and then put it away, you’re probably not addicted to sugar.
I don’t understand people who do that, but it must be wonderful to be in control of your cravings and know when it’s satisfied and carry on with life, not craving more and more.
I am the girl who will scoff the entire slab and then drive out to get more because the craving isn’t only satisfied, but in fact it’s stirred up and I want more.
I have got to a point in my life where I have such an unhealthy relationship with sugar, it is affecting me. It’s upset my self esteem, my self worth and I feel like it controls me.
I started Banting last year February and did really well on it, except that I would then have this mindset: “Well done Bailey! You ate well and so now you’ve earned a chocolate/slice of non Banting cake/insert other cheat here.” and I would have it. I’d enjoy it for that split second/moment in time and then instantly feel guilty because I felt like I had done so well in my eating and by having that, (which honestly wasn’t necessary), I’d undone the willpower work I’d originally set.
I saw this Pinterest quote: “Stop rewarding yourself with food, you’re not a dog!” and laughed so much because that is exactly what I was doing – which now seems so illogical, but before it didn’t.
The problem wasn’t that I had eaten that chocolate; it was what it did to my body for days afterwards. I’d get that taste of sugar, it would cause the imbalance, trigger parts of my brain to now want more. Instead of having the logical: “I had the chocolate, and tomorrow it’s back to eating well…” My body would crave more chocolate, more sweets and something starchy like a waffle, a croissant with jam or slap chips and vinegar. It would take more will power (which wouldn’t always be there) and feeling more and more guilty and so I would start feeling down about myself and berate myself for not being able to pull myself together.
This is not healthy.
I’d lose weight and be healthy when I was dieting (I really just mean eating real food not processed food/junk food and so on) 100%, but then I’d reward myself with food because every other diet suggests a cheat day, right?
Well, those cheat days played havoc on me.
They also say everything in moderation, but that for me is a cop out. Define moderation. I met a girl who drinks 3 litres of Coke Zero every day and so for her to cut down and have her Coke Zero in moderation, she went down to 1 litre a day. My moderation would be one tin can a week, so you see? What’s “in moderation” ?
I’ve also tried to cut out sugar before and wouldn’t have your obvious suspects of sweets, chocolates and pastries, but I’d have plenty of sauces on my steak/chicken and still be craving sweets. On further inspection, realising how many hidden sugars there are in products is appalling. It’s depressing actually when you think you’re doing something healthy and making a “healthy choice” only to discover the hidden ingredients are spiking those cravings.
Your body doesn’t determine how it gets sugar – so whether you eat an ice-cream, a waffle or whether you eat tomato sauce or a basting sauce, once ingested, the sugars instantly trigger the addiction and cravings.
The Banting lifestyle has definitely educated me in what has sugar and what doesn’t, so whilst the initial start felt time consuming in finding out what has sugar and what doesn’t, I’d rather be informed and truly know what it is I am eating. I’ve never read more ingredient labels in my life. I’ve also never been so shocked (and truly educated and aware.)
This past December I went on a binging month and blamed Christmas, obviously. I went crazy and the more I indulged in, the more I wanted and the more the guilt (and kilos) piled on!
In that week between Christmas and New Year, I made a mental decision to stop having sugar control me and to take the control back in what I put into my body and what I don’t.
I was concerned that this would be another inspired “Get Healthy for the New Year” resolution, that would only fail (again) and that I was only kidding myself.
I also immediately started making excuses. “It’s Sox’s birthday on the 31 January and my birthday 4 days later on the 4th of Feb! Which means cake. OK I can’t do it. Then it’s Valentines Day and then it’s Easter, with all those Easter Eggs and and and…”
NO. I will never start something if I keep setting obstacles up. There will never be a “good time.” This has to be a lifestyle change. A smoker doesn’t stop smoking to start again after they’ve quit for 3 months. The biggest thing with any life change is getting mentally onboard and my mind was made up.
So the big question was: How was I actually going to QUIT SUGAR properly?
I received the most beautiful book for Christmas: Doreen Virtue Angel Collection and couldn’t put it down. It is the most beautiful book and in there were 2 prayers for food cravings and addictions – which I adapted to my sugar addiction.
I decided that from the 2nd of January I would quit sugar properly and get control back. I was going to set the intent with love, kindness and positivity, instead of thinking the negative “You’ve tried this before and FAILED, but suuure… Good luck this time!!”
My inner voice can be very mean and sarcastic!
I wrote the prayers down on a key card (and honestly, felt a bit silly even doing this) and kept them in my bag so that if a craving arrived, I’d privately and silently read them. It was the most humbling experience to feel those cravings subside gently and each time that happened, I’d feel a sense of accomplishment.
I also started reading up and doing a lot of research about sugar, sugar addictions and what happens to the body. Whilst I was doing this, I happened to see a brilliant article from Gabrielle Bernstein who is a best selling author and an incredible motivator. She has also quit sugar and said that when she was really low, Doreen Virtues prayer for sugar popped up on her Twitter feed and it helped. Here is the prayer:
I also decided to do something a little differently this time. I’ve done the food journals before and started off well and then tapered off, but I’ve never tried this:
I decided to go back to the psychology of gold stars. It really worked for me as a little girl and I remember the feeling I had when I looked up at the classroom wall and saw all the gold stars I’d accumulated.
I bought a desk calendar and a pack of Gold Stars and decided to be honest with myself. No point in putting a gold star up if I had eaten sugar – hidden or obvious. I would know! I’m also being strict – no point in doing this half heartedly too.
Each night before I get into bed, I can’t tell you the sense of accomplishment and pride I get when I am able to place a gold star down for the day. The following day when I feel like having something, I immediately think of the gold star waiting for me at home and if I really battle, I silently read the prayers and it truly, genuinely helps!
The gold stars really help to stay motivated and almost reinforce the “one day at a time” idea.
I’ve also decided to set goals and reward myself and not with food. Once I have accumulated 21 consecutive stars I will reward myself with something. I’m thinking a lovely massage will be the first reward.
Now when I say strict, I mean it. I missed out on 2 stars because whilst we were away in Plett I ate marinated ribs (full of sugar) and some other meal that was prepared for us that also had sugar in it. I could have made the excuse of “It wasn’t my fault and there was no other choice” and “it wasn’t like I ate ice cream or chocolate” but I want to be accountable for everything and be this strict in the beginning.
Let me tell you, I craved sugar more after those meals.
I have not discounted fruit, but I’ve certainly lowered my intake and I’ve also allowed myself a white wine spritzer on special occasions. I’m lucky to not be the biggest drinker ordinarily, but when it’s a birthday/wedding/special occasion and I feel like a glass of wine, I’ll have one and make a note next to the star so that I can be aware of any cravings I may have the next day. I use Xylitol as a sugar substitute, but I really don’t use it often at all.
Now for the nitty gritty part. The detox. Holy moly it has been the absolute pits. I am talking about a headache that no amount of Grandpa or Myprodol would kick, cold sweats at night (seriously), the most absurd cravings that made me feel like some demon had possessed me and wanted me to have anything sugary, and sorry for the TMI, but I’m being downright honest here… the worst yeast infection that needed 2 doses of antibiotics. Apparently that can be quite common.
I’ve been so shocked at how my body has reacted, but also amazed at how sugar can really affect my body. I’ve felt so terrible, and I even had the thought process of: “You see? You were better when you were eating sugar.”
The truth is, you have to become worse before you become better. It’s also made me think: Hell NO. I am NOT going through all of that again to fall off the wagon and have to start all over again.”
Being healthy is definitely a journey. It all started when I did the USN challenge and started changing mind sets. This is the next layer and I’m grateful for the growth, new willpower (even if it is gold stars) and I definitely feel really proud of myself so far. I’ve felt the proudest when I’ve got through those moments of weakness and been so close to cracking and then not giving in. It’s definitely proven I am stronger than I think, but I certainly won’t discount how strong the sugar addiction can be and it’s a work in progress.
I’ve already seen a difference in myself – my confidence, my esteem, my skin and even my clothes. I’m on 17 consecutive stars so far and the cravings are already far more manageable. Whilst it’s still a battle, it’s not nearly as hard as it was in the beginning. It is getting easier and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you on this journey.