I AM AN addict. It is important for me to say that because I am sure there are other people in my shoes who do not recognise the agony of being a sugar addict. The verdict is still out on whether sugar can be considered an addictive substance because scientists can offer studies negating just about anything.
In the meantime, while scientists squabble and some even deny the behaviour-changing properties of sugar – try teaching a child just after a sugar-charged break or lunch – many people suffer from obesity and can’t figure out how to be healthy and happy.
My whole life has been a sugar quest and a battle with my weight. I was always too thin or too fat. I had no control over my weight. I starved or I overate. There was no middle ground. Yet no one ever pointed out to me that food was my drug of choice. I tried eating my way out of depression. I also ate out of uncontrollable exuberance, fear (mostly of failure) and boredom. Sugary foods allowed me to push every feeling deep inside of me.
But I never found sugar on any list of addictions, which always include drug and alcohol abuse – and even gambling.
In the past, I have gone on starvation diets of 1,000 calories a day. I soldiered through each day reconciled to the fact I was doomed to feel hungry my whole life. I was hungry when I overate; I felt hungry when I dieted.
I knew there were certain foods to stay away from like cookies, cake, chocolate, and ice cream and when I did that successfully for a few months, I convinced myself I could gradually reintroduce them into my life. Then the entire eating plan went haywire.
When the scales would show a gain of two pounds after I had been strict with my diet for a long time, I would feel defeated, and I’d go on an eating binge. If I ate a meal and the scales showed I had gained four pounds the next day, I’d give up and eat for comfort.
I didn’t know that it is impossible to gain four pounds in one meal and that the sodium content in many foods can cause a temporary water weight gain. I didn’t know that as you exercise, you lose body fat and gain back some weight in muscles so that the scales are not your best friend. I learned all of this from a nutritionist. My gym trainer and my nutritionist have been the best investments of my life.
In the last five months I have lost 25 pounds by facing my sugar addiction with a nutritionist. All I have done is cut out sugar. My appetite is 25 per cent of what it once was. I concentrate better. I don’t think about food every minute of the day. I have pancakes made with homemade oat flour for breakfast; pizza made from whole wheat flour tortillas and topped with salsa, pineapple, olives and Italian meatballs (made from tofu) for lunch; 85 per cent dark chocolate or the creamiest chocolate/peanut butter ice cream imaginable made from bananas for snacks.
I have learned to think about food more creatively so there’s nothing I miss. Cutting out sugar means I don’t have mood swings and awful depression. I don’t starve, and I no longer follow those silly starvation diets. I lose weight by eating 1,600 calories a day. I exercise with an awesome trainer and at 65 I have no pain and I feel better than I felt at 19.
For the first time in my life I feel in control of my eating because I realise that for me, sugar is an addiction, and the day I fall off the wagon, I will start to gain weight again. I will not be able to work sugar back into my life gradually. I have had downfalls, and I will have more. I ate a sliver of cake for a friend’s birthday.
I tested myself a couple of times with a few bites of a sugar product, but I didn’t like the feeling of nonstop hunger afterwards or being high for a short time and then plummeting to the depths of despair. The ups and down of a sugar high are agonizing, and a weight gain to the point of obesity is downright dangerous. Diabetes, heart disease – a whole slew of medical problems are associated with obesity.
Being overweight is not merely a matter of lacking self-control. It is a real problem with a complicated combination of emotional, chemical, hormonal and neurological components that includes all of the symptoms of addiction. Sugar addictions are especially difficult to deal with because sugar is included in so many food items so it requires constant vigilance.
Scientists can argue all they want, but no one can convince me that sugar is not an addiction. Everyone battling their weight deserves support and a fighting chance to win that war on obesity. We’d have a lot more healthier, happier people if we would all recognise sugar addictions do exist.