Sugar fogs my brain. And I don’t care.
I use food from time to time to escape. And when I need to escape, there are few things that derail my sugar express train from reaching its destination. I’m much improved I’ll have you know. I’ve graduated from the days of drawing the curtains, taking the phone off the hook and curling up by candlelight with a sexy piece of chocolate fudge cake. (Don’t you dare judge me.)
Nearly 40 pounds of flesh gone battling this most recent sugar war, however I still slip, slide and escape the stressors and overwhelming excitement of life with what I call recreational outtakes (sugary treats). I’m human. I lovingly accept this about myself until my fat dresses (the loose-fitting tenty ones) get recirculated into my wardrobe. Even during the pounds down and healthful living months, I may covet your slice of chocolate cake. Your glazed twist donut from that pink box in the breakroom at work leers at me. The devil’s minions from the checkout aisle at CVS also known as Candy Corn have my number.
Sooner or later, without fail, I inevitably cave in to temptation. I may even tell myself I’ve earned it. Dad now has Stage 4. The woman in accounting is deliberately messing with my checks. The mechanic says the engine light issue and unrelated poltergeist screech from under the hood aren’t concerning him as much as the failing breaks beneath my car. Game over. It’s time for a nibble. Those mixed greens, avocado + nuts and protein ain’t gonna cut it either. Not today. Do kindly put a pin in that meditation app and journal exercise workbook too for the moment. Been there, done that. Right now, Momma needs sugar. Sweet, tantalizing, brain-freezing, heart-thumping and blood rushing sugar.
(I left out tooth-decaying and waist-expanding on purpose. Hardly sexy.)
Sugar knows how to work it. Sugar takes the edge off when life is rough, and adds extra sweetness when life shines brightly. Champagne toast anyone? Growing up both Momma Rozie and Auntie Shirley yelled “Gimme some SUGAR!!!” in their most raspy voices immediately preceding wet, smoochy, kisses. The nurses gave lollipops after those mean nasty shots, and ice-cream socials were rewards for being good girls and boys out on the playground at public school. A most divine Nina Simone sirened for sugar in her bowl in 1967 for the bluesy grown ups, while Kellogg’s kept it real with Sugar Smacks cereal for the kiddos well over a decade prior (1953). The sugar pushers were here long before I arrived, and will continue long after I’m gone. Sugar isn’t going anywhere so I must be prepared.
Breaking the Sugar Habit – A Daily Recommitment
I am a work in progress. On most days I’ve got the sugar thing kicked. I read the labels. I steer clear of processed foods and junky foods, most of the time. I’m a public health activist tackling the obesity epidemic via social media with a quite fascinating global roster of experts and advocates from Long Beach, CA to the WHO in the Land Down Under who actually know my name.
What most don’t know is that I’m dragonslaying what feels like a world class sugar addiction on the down-low at home too. At times I feel like a hypocrite – a phoney baloney as the occasional dessert arrives after dining out. Care to share one? Not really, I’d prefer my own. Other days dark sunglasses may cover my eyes (as if hiding from the paparazzi) when the redheaded teen from the local bakery places a particularly decadent cherry pastry into my care as I rush back to my car for a quick bite in solitude. I told you I didn’t care that sugar fogs my brain.
And that’s entirely untrue.
In September of 1995, my mother suffered a Type-2 diabetic stroke. She was in a coma lasting four days. She awoke blind, completely paralyzed on the right-side of her body and lost the ability to speak. Six weeks later she died. She was 49 years old.
I’ll be 43 next month.
And yet it – sugar – still gets to me. Time and time again. The achy joints and itchy cravings for more shortly thereafter are the consequences – side effects due to consumption. Often times I mindfully weigh the pros and cons of a pending sugar binge. Sometimes it works. Other times it doesn’t. And hold up, when I say sugar binge, that can mean anything from a glass of cranberry juice (you know, to cleanse the kidneys…*eyeroll* who told us that?) to the entire sleeve of fat-free cookies – because surely the fat-free label somehow evaporates the added sugar slipped neatly inside the contents to make them taste, well, better.
As for the “sugar fogs the brain” thing – it’s real. I’m not making it up. The science is there to support it. What sugar does to our nucleus accumbens (reward center of the brain) or what I call the “That was easy” button in my head triggers literal relief and relaxation within those first few sugar-coated bites, or sips. It’s pretty much all downhill from there.
But I’m not giving up.
Dr. Robert Lustig wrote a short and sweet piece on sugar and its effects for The Atlantic back in 2012 titled, The Most Happy of Unpleasures, This is Your Brain on Sugar. Read it. Then read it again. Especially this, “Rich people are addicted to money, power, gambling; middle-class people are addicted to cocaine, amphetamine, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, heroin. The poor, well, all they’ve got is sugar.” Then think about lower income communities across the world and the food supply (or lack thereof) in their neighborhoods. Why is junk food and Coca-cola everywhere? Why is this ok? How can we change it?
I’m not poor. Well not currently. Nor am I uninformed about the dangers and consequences of sugar both personally and professionally. Sugar is one of the cheapest and most readily available substances found within our food supply that’s making us very sick. But I love it. Okay maybe not love it, but sometimes I feel as though I need it – emotionally perhaps. Until I give it up. The shame I sometimes feel over not being able to refuse it actually makes me feel like an addict. Maybe I am. Though I could also be a unicorn given my love for Skittles.
What I have learned is that it takes a daily recommitment to battling the sugar war, an arsenal of resources, and a great network of support. Perhaps a bit of Higher Power too. And even with all of that, my food plan scorecard isn’t perfect. Ain’t gonna happen. But I can make it better, and I recommit daily to doing it. Especially after I stumble.
So. Just keep going. If you are aiming to kick the habit or still dangling over the precipice thinking, “I’ll start this thing Monday…or the first of the month, wait, no make that the 15th…better yet, after this stressful period ends…or when we return from vacation,” remember Today isn’t over. Start now. And should you fall off and skin your knee with those deep dish brownies, start again.
And then again.
Interested in learning more? Check out this short video on sugar, and then follow Miseducated Dieter on Facebook for updates on current articles and headlines addressing health here in the US and abroad.