Have you ever been so ashamed of something that you would not tell anyone about it? For me, it was my sugar addiction. This is my journey to giving up sugar.
One sunny Saturday afternoon in June 2018, I realized I would have to completely eliminate sugar from my life. I was on my way to drop of my son, Sebastian, to his friend Sammy’s birthday party. The plan was that I would drop him off and head over to my parents-in-law’s new home to help them unpack. As I hugged my son goodbye and confirmed the pickup time with Sammy’s mom Alyssa, my thoughts were consumed with where I could get ice cream or cookies from a nearby drive thru.
I was annoyed that the only fast food location was McDonald’s. Don’t get me wrong; as a sugar addict, I made it work. I still ordered a hot fudge sundae, large fries, and two apple pies, but I swear to you that I was irritated that there were no other restaurants I could visit en route to my in-laws. Normally my binges consisted of more quantities of food than this, and I would eat to feel the bulkiness of the food in the back of my throat. I wasn’t trying to choke on the food, per se, but I ate to feel the heft and to zone out from whatever – boredom, restlessness, or shame. If you are a binger, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, you probably think I’m crazy.
As I was driving that afternoon, the anger shifted to sadness. Suddenly, I was aware that no amount of sugary treats would be enough. Clarity suddenly took over; no matter how much I ate in a binging session, I would always be looking forward to the next one. My sugar addiction was increasing. In the past, I would be satiated with the current binge. Now, though, I realized that that binge wasn’t enough even in that moment. There would never be enough.
And that was the moment I accepted that I had a problem with sugar. Sadness enveloped me. It was like my security blanket had been ripped out from underneath me. Sugar in all its glorious forms – Baskin Robbins sundaes, Culvers Concrete Mixers, Panera’s cookies, Oberweis’s sundaes, holiday desserts – had been my go-to source of comfort for years. If I didn’t have that, then what? What was I supposed to do? I felt bereft. I was at a loss. What would happen now? You might scoff at this if you don’t struggle with overeating sugar, but if you do identify, you know how painful this is.
My emotions flip-flopped. I was sad one moment, angry the next, followed by resignation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was already starting the grieving process because my relationship with sugar was going to be ending. This would be an entire overhaul of the way I had been living. It was not uncommon for me to leave work around 4:00 pm, go to the Culver’s drive thru and order large fries with cheese sauce and a large Concrete Mixer with extra cookie dough and extra Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I would zone out as I ate spoonful after spoonful and listen to Sirius, although I couldn’t tell you what I heard. After exiting the expressway, I would likely visit another drive thru, this time ordering a two-scoop hot fudge sundae with one scoop of peanut butter and chocolate ice cream and one of cookie dough. Did I want whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry? Duh.
I would eat the sundae in my parked car behind the strip mall. It could have been a beautiful day with leafy trees towering over my car, but I would not have noticed. The only thing I could focus on was how the hot fudge tasted. I’m full of sadness as I type this because I remember the shame I felt as I ate in isolation, because I threw away the containers so my husband didn’t see them, and because I was disgusted with myself for doing this over and over. I would tell myself I would start again the next day, next Monday, or come up with some innocuous rationalization of why this was ok.
But it wasn’t ok. I was drowning. I was horrified with myself and felt powerless to stop. That’s what sugar addiction does. I’m sharing these stories to exemplify the depth of my despair so that if you see yourself in my story, you also know that it is possible to overcome.
My story explains how I decided to give up sugar. When I refer to removing sugar, I mean that I don’t consume added sugar. I only eat naturally-occurring sugar in dairy, fruit, etc. The FREE GUIDE today includes a resource page to help you identify what is considered “added sugar” on ingredient labels.
This article will also share how eliminating sugar impacted my life and how you can determine if you should reduce sugar or remove it altogether as well. If you are reading this and you struggle with overeating sugary treats, feeling shame, and isolation, I created a FREE GIFT from my heart to yours. I wrote “My top tips & secrets for giving up sugar” with you in mind. Click the link below to learn about the steps I took to remove sugar from my diet:
How giving up sugar impacted my life – That day in June was my rock bottom. At the time of this writing, I have been “clean” for 355 days. My spirit lifted as I typed that, and I naturally started to smile. I’m so proud of myself and grateful that I had that moment because it led to my new path. Giving up sugar is my biggest accomplishment because of what it inspired.
I’m not going to pretend that once I made the decision to give up sugar, that it was smooth sailing after that. I had several relapses. The first time, I made it 12 days before succumbing to free goodies on a college trip. The next time, I went 30-ish days without sugar until ketchup (!!!) kicked off a spree. After that time, I had several false starts. I would “be good” for two days and then binge for three days, or I would last a week and then eat cake for someone’s birthday at work. Please understand that relapses are a normal part of recovery and to give yourself grace. Had I given up, I wouldn’t have transformed my life.
That word, transform, is exactly what happened in the last year for me. I had no idea how much time I mentally devoted to my cravings, mapping out the next time I would binge, and the actual time eating. We don’t realize how much of our life we are wasting on shameful thoughts until they aren’t there anymore. Suddenly, I had more time AND confidence to pursue other things.
In the last year, I wrote a book about giving up sugar, became an Independent College Counselor, launched my website and blog, began posting on social media, and created my first product (Do you need help creating and sticking to your morning routine? Email me because I can help!). I immerse myself in motivational business podcasts every day, conquered my morning routine and exercise before work, work full-time, and have a husband and two kiddos. I’ve always been organized and professional, but this is the most motivated I’ve ever been. And I’m not stopping here. Yesterday I was interviewed on a podcast about my journey to giving up sugar! The sky is the limit for me, just as it is for you.
And here is the biggest way giving up sugar has impacted my life: I stopped thinking of my value in terms of my physicality. I can’t believe I just typed that. A counseling technique I learned in graduate school is to use the “magic wand” line. As in, I might ask a student, “If you had a magic wand, what would you want to happen?” If I had had a magic wand, I wouldn’t have had the guts or even enough hope in the back of mind to whisper aloud, “I want to feel whole.” I am not saying that if you adopt a no-added-sugar lifestyle, you will poof! feel like a supermodel, but over time, I organically started to feel like my shell was just a compartment to house my awesomeness inside. My outside is no longer the sum of my parts. My sum is me. I’m no longer going through the shame cycle.
Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t suddenly stopped caring about my appearance, but the motivation has shifted. I exercise now to have more energy to tackle everything, not as a punishment. It makes me feel invincible. And because I’m slightly obsessed with the team I refer to as “the friends in my head” (the Peloton spin instructors). I still wear high heels, skirts, put on makeup, and style my hair, but not all the time, and only because I sincerely enjoy it.
So how does this just happen? How did I go from self-loathing to acceptance in only a few months? I had no idea how much time I devoted to sugar until it was no longer an option. I wasted so many hours, days, months of my life thinking about sugar, eating sugar, recovering from sugar, looking forward to sugar, craving sugar; it truly ruled my life. Now that it’s not a central figure, that leaves a huge gaping hole to fill, mentally and emotionally.
It’s not that I no longer care what I look like because it’s important to still take pride in one’s appearance, but when I adjusted to the NAS lifestyle, I felt more in control. My self-efficacy grew as the physical cravings subsided and I no longer felt powerless to food. How my body felt was changing, and it affected me emotionally. I no longer felt bloated, sluggish, and ashamed. I felt physically lighter and more energetic. I was proud of myself for even trying this, and I felt more open to new experiences. I can’t guarantee how you will feel if you eliminate sugar, but for me, it has been freeing. I feel in control of my life and am optimistic about the future. Every year will now be better than the last. Don’t you want this for yourself?
How do you know if you should limit sugar or give it up completely? – As much time as you might have spent eating sugar to the point of oblivion, you still know yourself. You might distract yourself from your problems by binging, but you are still aware of how much time you devote to sugar, how you seek it out, how you experience cravings and withdrawals. If you are on the fence, though, and not sure if you can have cookies or desserts or sugary alcoholic beverages from time to time, consider eliminating sugar completely for a month and then adding a little back in at a time. See if you can handle eating small amounts without immediately wanting to eat past fullness.
As you read the following example, ask yourself if you identify with me or my husband more. My husband Kevin could eat potato chips all day long. When he opens a bag, he feels compelled to continue as if he can’t stop at one handful. But, he can have one or two cookies and leave the rest. Kevin won’t sneak into the pantry when I leave the room. He won’t scarf down a piece of birthday cake when I put the baby to bed. And when I say scarf down, I mean it. One time I scooped the buttercream frosting from the perimeter of my son’s entire birthday cake and shoved it in my mouth before my husband returned to the kitchen. Um, yeah, he doesn’t do that.
This is what I’m talking about – you know yourself. Are you likely to eat one or two sugary treats and be like “eh?” or are you drawn to eat more and more until you are sick? So, if you are debating the question, you probably already know the answer. You haven’t reached the acceptance stage yet.
If you saw yourself in my story today or have questions about giving up sugar, please, please, please read my FREE GUIDE “My top tips & secrets to giving up sugar.” You will learn how to get started and what to watch out for. Please comment below if this article resonated or email me about your struggles with sugar!
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