How many people have you known that were trying to quit smoking but gave up trying because they were gaining too much weight? I have known enough people in that boat that it is just something that is common knowledge about giving up smoking.
People that go to AA meetings are encouraged to eat sweets or candies whenever they are hit with a craving to use. People in rehab are fed high calorie, high carb, sweetened foods and drinks. Perhaps it is because those foods are the easy foods to get and serve in an institutional setting, perhaps due to the side benefit of those food’s effect on the recovering addict’s other cravings.
In the New York Times, there is an article, “Off the Drugs, Onto the Cupcakes“, that explores this phenomenon in rehabs across the nation.
Sugar was also considered a harmless replacement for drugs and alcohol. In fact, AA’s “Big Book” — the 12 Step bible — suggests that recovering addicts keep candy on hand. (This may explain why cookies, coffee and plumes of cigarette smoke are often staples at so many 12 Step meetings.)
My own experience, with my own recent battles with my little addictions is a perfect example of this. Not that long ago I decided that I had a problem with drinking. I had a beer keg refrigerator downstairs and it always contained anywhere between 1 to 16 gallons of beer in it. Nice thing about the beer fridge and pouring a pint any time I wanted was that it made it hard to count how many pints I drank every evening. I didn’t care to count how many beers I had per night. It also contained a freezer above the keg where I kept my favorite vodka and whiskey chilled for the occasional nip of hard liquor. This went on for a couple of years, and then I decided to give all of that up.
When I quit drinking I didn’t have any kind of withdrawal spells or any kind of relapse fits, but I did switch over immediately to sugar, and I didn’t have anyone advising me to do so. I started buying twelve packs of Coke and Root Beer. I made three or four big batches of peanut brittle per week, and ate it all myself, for the most part. My weight ballooned, of course. I did not realize that I was transferring addictions.
You see, modern science can now identify the areas of the brain that are activated during any activity. They can see the pleasure centers spring to life when a user ingests his favorite drug. They can watch the brain react to the first cigarette of the day. They now tell us that there is no difference between taking cocaine and eating sugar, except that sugar is legal, and it’s in every processed food made (just about). It is hard to get away from sugar. Sugar’s hooks are there every ten minutes during your favorite TV show. Sugar is tempting you on your drive to work at Starbucks and McDonald’s. Sugar is everywhere in your employer’s break room. You can find sugar in just about every food you can buy, called by a thousand names, replacing the evil fats that just a few years ago we were all told would kill you.
I was hooked on sugar. My weight bulged twenty percent. I looked a lot older than I was. Although these things didn’t make me retreat back to beer, in a lot of cases, for a lot of people, that is what happens. They will start smoking again to lose weight. They will start back on cocaine, to get off of sugar. If cocaine were as legal as sugar, that might not be a bad switch. Cocaine doesn’t cause fatty liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, blindness, alzheimer’s, liver failure, kidney failure, knee replacements, hip replacements, early death. Children of 8 aren’t getting bariatric surgery and liver replacement surgery due to cocaine, cigarettes or heroin.
In my case, I got really lucky in life. I hope my wife doesn’t mind my saying so in public, but she is saving my life. Her life has been dedicated to discovering for her clients the ways that they can help themselves without resorting to the drugs and methods of western scientific medicine. During her quest she has discovered the benefits of yoga and breathing, stilling one’s mind thru meditation, and the effects of eating right. She has colleagues that knew about sugar and the western diet before it got cool. Back in April, we went on a 21 Day Sugar Detox. We have never went back.
After that twenty one day stretch I could tell once again the effect that eating sugar or refined carbs had on my body. I could tell the effects that they had on my thinking and my personality. I am a different person emotionally and physically when I am clean and sober from sugar. When I am metabolizing sugar in bed at night I sweat, I toss and turn, I awaken many times per night. When I am off it, none of those effects occur. When I am on it I sweat, I can’t concentrate as well, I am prone to being very self-critical, I want to get every job done too quickly, I anger quickly, and I have slight hand tremors when doing detail work.
I have eaten sugar many times since the beginning of my sugarless life. I have done it enough times to know that coming down won’t be effortless. It’s like drinking too much, you know you will pay for it the next day.
Sugar is an addictive substance. The repercussions of consuming sugar like the average citizen in the US is detailed every single day. There will not be a wave of laws to make it illegal though. There will be no help from the government, no prohibition, no sin taxes, no restrictive guidelines. We are on our own with this one. We must all train ourselves and our families. We must all do what we can for our community to make it easier for other people to come onboard the sugar free bandwagon.
Here is my advice, stop me if you have heard this before…
Shop on the outside walls of your grocery store. Buy only foods that are single ingredient foods, like apples, lettuce, carrots, meat, butter, etc. Don’t buy foods that are in boxes, bags or bottles. Foods that have health claims on the label (gluten free, low fat) should be avoided, because they are processed foods. Don’t drink any sweetened drink, even if it says no calories on it. Just doing these simple things will cut the amount of sugar you consume by over half. Before you realize it, you will be able to feel the effects of eating sugar like I do. I had cravings as I detoxed. I had a depression-like mood swing and felt very low energy, for a little while. If you would like to see what it was like, go into the archives of this very blog, starting at April 1. I detailed the entire experience. Nothing I went through was anything like living with type two diabetes, though. I got lucky. Get yourself lucky.
I appreciate your honesty and ability to share your vulnerabilities. Keep up !
What a great blog! A dear friend of 27 years just passed away 3 days ago from colon cancer. She looooved her sugar. Am I blaming sugar for her cancer. No. But it certainly did not help! She was always a big girl, let me put it that way. She just did not care and would rather enjoy the foods and drinks she wanted to enjoy without realizing how, more than just physical, her sugar/fat habit may be affecting her. She suffered from debilitating depression on and off her entire life.
Anyway, I may just be searching for answers but regardless of all that … great blog! People do not want to hear it because they are afraid of giving up the temporary comfort of sugar and fat but what you have written here is the absolute truth.
My yoga saves me from homicide. I do need to meditate more. Nice work.
I’m sorry about the experience your friend went through and I am glad you found some of what you are looking for in what I have written. I write about these topics daily, so pop in when you can. I really appreciate comments, so do that when you can, too, in addition to giving me tips on nutrition news to pass on!