Over the past 8 years, I have taken a personal journey toward being in the best health possible, and have shared what I have learned with thousands of others. My biggest secret? All this time, I was still addicted to sugar and I didn’t even know it, until as of April 16, 2014, I finally wasn’t! How did I realize this? All of the signs listed below no longer applied in my life. What a huge relief!
What are the signs? I’ll share with you my personal thoughts on this, with the benefit of hindsight. I believe my addiction started at a young age, I remember enjoying toast with peanut butter and brown sugar as a snack! Crazy! You may recognize some or most of these signs in your life when they are pointed out, but even if you only relate to one; it’s time to take a closer look at the issue.
1. You drink soda. Even worse, diet soda.
This may seem obvious to most people, but many may believe that it’s ok to have just a few once in a while or a couple of times a week. Any soda is too much; this is not an ‘everything in moderation’ item. I struggled with an addiction to Diet Coke (yes, only Diet Coke, in a can) since high school. And every time I would have a can, I would pair it with a sweet treat. It took 3 tries to finally quit for good, and I haven’t had one in 2 1/2 years. If you feel like you cannot live without your favourite (diet) soda, it’s the sugar addiction talking.
2. After every meal, you have to have something sweet.
You make better choices, such as fruit or dark chocolate, but you cannot go without it. If you pass it up, you end up having it later anyhow. For years, I enjoyed a square or two or three of dark chocolate after lunch. I did it for the anti-oxidants! Now that my sugar addiction is gone, the desire has evaporated.
3. You are a self-proclaimed chocoholic.
Whether you eat 70% dark chocolate or milk, chocolate is chocolate. And you’d be hard pressed to pass it up. You always have chocolate on hand (especially during that time of the month, right ladies?) and you don’t usually pass it up if someone offers it to you or there is an open box in the lunchroom at work. From someone who used to work at Hershey’s, I was definitely a chocoholic. Yes, I had access to FREE chocolate daily, but I was training for Ironman so it was ok. I have always loved chocolate and until recently, I had to have chocolate in the house (fair trade, 70%, organic of course). Now, I can bypass the chocolate at the grocery store without being tempted to buy it.
4. Salty snacks like chips and pretzels are your nemesis.
Turns out that chips and pretzels are actually worse for your blood sugar than a chocolate bar! So even though you may believe you’re not addicted to sugar because you’re not eating sugar, your body would disagree. When I first learned about the glycemic index seven years ago, I finally understood why I hadn’t lost any weight while training and completing two full Ironman triathlons. Since all of these foods, including white and whole wheat bread spike your blood sugars, you crash and end up craving the massive sugar spike again, and again and again. And the next time you indulge this craving it many be in the form of a sugary donut or pastry instead to quickly raise your blood sugar levels again.
5. A glass of wine a day, that’s ok right?
There are some health benefits to drinking wine, but there is sugar in wine as well, sometimes more in red than white wine and certainly more in sparkling wine. I recently met a woman who loves her bubbly, and I casually mentioned that it is likely a sugar addiction. She laughed and agreed, but didn’t seem to think it was an issue. I believe that many people don’t realize that some of the behaviours, habits and emotions we have can be linked to a sugar addiction. One habit I had picked up when I quit beer due to a gluten-intolerance was drinking ciders, which have so much more sugar! Again, with the addiction gone, the desire to drink ciders or wine is too. Guidelines for moderate drinking are outlined here.
6. You make unplanned stops at a convenience or grocery store to pick up your favourite ‘treat’.
Confession time: I had a major addiction to Eggies (past tense) from my Hershey days. I was convinced that it wasn’t a big deal, since the Easter season is only a few months long. I was certain that because of my healthy habits otherwise, that it wasn’t a big deal. Yet I found myself picking up several bags a week to eat and share with my husband and three year old. I shared my experiences in a previous blog post. What I can tell you is that in the past, when I was out of Diet Coke, I knew where I could get my hands on a refrigerated can. When I promised myself I wouldn’t have it in the house, I still found myself stopping to pick up a can every day. What is your ‘craving’ treat that you secretly cannot live without? I promise you that once you have ditched the sugar cravings for good you will no longer be a slave to these behaviours.
7. When you are upset, frustrated or tired, your go-to snack has sugar.
We all know that sugar can affect our mood. What we don’t realize is that sometimes sugar is the root cause of our moods. Many times during this long cold winter I found myself using chocolate to get out of a down mood. What I hadn’t realized is that my addiction to sugar was actually contributing to my lack of energy and sour mood. I am not a scientist, but I know that sugar messes with our brains, and when the fog finally lifted in April, I realized my mood swings had disappeared (yes, even during that time of the month) and I am now able to deal with negative emotions much more quickly and effectively, without resorting to food as a treat or reward. I shocked myself when after a recent surgery for two ingrown toenails, I didn’t ask my husband to pick me up any treats to help me cope! I did however have a friend bring me Kelly’s cupcakes, but those are too delicious and healthy to pass up.
So what is the solution? What worked for me, after all of these years (finally) was this year’s 30 Day Whole Body Detox program. This is the third year I’ve done it, but this year I completely cut out caffeine (I had been having a bit from green tea in previous years) and I did not have any of the dessert recipes that include healthy (70%) dark chocolate for the first two weeks. I survived Easter without cheating. For the first time in my life, I feel completely in control of my eating habits and am no longer a slave to my cravings. And I want everyone to feel this way, cause it’s amazing! You don’t know what you don’t know, because I didn’t either until I arrived.
Sugar is hiding everywhere these days. And I know there is still a small amount in my diet, and I’m ok with that. Until I’m ready to make 100% of my meals from scratch, it will likely be the case. You can learn more about sugar and the impact on our society from this great new documentary called Fed Up! I saw it about a month ago in the theatre. It will be available for download on iTunes shortly. They also have a great no sugar challenge if you want to give it a go for 10 days, you can sign up as soon as you visit their website. Stay tuned local peeps! We may host a screening here!
Now it’s your turn! Are you secretly hiding a sugar addiction? Are you ready to deal with it? Visit our program page to find out more about how many of us have done it with the 30 Day Whole Body Detox.