Hi, my name is Brittany and I’m a sugar addict.
Its true. I’ve struggled in a not so healthy relationship with sugar as far back as I can remember. My mom never kept sweets in the house. She’d make desserts every once in a while, but not as a daily occurrence. Growing up though I craved sugar constantly, so I had to resort to eating brown sugar by the spoonful to get my fix. I even demolished a box of sugar cubes that was meant to be for my school project.
By the time I went to college, I had unfettered access to penny candy bins that I could buy with my dining card. Swedish fish and sour patch fruit salad were my go to study snacks and I ate them ALL the time. By this time though, I had learned enough about nutrition to know how bad this was for me so I began eating extremely healthy in all other areas to try to counterbalance all the sugar I was taking into my body.
Unfortunately, healthy food doesn’t cancel out all the unhealthy food we take into our bodies (as much as we wish it did). I did enough to keep my weight somewhat under control during that time, but probably only because of the amount of working out I did. The one thing that I always struggled with though were my cankles, no matter how much exercise I did they never went away. They were unproportionally big for my body and were just full of fluid. I went to the doctor trying to figure out why the swelling was so bad, but they had no explanation for me so I had just resigned to the fact that I’d always have these swollen ankles.
One summer, I decided I’d give up sugar. The first few weeks were tough, but I did it for a couple of months. I couldn’t believe I was doing so well. It all came crashing down though when I took my friend out for ice cream for his birthday, I wasn’t planning on having any myself. Then I got there and I justified with myself that I’ve done so well, surely this one time won’t make a difference. Boy was I wrong. It made a huge difference and the 6 months that followed that sugar-free summer was a semester of sugar bingeing. That semester was my toughest yet and I spent most of my time in the library with my trusty study snacks. I pretty much lived off sugar that semester. My health took a beating–I lost too much weight, bruised so easily that my legs were covered in them and became depressed and angry at everyone.
I got through it and eventually was able to get my sugar a little more under control, but I never really recovered from that 6 month binge. Years later, during my postgraduate studies in Scotland, I lived off Tootie Fruties, Dark Chocolate Digestives, Snap Peas and Hummus. Not the healthiest of choices, but they fed my addiction while writing my dissertation. Since then, I’ve worked harder at eliminating sugar from diet.
Ultimately, it’s what led me to become so passionate about nutrition and real food. I was desperate to get this sugar monster off my back and real food was key to my recovery. Over the years that followed, I’ve tried several times to eliminate sugar from my diet. I would do well for a few weeks or sometimes a month or two, but then as soon as I thought I was in the clear I’d treat myself to a bag of Haribo sweets and the obsession and constant thoughts of sugar came flooding back. Not only did the cravings come back, but within minutes of eating the sugar I would start to feel nauseous and get a bad headache.
At this point I had gotten better at not eating sugar very often, if I could just keep it out of the house I didn’t need it. But being married and having older children doesn’t make that possible because they are always bringing sugar into the house. I usually was pretty good at keeping it under control, but the thoughts of the sugar consumed me. And at points I was so sick of thinking about the sugar that I just ate their sweets and then felt so guilty about it after. I was so sick of having to fight off the obsessive thoughts, I wanted to be free of them once and for all.
It wasn’t until I was breastfeeding my third child that I really got a handle on my sugar addiction and saw the huge benefits of removing the refined sugars from my diet. We found out that he had a bad reaction whenever I ate refined sugar. At that point, I had controlled my sugar habit to the point that I only had it once a week. My husband knew the days that I had eaten sugar because our son screamed all night long. So I knew I had to quit. It was easier for me to quit this time around because it wasn’t for me, it was for my son.
After a few months of being completely free from refined sugars I began noticing the benefits. With each pregnancy I had put on an extra 15-20 pounds so by that point I was about 60 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. I had resigned myself to that fact that I could lose some of the weight, but I’d never be as skinny as I was before kids. Within 6 months of this new sugar-free lifestyle I had lost it all and then some. Remember those swollen cankles that I loathed so much growing up. Gone. I had ankles for the first time in my life. I could wear ankle boots and I didn’t have to shop for wellies with a wide calf anymore.
I know all of this sounds very superficial, but it wasn’t just appearance changes that I had. Before I was super sensitive to light and had to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days or I’d have painful headaches. I found myself not having to wear sunglasses as often. However, one of the most significant changes though was my mental health. I’ve always struggled with anxiety and depression, especially after having a baby. This time round, I have had virtually no feelings of anxiety or depression. Even when our family faced the most stressful and difficult circumstance we’ve ever experienced, my mental health remained strong. I think sugar played a huge role.
Not only did eliminating refined sugar help my anxiety and depression, but my obsessive thoughts about sugar were almost gone. I thought about it every once in a while, but it did not control me like it does when I’m eating refined sugar. After the first few weeks of being completely refined sugar-free, I stopped thinking about sugar all the time and even if I did see something sugary or pass the candy aisle in the grocery store, it didn’t have the same pull that it used to.
I’m not perfect now, and did fall off the bandwagon around Christmas when I decided I should try a little bit of sugar to see if it still affected my son. It did! And its been hard to get it back under control again. But I’ve learned how much happier I am when I am not under sugar’s control. I am free to be myself and control my own eating habits. It’s a daily choice that I have to make, but it’s so worth it.
Over these years that I have dealt with this addiction, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned how dangerous refined sugar is to so many aspects of our physical and mental health. I’ve learned how to spot all the hidden sugars that food manufactures put in all types of packaged foods. I’ve learned how to make substitutes for these foods that taste even better than the originals. I’ve learned how to eat in a way that makes my cravings disappear. I’ve learned how to create healthier treats with natural sugars that don’t trigger my addiction. I’ve changed my taste buds by eliminating refined sugars real food tastes so much better than it used to. Almonds and certain vegetables taste sweet to me now, when before they might have tasted a bit bitter. I have learned that I don’t need to eat a treat (even a healthy one) every single day and I’ve stopped craving one. And most of all, I’ve learned healthy habits that I can teach my children so that they don’t have to go through the same struggle I did.
**If you are interested in learning healthy habits to eliminate refined sugars from your diet, making flavour and nutrient packed meals that will help curb your cravings and obsessive thought and yummy refined sugar-free desserts that won’t trigger your sweet tooth, sign up for my new 21 days to Tame Your Sweet Tooth program here.
This article was featured on the Healthy Living Link Party, check it out here.
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