Monday, March 23, 2009

Sugar as Comfort

Ever since I was a little kid, I have been comforted by sugar. I think many of us were. When you fell down and scraped your knee, Mama gave you a Popsicle. When you were upset, a cookie might help. And of course, when you were "good," you got a candy bar. At least I did. I learned when I was very small that food soothes pain.

Sometimes I think it is inborn, and not just taught. I didn't give my kids treats when they were sad or hurt... I tried to help them express their feelings instead. But I still remember a day when my son was two-and-a-half years old, and had misbehaved and his father was about to give him a consequence for it. My son was crying and out of the blue he wailed, "I WANT A PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH!" It really had nothing to do with whatever misbehavior he had exhibited; he just had a sudden desire for *food* to comfort him.

Even very young babies seem to be able to calm themselves with sugar. Many years ago when my firstborn was a tiny infant, he was crying in church. As I took him out to nurse him, an elderly lady came up and said to me, "do you have a sugar tit?" I stared, wide eyed, not knowing what to say to THAT... and she continued, "Don't you have a sugar tit? I gave all my babies sugar tits. You just get a clean cloth... a linen square, you see... and you pile some sugar in the center and tie it shut so the sugar is in a ball. And then you stick that in the baby's mouth and they'll suck on that and stop crying. Everyone used to have a sugar tit. You need to go home and make you a sugar tit." I thanked her and went to nurse my baby, wondering at the wisdom of the ages. A sugar tit. Who knew? I guess this was the early form of the better-known (and dangerous) pacifier dipped in honey. Yes, even babies find calm in sugar.

Sometimes when I am upset, distressed, or sad, I like to pop some candy or cake or cookies into my mouth because it does seem to calm me. I always feel *emotionally* better after I gorge on candy (until I crash from my sugar high and start feeling awful). All those peanut butter cups I have eaten in my life were part of a soothing mechanism. Maybe I should've just made myself a sugar tit instead.

The problem with sugar is the devastating effects it has on the body. I won't get into all the details here, but a diet high in sugar can contribute to the development of diabetes and heart disease. And whenever I have a day filled with sweets, my joints just HURT. They ache and feel tight and it is just misery to move. Not to mention how sugar drains my energy.

But it seems to me that sweets have some sort of addictive nature to them as well. I can't tell you how many times I have binged on brownie batter, cookie dough, etc, even though my stomach was screaming at me to stop. I used to buy these big plastic tubs of frozen mini chocolate eclairs... 36 in each tub. I would keep them in the freezer because, in my mind, that was built-in portion control. I'd have to thaw a few at a time to eat them. But no. I can remember at least TWO occasions where I purchased 2 tubs of eclairs, and at BOTH TUBS in one day (72 mini eclairs!) straight out of the freezer. My mouth would be icy cold, I'd have brain freeze and my teeth would hurt from literally gnawing on the frozen filling, but somehow I couldn't stop. I'd open a tub, take 4, go sit down and eat them. Then I'd go back, get 4 more, go eat them. Back and forth, on and on until they were GONE. THAT is not normal. That screams addiction to me.

I also remember many times when I would eat something sugary, even though I did not like it. It's as though I was trying to convince myself with each bite that it tasted better than it actually did. Grocery store cakes, for example. They are just gross (IMO). I am a good baker. A grocery store cake never tastes good to me, but I'd buy 2 or 3 individually packaged slices (at an OUTRAGEOUS price... because it was easier to hide those containers than try to hide an entire bakery cake clamshell... and I didn't want my kids asking where the CAKE went!) and I would eat them to the last crumb, even though they weren't any good. Same with white chocolate. I do NOT like white chocolate. I have *never* liked white chocolate. It just tastes like sweetened wax to me. Yet I have binged on it, eating piece after piece as I try to convince myself that I *do* like it, as I try with each bite to find some redeeming quality, some flavor or taste to enjoy. And though I never find it, I keep eating. Crazy.

So here I am after 4 days of not eating *any* sugar (or refined carbs) and I feel so much better. I really do. I had some terrible cravings last night, but cravings are easier to battle if you don't have any crap in the house. So I walked my mile, rode my bike for 30 minutes, drank some tea, and went to bed. And today I feel great! And the scale this morning says 231 pounds. That's a 4-pound loss from last Monday. I'll take it, and keep going.

I'll find my comfort in other things. Like right now... a nice walk outside in the sunshine. And later, I'll find comfort in a long, hot bath and then sliding into freshly washed sheets on my bed. MUCH better than any sugar tit.

Have a super great day. The winner of the EatSmart Scale is Kelly from Texas. Congrats Kelly! Hope you enjoy it!

25 comments:

Kelly said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH LYN!!!!! I can't tell you how excited I am. Just today I could have used the scale while measuring some deli meat.
Thanks so much. I never win anything and this was something that I really wanted. :) I'm so excited!!!!!

Tina said...

Great job from a fellow sugar addict. What you are doing is the only way I have ever been able to kick the cravings. Once they go away it's so much easier to eat healthy. Congrats on the loss and getting through the hard times at the beginning!

andrea. said...

I totally don’t want to sound like I’m pitching some fad diet, but I once read a couple books that you might find really interesting. One was Potatoes Not Prozac, and the other was The Sugar Addicts Total Recovery Program, both by Kathleen DesMaisons who has done a TON of research into exactly what you’re talking about – sugar addiction. It’s not given a whole lot of credit in the medical community, but there’s lots of anecdotal evidence of it (many examples in your post), and she’s done her share of research into it. Her reasoning is that it’s very closely related to alcoholism, and that the same people are more susceptible to it (you’re more at risk if you’re an alcoholic, or the child of an alcoholic), and there are actual genetic reasons for it. Something about certain chemical receptors in the brain – it’s been awhile since I read it, but I think it’s that both alcoholics and sugar addicts have more of these receptors than the average person – so things like alcohol and sugar give you a BIGGER high than it does with normal people. Which starts the cycle of addiction.

She actually worked in alcohol recovery for years, and had a much higher than average success rate, which she credits to the eating program she prescribes. The same one applies for sugar addicts. A bunch of it can be found on her website www.radiantrecovery.com. In general it recommends more protein, ‘brown’ carbs (whole grains, basically, or potatoes), and eventually no sugar, although there’s a whole ‘process’ for getting there. I never did follow it completely, but just reading the research helped a lot – I feel so much less ‘crazy’ now, knowing there might actually be scientific reasons for why I do the things I do.

VeeGettingHealthy said...

Your posting was insightful. I too received goodies as treats for pain or trauma. No other time, unless I snuck them. I vowed I wouldn't do the same to my child. When he was 2 he had a TV fall on him at daycare. I rushed over (2 minutes by car) and found them giving him cookies and candy! I yelled and took him out. I still don't treat him with goodies when something bad happens. He's got some great eating habits, even at 12 years old. Now that I'm changing my own eating habits (very difficult as my blog attests to), I hope he'll be even better. As to the sugar addiction - I'm working on alternatives! Have some chocolate (stevia-sweetened) flax "crackers" in the dehydrator right now. Vee - www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

moonduster said...

Sugar is very addictive! Great going on managing to be sugar-free for so long!

Pubsgal said...

Way to go, Lyn! It may take another week for the cravings to quiet down, but you're well on your way. Wish I could send you a box of Good Earth original tea (one of my sugar-free go-to things when I crave a little something sweet).

Vickie said...

Amen to every single thing you said about sugar.

I remember Rosanne Barr doing a piece on how she felt when she figured out that her parents ALWAYS soothed her with food - because on her - it worked 100% of the time.

I find myself first thinking of this same thing with my kids - I don't do it - but FOOD as comfort is the first response in my brain - when there isn't an easy answer to what has hurt or upset them - I don't think that I have (much) given them food as a pacifier (rather than just have them feel the feelings) but it is HARD - because it does tend to be the first instinct.

Karyn said...

Congrats to Kelly!

Lyn, I'm so excited for you...4 days sugar/carb free! good going!

Muggle Mom said...

Lyn, Thank you so much for writing this. I really feel like you were talking about me. I'm sorry that you had to go through this addiction, but it helps to know that I'm not the only one. Thanks so much for sharing your journey.

Madame said...

Interesting insight on this. Sugar is dangerous and addictive. I used to convince myself of eating anything sweet too, even if I didn't even particularly "like" it. But I just ate it because it was there, and high in sugar. Outrageous thinking.

Mary said...

know what? I had no idea what a sugar tit was. I have heard it before but thought it was just a dirty thing. lol. NOW I know, thanks!! Sugar tit, I bet you lol'd about THAT one.
I am off sugar too and it isnt that bad, once you get a few days down.
Love, Sugar Tits (this is going to be my new word; you'll see)

clickmom said...

I am compeltely addicted to sugar and any other refined carb you can find. I was just thinking along the same pacifier lines today as I was driving around craving anything sweet and praying for the strength to just stop and get back on the wagon.

Heather said...

I'm a sugar addict too. I prefer to drink my sugar. I LOVE Sunkist and Mt. Dew Livewire, and Mocha's. I read once that sugar is in fact addictive, and it takes about three weeks of NO sugar or refined carbs to break the addiction. I've always found it to work, but those first three weeks are tough.

kilax said...

I gave up sugar for Lent, and am finally craving natural sugar (fruit) again. I am so excited about that. It scares me, how addictive sugar is. I used to eat whole bowls of batter, or whole cases of ice cream!

Keri said...

Do you happen to remember where the post you wrote about the sugar fog is? I would like to read it.
I live in Utah and Friday it was Spring here. I had the windows open too and a breeze was coming in. Last night and today we got about 4 inches or more of snow! I am so ready for Spring!

Keri said...

Is fruit ok to eat if you've given up sugar? Like bananas, oranges and apples, etc?

ArleneWKW said...

I remember eating ALL of the frozen chocolate chip cookies that I had made. Eating them frozen had not been the plan. Too often with just a little bit of a particular sweet, I become insatiable. An exception is when the sweet is truly satisfying and I've already been on track with my eating for several months.

Deb said...

I've never heard of "sugar tits" before...other than as something Mel Gibson said to get himself in trouble when he was talking to a female police officer. lol

Meg said...

sugar tit. That is a good one! You are to right about the devastating effects it has on our body. The inflammation! OUCH, for real.

Ria said...

Congratulations, Lyn on four sugar-free days and your four pound loss!

You're doing great . . . almost in the 220's already :)

Rebekah said...

Thank you for this i needed to read this.

seesaraheat said...

That is crazy about that woman asking you that! I definitely think sugar addiction exists and is probably a combination of inborn and environment. The best thing to me about cutting back or giving up sugar is that foods that are naturally sweet actually taste sweet again, like fruit :) You are doing great, keep it up!

Dinah Soar said...

Hey Lyn...another great post..I too have a sweet tooth...I have to really work at getting in my healthy fruits and veggies..if I don't, I end up eating too many sweets.

I'd heard of a sugar tit before, but I was laughing outloud imagining you hearing the expression for the first time...it must have been a 'shock', not knowing what the woman was talking about.

You are a great writer and I'm proud for you, the way you are hanging in there and fighting the battle to escape from obesity. You go girl!! You are going to make it!!

Lyn said...

Keri~

fruit is GREAT nutrition and I love it. It depends on what your goals are. Right now I am trying to just STOP the cravings, and so I am eating Phase 1 South Beach foods, which is quite low in sugar and does not include fruits. But I will add them back in slowly, very soon.

Lyn said...

Keri~

There's a search box at the top of my blog... if you enter Sugar Fog it will take you there :)