Friday, November 11, 2011

Sugar Addict

I have been suffering a hellish headache for days now. I was trying to avoid sugar today to get the headache to go away, but instead ended up *eating* sugar to get relief. A vicious cycle, I tell you.

I found this article interesting: Are Low Blood Sugar Levels Giving You Headaches? In part, it says:

"Whenever we feast on cookies, soda, candies and other high-sugar content foods, our blood glucose level will increase sharply within a short time. This sends the pancreas into a frantic mode as it tries to lower our blood sugar to decent level by releasing large amounts of insulin. The flash flood of insulin will in turn drive the blood sugar level down as quickly as it has climbed. The dramatic increase and fall in sugar level can have a number of possible side effects, one of which is headache or migraine attack. When our blood sugar level swings wildly, it can adversely affect the regulation of other hormones such as adrenaline. As the level of adrenaline affects the contraction of blood vessels, a sudden drop in blood sugars may cause the arteries in the head to spasm in people who are susceptible. This is then felt as pain we know as headache....  It can also cause irritability, anxiety, shakiness, confusion and heart palpitations, symptoms that resemble that of anxiety attack."


So between the huge cut in caffeine I took this week, the reduction in artificial sweeteners, and the unwise ingestion of some sweets, I did a real number on myself. And the headaches I get come with nausea sometimes, too. Just lovely.

Any sane person would read this and say JUST STOP EATING SUGAR ALREADY! And they'd be right. But if it were that easy I would have just stopped eating sugar a long time ago.

I know I am addicted to certain foods, sugar being one of them. I understand in a sense how the alcoholic must feel as they yearn for a drink. My body craves that stuff (sugar, not booze). My cells cry out for it. And yet they also cry out for relief. Eating sugar *feels* self-destructive. I don't like it one bit. I am battling to get away from it yet again. The only thing different this time is that I am not trying to get away from it *for weight loss* while at the same time counting the days until I can have it again. I have had enough. I don't want it anymore. My brain gets it. You were right, you people who said I needed to stay away from it completely. There really is no moderation in this thing. I want to be free. I am tired of feeling sick.

Sugar addiction is real. I hate it. I was looking around online reading some articles about it and came across a concise page I wanted to share with you. It is written by the author of a book touted on the site; I have not read the book, but found this article helpful and thought those of you who also struggle with this might also get something out of it: 10 Steps to Control Sugar Cravings.

Anyway, that's where I am, and I find it disheartening that I can go for weeks or months without sugar and do just fine but ONE cookie or mini candy bar or whatever is enough to send me right back to an ugly place where headaches, fatigue, joint pain, nausea, lack of sleep, and bloating reign. One donut and I go from being relatively free of food issues to fighting for my life to get away from sugar again. I hate that society revolves around sugary crap. My daughter used to have a SLIVER of cake on a birthday, an occasional very small ice cream cone (like 3x a year) and even around holidays her most sugary indulgence was 5 M&M's or one small cookie in a day. Now that she started school, it is nothing to walk into the classroom and see kids eating giant sugar cookies covered in frosting and heaped with candies at 9:30 am, followed by lollipops and Tootsie Rolls someone hands out. They get high fructose corn syrup "fruit snacks" for their midday treat, and every kid in the class brings frosted bakery cupcakes on their birthday. Every holiday and season has a party complete with cookies and candy and cakes. WHY? My child is overwhelmed with sugary crap at every turn. At least she has the sense to ask for a baggie to bring (most of) her cookie home along with all the candy she is given, because she knows it is not good to eat SO MUCH sugar. And then she goes to dance class and gets a candy or a donut or a cookie... not every time, but sometimes. Or, better yet, a coupon for McDonalds. (She has a hard time hiding her disgust at that little paper with the golden arches on it). Why? I just don't understand. All I can do is educate my kids... and yes, go in and discuss it with the principal and teacher and TRY to get the to make even small changes (perhaps whole grain crackers instead of "fruit" snacks?)

Well that turned into a bit of a rant. I feel HORRIBLE. I really do. I guess back when I used to binge on sugary stuff my body was used to it. I remember eating 5 candy bars at once sometimes with no changes in how I felt physically. Or a whole package of cookies. Now if I eat ONE serving of sugary crap I feel all out of sorts, nauseous, and the headache lasts all day and then some. I am glad my body isn't used to it anymore. Before, I'd eat all that junk and think, "hmmm, this can't be good for me, I wonder if I am killing myself with food?" Now, my body leaves no doubt that it is NOT happy with what I put into it. I get very clear messages from my body as to whether I am eating correctly for *it* or not.

I want this to be the last time I get off sugar. I really want it. I do not know if I am strong enough, but I am going to try. I am asking for your support. This is really hard for me. I thought I won when I got to 175 pounds. But I didn't win. I was only partway to victory. I didn't really understand what I needed to do. And I have a feeling this is going to be the battle of a lifetime.


Suzanne said...

I think we are battling the same thing! I wrecked my sugar free streak today by giving in and having a "few" (like 5?) of the pumpkin cinnamon chip cookies I made. Dang it! I totally get you about the body not being used to sugar any more. You're right--it is totally not worth it to have your body used to eating the crap. As horrible as it is to feel the consequences of eating sugar, it's a good thing. I swear, just when I feel like I have a good handle on things, something happens that refreshes the reality of unresolved demons and issues that still need to be handled. Maybe I'll never overcome. I am clearly not ready yet to have sugary treats "every once in a while," because once I get that first taste I can't stop. It's ridiculous.

Good luck. I am with you. We both deserve to succeed at this. We are WORTH it.

Karen said...

You can do this. Treat the disease as life threatening ( it is) and treat sugar, wheat, and grains as allergens. You can do this. Not easy , but you and your family are worth it. Take care of yourself first. Good luck and take it one meal at a time. Your whole life will change, relationship with yourself and others. Take care and an abstinence is a meal away.

Linda James said...

Sugar is a massive weight loss saboteur and recently I think I have won the battle against it.

It was a VERY DIFFICULT habit to break as I had been addicted to sugar since childhood. I broke the habit by first banning sugar from my home...if it wasn't within arms reach I knew I'd find it easier to resist.

I then started to educate myself on the negative effects of sugar on the body and on weight loss. After some weeks the urges lessened; although I fell off the wagon many times, perseverance and determination won in the end.

Sometimes I still fancy something sweet and most times I'll just eat some raisins or a piece of fresh fruit. Occasionally I may even eat a piece of chocolate (if offered) but my craving and lusting over sugary foods I am pleased to say, seems to be truly conquered, WHOOPEE!!! If I can do it anyone can.

Thank you for a great post, it helped me remember how far I've come. :)

Princess Dieter said...

I'm really sorry it's so hard. But you know from past experience, the hard part passes and you get to a better place.

You must know by now, from all your reading, that your sugar highs and lows are WORSE after doing low carb. Since you've been on plan, then you eat sugar and go off, you experience insane spikes and dives, I'm guessing. You can always use a glucose meter to check. I'm not diabetic (was prediabetic years ago, am totally fine now), but I bought a meter to see hwo certain meals affected my blood sugar. It was enlightening.

It's well known that glucose tolerance goes way down for folks doing low carb (and Medifast qualifies, I'm guessing). So, you will suffer a lot for a while, then you'll be okay.

I hope that soon you will be eating real, wholesome food you prepare yourself, with moderately low carbs (too low and glucose tolerance gets mighty messed up, and very LC can wreck the thyroid) and lots of veggies and are able to be happy and stable. It'll come.

I never thought my sugar junkie hubby would ever ditch the stuff. That man ate candy and cookies and ice cream from sun up to sundown. BUT..when he saw how much better I was off sugar and off most starches....he was on board. Now, his only sugar indulgence is a square of dark choco. He and I said screw it to birthday cakes and stuff. We don't have much life left, on the downhill side of our journey, so we're all about eating well and trying to forestall disease and disability. And really, cake and cookies mean squat compared to feeling good and getting fitter and slimmer and stronger and happier. :D

On you go. To your goal...

Be well...

Ashley Lynn said...

I know this has nothing to with this post, but I wish I had the strength and push and determination in myself to do what you have done. You are very inspirational to me and I hope to make it to where you have made it one day.

Diandra said...

A friend told me that in Denmark, where she is living, their kid's kindergarten and elementary school simply put up a rule that kids were not allowed to bring sugary treats for their birthday. It seems to work. Maybe that is something worth discussing with other parents and the teachers?

timothy said...

substitute salt for sugar and we're just the same! i KNOW we can/will/shall do it! you're a brilliant strong willed woman and you can do anything you put your mind to, just hang in there sweetie! xoxoxoxoxo

Cathy said...

I don't really consider myself a sugar addict, I was more of an equal opportunity over eater, but in the interests of weight loss I find it better to consider myself diabetic. It is amazing how quick you lose/gain back the taste of the stuff, it is definitely an addictive substance ... and everywhere. I don't really have advice for your particular situation, but for me I tell myself when I fall off the wagon (and I will and do) I know I can recover quickly. One day at a time.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me that your daughter's school still allows treats to be served. Many, many schools have banned them (my DS's included.) You should speak to your principal, the head of the PTA, and see if you can get that changed. Childhood obesity is an epidemic!

At my little DS's school, nobody is allowed to bring in edible treats for their birthdays. Instead, kids pass out cool pencils, stickers, etc. For class parties, we serve pretzels, fruit (at Halloween we served grapes) along with bottled water and a small treat (a cookie to decorate, for example.) The kids are perfectly happy! And we have a very low level of obesity in our school district. It's worth fighting for!

Hugs! You are facing an uphill fight, I know, I am proud of how far you have come!

Anonymous said...

The school districts in our area have shut down on classroom treats. Not only because of the peanut allergy risk, but sugar as well. Birthday treats are non-food choices, and birthdays are celebrated once a month for all the birthdays within that month and the celebration is non food related.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I am being dense, but can you use dried fruit or condensed apple juice instead of sugar to make sweet-tasting desserts? What about agave or other carbs? I've been hearing about the evils of sugar for decades, but never felt them personally. And now that I'm running for 3 hours, I'm told to make sure I eat sugars during my run, the brain runs on carbs. I often take dried fruit. Other suggested foods are fig newtons or even a packet of honey. Athletes are generally very concerned with even energy levels, I can't see why they would universally recommend this regimen if sugar was the evil you've read.

CatherineMarie said...

I'm wondering, just from looking at what you've been eating on the Medifast, if that is contributing to the problem. They give you "snacks" that are brownies, hot cocoa, cheese doodles... so it keeps your mind in that mindset of "I'll have a [Medifast] brownie"

I love the healthier recipes you've been posting for stuff like the soups, etc.

Things that helped me cut down on sugar consumption:

measuring out the sugar. And decreasing gradually.

And then going to more flavorful sugars: turbinado, demerara, organic, jaggery, date, etc. Less-refined sugars, so it wasn't just that hit of sweet...

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to read about your troubles with sugar. I think many people are struggling, too--me included. I really understand your frustration with being able to avoid sugar for so many months and then seemingly to end up back at square one in one small bite (or in my case one sip of Dr. Pepper).

I don't think you are at square one though. You have some more experience at the fight or war you are waging against the need your brain has for sugar. I have a strict 'hide all your candy' rule at my house. Hide it or risk me eating it all.

Just this week I came upon a bag of Halloween candy and before I ate it mindlessly, a new thing happened. I told myself I had a choice and just because it is here doesn't mean I have to eat it. So I didn't. I am not sure if you will understand what happened to me, but it was a completely new experience. I have been trying to defeat sugar for at least 2 years in my battle against Dr. Pepper and this was a significant change. BTW I am on Day 22 of being Dr. Pepper free. I only got here one day at a time..which totally sucks. :) this is rambling but I hope you feel some kind of support from my ramblings. Jody

Lyn said...


I am not sure about the dried fruits, agave, etc. I think it affects each person differently. I have read that athletes need more carbs to fuel their system, so choosing healthier carbs (instead of candy bars and cookies) sounds right to me. I know juice spikes my blood sugar (because I get headaches) so for me I need to take a look at each food's effect on my blood sugar. I always did fine with, say, a small orange in the morning with my eggs (much more gradual blood sugar change, and not as high as say a muffin and juice). Agave in small doses didn't seem to bother me either, but I am reassessing EVERYTHING right now.

Anonymous said...

There is a book called Potatoes Not Prozac. The author also wrote a book about getting off sugars. She has a several step plan. Chris

Lyn said...

Anonymous (Chris)~

I actually have that book and read it. I couldn't get past the having a baked potato at bedtime.

lisa~sunshine said...

Sugar addiction is hard but you have gotten a lot of good information from the people who have posted.. For me when I started on my weightloss journey I new I had diabetes.. so getting off the sugars.. and learning to combined foods that did have them.. is what helped me..
I'm going to agree that the medifast sweets seem like they would be a mental trigger.. I get that it's not the same as a regular brownie.. but being allowed to have a brownie daily.. just doesn't seem right.. but this is my opinion..
I think that if you got off the medifast foods and started your plan with wholefoods.. it would be the best way to go.. you need a break and a new plan for the next journey of your weightloss.. it's time to learn how to eat for life.. and when you know you are allergic to something.. like sugar.. then sticking with it and not eating it is what you have to do..
My kids are being hit with all the sugary items on birthdays at school.. holidays too.. but for snacks at school ... parents must send a healthy option.. the snack is before lunch and if the snack is a non healthy treat.. the kids are told they have to eat it at lunch.. and sitting there while others eat isn't what they want.. so they tend to take that information home and work on getting something they can eat with everyone else..
My healthy isn't what is healthy in regards to the school though and that is my problem.. for them fishy crackers and other processed white products are healthy.. for me they aren't... so I just make sure I send fruit daily.. it's sweet.. a whole food.. and my kids enjoy it and don't feel left out of the snack experience..

I know you will get things together for yourself... with the holidays coming we all have to be strong and hold it together to not gain a bunch.. I know you and I can both do it..

Becca said...


I too am a sugar addict. When I first started Medifast my health coach told me after the first week I'd stop craving sugar. On about day 13, I had the strongest cravings for sugar I'd ever had before. And I couldn't push past it, I gave in, but after that day, I got back on track. I wish being low carb really did get rid of the cravings, but for me it doesn't. I don't know if I can ever give it up for life...and honestly, I don't want to.

But folks give up cigarettes, and alcohol, and I'm sure you can give up sugar! It will be tuff, but you do have our support! This is important for you, and a needed change, so we'll support you through it. It's going to suck, but you can make it through. :)

Karen said...

There's something about Medifast meals, even the sweet ones, that does not trigger many of us.

Medifast is not forever, but I've found it to be such a helpful tool for weight loss and clarity for a transition to , eventually a modified Paleo diet.

I don't plan on using it long term, but what a gift of health, clarity, and a chance at life long health.

Safe and healthy travels to us all. Sober food living is fabulous!!!! So worth it, the work it takes.

Lori said...

I have read that children of alcholics are often sugar addicts.

I wonder if when you were eating 5 candy bars before the weight loss, that you didn't notice the headaches because you felt so bad physically already.

What matters now, however is that you recognize what's happening and are determined to change. You will. You've overcome so much already in life, I know you have what it takes to overcome this as well.

Kathryn said...

"The Pleasure Trap" by Douglas J. Lisle.

He also has some presentations on youtube

The book helped and is still helping me a lot.

Susan said...

Refined sugar is such a beast. It's everywhere, for sure! Ugh. Here's a link to Sarah Wilson's blog:
All about her quitting sugar. Might be helpful in addition to your other resources? Wishing you all the best!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,

One strategy that worked to transition me into my weight loss plan was to figure out what 'maintenance' would look like for me at my ideal weight (140 lbs). To maintain 140 lbs at my height, age, and activity level, a calorie counting program suggests I would need to 'net' (after exercise) 1670 calories per day. I don't know how valuable it would be for you to try to 'reset' your metabolism at this point, but I began using a balance of healthy grains, proteins, veggies, fruits, etc (lots of beans & fiber to help stave off cravings(!) & lots of smaller portioned meals/snacks throughout the day) to start myself off on the weight loss journey. Calorie-counting-wise, I tried to hit between ideal maintenance (nourishing the 140 lb. body I wanted) and maintenance of my current weight (to allow myself some cushion for transitioning) to begin the process of living my life more in line with my dream, healthy self. My weight loss has been slow, but I have been able to gradually lessen the calories that I consume (now <1500 cal per day) and I have lost 30+ lbs since May. Most importantly, I haven't had to battle cravings and feelings of deprivation for the most part, since I've built in healthy omega-3 based fats (omega-3 enriched peanut butter, salmon and avacado, for example) and lots of fiber (can't say enough good things about beans!) into my meals.

Of course, there have been times (like this past week), where I have gotten distracted by all night marathon work-deadlines, fallen off of my plan by going to fast food restaurants in a pinch, and then I have gone grocery shopping and have once again been tempted by imagining what certain bad-habit foods would taste like if I bought them. (Incidentally, these thoughts don't even *occur* to me if I've been eating the right stuff all week). BUT, the good news is that I am able to be strong enough not to give in when there is no time pressure to do so, the moment passes, and I am now back on my plan with meals prepped for the coming week with no regrets - I am happily looking forward to a week without having to make food decisions - I have made them already and know that I will be satisfied.

I guess I've seen you post some things about striving for perfection, which is a noble ideal. I might just present another option based on that old chestnut: try to not 'let perfect be the enemy of good'! Healthy living is a journey (as you've posted!) with hills & valleys - perhaps if you CHOOSE the winding, gradual ascent rather than the daunting straight-up-the-mountain pathway...perhaps that may get you there in such a way that you may smell the roses or walk along the pretty stream? (Sorry for the cheeziness...)

Anyway, another lens you might consider for strategizing your next phase...wishing the best for you!

Lyn said...

Thank you :)

I really needed to read some of your responses today. I so appreciate it.

othentiq said...

I'm not addicted to sugar, infact i love salty foods, and i wouldn't know how to get rid of it but with all addictions, it's about learning to control your cravings. Sometimes you're up and others you're down but the greatest victory comes in getting back on your feet to fight again. Wish you the very best.

Anonymous said...

I can relate. I'm not quite as bad with sugary things ad I am with more "plain" carbs- any and all bread, cereal, pretzel, pasta, rice, crackers, waffles. I'm the type that could (or at least used to) eat multie slices of bread, multiple bowls of cereal, several servings of salty snacks, a small frozen pizza, multiple granola bars, multiple bowls of any sort of grain such as oatmeal or barley. I haven't had any serious binges like that in a long time, and when I do, they are rare. But that used to be normal for me. I've found I simply cannot buy most of these products for myself to keep at home, that's all that really works. I have never bought cereal or bread for myself since I moved out of my mothers house, and the rest is history. Yes, you will go through some withdrawal symptoms and feel agitated for a while. But it will pass...and sooner or later it will feel pretty damn normal to eat the way you do. I was a BAD case of miss rover morning glory clevelandbinging, and I was able to fight it. You can definitely do it too.

I realize you have kids, so the whole not buying certain things might not work..but I still believe it can be done. A lot of times just keeping the biggest trigger foods in weird/hidden spots can help a lot, so you don't have to constantly see it.