I have had a ‘drug’ addiction most of my life. I’ve been addicted to sugar, and my drug of choice has been refined sugars.
Now you may think this is a bit silly, saying eating refined sugars is a drug addiction, because this brings a comparison between refined sugars and such substances like cocaine or heroin.
There are a crazy amount of studies surfacing through the web and social media that compare refined sugars to cocaine and heroin, and the findings are showing that refined sugars are as addictive as other drugs, in fact sometimes more addictive because refined sugars are so readily available and so widely accepted as part of our everyday existence.
Addicted to Sugar: How it Began…
When I was 8 years old I was diagnosed with hypoglycaemia, which means my body had an intense response to sugar. It was described as an ‘allergy’ to refined sugars which resulted in my body over-producing insulin whenever I consumed refined sugar. My body saw sugar as the enemy and it went about rapidly breaking it down to get it out of my system.
This would happen at a far too rapid pace for me to handle, and after the high experienced from the sugar, I would very quickly become quite lethargic and sometimes fall asleep as my blood glucose levels dropped too quickly.
So I was told by the doctors to eliminate all refined sugars from my diet and eat regularly to maintain an even blood glucose level. I gave this a go and I found it extremely difficult: so much so, that after a while I started to eat refined sugars again.
And so began my addiction to refined sugars – even though I knew it could potentially harm me in ways that could not be reversed, particularly insulin dependent diabetes.
My Drug Addiction Grew…
It started with eating the sugar out of the sugar bowl but I got caught doing this so I had to find another source. I began to steal lollies from the local newsagency: I got caught again… so this time I stole money out of my Mum’s piggy bank and went and bought the lollies instead. Funnily enough, I got caught again! I was really determined to eat sugar!!
Let’s pause for a moment and consider what this type of dedicated behaviour may mean…
Does it sound like how a drug addict would behave?
…It does to me!
The addiction to eating sugar was so strong for me that I played Russian roulette with my health for many years.
I continued to eat sugar regularly and ignored the doctors’ warnings that at any time my pancreas could run out of steam from over-producing insulin, and stop producing insulin altogether. This could have meant living as an insulin dependent diabetic and having to inject myself with insulin daily for the rest of my life.
But there was a part of me that thought I could get away with this type of addictive behaviour, that I was invincible, and that these kinds of health consequences would never happen to me.
My Drug Addiction Continues…
Fast forward to about the year 2009. I was 33 years of age with a 1 year old daughter; as I had stopped eating gluten as a trial and felt a lot better, I decided to fully commit to not eating gluten anymore. I also stopped consuming dairy, and then rice, and through these choices lost a lot of the weight I had gained during pregnancy.
So there I was: I’d stopped eating gluten, dairy and rice – things I knew affected me – and I was feeling like I was starting to take responsibility for the food I was choosing to feed myself… but I was still very much a sugar addict, and had been one for 25 years.
Reaching the Turning Point…
I remember one day standing in my kitchen popping a Mentos lolly into my mouth, one of many that I had consumed that day, and looking in amazement at the near empty packet. I also felt the pull to check whether I had another packet, for when this one finished I would need more, but something inside made me stop in my tracks and look at what I was doing.
In this moment I realised that I was addicted to sugar – heavily addicted. This was my drug of choice. I felt this sick feeling in my stomach with the knowing that I could no longer, in good conscience, keep eating refined sugars. The time had come to really commit to not eating sugar anymore!
And so began the next stage of my journey, learning how to work with my body and my food choices – to start to understand what I chose to consume and why – to break this powerful addiction to sugar.
By Robyn Jones, 38, B.Sc. (Psych), Counsellor, Goonellabah, Australia
Read Part Two: Exhaustion and the Effects of Sugar Addiction
Read Part Three: From Sugar Addiction to Gluten, Dairy & Sugar Free Yummy Delights