Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Sugar Addiction: Is It Really a Thing?

I know. Don't laugh. Sugar addiction is totally a thing.

We already know that the electric signals in our brains light up in an MRI scanner when we're eating sugary treats in exactly the same way they do when someone is taking cocaine. 

Also, you can go months without sugar and then you eat it again and - hey presto - you're suddenly turned into a sugar-gorging, moody monster craving your next fix. 

Well I know that's what happens to me. Moody until I get my next dose of sugary treats.

I don't like the phrase 'fell off the wagon'. It implies that it's an involuntary, accidental thing. Like 'oops, I just tripped over in the street and fell mouth-first into a pile of sugary doughnuts that happened to be waiting there.' That didn't happen. 

I prefer to think of it as a choice. 

So this Easter, I'll own up completely and say that I made a choice to 'treat myself' one morning with a couple of gluten-free croissants. Nice. The next day, I bought gluten free brioche buns for the burgers at our Easter barbecue and drank a little glass of wine. I bought some paleo chocolate. The next time I went to the shop, I bought some gluten free coconut macaroons to eat in front of the telly. I wouldn't normally, but hey - it's Easter, and I fancied it. One rainy afternoon I went to my stash of paleo chocolate in the garage, which I bought to nibble on a square at a time IF I ever got a slight sugar craving. I ate two bars in one go, with a cup of tea. 

That moment, as I scrunched up the foil packet in my hand and immediately wished there was another one, was when I realised what had happened.

I'd gone too far with the treats and ended up back on the sugar. 

A week ago, you could have waved a salted caramel chocolate and fudge slice under my nose and I wouldn't have wanted it. Now, I'd happily knock back three in one go. 

But the weird thing is this. I know that sugar hurts me. This isn't because I read it in the news, or believe what someone told me. I know that sugar makes my psoriasis flare. It gives me stomach pains and the old symptoms of IBS return. I'm calm, happy and mindful without it, but if I start eating it again I'm moody, short-tempered and impatient. OK, I know that last bit because my husband told me. 

My indulgences seemed to leave me with an altered state of mind, and one that reminded me of someone I used to be, that I hadn't seen in a long time. Anxious. Worried. Over-dramatic. Now I know how I am without sugar I recognise when I've overdone it, because the anxiety I'd suffered with since I was a teenager creeps back.

Also, for me, the craving for sugar overtakes my need and desire to be healthy and heal. I don't even care about healing. When I'm stomping about, searching for any odd ends of plain chocolate packets I might have in the cupboard I don't even think about getting back on track later. I just don't care, as long as I get my sugar fix. Healing isn't even on my mind. You know that thing in cartoons where someone has an angel and a devil on their shoulder? Well my devil came armed with a stack of sugar coated doughnuts and I think the angel had taken the week off. 

All that work over the years - sleeping well, eating veggies, learning how to make pâté, smoothies and refusing desserts in restaurants and biscuits at school meetings. But I didn't care any more. 

Isn't that scary? 

I like being healthy. I'm proud that my psoriasis patches have pretty much gone. I like that I can leave the house without needing an emergency map in my head of public conveniences and a packet of pills in my coat pocket. I like being calm and mindful. 

So it's time to put the brakes on. At least I noticed now. I wanted sugar despite knowing full well that I'd return to the person I was before I gave it up: depressed, anxious, moody and itchy. And look how easy it was to get here again. All it took were a few treats and a week.

I have a bumpy few days ahead now while I go cold turkey (yes, once again), but I know that it will be worth it in the end. 

Sugar addiction. Totally a thing. 


Do you struggle to give up sugar? Share your experiences in the comments below... 

Note: The article that discusses the point I made in the opening of this post about sugar and cocaine showing up on an MRI scan can be found here