As far back as I can remember, I have always eaten sugar and lots of it. Sugary cereals were the norm, Coke was my only drink of choice and candy and sweets were their own food group. Back in the day, no one knew the ramifications of eating so much sugar. It was just the way I lived. I remember opting for Fruity Pebbles and a Coke for dinner many nights.
Vegetables were not even on my radar unless, of course, they were french fries. The only thing I ate that was green were the green shamrock marshmallows in Lucky Charms. As I grew older I did learn to love corn but found out the hard way that one cannot live by corn alone.
I recently read an article that stated (now the numbers may not be exact but you will see my point), at the turn of the century the average person ate approximately two pounds of sugar a year. The article went on to say that today the average person eats approximately 156 pounds of sugar a year. Big difference! I would venture a guess that that number would be low for me. I consumed sugar in copious amounts everyday.
Everyday I felt worse than the day before. Now that I am half way through my 50s I knew I had to change. I tried gradually stopping which only served to work for a day and then I would reward myself with more sugar. I knew I was literally and figuratively killing myself but I could not stop. The same article stated that sugar was more addictive than cocaine. I was truly and completely addicted to all things sugar. I realized that weaning myself off sugar was not going to work. I was starting to have real health problems. After doing a lot of research, I found out diets full of sugar contribute to many of the issues I was having.
So one day I gave up foods with added sugar. I started eating fruit and raw vegetables. I started making mindful decisions about what I put in my body. I started reading food labels and researching the best ways to eat. I would love to say that everything was rainbows and unicorns after that, but I cannot. My body revolted at the new foods. It was like a demon inside of me making sick and nasty and hating myself for this new choice. My anxiety levels jumped through the roof, my body physically hurt, I could not eat anything for days and water tasted like battery acid. I thought about giving up and going back but I had come this far.
Days went on like this with no end in sight. I had a few nights where I honestly thought that this was the end. I thought I was dying. My mind rationalized that it was just too late to change. I had many opportunities to change before this and I foolishly denied them. Now I was paying the price. But I made it through those anxiety-riddled nights. Then one day I woke up and felt better than I had in a long time. I was thrilled. I decided to hike and start enjoying life now that I was given a second chance. The next few days were bad again but a good day snuck in here and there.
The other day I was grocery shopping and had filled my cart with organic vegetables and nutritious foods. By some odd twist of fate I ended up in the bakery. Surrounded by lovely sugary confections. I found myself wondering if one treat would really hurt. Yes, It would because for me it would start the entire cycle over again. I could not bear to have that happen. So I walked away.
I’m still waiting for the other health issues to resolve themselves or I hope they will. But I figure I beat my body up for 55 years, it was going to take longer than four weeks to fully recover. Patience and discipline were my new friends.
So what have I learned from all this. Healthy, nutritional foods actually taste better than sugary, empty foods. I also learned the value of sticking to something even if it is very difficult. This was a hard time but I rode it out. It showed me the person I always wanted to be. She is inside me, she just needs a little coaxing to come out.
I’m happy to have given up something that had such control over me. The battle may be mine but I know the war is still waging. Like any addiction, I have to be aware of it every day and at every meal. I need to reset certain activities that centered around my binge eating entire boxes of Pop-Tarts. I was a closet binge eater, I would do it when no one was around so that way I would never have to be accountable to anyone. It was my dirty secret. Now I am accountable to my loved ones, to God and to myself.
It is a beautiful lesson to learn that going through the fire does lead to purification.