Today I made myself physically ill. On purpose.
The reason being that I can never remember a time when I have passed up free sugar. Call it an addiction if you must, but I consumed vast amounts of sugar daily. If there was free sugar I had to eat it. Sugar must not be wasted or passed up. It was the highlight of my days when I ate a sweet. In fact, there was a holiday weekend in college that I really did eat dessert-like sweets for every single meal. And somehow I still liked sweets even after I was sure I was going to have to be hospitalized for a rotted out stomach and I spent the whole weekend hunched over in pain.
So when Billy brought up the idea I immediately rejected it. He brought it up a few more times and my response was always “I could go off of sugar, but I don’t really want to. It’s not really affecting me.” So he dropped it and I did too. Until one day on Facebook a stupid clickbait quiz entitled something like “Are you addicted to sugar?” popped up on my feed so of course I had to take it. It went something like this:
- How often do you eat or drink sugary foods or beverages (including ones made with no-calorie sweeteners)?
A) Once or twice a month, at most. I’m not big on sweets.
B) I’ll have dessert a couple of times per week, but I rarely drink regular or diet soda.
C) Pretty much every day.
*This question didn’t really work for me. See, I’m too cheap and lazy to actually go out of my way to spend money on things like candy and sugary drinks, so I modified it and asked myself How often would I eat and drink sugary things if I had them for free. The answer was definitely C.
- What’s your typical breakfast like?
A) Scrambled eggs with vegetables, avocado toast, or even last night’s leftovers.
B) Greek yogurt, oatmeal with fruit, or a smoothie.
C) Sugary cereal, a muffin, or a breakfast cookie.
*C. A thousand times C. I hated things like eggs, avocados, breakfast sausage and craved a breakfast like pancakes and syrup, cereal, granola bars, muffins, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, brownies, leftover cake…
- Do you ever eat sugary foods secretively?
A) No. If I’m having dessert, it’s part of a meal or an event with others.
B)A couple of times a year I definitely feel like polishing off a pint of ice cream on the couch by myself.
C) I usually wait to eat dessert until I’m alone, so I can really chow down without anyone judging me.
*This is the first one that scared me a little. I knew a long time ago that I did this and I realized then that it probably wasn’t a healthy behavior. I frequently wanted people to leave so that I could eat the ice cream (or candy or brownies or cake…) I had hidden in the freezer for two reason: 1) so I didn’t have to share with them and 2) because I didn’t want them to see how heaping of a bowl I felt I needed to satisfy myself. It was actually a hard thing to live with and something that caused my social life to suffer.
- Do you hide sugary foods to eat them later?
A)No. Why would I do that?
B)Not usually. But if I know there’s only one more piece of Aunt Milly’s amazing pie left, I might rearrange a few things in the fridge to make it harder for anyone else to find.
C) Yup, I have a stash of my favorites to enjoy when I’m by myself.
*C is very accurate. I had several stashes no matter where I lived. Full hoards of great variety.
- Do you ever feel powerless in front of sugary foods or foods made with refined flour, like white bread?
A) Rarely. It’s just not my thing.
B) Maybe once in a while, if I’m starving. But usually I can have one or two cookies and stop.
C) Yes. Usually once I start eating stuff like that, it’s really hard to stop. Even when I’m already full.
*I was known as a bread queen. I loved to fill my belly with things like white rolls and jelly and other refined foods. Something else I did frequently: if I was someplace that was handing out free sugar (say a friend’s house that has a candy bowl in the kitchen), I would actually sneak away so that I could go stuff as many as I could in my mouth so they wouldn’t know about it, even after having eaten a normal amount with them just an hour before. Most of the time I couldn’t even taste it. I just had to satisfy that urge inside that told me all the time to feed on sugar. Same at parties, wedding receptions, church events, Grandma’s house…
That quiz frightened me. I knew I exhibited a lot of weird characteristics when it came to sweets, but some of those questions were secrets that I tried my best to hide from people.
At the end of the quiz it had a comment that was a final blow. It said something along the lines of “A lot of people with sugar addictions say ‘I can give up sugar, I just don’t want to.'” I had used that exact same line to Billy several times! That was my exact argument every time he brought up going off sugar with me. That quiz helped me label myself for what I was. A sugar addict. A person with a very real sugar addiction. I needed to quit calling it a “sweet-tooth” and quit laughing it off when people caught me being weird with sugar. I needed to face this and get control of my life again. And I knew just how to do it.
I talked to Billy.
None of that “weaning off” crap or that “limiting some sugary things.” I knew I personally needed to go cold turkey. I knew this for a fact because I’d tried those other methods before. I’d tried cutting back and it never worked. Seeing sugar made me cave. Always.
So we started a year with no sugar and almost five months in it has been an amazing adventure. However, I feel hypocritical saying that we don’t eat sugar. And people are very quick to point it out. I know that we do. It is impossible and unhealthy to completely rid every kind of sugar from your diet. Your brain mainly has one source of food: glucose. So here’s what I mean when I say we’re going “sugar free for a year.” We don’t eat the appearance of sugar. Period. We don’t use Splenda or sugar alcohols or any fake or artificial sweetener. I hear bad things about all of them and I don’t believe in “cure-all’s” or easy ways out. Plus, the only people that advocate for them are either the companies that created them or they are the ones that need to lose weight but haven’t (even with the help of their “fix-all” artificial sugar). They sound enticing, and enticing things are never the answer. People say all the time that diet drinks cause more weight gain than their original predecessors. I’ve heard that certain sugar substitutes *ahhhspertame* (amongst a long list of others) cause or exacerbate all sorts of things that go wrong with your body (think cancer, brain issues, bloating and gas, etc.). The list goes on. But these aren’t the only reasons why I personally avoid/don’t like artificial sweeteners. The biggest reason is that I want this year to reprogram my brain, my body, and my tongue. One of the theories for why diet drinks make people gain weight is because they believe that fake sugar increases sugar cravings. That’s exactly what I don’t want! I want to break these chains that have been tying me down since I was a child and be free for the first time in my 21 years of life! I think people underestimate the amount of refined sugar the average American eats. It’s scary. It’s in everything. It’s in things it doesn’t need to be in! Like applesauce! Why do you need to add refined sugar to applesauce? It is naturally sweet and delicious by itself. Same thing goes with a long, long list of foods, but companies put in sugar because they know us Americans come out of the womb with a sweet tooth and a lazy bum.
I’m going to get off my soap box now. I didn’t know I had that in me.
Anyway, our sugar-free year means we stay away from the appearance of sweets. We eat naturally sweet things like apples and grapes. We even try to stay away from or find no-sugar-added substitutes for things that I believe have more sugar than they need to: applesauce, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter… (like I said, the list is endless). Another thing we try to avoid is white and refined foods like white rice, white flour, white pasta, etc. We try to eat clean, but we still enjoy an occasional date-night dollar burger. When we first said we’d do it we went through our house and threw away all the sweets and sugary foods. And that’s pretty much it. That’s all we’ve done. Try our best to cut out the simple sugars and see what happens.
And that brings me to my point I wanted to talk about today. Today I feel as though I have literally eaten poison. I have made myself sick and it’s by my own doing. See, we have to move across the country. We packed up our belongings and moved everything to Hillary’s apartment in Salt Lake, and we are soon to move to New York City. You’re supposed to save your wedding cake for your first anniversary, but we decided we didn’t want to tote it across the whole of America, so we’re going to eat it tonight. So this is the one day this year that we are going to eat sugar.
Here has been our day:
- Kneader’s endless French toast for breakfast
- A chewy Quaker granola bar
- A shared Snicker’s bar
- A shared large Frosty from Wendy’s
- Shared Skittle’s
- Werther’s Original Caramel candies
- Some foreign chocolate from Billy’s travels we’d been saving
- And our wedding cake
That may seem like a lot of sugar, but that honestly wouldn’t have been that much for me last year. French toast for breakfast is acceptable. Snacking on sweets all day was standard. A granola bar for a mid-morning snack was the usual. Cereal for lunch isn’t that far off from a sugary peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was what I would normally eat for lunch. And having cake at the end used to be a great way to end any day. I used to do this daily.
And now I feel like I have ingested rat poison. My intestines. My poor intestines. I can feel every inch of them because they feel like fingers are squirming and squeezing them uncomfortably tight. My stomach feels like a rock because it is so bloated. Not to go too much into details, but I have pooed twice today and neither was pretty. Molten lava is all I’m going to say. The roof of my mouth started bleeding because of all the sugar (tell me you’ve never had the roof of your mouth rubbed raw from Cap’n Crunch). Billy and I both complained about sharp shooting pains in our teeth. My stomach has not stopped hurting. It feels crampy and miserable. I don’t always know which end it wants to come out of, and there have been several times where I felt like it was trying for both. Billy has been complaining that his head has been hurting him. We have been short and annoyed with each other all day today, probably because neither of us feels good. In fact, at one point today he was working on something and I gave him a suggestion and we both just started snapping at each other. It was then that Billy gently told me to go take a nap (I needed one because I felt like I had no energy). My mouth feels like I’ve been sucking on a hairy turd all day. We finished moving out of our apartment and it was so hard because we had no energy! I think Billy put it best, “I feel like my body is trying to pull energy out of something that doesn’t give any.” And here’s the worst part–the trade off wasn’t even that great! I was so excited about today. These last months have been fun, but I would still occasionally crave certain things like fruity candies, milkshakes, cereal, and good quality sweets. I don’t know if my palate really has changed or if I have simply romanticized these foods too much, but I ate most of the things I had been craving and it wasn’t great.At all. I’d had this French toast last year and it was amazing. This place would always be packed in the mornings for their famous toast. I took a bite and it was so underwhelming. After every bite you could taste the fakeness. I imagined it tasting the same as if you ate an actual spoon of sugar. The toast came with sliced strawberries and those had such a rich and real taste. It was a stark contrast. We left the restaurant feeling queasy. As we drove away I was seriously looking around our car for a bag to potentially throw up in. Nothing we put in our bodies should ever make us feel this way! The granola bar that previously looked so good was more of a chore to eat than anything. The Snicker’s bar left such a gross aftertaste. The Frosty was delicious. No denying it. It was probably my favorite thing we ate all day. But Billy and I talked about how our banana “ice cream” we’d made a couple of days ago had been just as tasty, however it was so much healthier and practically free. All in all not worth it. All the candy we ate was more of the same- after the initial first few seconds of good flavor, it all tasted fake, cheap, and had a nasty aftertaste. Everyone at our reception loved our wedding cake. My cousin made it and she is notorious for making her cakes taste as good as they look. (She even got on the TV show Cake Boss!). When it finally came time for us to eat it, Billy, Hillary, Joe and I all cut big pieces for ourselves and started chowing down. The first couple of bites were delicious. They really were. But by the third bite I started tasting that fakeness again. And by the next bite I started feeling instantly sick again. It was like a knot of diarrhea and gas filling you with a sense of threat as it slowly inches out of your stomach, worms through all of your intestines, till it finally squeezes out as an unladylike rumble and a noxious cloud that makes the strongest of men cringe.
All in all sugar sucks. It is not worth it. And just because you build a tolerance for it doesn’t mean that you should keep indulging in it.
First hand quote from Billy: “It feels like there’s a huge metal tube that is sitting in my entire abdomen squirming around but it can’t move because it’s just stuck there. And there’s sugar in there and it’s making you sick. I hate sugar.”
I hate that it’s taken me this long to try this. Looking back now I can see the effects that this powerful white substance had on me:
- I would eat sugar until I would actually get sick. How horrifying is that? What was controlling me so completely that I couldn’t stop myself from getting to such drastic points? I would always swear it off and go right back to eating it the next day.
- I remember growing up I would have these stomach aches that would wake me up multiple times a night and it would feel like my stomach was turning to acid and trying to rip and drip slowly out of my body.
- I would joke all the time and say that my body had a really high tolerance for sugar. That’s like saying I have a high tolerance for alcohol. Sure, it might be funny but that doesn’t change the fact that it is so unhealthy and really not impressive at all. It is weak.
- It sapped away so much of my energy and part of my childhood.
- This might be gross, but my breath always smelled bad. It was an all-day thing. To try and cover the scent I would usually throw a piece of candy in my mouth. I was notorious for my “dragon” morning breath. I once made my little cousin actually gag because of my breath one morning. It’s embarrassing!
Now on a more positive note: these are the positive effects I’ve noticed.
- My tastes truly have changed. I hated avocados and a lot of things before that now I love. I love cooking healthy and wholesome meals. I realized I had such cheap taste before. But now I enjoy many more foods and I enjoy them all more fully because my tongue can appreciate them now!
- I no longer care about the cheap crap. Like if someone eats a Snicker’s bar in front of me now I usually don’t have a problem with it. If I did have cravings it was usually for something high quality. But it was nice for me because I had always struggled with wanting to shove whatever sugar was available in my mouth simply for the sake of it being sugar. And now that is no longer a problem.
- I am actually satisfied by things like fruit. Now that I don’t have sugar tricking my mind and tongue, fruit tastes way better and I am so easily satisfied by it. It’s awesome.
- I have noticeably better breath.
- Billy and I have both lost and kept off right over ten pounds. Just like that.
- We have more energy all day.
- I have better skin.
- We both have a better attitude because neither of us is cranky from our stomachs hurting. And we have less headaches.
- Cutting out sugar saves money. You’re never tempted to buy that carton of ice cream or that candy bar or that dessert at the restaurant because you made up your mind a long time ago that you don’t want it. It’s awesome!
- We have found tastier and healthier alternatives like fruit.
- We both agree that we sleep better.
I am a firm believer that eating junk leads to a junky body. Even if you look healthy from the outside, you’re wearing your body out and putting so much stress on it that is so easy to remove. You know those awesome old people that are more fit and healthy than people over half their age? I can promise you they haven’t catering to their sugar addictions this whole time. There are too many diseases and ailments that are completely preventable in most cases by eating healthy. People are studying the effects of sugar on our brains and they aren’t pretty. Go look some up. I dare you. You can feel so much better in your body if you simply treat it right! I promise that after the first week or so of cutting out sugar that it becomes so easy! Our brains are amazing, awe-inspiring things. They are like plastic, waiting and wanting to be reformed and reshaped into something better, something stronger. Give it a chance to reach a higher potential instead of keeping it in a foggy, sugar-induced haze. After your first week of no sugar it actually becomes downright enjoyable. Side-note, I needed that quiz to shock me and help me see what was really happening. Also, if Billy wasn’t awesome enough to 1) encourage me to do this in the first place, and 2) actually do it with me, I wouldn’t ever had had the will power to do it. I’m so glad that he did. If at any point in reading this you have empathized with me, then I encourage you to try cutting out sugar. I promise you your body will thank you and your life will change for the better.