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Confessions of a Sugar Beast


I'm a hormonal, sugar-fueled mess this week. I find these labels empowering. Because they give me reasons and solutions for the way I feel. You're cranky, hungry, tired, and head-achey because being a female is terrible sometimes. To feel better, wait.

You're cranky, hungry, tired and head-achey because you've been eating a lot of things that you know are bad for you. To feel better, stop eating sugar.

Unfortunately, the blithe "stop eating sugar" mandate is tough sell right now.

Sugar is my achilles heel. My mouth loves it, my body hates it. If I eat sugar, I feel tired and cranky and my brain goes foggy and my skin breaks out and I have cravings for a week.

In the past, simply acknowledging the cycle and recognizing how much worse my life is when I'm eating sugar has been enough to pop me out of the dreaded cycle.

Making good food choices is an experiential process. Quitting certain foods to lose weight or because it's healthier isn't enough of an incentive for me, because the concepts are too vague. Vague does not hold up well when confronted with butterscotch pudding on a sunny patio. But experimenting with alterations - over the past five years, I've experimented with raw, vegan, and no sugar - for long enough to learn how I feel and how my life shifts without those things provides amazing incentives. Like, stop eating that thing and life gets 100% better and you know this to be a fact. Now, that's an incentive.

When I'm off sugar, I don't have food cravings, I sleep well, my energy is high, creative work feels easy, my moods are cheerful, my skin is clear and my jeans fit.

But sugar is in everything. It’s in your curry chicken when you go out for Indian food, it’s in bread you buy at the grocery store, it’s in basically any food that comes in a box or from a restaurant. It also craftily hides under innocuously healthy sounding names, like honey and brown rice syrup. Alcohol reacts in your body the same way sugar does. So do potatoes.

Sugar is also in pancakes and oh my stars, how I love pancakes. Green juice is so terribly uninspiring when what you really want is a stack of buttery blueberry pancakes.

But pancakes make me feel terrible and green juice makes me feel like I’m flying through the sky on a friendly dragon.

I’ve been dabbling in sugar again, because I've been going out to eat a lot more often than in past years and I'm in a relationship now so my exercise routine is all thrown off and also the demon of over-confidence started to whisper in my ear about how "sugar doesn't affect you that much!" and "you're fine!" and "mmm, buttercream-frosted cupcakes!" 

I’ve given up sugar four or five times now. Sometimes it lasts for a year, sometimes it lasts for six months, last week it lasted for about three days. Usually, I have to hit some point of pain - like watching the sugar cycle of crankiness and depression roller coaster me up and down for awhile until I decide it’s absolutely 100% not worth it. Then everything clicks in and abandoning sugar feels easy for green juice feels easy. But I just haven't hit that point yet. And I'm a little mad at myself because I need that point.

Willpower isn't really a thing for me. I have no interest in torturing myself, even for the sake of health or feeling better. Self-control and discipline have never made me jump for joy. So I wait until eating sugar is actually a more painful prospect than not eating sugar and everything gets easy.