Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Breaking Up with Sugar

Everyone knows you can’t control who you fall in love with. All you can do is hope that the stars align and you end up with someone fantastic and inspiring who is good for you and treats you with respect and lets you grow in all the right ways. I have been blessed with a life partner who gives me plenty of room to grow and encourages me to be the best I can be. And he isn’t hard on me when I grow too much, width-wise I mean. Thank goodness. I have known the other kind who criticize and suggest and attempt to control every morsel eaten and the length and intensity of activities taken.

But here I want to talk about a different kind of love affair. The kind I have with the food I eat. This is not love. Let us be clear what it really is. An addiction. One where I seek validation from the outside, I go running back to the familiar, uncomfortable feelings in hopes that they will change. This time, maybe, it will be different. But it never is. I eat too much sugar, I feel grumpy, tired and bloated. I feed a craving and the blood sugar roller coaster begins, the cycle of abuse goes around again. I partake as though I am a fugitive, secretly hoarding the forbidden fruit. More accurately, I do it all mindlessly, continuously, openly.

I was so incredibly thrilled this morning to hear from a friend who is doing a Candida cleanse for a month (no dairy, no sugars or refined grains, no caffeine, no starchy veg). I have known many who have done cleanses. The Master Cleanse (syrup, lemon, cayenne and water..?), the vegan route, nothing but organic, or cutting out dairy, or sugar or wheat, nothing but juiced veggies.

A good cleanse in my mind pushes you towards nutritionally dense foods and away from those that are harmful or difficult to digest in some way or another. This is not rocket science. Yet we receive so many conflicting messages about what healthy really means. What I love best about my friend’s story so far is that after nearly two weeks she FEELs better. She has more energy, needs less sleep, still takes her body on long runs.

I have been blown away by her diligence and determination. I think because this particular friend is in my camp. She gets the value of home grown, home-made food. But like me, she takes advantage of the convenience of processed stuff once in a while. Limiting sugar and dairy would be especially tricky for me. There are days I give myself nothing but kale and beans and homemade condiments and grass-fed beef, and raw, unhomogenized dairy, and spinach and whole, healthy grains and omega-rich fats and perfect proteins. And other days…well…maybe all of that plus three Cadbury Easter cream eggs.

Don’t wince. It is true that I am an organic farmer who values nutrition and unprocessed food and food grown without chemicals and fresh, clean air and all of that. But I have a vice and this is it. Some days the vice visits and stays unwelcome for days and days. Other days it stays away for weeks at a time. I don’t drink alcohol very often. I don’t smoke. I exercise intensely at least 3-4 hours a week. I get my sleep. I take time to breathe. And every now and again, I eat a mountain of sugar that would make your head spin.

When I was younger I could get away with just about anything and still manage to walk around looking like a beanpole. As the decades pass, I find more and more that my secret behaviour (not really so much secret anymore is it?) is starting to show. Not just on my waist but in my moods, my skin, my energy levels, my ability to sleep or cope. And it takes a lot more work to keep the extra pounds at bay.

Now I don’t think this is the worst addiction in the world. You could argue that the only person I’m hurting is myself (if you keep the health care argument out of it and perhaps longevity and quality of life as it relates to time with my children). I’ve also met folks so addicted to their exercise regimes or their diet plans that they are downright nasty to other people who don’t do what they do or get in the way of their obsessions. I’ve been there too. Addicted to movement. Compulsive about nutrition.

Now it is absolutely essential to me that any changes I make are done with kindness. Kindness to others, to myself, and to the planet. I want to approach my health with love and not criticism. With acceptance, not rejection. Because fundamentally it is way too much of a paradox to reject your own body. You can’t hate it. You can try. And I bet at times you do try. But at the end of the day exactly who is hating whom???

So I’m breaking up with refined sugars. I no longer wish to lean on something that gives me so little in return. This particular love of my life is abusive. It acts as though it is a saviour, the knight in shining armour, the healing potion, the quick fix to any problem. In the end it leaves me stranded and needing more of the same. Selling off my valuables to find money to get more. Seeking it out in the dark of night. It brings me bad days - it does not take them away.

No more corn syrups, sugary beverages, cakes, pies, pastries, squares, cookies, chocolate bars, Easter cream eggs, candies, sugary condiments, wines, beer, fruit juices… Maybe I’ll be brave enough to cut back on white flours. I don’t care for refined flour but I like to mix it in with the grainier, nuttier flours to get a lighter texture and consistency. White pasta, white rice, white bread, white tortillas… Am I ready to go the whole mile?

While I’m at it I should probably drop dairy too. But lets be honest. I don’t want to take the whole tower down at one time. Lets do this one addiction at a time.

Lover, you aren’t good for me anymore. I’m not sure you ever have been. If you love me, please let me go. Can one get a restraining order on a food? Oh, is that simply called restraint? I shall give that a go.

Care to join me? 5 weeks. Starting now. See you on the other side.


  1. I just wrote a bit about this last week. I'm in...minus the wine part :) thanks for the challenge.

  2. my naturopath was impressed with my diet when we first met. I guiltily had to admit my weakness for sugar. At times ( like you) I could go weeks without indulging and going without was not even an effort . Then suddenly I would have some ( cake at a party, chocolate candy in someone's Halloween stash) and the mad obsession was off and running.
    She outlined her own battle to rule in the sugar demon, and it really helped to hear that this was something others who ate most of the time very consciously dealt with.
    For me my moods and now my autoimmune diease process is greatly affected by my ingestion of sugars of all kinds.I hate what they leave in their wake but they are a very strong master!
    Good luck to you!

  3. I went on a low sugar diet (you can't completely eliminate it, it's in EVERYTHING it seems) eating a lot more salads, and going nutrition rich. With restricting my fat to 15g a day, going low salt, and low sugar, i lost 25 pounds in about 2 months. Then the holidays hit. I crumbled. I am back to where I was. My energy is low, my clothes don't fit well, and I ache all the time. Why did I go back to the demon of sugar?? Thanks for the challenge, I am taking you up on it.


  4. I'm really inspired by this post. Mostly because I can relate to it in so many ways-- the sugar addiction as well as your desire to farm, eat whole foods, and cultivate an attention of kindness for yourself and others. I recently came to the realization (again) that my sugar addiction was getting out of hand (again). I can't tell you how much most of what you say resonates with me. It's nice to hear from someone else who is in a similar position, making similar choices. There were times this past winter when I would simply gorge on chocolate. I couldn't stop myself. I don't know how I let it happen, but this time I am determined not to let that lifestyle get a hold of me again.

    I'm not actually all that worried about dairy since lately I've been able to stick to raw goat's milk and raw cheese. That helps. This week, I started by cutting out all refined/pure sugar (including honey and agave nectar and raisins and anything I use as a cane sugar substitute). Next week I'm going to work on reducing the starches. So far, so good. I'm seriously considering cutting out coffee too, because it turns out it can really mess with your blood sugar. That may be the hardest addiction to kick!

    Best of luck with your changes, and know that you are not alone on your journey :)

    There are moments when I stand in the pantry and look at that bag of chocolate chips and almost give in, but then I remember how important this is to me. It's not just about my body- it's about the health of my future children.


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