I’ve been writing about my experience with giving up sugar and have been thanked, admired, and smacked down for sharing. Here’s the deal: I write my life. I don’t judge anyone else’s. Everyone has their own paths, their own relationships with their bodies, their own points of view, their own comfort zones. Sometimes hearing about what either people have gone through helps. It helps me knowing I’m not alone when I’m struggling.
So, here’s more of my story. I was anorexic for a significant part of my adult life—restriction, denial, strict control were staples. Fortunately, having kids (after more than a decade of starving) relaxed me considerably. There wasn’t time or energy to be so hard on myself when someone else needed to be the center of attention. I stopped wearing black all the time. I didn’t hide in the shadows anymore. And I expanded my ok-to-eat list, to a certain degree anyway. I still haven’t eaten a Hershey’s Bar or Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in more years than I can imagine. I only started eating butter last year and realized what I’d been missing. Every once in awhile I’ll eat a french fry or two, something that would never have happened in the not too distant past. But sugar snuck up on me and took me out at the knees.
I started by eating vegan desserts at my local health food store, believing that since those huge slices of chocolate cake slathered in chocolate icing were organic, they couldn’t possibly be fat and calorie laden. Ha. I’d munch through a tub of dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt from Trader Joe’s in two days. When I baked a cake, while I wouldn’t cut and eat a slice of my own, I’d happily scrape the bottom of the pan and scoop up other people’s crumbs to get a chocolate fix. I’d eat handfuls of the cookies at my yoga studio, both before and after class. And then the Italian coffee bar opened a block away—I couldn’t last a day without dark chocolate sorbet.
I gained weight. I chalked it up to getting older, to my metabolism slowing down, to spending more time sitting and writing. I struggled with drawers of clothes that no longer fit and the mental anguish of going up a size after so many years of my body conforming to my iron will. I worked on being ok with it all. But, deep inside, I wasn’t. Having said that, I didn’t do anything to change.
Until the blue icing incident. My son had an ice cream cake for his birthday—chocolate cake and Oreo ice cream, slathered in icing, bright blue piping around the edges. I left the actual cake for everyone else, but somehow convinced myself the icing was fine to eat. Those decorations were so intense, so rich almost everyone left them on their plates and I scooped up their leftovers. I went into the freezer at night, cutting swirls off the cake to pop in my mouth.
They didn’t even taste good.
I didn’t care.
My teeth and tongue were blue until I scraped the last bits off the cardboard box, my stomach turning as I licked the spoon. In that moment I realized this wasn’t me healing from an eating disorder. Loosening controls and being easier on myself didn’t make another kind of compulsive behavior ok. That’s when I decided sugar had to go.
It’s been a little more than a month since I stared down the ice cream cake. I don’t have extreme cravings and crashes anymore. I don’t scour my kitchen desperate for something sweet to eat. I’m saving money by not buying the sorbet and biscotti and hot chocolates I used to need every day. I still have sugar in the one decaf coffee I have a day and that’s fine.
I’m proud of myself for taking better care of my body. I’m relieved to not be caught up in destructive behavior anymore. And my pants fit again. By eating better, healthier, more than I was actually consuming before, my body’s in a better place.
So am I.