It’s a pretty daunting task to write about sugar addiction. That’s because in our culture, sugar isn’t just a food….it represents happiness and comfort and a million other sentimental feelings all wrapped into one. It’s intertwined with many of our most cherished dreams, moments, and memories. Just imagine a birthday without that luscious, 3-tiered birthday cake. Or Christmas without fudge and candy canes and goodie plates delivered by the neighbors. Or try ending a date without grabbing an ice cream cone from your favorite local shop or closing a church meeting without those tantalizingly refreshments at the end. Take away the sugar and it often feels like all our joy goes right along with it.
I’ve even had people tell me that they’d rather die than give up their favorite treats–that they’re the only thing that makes life worth living. For these reasons and more, many of us get downright defensive when someone starts talking about sugar being unhealthy or addictive. I think sometimes it’s easier to sweep the negative stuff under the rug so we don’t have to face the havoc this little treat may be creating in our everyday lives.
My own emotional attachment to sugar remained firmly intact until one red-letter day back in November of 2004. On the recommendation of a friend, I’d checked out a book from the library called The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program by Kathleen DesMaisons. Despite the title, I had no intention of admitting I had an addiction. I truly believed my sugar habit was nothing more than a sweet tooth—and a relatively harmless one at that. Yes, all those brownies and doughnuts and chocolate chip cookies may have added a few pounds to my waistline and a few cavities to my teeth, but so what? Well, just pages into DesMaisons’ book that “so what?” was answered in a big, big way. And with that, all my denial and justification and rationalization came to a screeching halt.
Did you know that a high sugar diet can actually cause depression? Irritability? Fatigue? Restlessness? A short temper? Mood swings? And an inability to say no to your body’s cravings? I sure didn’t. I’d always thought my short fuse with my kids was just a lack of willpower. That my erratic mood swings and month-long PMS were just part of being a woman. That the depression haunting me was caused by the stress of my daily life. Yet before my very eyes, Dr. DesMaisons was connecting all those difficult struggles to the Blizzards and M&M’s and Reese’s peanut butter cups that kept finding their way into my mouth. It was a pretty mind-blowing realization.
As I continued to explore her eye-opening book, I learned that my love of sugar had caused a chemical imbalance in my brain and it was throwing me off not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. In that moment, I finally began to see sugar not as my best friend and dearest joy, but as one of my most dreaded enemies. This subtle and devious enemy had quietly worked its way into my mind and heart and had wrapped me in extremely powerful chains—chains that had proven incredibly hard to break. But on that same day in November 2004, I felt a yearning growing within me to break free from that miserable captivity and start a new life.
Now, I know some may think I’m being overly dramatic by describing sugar with words like “enemy” and “chains” and “captivity.” But I’m willing to take that risk because I know others will read those words and know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re one of those people. Maybe, like me, you’ve lied to your spouse when he asked you who ate the rest of the brownies. Maybe, like me, you’ve watched yourself continue to binge on chocolate chip cookie dough even though you’d already eaten half the bowl. Maybe, like me, you’ve experienced countless days where you promised yourself that you were going to cut down, but you only lasted a few hours before giving in. Experiences like these finally helped me realize that my sugar habit really wasn’t harmless at all. In truth, I was acting just like an addict. It was a painful thing to admit, but it was the first step on my journey to overcome my physical and emotional attachment to sugar.
I think the most important thing to know about all of this is that there is a way out. Really. And isn’t by quitting cold turkey. It isn’t through mustering up more willpower either. Like most successful programs for addiction, the secret lies in connecting to a Higher Power—which for me meant turning to Jesus Christ and surrendering the whole mess into His capable hands. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought of that earlier. Yes, I’d relied on His strength to get through other trials in my life, but I’d never asked for His help to deal with my food issues. And it finally hit me that I’d lived in that binge-diet-repeat cycle long enough. It was time to find the strength, healing, and transformation available through my Savior.
If you’d like to know more about how I found recovery from sugar addiction, I share my story in Body Image Breakthrough and I also talk about it a lot in my Sugar Addiction Facebook Group as well. I believe the key was in my choice to rely every single day on the Lord’s empowering grace. Through His strength, I was able to follow the plan in Dr. DesMaisons’ book, and I also incorporated the principles found in the 12-Step Addiction Recovery program (more on those two things if you click on the FB Group tab above.) With Christ walking by my side every step of the way, I can now say that I’ve been sugar free for more than 12 years. And even better, my depression is gone. So is my short temper, my mood swings, and all that other emotional chaos. In its place, I’ve found an inner peace and stability that’s more amazing than I ever dreamed possible. I’ve truly been healed–body, mind, and soul. And I’ll thank and praise my Savior forever for setting me free from that awful captivity.
I share my story in the hopes that those who struggle like I did will know how to find freedom from sugar addiction (and all the craziness that goes along with it). A new life is really is available through Jesus Christ. Join me in my Facebook group and I’ll show you exactly how you can find it.
(*If you’re not on Facebook, check the bottom of the FB group page for some additional recommendations.)