Sugar Free: What I Learned from a Two Week Sugar Fast
Sugar when used in moderation can be an added pleasure to the culinary experience, but when abused it can wreak havoc on the human body. There is no danger in using sugar in small doses, but in our modern diet of processed and prepackage mass produced easily accessible food, consuming sugar in moderation takes some culinary acrobatics. For me, sugar is a huge part of my diet. I have a major sweet tooth and until quite recently, I did not go a day without eating something sweet. I’ve known for some time that I have sugar addiction, but until recently, I hadn’t done anything about it. Two weeks ago, I decided that I needed to cleanse myself of sugar so that I could begin a new chapter in my life where sugar was just a part of my diet rather than the focal point of my diet. So I swore off sugar in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose for fourteen days. Here’s what I learned.
I was physically dependent on sugar
The first seven days of my fast were really difficult. I actually had physiological reactions to the lack of sugar in my diet. I was sluggish and tired, and I was unusually irritable. I craved sugar and dreamed about eating Snicker’s bars and cake. I would finish a meal and have a desperate need to eat something sweet afterwards. The need for sugar manifested as a physical ache, and I spent long days reminding myself of the benefits of life without the pull of sugar. I kept a record of the fast in a small notebook that I carried with me. The first few entries show how much I craved sugar and how it affected my mood. I am now convinced that I used sugar to alter my mood.
I was emotionally and psychologically dependent on sugar
After seven days, the physical cravings for sugar dissipated, but even today the psychological need for sugar lingers. I miss the ritual of eating sugary sweets. Every night my family eats a dessert after dinner. Dinner just isn’t complete without a sweet of some sort. During my fast, I’d watch as my husband and daughter enjoyed dessert, and I’d feel sad that I couldn’t partake. At the same time, I was mindful of what partaking entailed. Before the fast, I would eat dessert after dinner. Although I was satiated and even at times full after eating dessert, minutes later, I’d feel hungry again. I’d eat chips or a piece of toast although I had been full a short time before. I would always feel guilty after indulging, and that made me eat more sugar to comfort myself only to feel guilty for eating too much sugar, and the vicious cycle continued.
During my fast, when I’d watch my husband and daughter enjoy their dessert, I noticed that I was not ravenously hungry after eating. I did not need that extra bit of calories I always craved after dessert, and over time, when the cravings abated, I began to appreciate the feeling of being satisfied after a meal. The absence of sugar showed me that having a dessert after dinner didn’t really add to the experience, but rather deprived me of the sensation of being satiated after a meal.
However, even now, when I am anxious and nervous, I still think about getting something sweet. Not having the option to indulge in a tasty treat in times of distress has made me mindful of the fact that I am resistant to feeling anxious. It is perhaps the most unwelcome emotion that I have. Without the release that sugar offers, I have had to sit with my anxiety and examine the root cause of it. I am sorry to say that I haven’t done shadow work so great is my resistance to this emotion. However, having taken the option of sugar as a coping mechanism off the table, I am more inclined to face my anxiety head on, which is a step in the direction of health and well being.
Sugar is a wonderful teacher
The most important thing that this sugar fast has taught me is that I rely on sugar too much for a emotional release. Accepting that I have a problem and taking steps to remedy the problem has taught me a lot about myself and about the aspects of myself that still dwell in the shadows. It has brought me closer to an authentic perception of myself and it has shown me that I can survive without abusing sugar. It has acted as a foil to the lasting and meaningful release that shadow work and a deeper knowledge of the self provide. The empty fix that sugar has provided all these years has taught me what I truly need and want, and that is not a temporary release from emotional pain and discomfort, but a permanent solution to the cause of that pain and discomfort. This was a valuable lesson to learn and I am deeply grateful that I have learned it.
Sugar Free: My Life After My Sugar Addiction
Although I spent fourteen days abstaining from sugar, I am not going to cut sugar out of my life completely. I still enjoy sweet things. However, it has now taken a healthier role in my life. It’s power over me is gone for I no longer seek release through its consumption. I am learning to replace that with healthier outlets. I have; however, decided to no longer partake of processed sugar. I will now eat fruit to satisfy my sweet tooth. On special occasions like my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas I might indulge; however, I am beginning to wonder if even that will be necessary. It does seem a little too soon to say that I am free from my sugar addiction. This is not the first time I’ve thought I was clear of it only to be pulled back into the vicious addiction cycle, so for now, at least today, I will say that I feel better about my relationship with sugar. I am grateful for this moment in my life when I have chosen my well being over my need to escape emotional discomfort.
A Message for You
For those of you struggling with an addiction, my heart goes out to you. No matter what you are going through I know that there is a way out of it. We can learn from our addictions. They tell us vital things about ourselves and our needs. Our addictions are motivated by a need to feel loved, to be comforted, and to feel safe. For me, my sugar addiction taught me that I have a need to feel comforted. I will no longer look to sugar for that comfort because I know at my core that this a false comfort.
I encourage you to examine your addiction without judgment. Find out what it has to teach you. It is not easy, but I know we all have it within us to change the things that do not serve us well. Our addictions serve us, but they do so myopically, and therefore not very well. There are aspects of our psyche that can and will meet our needs healthfully. We have only to get in touch with that wise part of ourselves.
That is what I did. I listened to the soft but firm voice that said, “You no longer need sugar. It’s time to cleanse yourself of this toxin and restore it to its rightful place as a simple pleasure.” This voice speaks to us in every situation; we just need to learn how to listen and then we have to trust it. In my experience, it has never steered me wrong. The power is within all of us to take control of our lives and make healthy loving choices for ourselves. I believe in you and I wish you the very best.