Hi. I’m Sarah. I’m a sugar addict.

This is not a medical diagnosis from a doctor. I have figured this out on my own. I have no training nor degrees in health, fitness, or nutrition. Let me say that again. I am NOT a health, fitness, or nutrition specialist. I’m just a human being who has spent my life battling my weight. I still am, and frankly, I always will be. If you know anything about addiction, you know that there is no cure, only a state of recovery, if you’re lucky.

How do I know I’m an addict?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines Addiction this way:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in the individual pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. The addiction is characterized by impairment in behavioral control, craving, inability to consistently abstain, and diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can involve cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

Yup. What they said.

I have tested my addiction, more times than I care to admit. But this last time, I really want to be the last. I now believe that it is possible, given the tools I’m discovering, for me to stay in recovery for the rest of my life. I am well aware of how human and therefore flawed I am, so I never say never, but I have faith that if I do fall off the wagon, for whatever reason, my new-found understanding will help me jump back on quickly. Knowledge is power, and the more I learn, the better prepared I am to handle difficult situations and lapses.

Every person is unique, so my story and the way I’m choosing to deal with these issues may not work for everyone. If you get nothing else out of this, I hope this blog will simply motivate you to educate yourself, for yourself. You have to find your own path, as I have.

No one book or workout program has fit the bill for me. I have had to mix and match to suit my needs and issues, and I am constantly finding more tools and gaining more knowledge and experience every day. I am providing here as many resources as I can, things that have given me insight over the years, that may or may not speak to you. That’s for you to figure out.

Like most people who fight the battle of the bulging midsection, I tried all kinds of weight loss programs and read several dozen books. Most of the time I looked for holistic approaches, ie. life style changing systems, but occasionally my impatience lead me to try those “miracle” quick fixes advertised all over the place. So yes, I have contributed my share of hard-earned money to the billion dollar weight loss industry.

However, quickly realizing that pills and fancy gadgets don’t work, I also found that even the more “healthy”, supportive approaches, like Weight Watchers, Nutisystem, Jenny Craig, and Lindora were not for me either. I couldn’t afford to keep purchasing prepackaged (processed) foods, nor did their recommended eating plans keep me from craving all the junk I now know I’m addicted to.

It wasn’t until I started looking at my weight problem as an extension of a larger issue that I opened up my mind to new ideas (new to me) and ways of feeling about food and myself.

It finally occurred to me that I have a food addition. Therefore I must deal with food as an addict should. The problem is, unlike drugs, alcohol, nicotine and the like, I can’t just abstain from eating. I need food to live.

I’ve looked at psychological/behavioral approaches. For instance, there are self-image factors I need to address: The fact that I hate my body and therefore, in part, myself is…well, a problem. One of several issues I’m dealing with thanks to some wonderful friends and counselors… but this is only one piece of the puzzle.

The greatest discovery I have found is much more tangible: how food affects me at every level – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The more books I read on nutrition and how food affects the body, and the greater awareness I became of my own experiences with food, it occurred to me that simple sugars/carbs and processed foods are my “drugs” of choice.

When I eat simple sugars/carbs, I plummet into this uncontrollable state where I cannot stop eating sugar. I am depressed and have no “will power”, motivation, or confidence in myself. I know what I should be eating, but I have absolutely no desire to do so. Logic means nothing to me when I am under the influence of sugar. Knowing what this crap is doing to my body does not keep me from eating it. I am in full addiction mode! There is no eating just one cookie for me. I have to eat the whole package, regardless of its size. I must eat until my stomach can take no more. And after a short break, I want to eat again. This cannot be normal. This is not healthy!

The solution? Same as with any addiction: Abstinence. Cutting out simple sugar/carbs from my diet completely! But how? For years I searched for the answer. I thought I had it right when I was eating a high protein diet. I lost quite a bit of weight, however, I wasn’t eating enough complex carbs (fruits and vegetables). My digestive system was out of whack, and I couldn’t sustain energy levels, especially when I added exercise to the mix. Something wasn’t right. So back to my bad, old habits I went, bringing back all the pounds I had lost.

Then a few months ago, my friend Charlie introduced me to the raw food way of eating. I read two books on the subject, and tried it for two weeks. It was amazing! I had never felt so physically balanced before. My sugar cravings vanished and for the first time in my life I understood what it meant to “eat to live” instead of “living to eat”.

A miracle!

Of course, me being me, I can’t take things at face value. I had to test it. One day that ‘voice’, you know that voice in your head that insists on maintaining the status quo, that voice said to me, “Congratulations! You are finally cured. So… let’s have some ice cream to celebrate!” Ice cream is my #1 downfall. Especially Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup! Oh… Ambrosia!

That was all it took. I ate the whole container, with a bag of Doritos on the side. No, not a single serving bag. A full-sized bag… the whole thing! If I could live on ice cream and Doritos, and nothing else, I would. Although I love mac ‘n cheese and pizza as well… But I digress…

Raw food! Ok. Mind cleared. Back to my story.

People have told me that one slip up isn’t the end of the world. Just get back on track the next meal. Some people may be able to have a doughnut for breakfast and then a healthy salad for lunch., but not me. People have assured me that one “fat” day per week works… Well, it may work for them, but not for me. I eat one doughnut, which leads to 5, and 2 months later I’m still wallowing in the pit of despair. This last diet failure proved this to me in big, bold, neon letters: SUGAR ADDICT!

This is a part of who I am, and it’s never going to change. I am not happy about it in any way, shape, or form. Like most Americans, I love my surgery, fatty, processed foods. However, when I eat the way I want to eat, I am 220 lbs, depressed, physically uncomfortable, on the verge of diabetes and heart disease, with no self-esteem and no energy to accomplish anything. This is not what I want for my life.

I am a talented, creative person with a lot to offer. I am a child of a loving God, who has given me a wonderful family and great friends. How can I throw all that away by throwing my life away – not living up to my potential, not being the whole person God created?

I turned 41 this year. If I don’t change my ways now, I may never change. I want to live the life I’ve only dreamed of. I want to be the person I know I am, in my soul. This is about more than my weight. This is about me finding my truth and living it, in all aspects, at all levels of life.

Now you’re asking yourself, how did I recover from my last trip to the dark side? Well, my friend Dan suggested that I start exercising. Okay, that sounds too simple, and obvious. I’ve read in countless books, the only way to lose weight is with a healthy diet and exercise. Simple. But what I never focused on was how exercise makes me FEEL.

I was sharing my frustration with Dan about how I had succumbed to my sugar addiction again, and that I couldn’t get myself back to raw eating. I had no motivation. (Remember, “logic means nothing when I’m under the influence”.) But Dan pointed out that exercising pumps up our endorphin levels, which makes us feel better.

At that point I was willing to try anything, so I started working out to a new dvd program. I hadn’t exercised in 8 months, so I took it slow, easing myself back into the habit. But even with a simple low impact, high intensity workout, Dan was right. By the third or fourth day, when my legs stopped hurting and I could walk normally again, I did indeed feel better. My depression began to lift and life seemed doable again… so did raw eating.

I have now been working out at least 5 times a week for 3 weeks, and eating about 90% raw for over 2 weeks. I feel great! My mind is clear and focused, and I am determined to make this my new way of being. Before I connected my depression with my eating habits, I was terrified that I would always be “low” and “lazy”, and that it would only get worse over time. But now I see the light, not at the end of a tunnel, but all around me.

This journey is far from over. It will be a daily challenge, but I feel so much more confident in my ability to face obstacles along the way, and not just survive, but succeed.

It’s not just about my weight. It’s about so much more.


Next Time: More details about what I’m eating and how I’m working out.