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How I Kicked My Sugar Habit

December 14, 2009

When I was younger I wasn’t much of an eater.  I could go all day without eating a proper meal.  I just had no interest in food and for some strange reason I never even felt hungry.  (How I wish that were the case now!)  Eventually the lack of food would catch up with me though and there were times I’d be so dizzy that I would black out.  This happened at school several times and the nurse called my mom who would then proceed to sit me down and force me to eat. 

The interesting thing was that while I wasn’t interested in proper meals I had no problem consuming sugar.  For breakfast I’d eat a couple of spoons of ice cream straight from the freezer and then be satisfied until lunch when I’d melt 5 Chips Ahoy cookies in the microwave and have them with a glass of milk. I had a Chips Ahoy addiction.  It was terrible.  My brother did too actually.  My mom would buy a package of Chips Ahoy which had probably 40 cookies or something and it would be gone in 2 days flat.  This happened for a couple reasons:

1. They were delicious.
2. I didn’t want my brother to finish them off so I ate as many as I could, as fast as I could. And vice versa.

We even took to hiding cookies in our rooms just so the other person couldn’t have/find them. We had major mental problems. We still do.  But that is another post altogether.  Anyway, it is amazing that neither of us gained 500 pounds during this vicious cookie-eating cycle.

As I got older things didn’t really change too much except that my Chips Ahoy addiction was replaced with mass consumption of Chips Deluxe cookies which in turn led to a Magic Middles problem. (Why, oh why did they stop making Magic Middles??)  Throughout high school my daily lunch was a King Size Snickers and a Dr. Pepper.  Well balanced, huh?  During college I went through a containers of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Brownie ice cream.  And then when I met my husband I started drinking tons of Coke and Pepsi, as he is a huge fan.  Sometimes I’d have a Coke and 8-10 cookies and I felt like I could have easily eaten 8-10 more.  I might as well have been hooked up to an IV of sugar, that’s how much I was consuming.  Miraculously I never gained an ounce and so I never really thought of it as a problem. 

When I was pregnant with Maya the doctor told me I needed to watch out because I could potentially develop gestational diabetes.  So I cut out the Coke and tried to cut back on the cookies.  I don’t think I was as successful as the doctor had hoped but at least I stopped craving soft drinks and I didn’t get gestational diabetes! 

After Maya was born I lost all the pregnancy weight in a week and went right back to my mass consumption of sugar as if 9 months hadn’t passed.  I figured that since I didn’t have a weight problem it really didn’t matter what I ate, right?  Plus, I was SO in over my head with a newborn that the only thing that made me feel better was drowning my sorrows in a bag of 2-Bite Brownies during the 5 minutes Maya managed to sleep. 

These things are like crack I tell you!

One month before Maya turned one, I turned 30.  I swear my metabolism changed overnight.  I didn’t have a working scale so I really had no idea how much I weighed, but I could tell that my jeans were getting tight and I felt like I’d gained some weight.  Since I was skinny, this wouldn’t have been a problem except that the weight was all focused around my stomach.  Subcutaneous fat, someone told me, which according to Dr. Oz is the worst type.  I was that dreaded skinny and yet fat person and I had no idea how to deal with it.

Turning 30 also coincided with me trying to get through by first year at CBS.  I was juggling a one-year-old, a new job, a move to a new condo.  And then our first nanny, who was a total B@#$%, quit on us with no notice.  (One day Karma will take care of you Nanny!)  I didn’t know how to deal with everything that was going on.  I was just getting everything done by the skin of my teeth.  The highlight of my day was the small window of time after work when Maya had just gone to sleep and I could watch America’s Next Top Model and chow down on something sugary.  I knew it was a terrible habit but I just couldn’t stop myself.  I continued to feel like my pants were getting tight though so I decided to start going to the gym earnestly.  I woke up at 5am every day and went to the gym for an entire hour before Maya woke up.  I killed myself (and in the process my knee) by blazing miles on the treadmill, the elliptical, and the stationary bike.  I hired a trainer.  I hardly ate anything.  But after dinner I still ate 6 brownie bites with a glass of milk.  Every.  Single.  Night.

I was so frustrated with myself!  I like to think of myself as having a ton of motivation to get things done but I just couldn’t give up my after dinner dessert habit.  My low point came one Father’s Day when my brother and I took my dad to dinner at Morton’s and after eating lobster mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad, I still came home and ate dessert even though I didn’t really want it!  I felt SO disgusting that I knew I had to do something drastic. 

The next day I tossed out the brownie bites and the cookies.  Instead I told myself I could have some of Maya’s graham crackers.  So I had graham crackers.  Except that I still ate about 5 of them and that kind of defeated the purpose of cutting out not just the sugar but the bad habit of dessert as well.  So I threw those out too and bought mini-Snickers instead.  I told myself that I could have up to 2 mini-Snickers every day after dinner.  Well it had been a while since I’d eaten a Snickers and my face broke out SO terribly the next day that yes I threw those out too. 

As I tried to figure out what to do next I realized it was time for Maya to stop drinking from a bottle.  A couple of days after her first birthday I tossed all the bottles in the trash and gave her milk in a sippy cup.  She looked at me and I looked at her and she screamed for the entire first day without a bottle.  I stuck firm though and by the next day she was happily drinking from a sippy cup.  That was when I realized that I had to use the same strategy – as an all or nothing kind of person I needed to cut myself off of sugar completely in order to eliminate it. 

The first few days were terribly difficult but I told myself I had to go sugar-free for 2 entire weeks.  (I’d read somewhere that it takes 2 weeks to break a habit).  I snacked on grapes and raisins after dinner just to keep myself from going crazy.  I also tried not to turn the TV on and instead went on the computer, or better yet, went to bed earlier just to stay away from the sugar.  At the end of the first week I was in a much better place.  I still wanted something after dinner but it wasn’t that difficult to talk myself out of it.  By the end of the second week I had absolutely NO need for sugar. 

To celebrate I picked up a piece of Godiva Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake from Cheesecake Factory.  Brilliant, right?  But guess what?  After a couple of bites it was it was TOO sweet for me.  I couldn’t believe it.  My husband (who doesn’t work out and eats a ton of junk) would often comment after a few bites of dessert that it was too much for him.  I would just stare at him like he was crazy because nothing was ever too sugary or too chocolately for me.  But after my 2 week sugar detox I finally understood what he meant. 

It has been a couple of years now since I managed to kick my habit and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to stay on the right track.  I rarely eat dessert now but I do indulge in some quality dark chocolate – a couple of squares though and I am totally satisfied.  Any more than that and I kind of feel shaky and slightly nauseous AND my face breaks out.  (Whoever says that what you eat has no effect on your skin has no idea what they are talking about because once I cut out the sugar, my skin instantly improved.  It is not perfect by any means but it is still 100% better than it used to be.  I am also not spending a fortune at the dermatologist anymore).

I’m not going to lie…I miss the brownies and the cookies and the indulging with friends/family.  I hate that people think I am uptight and too strict because I changed my eating habits for the better.  But anytime I feel like I’m going to give in I try to think of how gross I’ll feel afterwards and I swear it works every time. 

Has/does anyone else face a sugar addition?  How did you get past it?

13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2009 3:54 pm

    Hi Ameena…

    I have JUST JUST gone off sugar…go see my posts for last week..I did a 5 day low GI eating challenge…it SUCKED.

    I did it and feel like you do…stuff tastes sweet without much added to it. I am seeing my skin clear up and 6 lbs just dropped off!

    totally not worth going back but I hear you on feeling left out or family/friends being put off that I won’t dive in!

    I so apprecieate your post today! Thanks for it!

  2. louisianagrown permalink
    December 14, 2009 4:26 pm

    It’s interesting to see how feeding your daughter affected what you fed yourself. But I notice you don’t mention the fact that as a young child, your mother just allowed you to consume mass amounts of sugar. Not to knock your mother, mine certainly has never been good at telling me no, but how do you think your experience is going to affect the eating habits you teach your own daughter?

    • December 14, 2009 7:37 pm

      I think that with 3 kids and my grandparents living with us my mom was too busy to control what we ate. Since I only have Maya I am able to be particular about what she eats…maybe a little too much! It is so hard to determine how much junk/sugar to give or not to give her. I don’t want to be too strict but not strict enough either. I usually let her have dessert after she eats a fruit/vegetable and so far that works pretty well.

      Being a parent is SO hard!

      • louisianagrown permalink
        December 15, 2009 4:27 am

        Yea, my sister had her first child a little over a year ago, and we always thought she was going to be that mom beating everyone up for giving her baby a sip of sprite. She thought she was going to be that way too, right up until his wee little hands reached out for something and sweetly said, “see?”

  3. Lynn at The Actors Diet permalink
    December 14, 2009 4:50 pm

    funny; i have a friend named maya who when she was pregnant lived on those two-bite brownies!!!

  4. December 14, 2009 11:48 pm

    What an amazing testament to your will power! I think those that never struggle with addiction, be it sugar, alcohol, drugs, etc. just don’t have the sensitivity to the choices we have to make to “stay clean.” You should be very proud!!!

  5. December 15, 2009 7:52 am

    Girl!!! I can sooooo relate. I don’t have quite the depth of a specific story or recollection as you do to where it started, but I’m highly addictable to sugar. Once it’s out of my system I don’t crave it, but if I dare let myself slip I can easily feel the sugar monster creeping around the corner.

    It’s funny you posted this because I just wrote a blogpost titled “Sugar is CRACK!”….it must be all the temptation around us with the holiday parties, etc. My neighbors keep bringing me tins of cookies too! Stop the insanity!!!

  6. December 15, 2009 9:56 am

    This is such a great post. Before starting detox I was choosing more sugary food and what I call convenient choices. Since doing detox I crave green apples and sweet potatoes. Those are much better choices for me 🙂

  7. December 16, 2009 4:52 am

    Love the post thanks for sharing! I am also working on the sugar issue!

  8. December 16, 2009 9:55 am

    Sugar is evil thats for sure. I go through phases where I cut it out. For the most part I am able to not eat it, but when I do, I always go overboard and have a food hangover. Ugh.

  9. January 26, 2010 5:57 am

    Hi Ameena– for my February challenge, I’m going to do a sugar-free challenge, so this post was really interesting to me! I might have to ask you for some pointers when I start my challenge!

  10. Robert permalink
    February 10, 2018 6:42 pm

    Great read, Ameena. The estimate is that the average American eats around one hundred and fifty pounds of sugar a year. Gross, I know.

    Sugar is, for all intents and purposes, a drug. The reason you would crave those brownie bites after dinner is something the ancient Chinese used to call, “chasing the dragon.” The term comes from opium addicts who would chase the dopamine/endorphin high by smoking more dried poppy sap when they started ‘coming down.’ Simply put: Sugar has a similar effect on the brain. Only, you’re instead chasing those natural feel-good brain chemicals released from eating dinner.

    The trick seems to be understanding that there are so many things in society that weigh us down and make us feel unhappy or dissatisfied. The quick fix to that is to artificially stimulate happiness—id est: over-eat, alcohol, nicotine, over-exercise, et cetera.

    It’s okay to feel off-balance, because, well, things are—it just means you have a healthy empathy for the world around you. But, alas, that’s another wiry, prickly subject best left for some other reply post.

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