Monday, August 20, 2012

The lie that sugar tells

Last week I talked about quitting. I gave myself permission to quit things that weren't working for me, things that were no longer right for me. It felt good. I've continued to purge things from my life -- and not just things, but ideas, stories, commitments.

But there are things that are not okay to quit. There are times when the voice that's telling you to stop isn't your own -- it's the voice of fear, depression, or, in my case, sugar.

These three things -- fear, depression, sugar -- lie. They lie like a lousy con.

And what's worse, all of them are excellent at mimicry. When they lie to you -- when they tell you to quit, that you can't do it -- they do it in a voice that sounds so much like your own that you'll believe it. Of course you will. That voice will not just get you to quit, it'll get you to believe you wanted to quit this whole time, that you were meant to quit, that you really never had any other choice.

A month ago I was finishing my Whole30. I felt great. I felt clear and purposeful. I rang like a tuning fork, in perfect pitch with who I'm supposed to be.

And I can tell you the exact moment that it all went to shit.

It was a Friday and it was raining and I'd worn clothes to work that I felt uncomfortable in. I had a work thing that I was stressed about and avoiding. I wasn't having a happy day. I said to myself, "Self, it's been 7 weeks since you've had a baked good. You loooooovvvvvveeee baked goods. Today you should have a baked good. Just one. You dessssssseeeerrrrrrvvvvvvveeeee it." 

I had a scone.

I told myself to be careful, that the scone was perched at the top of a very slippery slope. But within minutes (minutes!) the sugar shushed that voice. The sugar suggested I follow the scone up with pizza for dinner. What the hell, right?

The sugar suggested beer and nachos. It suggested raisin bread. Ice cream. Over the next few days, I ate right through the nausea and the stomach cramps and the waking up at 3a.m to chug Pepto Bismal, which now lives on my nightstand.

The sugar reminded me, ever so politely, that I wasn't someone who could give up eating crap. The sugar reminded me that I was meant to eat crap, that crap was who I was.

It sounds ridiculous when I write it out like this, but if you've been in this situation you know what I mean. The addiction -- there's no doubt in my mind anymore that that's what it is -- is a lying liar but it is so. god. damn. good at it.

For the last couple of weeks I've known -- would have sworn it on a bible -- that I was a failure. That a healthy life for me was nothing but a ghost ship, shimmering on the horizon. Unreal and untouchable.

But that's the lie. There's a small piece of me that can still see that. Those feelings are nothing but the lie that sugar tells.

I'm lucky in that I can still see that. That's the first step in getting past it. Though I'm afraid that I'm once again facing an uphill battle, that the challenge is too hard, that I won't be able to sustain it, that I'll just fall flat on my face again, that  --

You see? You see how easily those lies slip in? I can see them now, but only because I've seen the other side and I know what to look for. If you've been living with those lies your whole life, you'd have no reason to believe they weren't the truth.

The lesson here for me is that when there are psychologically damaging factors in place -- I'm talking about sugar here, but you could just as easily insert 'depression' -- you need to pay extra attention. You can't just say "I want to quit, so I'll quit." Because the voice that wants to quit? It ain't you.

And if you listen hard enough, you'll hear it. The lie. The lie that says "Quit." The lie that says "You can't do this." And underneath that, if you're lucky, you'll hear your own real and true voice, saying "Try again, just one more time."


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Sarah! It's good to know other people can relate. :)

  2. Sometimes the worst part is that even as we hear the voices and we know they're lying, we still listen and believe. When we can turn the voices off with our own louder voices, then we'll win. And we will win because sugar is like the school bully, stand up to it and it crumbles. But as soon as it senses weakness it comes back to taunt again and once again we have to stand up to it. I think I will always have to fight sugar (and wheat and dairy and grains) but it's a fight I'm not giving up on.

    1. Hear, hear! I know you, of all people, get it. :)

  3. I don't think you're a failure. I think that you are very sensitive to sugar, though. Maybe the Whole 30 was two steps forward - learning what really works for you to control your moods and give you energy - and the last couple of weeks have been one step back. Isn't that how it usually works?

    Likewise I recently tested myself and found that if I have a bunch of beers and follow it up with a shake, I will NOT maintain my 5 pound loss.

    1. Haha, good to know. :)

      And yes, I think you're right -- two steps forward, one step back. The trick is not to let it become two or even three steps back.

  4. Awesome post, have definitely felt the same way. You captured the feeling wonderfully. Thank you!

  5. It's a toughie, food. I've had a love-hate relationship with it for decades. I have never learnt how to have 'just one'. If I put the packet back, in the deepest, most inaccessible cupboard, locked in a tin, with a pile of precious crockery on top of it, and go back to my computer as far away as possible, the packet will sing to me until I return and free it. The only way is not to have things in the house. I occasionally buy something to reward myself, then applaud myself if there is still some left a day later.
    And I have a perfectly trained body. It is perfectly trained to store every calorie about my person waiting for the next period of starvation to arrive. I've fooled it, with the agreement of my doctor, as I've stopped dieting. Yo-yoing just is NOT healthy. Sometimes I eat healthily for a year or more... sometimes I get depressed and it all goes to pot. Maybe I'll come out of my downer soon.
    Just take one day at a time and don't beat yourself up about it :hugs: