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Sugar Addiction?

Monday, February 04, 2013

A good SParkling friend, and member of my BLC Panther team, Anne, posted a blog this weekend that gave me much food for thought. She has been in maintenance for four years now -- several months longer than I -- yet she still struggles with the regular temptations that come from good food. She calls it her "slippery slope of mindless eating." She pondered whether she is a "food-a-holic."


I related to her concern, but in a different way. I don't do a lot of "mindless eating," and even when I was at my heaviest, I didn't. I know I'm not an emotional eater. If anything, I'm the opposite and forget to eat, or don't feel like eating when I'm under stress or depressed. My problem is sugar, and I learned over the Thanksgiving to New Years weeks of 2012 that just because I've kept my weight successfully in a 5-pound target range for almost 40 months, that the sugar "problem" has only been held at bay.

Am I addicted to sugar?
emoticon emoticon

Psychology Today adds insight to this question...

"Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work or relationships, even health. Users may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body adapts to the presence of a drug so that drug no longer has the same effect; this is known as tolerance. Because of tolerance, there is a biological reaction when the drug is withdrawn. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs (or to cues associated with the drugs). An alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra pull to have a drink because of these cues."

A little background into my situation... I have stayed in the 118 - 123 range since I leveled out three years ago and this feels like a good "home weight" (Spark Friend, WalkingAnnie's term.) Without an enormous amount of effort, I've stayed here. Granted, there has been effort. I exercise regularly and am faithful with Pilates or other strength training to maintain my metabolism. I also track calories every day. Though I rarely use the Spark tracker anymore, I always have a running total of calories in my head and generally stay in range. My exception to this came this past fall when life became stressful. I was working full-time and also trying to oversee a major renovation in our home. Apparently, eating on the very low end of the calorie range for several weeks was all it took to cause me to drop below range, and being below means that all of my clothes are baggy -- a condition that I don't like. What's worse is that my face becomes baggy, too!

My response to having loose clothes was, "I'll quit mentally tracking for a while and enjoy the 'month of festive eating.'" BIG MISTAKE! With the six weeks of celebration between Thanksgiving and the New Year, I proceeded to gain a pound a week. As I reflect back on it, I didn't overeat regular food. Though I enjoyed a few extra servings of potatoes and green bean casserole, my culprit was sweets. LOTS of sweets. Cheesecake. Pecan Pie. Chocolate Pie. and Pralines, pralines, pralines. Oh MY!

When the BLC started back, I had to face reality. I had lost control. I was embarrassed to return to the Wednesday Weigh-ins ABOVE my target range with clothes that would soon be too tight, but the accountability was my maintenance saver.

These past couple of weeks that I've been accountable to my BLC team, I've mentally tracked calories again and have struggled with this very strong urge to nibble a couple of DH's cookies or eat a small bowl of ice cream. There is no temptation to munch on chips, but the urge for sweets has been tough. I am not beyond it, but I am definitely managing much better these days.

I do not believe in a deprivation eating plan because I believe that they set you up for failure, but I do know that my urge for sugar is something that I cannot give into daily, else I slide down that slippery slope again and the next time, I may not be able to grab that root and break the fall before getting all the way to the bottom.

Getting back to the Psychology Today article... I'm not sure if my sugar problem is the type of addiction where my body adapts to its presence and I feel that I always need it, or if it is based on habit -- I know that the intensely delicious Bear Track Ice Cream is only steps away in the freezer, or that the sweet crunchy chocolate chunk cookies are only a few steps further in the pantry. I may not ever know, but I do know that self-control and taking one step at a time is the only way to reign the addiction or habit back in.

Though this is the end of my thoughts, you may be interested in reading the rest of the Psychology Today article. It makes a connection between "addiction" and stress. Go to:

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Diane - I just found your blog today (because I needed it today) and don't know how I missed it

    Emotional eating is not my downfall either, but eating sugar certainly is!

    Thank you for sharing your well thought out and incisive blog!

    Hugs, Lizzie emoticon

    1784 days ago
  • SUNSHINE20113
    You're definitely not the only one! I've been maintaining for 15 months now, and I still can see chocolate, cakes and cookies often creeping into my diet, with the result being that I eat less healthy food to keep my calories in check! It's the one thing in my lifestyle that I still feel (after 15 months!!) that I haven't figured out properly yet. Which is why I'm still on Sparkpeople. I'm still learning to be healthier.
    1813 days ago
    Your great blog sounded eerily similar to Indygirl's Daily Spark blog:
    I also think I struggle with an addiction to sugar. Although I know Spark People say "Everything in Moderation" there are some foods which are better out of the house until I feel strong enough to be able to say "no".

    Thanks for all the great resources. Keep rocking on!
    1857 days ago
    great blog, and I know I have to do something about my sweets, last night, I started on vines, and ate 12 of them non-stop, it made me sick to my stomach, and I was not hungry, I checked out one of those web sites, could not get in the other but will when I leave, Thanks for the info
    1869 days ago
    emoticon resources - sugar addictions can be devastating - especially since the body doesn't process the calories to know when we're full...
    1869 days ago
    Wow, good blog! I think I also fall into that sweets category. Unlike you, I do not yet have a handle on it.
    1869 days ago
    Diane, like you, I don't really give in to mindless eating. My hubby likes to eat his meals on schedule, otherwise I would often just let meal time pass.

    But sugar...sugar and sweets are my ultimate nemisis. Like you, I have to be very careful about allowing myself an occasional sweet, otherwise it could cause a landslide. I've found that as more time passes, the fewer my cravings for sweets become. Of course, holiday time is difficult.

    Thank you for this blog and your fantastic insights on this difficult problem.
    1869 days ago
    Diane, I can SO relate to your issue with sweets (the "forgetting" to eat, not so much -- I NEVER forget to eat! LOL!) You've done an incredible job of remaining accountable and reigning yourself in when you get out of control in one direction or another -- 40 months of maintaining! Wow!! Thanks for sharing your vulnerability with are a wonderful example of how to live a balanced, healthy life.

    And yet, suddenly, I'm craving pralines... emoticon
    1869 days ago
    Diane Great blog. I am impressed that you were able to maintain ft so long. I know youwill get back to your weight range. I agree that accountability to BLC 21 keeps youaccountable to your goals.

    Woo hoo.
    1869 days ago
    1869 days ago
    Excellant write up! But unlike other addicts (physical or habitual), we can not simply leave the substance as a complete outlaw, but learn to "imbibe" in smasl controlled amounts. This makes dealing with the addiction harder, but ultimdately helps us grow in spirit.
    1869 days ago
  • TAYSMOM77642
    I struggle with sugar "addiction" too. I admire your willpower and hope that one day I can be as strong mentally as you. You're right that slope is very slippery and if we don't catch ourselves before we hit the bottom we will end up undoing everything we have worked so hard for. Thankfully I have my 5 year old that helps catch me. Just yesterday he stopped me from buying a sugary soda I didn't need. Keep up the great work. emoticon emoticon
    1869 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Way to go getting back on track!!! A couple of my Spark friends have battled the sugar addiction. When they are completely off it, they can actually enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits and veggies. The yearning for it goes away quickly if completely withdrawn, and not using artificial sweeteners. A sweet tooth is a tough battle. I have the same problem with salty snacks. You do have to monitor it carefully. I do use SparkPeople's Nutrition and Fitness Trackers and always will, just to keep up on my eating and fitness as it varies so much. I am not good at math or remembering total calories so I need the crutch of it being added up as I go (that is impressive you can keep track in your head!!) Those BLC teams sure have motivated a lot of people on this website! I have never watched the program (I never watch TV period unless I am at my Mom's and can see some movies) So many other things to enjoy in life, activity being one of them :)
    Keep up the great work!!
    1869 days ago
    Great blog, Diane, with both insight and information.

    My German graddaughter and I had this conversation about what tastes we like best. Both of us choose salty, fatty foods and some others in the family like sweet fatty foods. I guess everyone likes food with fat.

    I also agree the deprivation does not work.

    Thanks for posting this blog! emoticon emoticon
    1869 days ago
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