Am I an addict? A sugar addict? Looking back at my 49 years, I can identify regular intervals of time when sugar was the only thing I thought about. How to eat it, when to eat it, how much, how many servings was too much, when would I begin to feel the sickness, how long would it last, could I get away with it this time, when would enough be enough?
I have been on just about every weight loss program out there. And each time I know that it won’t work, not really. Because in me is this overwhelming urge to eat sugar and lots of it. I can put the sugar down for small periods – at least in the worst form of it, but eventually, it creeps back into my life and takes over. Sugar. Yes. Sugar.
Some of my sugar comes in the form of cereal, cookies, chocolate, candy and wine. Other times, it is straight up scoop of sugar blended with something like cocoa and butter to make my own creamy version of frosting. The only real evidence is the weight. I carry a substantial amount of excess weight. I am not yet at 300. Not even yet at 250. Nor even that close to 225 ..but wait, oh.. WAIT! I am close to 225… Just recently came around that bend. For the better part of the last fifteen to twenty years, I have held pretty steady with my weight at just under 200. I have been just a little proud of that fact… Well, at least I am not over 200! That’s been the narrative streaming through my head.
I can pin point the actual moment in time when I began to use sugar to self medicate. Back then, I didn’t think of it in those terms, but now and even in the last few decades, I have recognized my problem. I just have not completely surrendered to the idea until very recently. Like in the last few days- surrendered. It pretty much started around 1979. And, I am not really sure how I figured out that sugar would dull my pain, but for a temporary dullness, it worked. I became acquainted with frosting and soft chocolate chip cookies which I would eat by the box full after school while my parents were still working about an hour away, in the big city.
As a teenager, I was pretty quickly aware of the effects of the sugar on my physique, but the dullness was more attractive to me back then- than being too worried about my body and how other people might perceive it. I was horrified even back then about my fat body but that horror was overshadowed by my need to not feel anything, so I ate sugar anyway.
My parents swung into action early on as they noticed me putting on a few pounds. And, I mean- really, just a few pounds. Back then, I believe I was about 115 pounds, maybe 120. On my 5’1 frame, I suppose some of that looked a little squishy and my parents grew concerned. My father, with whom I did not have a very close relationship and who was more often gone on business trips than home with us, offered me the miracle of a shake diet he was selling on the side: The Cambridge Diet. These were disgusting shakes that I should drink instead of a meal to help me lose some of that excess weight. I had my little tumbler that I would bring with me to school; powder and water and voila: lunch. In between shakes, I would eat sugar. Of course, Dad was disappointed when the shakes were not working on his 15 year old daughter. Not a great testimonial there. Never mind that my soul was breaking that the only man in my life was basically telling me I was fat. Not good enough. Needed to be fixed.
He didn’t know at the time that I was using sugar to dull the pain. He didn’t know that the pain was from my guilt which I had been carrying around at that point for about two years already. The guilt that goes back to the death of my brother, which was all my fault. So many things I should have done early on to prevent the literal car wreck that occurred in 1979.
Later in life, bad decisions and poor judgment led me to more abuse from men which lead to more dulling of the pain. Poor luck in this department called romance.
About twenty years ago, I managed to lose about 60 pounds. At that time, I was in the full bloom of romance with the man who was to be my second husband. And, I remember vividly that my slenderness at that time was scary to me. I had lost my screen, that protective coat that I carried around most days that made me invisible to men. I remember feeling that vulnerability so strongly when I walked through a bar with my then fiancé and noticed many eyes from the bar staring at me as I walked through. I was at the skinniest I had been since childhood. I had managed to peel of all the layers using drugs: Fen Phen. The miracle drug being sold throughout America. It worked – swimmingly. I was thin and looking in the mirror, not bad looking. In fact, I was pleased with my appearance. I did not have this feeling back then that I had to lose more- on the contrary I felt good. But those stares, those looks from men. They actually did freak me out- quite a bit.
When my second marriage began to go south, when I started noticing his change in personality… I reached for sugar once again. It didn’t take that long. And to be honest, the drugs had melted my fat pretty quickly too- so basically within 18 months, I lost 60 and gained back about 30. So, I sat there at around 160-170 for about seven years. Then, after the divorce, I packed on about 20 and have been sitting at 190 for another ten years now. And, then- just recently, I stood on the scale and to my horror: 218. How did that happen!
Over the years, my doctors have been warning me to get some of that weight off. Suggestions have been offered to join a good program like Weight Watchers, “they really have the right formula” they say. I smile “yes, you are right, I should do that, and exercise more too”. But deep down I know that none of those “programs” will do a bit of good. I have been on programs all of my adult life. I could teach the course! Nutrition knowledge and understanding is not my issue. Sugar is my issue. Jars of Nutella by the spoonful. Chocolates by the bag full. Jelly beans by the handful. Not every day. Not every minute. But the minute something ultra stressful, or sad, or emotional, or unbearable- enters my world… I reach for sugar. Sometimes, I reach for wine and yes, I might have four glasses on a Friday night. I don’t drink excessively and not even several times a week. I can go weeks without wine. So with that – I know I am not an alcoholic. But, I am definitely a sugar addict.
In the last couple of years, I have had some symptoms medically which I believe are likely attributed to sugar. Very recently, I had the full blood panel and learned that my blood looks good on many levels. So that is a relief.
But, I am tired. Very tired- of how tired I feel most days. And, I am tired of the roller coaster and the shame and the overwhelming urge I have on many weekends to stay indoors, anti-social. I want to lock myself in my room and just hang out with my dog. It’s easier.
I skipped Easter Sunday Church – because I didn’t feel like dealing with my clothes, and people. I don’t have anything really pretty Easter to wear, and the idea of wearing black flowing clothes to cover my personal layers ..well, unappealing. I begged off with a comment about having slept badly and stomach not feeling good. And, when the family left for church, I ate sugar.
I knew two days ago that perhaps, just maybe, I hit bottom. It doesn’t feel like the kind of bottom that alcoholics might experience, in terms of the 12 steps idea. But for me, the isolation, the feeling of wanting to hide for the rest of my life if I can help it, is scary. I have friends I share time with and for whom I feel fondness. But the truth is that I think more often about the horizon of losing my parents and what will happen to me then. Alone. Completely. No one to share my life with.
Mom keeps urging me to get out there, to lose weight, to exercise to do something about my future. She, too, worries about what my life will be like when they are gone. She has fairly often expressed that she worries about my mortality with the weight gains. Both parents now in their 70s and 80s. Ten years and who knows. What will my days look like without them? And if I don’t get a handle on my weight, will I follow them soon after their own deaths? Or, will I go first? According to Mom, that is not a distant possibility. The way she expresses it I could drop dead any moment because of my weight.
Then again, I have a friend whose husband passed of a heart attack in his early 50s and he was overweight. Perhaps not such a remote possibility for me.
The pathetic aspect of my life comes to me full on. The image is completely awful.
I ponder my singleness and my chosen isolation. Is this what I want for my life? It’s a separate issue: Sugar Addiction, Abstinence from Sugar and a future with a partner. But they float in my mind and link arms at times and look at each other and say: “how are we going to figure this all out together?”
One Day At A Time.