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Is There Any Addiction Less Sexy Than This One?

photo: Kate Ter Haar on flickr

photo: Kate Ter Haar on flickr

For those of you who are already up in arms because I put the words “sexy” and “addiction” in one sentence, hear me out.

Addiction is not sexy. I know this.

But in our wacky modern culture, particularly the materialist, consumerist portion of this culture, these two words are often bafflingly blended. (I’m aware that the word baffingly is not often used, but it should be. Indeed, I find it bafflingly curious that baffingly is not used in almost every sentence ever uttered.)

Here’s what I find so bafflingly baffling:

Heroin chic.

You know what I’m talking about, right?

This is where we see pictures of models so thin and wasted, they look like they had heroin for breakfast.

good times

Oh yeah! That makes me wanna buy your product!

But somehow it does. At least, for some people.

I guess because we’re all under the impression that we – especially female we’s – can never get thin enough.

Plus drug use is still considered cool.

It’s daring, it’s renegade, it’s an F— You to the Man and the Establishment and the Status Quo.

If you’ve ever heard a recovering drug or alcohol addict talk about their past, they have tons of wild and crazy stories. Stolen cars and high-speed chases, nights in jail and inappropriate encounters with everyone from nuns to law enforcement officials.

photo: Timothy Krause and Carl Wycoff on flickr

photo: Timothy Krause and Carl Wycoff on flickr

There’s something free and unrestrained and – dare I say – sexy about it.

But you know what’s not sexy?

Going to the grocery store and buying three bags of cookies and eating them all.

Nobody brags about that.

Or how about having clothes in four different sizes, because your weight goes up and down so often, you can’t have just one size?

Ooooooooooh. Take a picture of that! Use that to sell magazines and computers, why don’tcha?!

But no one does, because food addiction, in my humble opinion, is the Least Sexy Addiction in the World.

For me, it started in sixth grade.

That’s when I started using food, specifically sugar, to soothe myself.

What started out as an occasional candy bar eventually escalated into a daily, hefty portion of sugary items.

photo: joyosity on flickr

photo: joyosity on flickr

At age sixteen, I decided I needed to lose some weight.

Being the over-achiever that I am, I proceeded to lose so much weight that I became anorexic.

This only lasted for a few months, though. I soon bounced back, gaining about eighty pounds in the space of a few months. Years of compulsive overeating followed.

See what I mean? Not sexy.

No crazy encounters with nuns or cops. Or nuns posing as cops.

Just lots of time alone. Eating.

For me, the big revelation came when I was twenty-three years old.

That’s when I realized I was addicted to sugar. When I removed sugar from my diet, the craziness around food began to subside.

I also realized that I’d been depressed the entire time I was abusing sugar.

I still had a ways to go. For several years, I measured out portions of food to retrain myself into eating healthy portions. I spent some time with other people in recovery from food addiction. I continually asked the Divine for help.

When I was in my thirties, I moved in with a partner who had two kids. I called their home the House of Sugar, for obvious reasons.

photo: Carrie Stephens on flickr

photo: Carrie Stephens on flickr

Needless to say, I fell off the wagon several times.

The last time I ate sugar was about twenty years ago.

And not just a little sugar. For three days, I ate nothing but sugar.

After my binge, I got really sick and was unable to write for several days.

That’s what really got to me.

Mess with my health, that’s one thing. But mess with my writing practice? I don’t think so.

It’s been No Sugar ever since.

One day at a time.

photo: Diganta Talukdar on flickr

photo: Diganta Talukdar on flickr

Melissa and I have been talking recently about the consumption of sugar. We’ve been wondering if it’s more or less helpful to view sugar as an addictive substance.

For me, it is.

Realizing that I react addictively to sugar – what starts out as a little always ends up being a lot – helps me stay away from it.

If I didn’t take it seriously as an addiction, before long I’d find myself back at the bottom of an Entemans’ chocolate cake. Or two.

No, I don’t have any sexy stories to report. No high-speed chases with nuns bearing assault weapons.

But I have my health. And my peace of mind.

And that, for me, is the sexiest thing ever.

photo: ePi.Longo on flickr

photo: ePi.Longo on flickr

What’s your relationship to sugar? Is it more or less helpful to see it as addictive? Share your comments below!

(I currently respond to all comments on this blog. If for some reason your comment does not appear on the blog, it has been trapped in my gigantic spam folder. Please try again!)

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26 Responses to Is There Any Addiction Less Sexy Than This One?

  1. River December 10, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Hi Z!
    Wow! Me and sugar! Yes I would say that it is an addiction and a health challenge that I face too. How could I not be addicted when I would come home from school to the house smelling of oatmeal cookies and hot tea? My mom would serve those up with some love and viola..a life long addiction. And it wasn’t just my mom…my entire extended family look like me..or rather I look like them. Anywho I fit my gene pool right in the deep end!

    But part of me rebels at some of this thinking. If God is All There Is therefore God is in me and in my food. So why should it matter what I think and feel about my weight? Isn’t it more how I feel and think about my food? Does that make sense?

    There is something else that occurs to me as well. I have recently read that an addiction to sugar and or salt is about a vitamin deficiency. That is not to excuse my being asleep about my eating but rather that it is more complex than “Just don’t eat that. Eat this.” or “Have enough willpower and it will be alright.”

    I am not saying that you are saying this but I know what the world says. Sometimes to my face and bluntly. For now I am grateful to be in this skin as it is because it is wonderful how it is. If it changes along the way I won’t be disappointed. I continue to look at food in a healthy way with love and enjoyment for the nourishment it gives me.

    Ever flowin’
    River

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      Hi River,

      Like you, sugar in is my family blood. At our house, we never had a cookie jar because cookies would never last in one of those things. We just had cooling racks – for when the cookies came out of the oven. That was the life span – out of the oven and into our mouths.

      One of the reasons that I said that seeing sugar as an addiction works for me is that I know that this view doesn’t work for everyone. I totally agree with you that God is in everything. In my case, the Divine has guided me to eat foods that don’t contain sugar. For me, this sets me free. And again, I know this doesn’t work for everyone.

      One thing I love about spiritual growth is that we are each individual expressions of the Divine. The Divine does it differently in each and every one of us. I appreciate that you shared your thoughts on the different angles to this discussion. I appreciate that there are many different ways of looking at this.

      Keep on flowin!!

      XOZ

  2. Suzanne December 10, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    Wow! So True! And I needed to read this – especially today! I believe that I am addicted to sugar. I fell completely off the wagon after the Thanksgiving holiday and a bag of Peppermint Patties that my husband brought home. I hadn’t had a Peppermint Pattie in nearly 5 years. Just one of those half dollar sized pieces of heaven had me fully hooked!

    Sugar addiction is particularly difficult because it is everywhere! If you aren’t reading the food labels, then you are probably consuming much more than you realize as added sugar is added in foods that shouldn’t even need sugar! Things like soup, sauces, dressings are loaded!

    But I do know better – I have educated myself! Any food item that comes with a label, should be eaten sparingly or avoided completely! You can ‘t even trust the labeling to be honest and accurate!

    Too bad our education system and health care reforms aren’t including education for better nutrition!

    Thank you for sharing! It is always nice to know you are not alone!

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Hi Suzanne,

      Yes, sugar consumption is so much a part of our current culture that sometimes it can feel very “weird” to not eat it. People are often extremely surprised when I say that I don’t eat it. I, too, am continually amazed at how often sugar is added to foods, even those that you mention – like soups, etc. – that aren’t even considered desserts. Hopefully there will be more and more education and advocacy for healthy eating. I claim and affirm that there will be! Thank you for joining in the discussion. :)

      XOZ

  3. Wendy December 10, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    I really appreciate these words, especially this time of year when sugar is everywhere. Christmas cookies abound! I have to look at sugar as an addiction too. It is a way of escape. If I don’t look at it like that, I “allow” it in my life. I just don’t feel good when I eat sugar. I feel toxic. I have been cutting sugar out of my life for a couple of years…off and on. I treat myself to a piece of pumpkin pie or something sweet every so often (every week or every other week) and that seems to satisfy the sugar beasty in me. Yesterday, however; I absorbed a great amount of Christmas cookies at work. In some standards it probably wasn’t a lot, but for me it was a crazy amount. I just don’t do that. I went to yoga to detoxify myself. It helped. I like your idea of just not eating it altogether. I truly am powerless over sugar and the effects it has on me. I get emotional, angry and am not able to think clearly when jacked up on sugar. I don’t like that feeling whatsoever! I look at caffeine the same way, but I have been able to eliminate it out of my life. That stuff whacks me out! If I have one cup of coffee, it starts me on the addiction path to caffeine. So I don’t have it. I believe I need to do this with sugar. Just don’t have it, period. One day at a time. One inspiring article at a time. :). Thank you Z.

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Hi Wendy,

      This is the time of year when sugar comes out to play! It can be crazy making because sometimes it doesn’t seem like a drug in the way that other things do, even coffee. Plus so many other people are doing it.

      I fully support you in doing what’s best for your health and peace of mind. For me, No Sugar At All has definitely been a great gift. One that I appreciate every day. :)

      Thanks for your comments!

      XOZ

  4. Natasha December 10, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Z, you have once again shared an amazing story. I know about sugar addiction. Once I read cancer likes sugar, that was it for me. I have eaten perhaps a few bites here and there but I am for the most part off of sugar. My body doesn’t like it. I feel like crap when I eat it. It’s when my mind says I want, I have to remember how I feel if I decide to eat sugar. I choose not too today. Thank you for sharing your story. One day at a time is a good model to live by. Happy Holidays to you.

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Natasha,

      I have also heard that about cancer and sugar. One more reason to stay away from sugar, for sure! That’s awesome that you know your body doesn’t like it and you stay away from it. It makes the Holidays even happier!!

      Love and Blessings to you!

      XOZ

  5. D.Jae December 10, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    Oh boy. This is so loaded for me. I clearly have a problem with sugar. Still trying to figure out whether it’s helpful or not for me to think of it in terms of addiction and 100% abstinence. (I am currently not abstaining or reducing, even a little bit). But I think about giving it up almost every day beause I am obese, and I am absolutely ruled by that effing sugar. It makes me crazy. And when I start to think about cutting it out altogether, the sugar beast inside rages and will go to any lengths to get the sugar and eat as much as possible in a big “F— YOU!” to the part of me trying to take better care of myself. “NO one tells ME what to do!” Sigh….

    Thanks for yet another insightful and timely post, Z!

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      D. Jae!!

      Awesome to see you here, as always.

      I appreciate your comments and the process that you’re going through. As I said to River, everyone is different in what works for them. The best part is that we all have the freedom to choose what to do with our bodies and to find our own way.

      Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I want everyone to experience the peace of mind that I currently have when it comes to effing sugar. But I also know that what works for me doesn’t work for everyone. How about this? I’ll claim and affirm for you that you find peace of mind about effing sugar and find what works best for you! :)

      Hope to see you again someday soon!

      XOZ

      • D.Jae December 10, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

        Thank you, Z, and so it is!!

        [In fact, my current place in the process is to try to just “be with” the addiction and all the stuff that comes up, as a non-judging observer. The pattern of being “bad”/berating myself/being “good”/getting triggered/falling off the wagon and then being “bad” keeps me focused on “there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed,” and keeps me stuck. I’m trying to embrace the idea that there’s nothing wrong, everything is perfect, and I’m perfect even if I’m eating sugar. I’m certain that that will lead to more self-love, which will eventually turn into an effortless (or at least not-so-painful) falling away of sugar and other things that no longer serve me.]

        So, thank you, again, for the affirmation!! Onward!

        P.S. Hope to see you sometime soon, too. xoxo

        • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

          It sounds like a wonderful process. Anything involving acceptance and self-love is always a good thing. Like, you can’t go wrong. Not that there’s a “wrong” and a “right,” but you know what I mean. 😉

          Hey, did you have your musical debut at CSLSJ yet? If so, how did it go?

  6. Claire December 10, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    So you couldn’t wait until AFTER the holidays to post this??? ERG. Now it is in my face. I mean, all my life my family has made sugar frosted decorated butter cookies for the holidays. Of course that went along with eggnog and lots of brandy. Knocked that off but kept the cookies.

    And they are not sexy – they are CUTE. It is a challenge to create new traditions of cuteness and bless the old traditions as I let them drop away. But worth doing. This is the first year I am not making them. And there is a sadness. And it doesn’t mean I am not caught up in my “cute addiction”. But the intention is shaping more strongly and I am praying for willingness. Thanks for the nudge.

    • Z Egloff December 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      Hi Claire,

      That’s my job!! PCN! Professional Claire Nudger!! :)

      For the record, I didn’t consciously plan on writing this in conjunction with the holidays. It just kinda . . . happened. Maybe I needed the reminder too.

      Love and Blessings to you in this season of finding new and wonderful forms of Holiday Cuteness!

      XOZ

  7. Sherry December 10, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    I’m ok with sugar. I was not, however, ok with Gluten. Most of my diet was Wheat, Wheat, and more Wheat. I did not realize how evil it really is. I’ve since gone Gluten Free and feel so much better! And, it wasn’t that hard! People DO become addicted to Gluten and it is in everything.

    • Z Egloff December 11, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Sherry,

      That’s awesome that you were able to realize your incompatibility with gluten and eliminate it from your diet. It’s also awesome that it wasn’t that hard! I don’t seem to react addictively to gluten, but I also don’t eat that much of it either. I don’t really hear much about the benefits of gluten, mostly just the drawbacks. So I don’t eat it much. :)

      XOZ

  8. Karen December 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    I love the emphasis here on each of us being unique and reacting differently to sugar, gluten, and all sorts of things. (My feller swears he’s allergic to broccoli…but the jury is still out on that!)

    I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I’ve found a way of soothing any cravings by eating Baker’s Chocolate squares. As a result of good old Baker and his squares, I’ve let go of cookies, donuts, cake, candy, you-name-it, except on special occasions. I don’t even think about them. Four small squares at a time cause me to feel full and indulged. Relatively low calorie and low sugar — and antioxidant rich, I reckon.

    Also, they’re portable AND when you buy a stack of the red boxes at the grocery store, the clerk assumes you’re a baker/cook of some sort and admires you rather than giving you the fish eye, as when you check out with a case of M&Ms.

    The main thing that I’ve learned from Abraham-Hicks about food is to be a happy eater. When we’re relaxed and feeling good, we’re inspired to eat what’s good for us, whether it’s Baker’s chocolate or broccoli or a combination thereof. :) And when we’re in that good frame of mind, whatever we eat will tend to have the effect on our bodies that we want.

    • Z Egloff December 12, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Karen,

      So sorry about the broccoli addiction for your sweetheart – sounds really tough! :)

      I love the solution you’ve found for your sweet tooth. I especially love that you avoid the Grocer Clerk Fish Eye – always one of the most dreaded things about being a sugar enthusiast.

      I also concur with Abe – it’s all about feeling good about what we put in our bodies. When we can get to that place, everything just flows. Even broccoli!

      XOZ

  9. Katherine December 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Dear Z,

    My sister sent me the link to this post…do you think she’s trying to tell me something? :)

    Actually, she doesn’t need to tell me, I know I have a sugar addiction, and have had since my teens. And, a sugar binge can lead to eating salty foods as well. They cause me to I wake up feeling like crap; bloated; my eyes all swollen; headache; dry mouth; now where’s the sexy in that?

    Kudos to you for kicking the habit! It’s a challenge to eat foods that don’t harbor that nasty little substance, because even the rice chips I buy to avoid gluten have sugar. Being mindful in the grocery store helps, but some items still get by me.

    Sticking with fresh, unprocessed foods seems to be the best option. Juicing has helped to fulfill a need for nutrients, which helps me to limit the amount of sugar I eat, some days. :)

    http://foodbeast.com/2013/10/01/an-unforgiving-breakdown-of-how-much-sugar-america-consumes/

    The link above will give people an idea of how much sugar we eat…the amount is staggering, and because it’s hidden in so many food items we can be completely unaware of how much we are eating.

    Just looking at the graph makes me want to kick the habit completely.

    Thanks for the post…I enjoy your writing, and look forward to reading more.

    Many Blessings,
    Katherine

    • Z Egloff December 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

      Hi Katherine,

      Thanks for stopping by! And thanks for including the link. There’s lots of good information in that graph/article – much food for thought, so to speak.

      Also, you make an important point by mentioning processed and unprocessed foods.

      One reason that I can keep sugar out of my diet now is that I eat primarily unprocessed foods – fruits and veggies and grains, with meat occasionally. When I go out to dinner, I might have bread, but I don’t make it a regular part of my diet. And bread is not a trigger food for me, as it is for some. As a lot of the commenters on this post have said, it’s about finding what works best for each person.

      Thank you for your comment. Stop by again any time! :)

      XOZ

  10. Nathsn K. December 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    I’ll admit I’m addicted to sugar and then some. Heck if you could see my Facebook page or believe this candid soul I’m in treatment currently. Eating sugar for me is progressive and diabetes will occur. Having drunk my share of booze many alcoholics crave sugar since thats how it breaks down. But nothing takes me out of my sad state than a sweet piece of chocolate. I just don’t want to part with such a profound and legal coping mechanism. Thanks.

    • Z Egloff December 14, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Nathan,

      There is something to be said for profound and legal. I think that every one of us knows what we need to do in any given circumstance. Sounds like you, like a lot of the commenters here, are aware of what they are needing to do, given their individual circumstances. Sending you love and blessings. :)

      XOZ

  11. Wy February 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm #

    I don’t know how I missed this one. Must have been because of the crazy holidays. Glad I looked back on your blog.

    Thanks for writing this. I needed to read it. I had been on the no sugar wagon for over 4 years through FA and jumped off said wagon last summer. I did it to see where I could go with my addiction. What I mean is I wanted to clean house. Now, when I clean house it initially looks a lot worse than it did before I started. I’m at that point right now, but I feel like I’ve made some headway. In program it was cushy and comfortable. I had a strict plan to adhere to and I was just cruising along. “It works if you work it.” But something was missing, and I don’t mean just flour or sugar. Emotionally I wasn’t growing. I didn’t really get IT. Anyway, I am starting to get IT now, and with God’s help I am working through it. I don’t know if I will go back to FA. For now I’m not. We will see. One day at a time.
    Xo, Wy

    • Z Egloff February 6, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Wy!

      Thank you for sharing your experience with this. There are definitely pros and cons to the 12 step approach to food. It’s different than alcohol, as you have to find a way to manage the addiction. I know that there are people who love FA. And other people that don’t find a match with it. It’s about finding what works best for YOU.

      Knowing about asking for Help makes a huge difference, as then the Divine can help lead you to the best path for you. For me, understanding my relationship with sugar was key, in or out of 12 step programs. Like you say, it’s one day a time. And we always have Help. Praise God!! :)

      XOZ

  12. Former junkie August 24, 2016 at 12:38 am #

    As a former heroin addict, likening a sugar ‘addiction’ to heroin addiction – something with excruciating withdrawal effects lasting 1 week+ is absurd and ridiculous. Trivializing heroin addictions like that is ridiculous. Also, nobody has even used the term ‘heroin chic’ unironically since the 90s. Also, of course being overweight and eating too much is unattractive, just like being a junkie. This article is complete rubbish.

    • Z Egloff August 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

      Certainly there are major differences between heroin and sugar addiction. What’s also true is that obesity is more than just unattractive: According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States. (Heart disease is first.)

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