Day 270: 1 Month Sugar Free!

I haven’t thought about my relation to food in a while, although for many women one’s relation to one’s body often transpires in their eating habits.

While I’ve always had a healthy diet (I’m talking whole grains, home cooking, organic fruit and veggies since childhood), I’ve also topped it off with a variety of less healthy psychological habits, which when life gets stressful, end up turning food into an area to control – or lose control over.

When I moved to the USA 6 years ago as a French existentialist smoker who had never exercised a day in her life -no, I did not stoop as low as wearing a turtleneck and beret-, I was in awe when I discovered (one of) the “American” lifestyle(s) of “going to the gym, counting calories, banishing carbs as the work of the devil, and whenever it all felt like too much, eating a ton of junk food as an emotional coping mechanism”. It was very strange. I started heavy weight lifting and got addicted to the sense of empowerment, started making protein shakes and restricting my calories, and when I went back home for Christmas I remember my friends telling me my upper body had developed so much I looked like a bulldog.

Or maybe that’s what I told myself.

The point being, this was a lifestyle dramatically opposed to my previous “French” one: “walk everywhere but never do any kind of sports, eat carbs but banish fat as the work of the devil, lower your appetite by smoking a ton of cigarettes, enjoy your food and drink alcohol because what’s the point of life anyway”.

Long story short, despite the new bulldog physique, I lost a TON of weight during my first year in the US and got into the “strong is the new skinny” mentality, which I like a lot. In France women are trained to want to be slim and petite, which can be perceived as being encouraged to take up as least space as possible: efface your existence and keep your voice low. I too, after 6 years in the U.S., now much prefer to stand up for myself and wear short shorts that reveal muscular thighs, laughing out loud with an “if you don’t like it, then f***ck off” attitude, thank trying to shrink my appearance down until *POOF* I turn invisible and disappear completely.

Anyway. 

I ended up having to stop lifting heavily because I fucked up all my joints (I blame my all or nothing mentality), and the repercussions of that year of intense calorie restriction began to manifest themselves during the next 5 years. A couple of google searches revealed that I had somehow ended up on the “binge eating disorder” wagon, trying to eat “healthy” (starve myself) until I cracked and ended up in my bed with a ton of cookies or chocolate, and indulging in a delicious (aka “forbidden”) feast every time I came home drunk in the evening. Often I would eat until the point of physical pain, then fall asleep, and wake up the next day full of shame. Then you know the drill: repent, restrict, repeat. Sigh. 

Looking back I can see all the suffering, the desperate need to control the emotions and the body, rather of giving it what it needs, and treating oneself with kindness. I also still have horrible memories of constantly feeling deprived, of missing out on the joys of life. Thankfully, after I stopped weight lifting I discovered yoga, which (together with starting therapy for the first time) gradually changed my relation to my emotions and my body, and is still helping me slowly move towards wanting to FEEL, rather than simply look, good.

I still drank throughout those last 5 years, and binged ate very often when I got drunk or when anxiety levels got too high to be manageable. However, with yoga and therapy added to the mix, it was like a small but very resilient caterpillar was simultaneously chewing at the destructive patterns, gradually inching its way, with every bite, towards more self-compassion. (weir analogy, I know — I guess I was unconsciously thinking about “the very hungry caterpillar” lol). In fact, I think that was the beginning of the process that lead me here, in the middle of a post on a sobriety blog.

And indeed, when I quit drinking almost 9 months ago now, my bingeing went WAAAAYYYYY down. But it didn’t stop completely – it still happened in situations of emotional distress (mostly due to PhD work, or lack of boundary-setting in romantic relationships). Most of the time, it involved eating gargantuan quantities of sugary foods in a single setting.

Because I still have control-freak tendencies and strong drives to want to “lose weight” (though physically I am a healthy weight), I decided to see if I wasn’t by any change “addicted to sugar”, and if getting rid of it would get rid of the bingeing. One month later, I can confidently say: yes AND no. 

Effects of 1 month sugar free:

  • a LOT less sugary cravings (kind of like when you quit drinking)
  • increased feelings of satiety after meals (mostly due to increasing healthy fats in my diet)
  • Less “hanger” between meals: more stable blood sugar levels and moods
  • Less fear of eating fatty foods (my cholesterol levels even went down in a month!)
  • Complete change in taste buds: fruit now tastes VERY sweet
  • General decrease in impulse to snack in the evenings
  • My weight stayed relatively the same (I lost 1.3 lbs)

BUT unfortunately, (and this proves that bingeing is an emotional, and not just physiological problem, at least for me), on days where I felt SUPER anxious, I found myself having replaced sugar by “fat” binges, snacking on almonds and nut butters and what have you, sometimes to the point of physical pain and shame, just like I used to do with the sweets. So clearly, for me it is also about emotional regulation, not just about cutting out a single, “bad” food group.

DUH!

Without these “fat binges” (which occurred about 3 times a week), I think I would definitely have lost a lot more weight, but probably not in a healthy way.

Although I still clearly need to find more balance in my relation to food, I don’t regret doing this, not one single bit ! I am even going to keep going with some of the new habits I’ve had to implement, such as:

  • baking with fruits, e.g., dates, as sweeteners
  • snacking on nuts or veggies/hummus instead of sweet stuff
  • NOT sweetening yoghurt or smoothies or chia pudding
  • keeping white/refined flours out of the picture
  • looking at labels and gasping with horror at the “added sugars” line in the nutritional info. 
  • keep eating plenty of almonds, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fatty fish

I do HOWEVER severely regret purchasing this 2 lb bag of “Organic Stevia/Erythritol” sweetener. I don’t care if it’s zero calorie, that shit tastes FOUL, and iI would be happy to mail it to you, preferably those who live in Europe so I can get it as far away from me as possible 🙂 🙂 🙂 Instead I am going to buy a bag of raw coconut sugar to use in cases where I really DO need a bit of sweet taste.

All in all, this month has helped me “trust” myself more around food despite the deeply ingrained tendency I have to think in terms of “once I get started I can’t stop” and to label foods “good” and “bad”. I think all these years of drinking, combined with the body-image issues so many women suffer from in our day and age, have gradually completely disrupted my sense of being able to “intuitively” know what by body wants and needs. I definitely want to keep sugar as low as I can in my everyday life, just because it makes me feel healthier and less dependent on yet another substance, but I mostly want to find balance, and avoid the “orthorexic” mentality that to me seems like just another unhealthy control (a.k.a. restrictive-addictive) mechanism.

BUT Y’ALL WILL NEVER TAKE AWAY MY COFFEE. NEVER!

Hang in there folks!

Xxx

Anne

Published by nomorebeer

Learning how sobriety helps you ENJOY life.

24 thoughts on “Day 270: 1 Month Sugar Free!

  1. I think it’s a great thing to try. I recently gave it a go but I was totally rubbish when it came to stopping the chocolate at night and I have been so bad bingeing on that recently my shame is kicking in! I have however done tat same, eating seeds and nuts in the day as snacks, cutting out whippet flour stuff and being aware of how much refined sugars are in foods .. avoiding those unless it 9pm and I’m on the sofa ready to shovel piles of it in. What is wrong with me?

    I have started yoga slowly with a new app. Jesus it’s hard work. I am getting a lot from it though. I think if I could just cut down on the chocolate in the evenings I may even see weight loss instead of weight gain. 😂

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    1. hahahaha this makes me feel like I’m not alone in this, so thank you 🙂 Except “whippet flour”, never heard of it but it sounds painful! (Or delicious, if it’s like whipped cream lol) xxxxx Anne

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  2. You’re doing so well! I want to start yoga too, but am struggling to find classes online that I can follow.

    As for the emotional aspects of binge eating, I’m prett y sure they’re at least as apparent as the physical aspects for me. Not th at I’ve ever tried cutting out any food group Or nutritional component altogether, such as sugar or whatever. I’m not sure I could.

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    1. yes it’s not easy to implement a drastic change like that (that’s just my all or nothing type thinking acting out^^). I think the positive, “every grain on sand” approach –“add in 2 more kinds of fruit/veg a day”, do 5 minutes of light stretching”, that kind of stuff– is MUCH easier to help create habits on the long term 🙂
      xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like you are learning a lot about your relationship with food and your body, what is emotional bs physical, etc. This is all good stuff. Sugar is highly addictive. I did a month without it when I did Whole 30 and noticed all the benefits you listed. Yet, let it back in and it slowly takes control over your daily cravings, as it has in fact with me in a pretty big way. Always something right? Good for you and keep doing the hard work of self discovery and the quest for balance!! 💕

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    1. i knoooooow … believe me, the quest for balance is FAR from being completed, but I ain’t giving up anytime soon !! Also, I don’t know if it’s the same for you but with me no amount of “knowing stuff” can guarantee that I’ll actually implement the knowledge–it’s like knowing and doing are triggering different areas of my brain or something. 🙂 anyway, big hugs xxx ❤ Anne

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      1. Um, yeah. If I had followed through and quit doing what I knew to be bad, I’d have stopped drinking a few decades ago. Anyway, it’s all a process and I think our body/brain intuitively knows when it’s time to make a change, and hopefully we do…or at least start the journey. Hugs to you. Xx

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  4. Awareness is the answer to everything.
    Sugar isn’t terrible, but too much is not overly healthy for anyone.
    Zero is also not a great plan. At least, that was my experience.

    I like the stevia as a sweetener in sauces, etc. But I’m celiac and I was keto for years, so perhaps my taste buds are screwy.

    Take care
    Anne

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    1. yep I think you’re definitely right about the “zero” not being a great mentality 🙂 It often only leads to more trouble, though you did Keto for years and for that, much much respect 🙂 As for stevia I hate the alcoholy bitter aftertaste – I’m going to find a way to give it to somebody 🙂 xxxx Anne

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      1. I can be very rigid and obsessive and keto fed right into that!
        I was very fit and thin, but even as I stopped getting periods, hair loss, etc I couldn’t see the down side.

        I do think a lower carb diet is best for me, I just struggle to find the happy balance between disordered eating and feeling good!

        I’m trying again though. I have been eating way too much and I feel poorly. I’m upping my veggies and protein. Step one.

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  5. Sounds like a really good month of discovery! Loved your story of you power lifting to extremes and french/US views of women – never disappear! You are moving the right direction and balance is the goal you’re right. I’ve just started reading ‘Bodyfulness’ by Christine Caldwell which is all about just what you’re trying to do (though I don’t know if it’s any good yet as not far in!) 💞💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooooo cool thanks for the tip 🙂 I also know that I think about body image and food stuff a LOT More when the rest of life and the world seems out of control – which I won’t even begin to comment on right now but you know what I mean….. Sending big hugs and hope for the future xxxx Anne

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  6. Hi Anne great to find you here. Enjoyed reading your experience.Ive been 514 days off the alcohol and smokes..Today i decided i need to quit sugar for a month also. I said id give myself a year to eat what i want(sweet wise)within reason.But id say im definetly a sugar addict now. And the relation i now have with it is just like the one i had with alcohol cant stop after one drink!! Ive also put on a stone and a half in the last 15months so.Which of course i beat myself up about! Anyways i ramble! Thanks for your sharing!! Look forward to reading more! xx

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    1. Hi Jo, welcome 🙂 and congrats on 514 days, that’s INCREDIBLE 🙂 I can say for sure that I absolutely know what you mean when it comes to the similarities between sugar/drinking – and at times I’ve felt like I was doomed to be addicted to something, no matter what it was…. but down the road I can see why Recovery (vs. just stopping whatever substance we believe is the problem) is the key. When we learn to take care of ourselves and accept reality as it is (which is HARD), we need to turn less and less to outside things fo feel ok. And so the “addiction” problem gradually disappears. But man does it require effort ! So congrats on your decision to cut sugar for 1 month and if you have questions or want recipes or whatever I’d be happy to help 🙂 xxx Anne

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Anne. I’ve had many body image struggles and can definitely relate to the binge cycle. I have also found that changing my relationship with alcohol has helped my relationship with food. It’s definitely an ongoing project, though, to accept my body and want to take care of it properly just so it will be healthy (and not to be thin). You’re doing a great job! I really enjoyed reading your insights. 😊

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    1. yep, I couldn’t have said it better myself ! Ongoing project is also a great way to think of it… not perfect yet, probably never perfect, but learning to take care of our bodies vs. torture them to force them into a given shape – that’s the goal 🙂 Thanks for commenting dear Leafy ! xxx ❤ Anne

      Liked by 1 person

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