Growing up, I was not allowed to drink soda or watch TV, but I was allowed to eat copious amounts of candy on a daily basis. I loved (still love) candy, especially junior mints, york peppermint patties, and peanut butter m&ms. After being picked up from school, my mom would take my brother and I to 711 everyday for a casual slurpee + candy. Then most evenings, we would convince my dad to take us down to Walgreens for dessert for some more candy. Thinking about this now feels insane to me. My parents have always been very health conscious and fed us extremely well and at the same time took us for candy at least once every day. I used sugar to cope with the stress and awkwardness of adolescence and to "treat" myself for all kinds of insignificant achievements.
I took this habit with me to college where my roommate would tease me for eating so much candy (she ate almost none). I visited the vending machines every night for resee's pieces. I also drank coke in the dining hall everyday because I finally could! I added big spoonfuls of sugar to my multiple cups of daily tea, and developed a taste for sweet cocktails. I picked up a part time job at a bakery (free cake!), then a coffee shop (mmm caramel syrup), and lived in Turkey (hello baklava), all the while, still eating lots and lots of candy.
During this two decade long sugar binge, I always thought that I hated food. I avoided eating altogether or turned to sugar. I didn't learn to cook until my mid-twenties, and suddenly a new world opened up to me. I began to realize that I loved food- whole, unprocessed, filling, nourishing vegetarian food. The more I began to feed myself real food rather than pizza/pasta/candy, the better I felt, the stronger and faster I became, and oddly, the less I wanted sugar. I got a dehydrator and a juicer, I experimented with raw foods, macrobiotic food, ayurveda, made my own nut mylks and started sprouting. I realize now that I simply crowded sugar out. Somewhere deep down, my body was over it, and began to crave real nourishment. Suddenly, my sugar tolerance dropped, I couldn't finish one glass of wine, much less bags of candy, nor did I want to. I threw all my Gu away, started scrutinizing labels and lost most of my body fat.
I still battle my sugar dragons constantly, and every year from Halloween to Christmas, I fall off the wagon and then need to reset in January. I don't eat very much candy these days, although, I do love a good dark chocolate bar and anything mint chocolate chip. While I definitely still have a sweet tooth, I have mostly learned to keep my sugar intake in check, to substitute natural options, like sweet potatoes, local honey, coconut milk (from the can), water, fruit, sleep, cinnamon, grapefruit, and almond butter.
I have implemented many successful strategies over the years and have gained priceless insight into my own needs and behaviors. I have also designed a life for myself that revolves around health and wellness. I am fortunate to live in alignment with my values, passions, and talents and to help others do the same. I do not believe in deprivation or asceticism. I do believe in nourishing oneself on a deeper level with supportive relationships, a fulfilling career, regular physical exercise, and an authentic connection to life. When fed by these deep, primary foods, life is naturally sweet and the candy becomes obsolete.
If you're interested in exploring your own relationship to sugar, consider joining me for a ten day sugar cleanse later this month. More details can be found here.