Oh, Sugar! How I finally kicked my sweet fix

Tackling the consequences of comfort-eating during lockdown was never going to be easy.

By Sarah Rice

I have given up many things in my life, from smoking (twice) to drinking (more times than I can count, although this last time it seems to have stuck) to gossiping, constantly checking email, and worrying about the number of notifications on my LinkedIn mobile app.

Most recently, I gave up sugar. In lockdown, I had grown used to comfort-eating chocolate, cookies, and ice-cream.

I had tried to stick to one rusk or ice-cream on the weekend, but I just couldn’t do it. So I tried the cold turkey approach.

I stopped processed sugar. Nothing in my tea or coffee, no sweet treats, and no cereals or peanut butter spreads. I didn’t do the extreme sugar thing, where you stop eating fruit and drop dairy.

I had categorised sugar in the ‘habit’ list of Things I Should Be Doing Better, like making my bed each day and keeping the inside of my car free of disposable face masks.

My plan was to tackle the sugar problem, not cut all joy out of my life. But I underestimated the power sugar had over me.

By day four, I realised I was dealing with a full-blown physical addiction. This realisation would have been more helpful on day two, when I was still unaware that I was in the grip of a catastrophic sugar withdrawal.

I believed I was having a mental breakdown, and needed the support of a psychiatrist. Seriously. I made an appointment.

I was cycling between irritable, angry and tearful. I was snapping at my kids, shouting at my cat for shedding fur all over the couch, and stamping my feet at slow internet.

I even had a little sob because it was going to rain on the weekend “and it just wasn’t fair! Why was the weather DOING THIS TO ME?”

Irrational doesn’t begin to describe it. By day three it was a little better. I was able to see the disproportionate reactions of the day before.

Unfortunately, this awareness did little to dimmish my discontentment. But at least I didn’t call the cat any names.

Then day four dawned. And all was right with the world. I was calm, centered, happy even.

I was back in love with my children, found the cat fur a delightful challenge to be overcome, and was looking forward to a rainy weekend where I could spend time relaxing indoors. I cancelled my psychiatrist appointment.

A few weeks later. I realised that some of the aches and pains in my lower back, hips and knees had gone.

I had always put these random twinges down to ageing, but it seems to have been linked to sugar.

I did some reading.

Sugar causes inflammation in the joints, so it seems I am benefiting from having less inflammation in my body.

I am sleeping better and thinking clearer. So actually, I do recommend removing sugar from your diet. I just don’t think you should do it alone and without support.

If I have to do this again, and Saturday’s festival of sweet deliciousness that is a Salisbury’s Cronut (a cream filled donut made from croissant dough and deep fried) suggests I might have to very, very soon, here is what I will do differently:

Make sure I don’t have a stressful week of back to back meetings.

Do it with a friend so I have someone to share my feelings with.

Know that this is a physical withdrawal, so I don’t act out and do something I regret.

Back to the Cronut. I know what you are thinking. Why did she do it, especially after the pain she went through?

I did it because of peer pressure (everyone else is having some), arrogance (I can stop whenever I want) and some internal maths (I don’t have sugar in my coffee or tea anymore and it’s been almost three months, so it all balances out, really).

I did it because it was a Cronut – the most perfect pastry every created. I did it because a life without sugar is beyond my imagining.

Reasons, for goodness sake. I had reasons!

As I read this, I can’t help but think that I might need a 12-step fellowship for this. Anyone else keen on a Sugar Anonymous meeting? We only serve Xylitol.

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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