Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interview with a Former Sugar Addict

I interviewed Sara, a 28 year-old mother of two energetic boys, ages four and two. She described herself as a sugar addict. Here is her story:

What was it like before you cut out sugar?
I’ve been a candy addict most of my life. I’d go to the gas station and get loads of candy that was really bad like Peach Rings and Gummy Bears. My husband called it “gross candy.” I could sit and eat an entire package of something and want more. After I’d eat dinner, I would crave candy.

I got to the point where I was extremely tired and impatient with the boys, my husband and I would fight and I was always grumpy. I would sleep-in in the morning, I would sleep in the afternoon, and even when I’d take a nap, I’d wake up feeling exhausted and tired. Also, I felt the sugar was making my heart beat really fast. I couldn’t catch my breath and felt sluggish. Not feeling good at all. I was just a mess.

I look back now and see that I was starving myself, not eating for long periods of time. Then I’d sit down and eat a big meal—something I probably shouldn’t have eaten. Like Spaghetti-O’s and Goldfish crackers—things that were bad. Then I would get very tired after that.

What happened next?
A year ago things had gotten to a point—I had anxiety, depression, mood swings and I wasn’t sleeping well—kind of a mess. My doctor put me on anti-depressants and during that time I was on four different anti-depressants. When one didn’t work, she would wean me off that and put me on another. I started to get some massive migraine headaches and I would hear this hurting, humming, kind of ringing in my ears.

I finally decided I was done with the anti-depressants. They weren’t working. Things were worse and I was at a loss. If I went back to the doctor, I was afraid she would give me another anti-depressant. I figured I’d rather live with all the mood swings than the effects of the anti-depressants.

When I stopped the antidepressants, some friends told me about Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA and EPA. Their son struggled his whole life with high-anxiety and major manic depression. The oils helped his condition and they gave me a bottle to take.

Did your doctor ever ask you about your diet?
No. I figured this out on my own. It seems so simple. I could have done this a long time ago—taking supplements, drinking water and eating healthy. I feel so much better. I don’t have the mood swings. I don’t have the anger. And I had some major anger issues—bursts of rage out of nowhere. I’d get angry with the boys and it felt horrible. Not enjoying life, not having fun.

But now I realize I was contributing to all that by eating all the sugar and not drinking water. I was not drinking water at all. None! My husband made fun of me when I started to drink water because I would say, “Ah, it tastes awful!” I thought it did taste terrible, but I made the switch and now I’m drinking water. I don’t mind it. I’ve gotten used to it once I got in the habit of drinking water all day.

Before I was drinking Crystal Light with Aspartame in it, sparkling juices with lots of sugar in it, or sodano water at all. So I wasn't eating (real food), wasn't drinking water, eating lots of sugar and felt like crap! Really bad!

What started the diet change?
My husband started the caveman diet or the Paleo diet—eating fruits and nuts, meats and fish, vegetables, roots and seeds. Going back to our primitive, basic foods. I thought it was a great idea so I slowly started changing. I started drinking more water and wouldn’t have sodas in the house. So for about a month now I have not had any kind of sugar. I call it a sugar detox. I haven’t gone through all of my foods and eliminated it everywhere, but I eliminated all the candy.

My son’s diet for a time was gluten-free, casein-free and I learned to read labels. Everything has gluten in it. When I learned to read the ingredients in food, I was shocked to learn what was in the food. The other day I bought some “light and fit” yogurt. I thought, “That’s good. Sounds good.” Then I looked at the ingredients and saw it had Aspartame in it, an artificial sweetener. I have a really bad reaction to Aspartame. I get massive headaches—feeling like my head’s going to explode.

When did you change your diet?
I started two weeks before New Years. I stopped taking the antidepressants three months prior to the change. I definitely felt medication was not the way to go.

Do you have any sugar cravings?
I actually don’t have any sugar cravings. I don’t struggle with that. I have a reality show I love to watch—my weakness. I told myself I would only eat bad stuff when I watched that show. So one night while watching the show I ate candy. It made me feel horrible! My heart started racing, I started feeling sluggish and I had only eaten a tiny handful of candy. Now I have proof that candy makes me feel bad.

Do you buy or eat desserts?
No. Sugar makes me feel horrible and I don’t want to eat it anymore. It’s really weird to go from craving it all the time, especially after I ate something, to not wanting it.

I feel what the sugar did to my heart, the racing and fluttering, made me think this isn’t good. I told my doctor I feel like my heart was working overtime—beating harder than it should. She said, “We can get you an EKG.” But now I think she should have asked me, “What are you eating?” Heart disease does run in my family. My grandmother’s brother died at 35 of a heart attack. My uncle has had twelve heart attacks and he’s had bypass surgery.

Were you aware that sugar turns to fat?
That explains why I started gaining some tummy weight after I stopped nursing Benny. It felt yucky having a gut. It’s discouraging when people would look at me and say, “Well you’re skinny. You don’t have to eat healthy. You can eat whatever you want.” That’s true to some extent. I could eat whatever I wanted and I could stay skinny, but I felt like crap.

I looked skinny, but I was probably fat. This whole thing is not about weight for me. I don’t need to lose any weight. I just wanted to feel better. I knew that if I continued on the way I was going, I would probably end up gaining a lot of weight. My mom and her sisters all got really big. I thought I was headed that way.

I wanted to feel better—that’s what the change was about. I wanted to be able to run around with the kids. As skinny as I was people would say. “Oh, you can run around with the kids.” But I really couldn’t. I always felt tired with no energy.

Is the whole family following the diet change?
I’m changing a little here and there with the boys diet. They’re more difficult. I’ve switched to whole grain bread and I’ve added water to their apple juice making it more water than juice. They get a little bit of apple juice to flavor the water. I’m making the change gradually so they get used to it.

We started with bad habits so I want to slowly reverse them. If I did it cold turkey, I’m afraid we’d have issues.

Scott has been really good staying on the caveman diet. We cook dinner together now. A lot of our bad habits came from eating out a lot. We did take out. Mostly fast food.

I’ve learned that some of my bad habits came from eating late after I fed the boys and put them to bed. I would realize I hadn’t eaten anything and I was starving so I ate lots of carbs and then went to bed. I don’t do that anymore.

What do you take away from this experience?

I feel I definitely have a ways to go. I have goals with a few things I want to change in my diet. Overall, in the big picture, I’ve changed enough to make a difference and it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I hear people make such an effort with their diet changes and complain that it’s an uphill battle, but it was not like that for me. I go to the store and look at stuff I used to eat and I don’t want to go back to that. I don’t want to go back to feeling awful the way I did. I buy better stuff. It’s as easy as that. I feel like I’ve come out of a fog and I don’t want to go back.

Thanks, Sara, for your candid response and sharing your story with us.


  1. Oh wow, I can identify with a lot of that, Sara. I would get to the point where all I wanted for dinner was cookies! I've since broke the sugar addiction, but it seems like the little bits that creep in here and there really make me crave more. Thanks for sharing your story...I just heard about the Paleo diet a couple of days ago...I couldn't exactly remember the name of it, so I'm glad I checked out your story!

  2. Sara's success has spread to other friends and family. Yeah! Ridding the planet of sugar addicts one person at a time.