Fibromyalgia and the sugar addiction

“If only a small fraction of what is already known about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned” , John Yudkin

This is my 79th post on fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue and I often wonder what I will write about next. I recently read an interview with Woody Allen who said he walks around and stories come to him. The same seems to apply to me. This time it is about sharing a dark, deep secret.

I am a sugar addict. There! I’ve said it publicly, even though I have known it for many years. I crave it. I like to mainline it with candy. Cookies and cakes…these take too long to give me the sugar high; candy is the fastest hit, especially chocolate. Years ago I read Sugar Blues and thought it did not apply to me. Like all addicts I thought I could stop at any time; I was mistress of my domain. I have rarely met a candy I did not like. I would hide it away from my kids. I would freeze it. I would ask my husband to hide it from me, knowing full well that I would seek it out within minutes of the hiding. Peppermints lined the bottom of my purse. Desk drawers were stuffed with candy wrappers.  But, wait! I did not turn my nose up at ice cream or cakes or cookies! They were a pleasant second choice. Often I would say with pride that I did not take sugar in tea or coffee. That proved that I was not an addict, right? But then, I rarely drink either coffee or tea so who was I fooling? The experts say that I should substitute refined sugar with fruit. But, this doesn’t work very well for me, psychologically.

After menopause, the addiction became much worse and the weight issue became serious. The blood sugar levels began to rise. The fibro muscle pain increased with the amount of sugar intake. Still, the temporary comfort of the sugar hit was a craving I could not deny. This past winter I decided to go ‘cold turkey’ and lost 20 lbs and my blood sugar levels dropped to normal. I even went through the Christmas season without any sweets in my life. I thought I had finally conquered it! But then, like the alcoholic I tried a little taste of a digestive cookie, then a few weeks later a mint,  a wee bit of ice cream; the increase in muscle pain was noticeable, yet I continued on this path. Very moderate exercise which is all we with fibromyaliga can tolerate, is more painful after the sugar indulgence.

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Do I read labels? Of course! Yet, I persist on choosing that which has more sugar to feed my addiction. Here is an example: recently a friend gave me a jar of Newman’s Own mango salsa. I love salsa passionately and ate it all within a week. Not able to find it locally I bought a brand from my supermarket but it did not give me the same high as the Newman’s Own. I compared labels:

Local Mango and Lime: Sugar…2 g, Newman’s Own 3 g.  Local Mango : Sodium 135 mg, Newman’s 180g. Local Mango: Carbos 3g, Newman’s 5 g. Local : Vit C…4, Newman’s 0. So, did I content myself with the local mango which is the better choice? Of course not! I wrote a note to the management to bring in the higher sugar, carbo and sodium brand of Newman’s Own, which tastes so wonderful. This is but one small example of how even such a tiny difference in sugar content can affect my taste buds! It is no doubt due to emotional eating, which affects so many of us with chronic pain,but the comfort is short lived. I want this sugar fix, but it is not a biological need, rather a brain/mind longing. In the July, 2011 edition of the Shambhala Sun magazine, Sasha Loring writes about How to Tame the Wanting Mind with regard to eating issues. It has been most helpful.

What is to be done? I chastise myself regularly.  Berating myself does not work; I only feel worse. I have self talk about discipline. I meditate. I do as much light exercise as I can tolerate without a flare up, yet at the end of the day, the addiction rears its ugly head. For the most part of the day I eat a very healthy diet, but when that urge comes upon me, I struggle, then often give in to it. I know the strategies: eat more fruit, don’t buy high sugar foods, avoid baking, eat only small amounts of high sugar and salt foods. I have lapsed once again. Sugar is in everything it seems, accompanied by its hateful cousin, salt. But, Loring offers expert advice on how to tame this unhealthy wanting.

In all my readings and attempts at dieting I have found that Weight Watchers is the most sensible eating regime to follow.  It isn’t a diet per se but a life style change to healthy eating. It requires discipline and making conscientious choices. But, for those of us who are extremely fatigued, particularly at the end of the day, the desire to eat a comfort food is overwhelming and being sensible isn’t high on the priority list.  Fruit, yogurt, and other  healthy choices require motivation and a change of mind.  The challenges continue. Today though will be a sugar free day…one day at a time. Hopefully, a pain flare will not arise as I strive once more to forgo the temporary comfort of my addiction. This is now the time to change my brain since I have been advocating this approach for those of us with fibromyalgia for the past 2 years! It is about truly recognizing that there are other ways of being happy and uplifted and working with the sense of being unfulfilled. Walking when the weather permits, meditating when the craving descends upon me, these among other strategies suggested by Loring are crucial aspects of taming my mind…I know all the fundamentals. Now to find joy in spite of pain, fatigue and ending the desire to find something outside myself to give me comfort. I am the one I have been looking for! In the words of Judith Viorst “Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands-and then eat just one of the pieces”.

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References:

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