My First Two Dates With Sugar

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Jun 2nd, 2015
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My First Two Dates With Sugar

Potential Trigger Alert:  This post discusses eating foods that have absolutely no nutritional value.


After reading my previous post, I’m sure you’ve all been holding your collective breath to hear about how I have attempted to eat – without shame or consequence –  food containing sugar.


Where else to try something new but in a new place?  Maui!  My BBE, after a stellar year of business, earned a free trip for two to the Hawaiian paradise.  I was his deeply grateful guest.


There were more than 100 other over-achievers and their families at the resort, and for four days lavish meals were provided.  It was a virtual collision course for anyone with a history of disordered eating.  My survival strategy was the one plate rule, a strategy that has worked well in the past.  The kicker this time was that I was going to allow myself to experiment with eating dessert in a controlled way.  The rules were:  It had to be something special I really wanted.  It had to be one serving.  I had to make a conscious decision to eat it.  I had to eat it out in the open, and I had to let my guy know how I felt afterward.  The most important thing, I thought, would be to identify and process whether a flour and sugar confection would trigger a rampant urge to eat every Oreo on the island.


Both times I tried eating a dessert were at group dinners.  The first time, the dessert I allowed to be plunked down in front of me looked really beautiful.  I paused to regard its perfection, and then gave my wing man the nod.  Doing it.  So I lifted my fork and took the first bite.  Frankly, I anticipated a mind-bending explosion of neurons.  Mmmm.  What?  Are you kidding me? It was just not that great.  I’ve eaten asparagus that was more delicious.  But I doubted myself.  I asked myself how anything so beautiful could be so…meh.   So I tried a second bite, just to make sure my sugar-detecting taste buds were still kicking.  In fact, they were, and they reported another meh.  “Well,” I said somewhat righteously, “That just isn’t worth it.”  And I pushed it away.  There was the opposite of the shame I’ve attached to eating sugar.  I felt pride that I’d made a choice and then rejected it as not worthy.


But I have a history of eating sugary foods until they are gone even when they don’t delight.  I can’t help but think that if I’d somehow slipped this dessert into a plastic-lined pocketbook and taken it home to eat serruptitously, I wouldn’t have stopped after two bites.  Maybe it is secrecy that generates shame and crazy behavior (meaning eating something that isn’t delicious OR nutritious), not the actual ingestion of sugar.


On our last night, dinner was served on an expanse of beautiful lawn, picnic style, ocean-side, with every couple/family provided  a picnic basket full of beautifully-prepared food in bento-style boxes. My guy and I sampled this, and then that, liking some of it very much and other bites not so much.  Sometimes this type of grazing is problematic for me, but it wasn’t that night.  I was so full of the stars, the sunset, the lapping of the ocean, and the friendly people I’d come to know that the food was just a pleasant pastime.  The last food box we opened was the dessert, a small container of five, three-bite delicacies.  The BBE never eats dessert in the evening (he takes his poison every day after lunch) so I had the entire selection to myself.  After making eye contact with the BBE, as in “Let’s see how this goes,” I nixed one of the five outright.  Whoever decided nuts belonged in that was nuts, IMHO.   I then took one small bite out of the next three mini-offerings and rejected each one as “not worth it.”  And then I bit into the last one.  Aaaaaah.  That bite made the pinballs in my head go wild, setting off lights, bells and whistles.  “I’m finishing this one,” I announced to my bemused boyfriend.  Two more small bites and it was gone. As I wiped my sticky fingers on the napkin, I declared the three bites as “Totally worth it.”  I felt deeply satisfied and noticed that I felt completely calm.  No thoughts of “How can I cadge MORE of that pinball-inducing delight?”


But I’ve learned that sometimes sugar taken in on Friday night triggers a weekend mental obsession with wanting MORE.  So I stayed tuned to my feelings the next couple of days.  No fallout.  I did note on the morning after eating dessert that two glasses of wine and a portion of dessert might be too much sugar in one evening.


On the flight home, I reflected on my two encounters with sugary foods. Both had gone well, meaning there were no mental, emotional or physical consequences.   On the contrary, I felt a bit of hope that maybe there is yet a new phase in my recovery from unhealthy eating.  For most of my life, I’d eaten no-nutrient foods with abandon, following cravings wherever they took me.  Except when I was on a strict diet, of course.  But those no-sugar times were simply semi-colons in the endless sentence of my slavery to sugar.  Then ten years ago, I came OA, where the prevailing wisdom is that sugar is addictive and the only 100% safety from compulsive ingestion is to never touch it.  That made sense as I read studies demonstrating that rats prefer sugar to cocaine.  But one thing never jibed.  As I wrote in my previous post, I have a friendly but not addictive relationship with wine and spirits, and they contain sugar.  So maybe my nutritionist is right. Maybe I am psychologically addicted to certain foods, and there may be a workaround for that.


In my session with the nutritionist, I said that I likely agreed with her about the psychological addiction vs. physical addiction issue, but I could still never foresee a time when I could function or sleep with a bag of Oreos in my house.  (If you haven’t picked up on this yet, my go-to-binge foods growing up were often cookies.) She assured me that even normal eaters have “food rules,” and that a No Oreo Rule is probably a good one for me.


Hmmm.  The idea that even people with relatively normal eating habits have “food rules” made me happy.  In OA, there is a sense of having found “my people”, a feeling of belonging and community.  But the flip side of that is I feel outside of the community at large, a bit of a freak who needs to exert an extraordinary amount of time and energy just to manage three squares a day without mishap.  But if even normal eaters have food rules, then maybe there’s a way I can feel like I belong at any table? I don’t know.  The experiment with sugar continues…and I’ll write about my stumbles with it in a future post.




  • Linda

    I am glad that you updated us on your journey. As I was reading about your trip, I felt myself living vicariously and in the midst of my super stressful week, just pictured the ocean. The way that you described your “boundaries” around sugar consumption are similar to the ones that I used when I ate sugar. The only thing I added to it was that I needed a beverage and must be sitting down. I had to stop sugar for other reasons, dizziness and heart palpitations. We are all different in our experiences in recovery, but what I so love about program is that I am not alone!

  • Michelle


    Always insightful, always interesting!

    BTW, can you email me, I have been trying to get in touch with you!

  • Kathy T

    As one who has not completely abandoned sugar in my plan, I was interested to see that your experiment results mirrored my own. I have shared a sweet dessert with a friend on vacation… special circumstances, not alone, not a commonplace item. The amount is well defined and limited; eating it is not a secret. It hasn’t been a problem.

    I used to try a good-looking item and when I found it did not taste as good as I expected, I would eat another bite and another until it was gone, expecting that each new bite would taste better than the last. Crazy. I have a new-found skill in OA. If the first bite is not fabulous, I know the rest will not be any better, and I can leave the rest uneaten. A gift.

    I find I eat less and less just for taste and more for my health. I have a problem with saying I will never have particular foods again, but I can say that I choose not to today. I choose not to bring whole categories of food into my house, but I can choose to have a little under the right circumstances.

    As always, thanks for sharing!

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