Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Lisa Guest Headshot

Shock Therapy for Sugar Transgressions

Posted: Updated:

I was rewarded for good behavior with sugar. My mom used M&Ms. A good friend of mine recently posted on Facebook a picture with her 2.5-year-old chowing down on a chocolate cupcake after he'd done his business right. Sugar is the prize. Mom's approval equals sugar. I don't think it is coincidence that my favorite candies are her favorites.

My grandfather created a tradition after dinner of "getting lost in the fog." The only light that could be seen was the beacon of the 31 flavors sign. To this day, I eat my ice cream slowly and get teased by my family for savoring it in a way no one else can or does. Whatever our personal story about sugar is, once it gets into our systems, sugar, like alcohol, wants more. It triggers addictive behaviors. Some people can have a little bit and not think another thought about it. But many others get into a cycle that one piece is too much and 100 pieces isn't enough. But with sugar everywhere, It's not easy to avoid.

You have to go out of your way to find alcohol, but sugar is at the cash register of almost every store, gas station, and coffee house. Even Staples has all kinds of sweet and salty impulse items you can't avoid when waiting in the check out line. How magnanimous it would be to buy some and share with the others at the office! It's a legal pick me up that most minds still consider safe.

I know nuts are much healthier, but I'm confused by the raw vs. roasted conundrum. I've heard so much about fungus and mold on regular peanut butter, but is it the scientists or the sales force that is pushing the issue? My opinion is that raw and unsalted sometimes taste like cardboard. They don't satisfy my urge to splurge.

During my first summer of 9-5s working with a group of women who chose, each and every day, a bag of miniatures to plow through besides the mounds of paperwork. I knew I didn't feel good after I ate the tiny morsels or long ropes of licorice, but it felt so great going down. Back then I could always talk myself out of the after effects. I never became a diabetic. I don't know why not. I certainly abused my body with sugar, thinking I deserved it for enduring that which was unpleasant or terrifically frustrating.

Then I received the cancer diagnosis. Then I discovered reams of research suggesting that sugar can feed cancer and affects the immune system for five hours, something I couldn't afford if I wanted to get well. After four years studying cancer and what it takes to heal cancer, I was ready for another subject. After a successful clinical trial, I wanted to restart my life with new behaviors and attitudes.

Yet old addictive behaviors don't need much stimulation to flare back up into the danger zone. Last month I got really unconscious with my sugar consumption. Since I write every day, at the end of the month I saw a trail of sugar that accumulated as the days progressed. At first it was little bites of something here and there. Then one day when really frustrated I bought a "healthy" chocolate peanut butter ice cream sandwich at Sprouts before meeting my family at the deli for Passover.

Then my favorite of favorites got me. I love milk chocolate honeycomb. In the past four years I've allowed myself to eat dark chocolate because of the health benefits, but to me it was no reward. It didn't satisfy my taste buds. Over the course of a week I stopped at Sprouts and got honeycomb out of the bins. At first it was one piece. A few days later it was two pieces. Then on that Sunday I picked up probably seven pieces. The rest of that day was a feeding frenzy, almost like I was a male beta fish put into a bowl with another male beta. Who would live through the slaughter?

After the first piece I felt the sugar rush. I could feel my pulse and heart beat more pronounced. There was anxiety in my chest and in between my ears, and of course, the constant pronounced desire for another piece. I hate the sugar rush but loved every single second biting and sucking the chocolate off the yellow-orange spongy inside. As it melts in my mouth something within quite primeval hums, purrs, and groans constantly for more until the next piece is retrieved from the bag in the other room.

I finished the bag but when I got home that night, my headache had me down and out the rest of the night.

I took an eating consciousness class taught by a nutritionist a few months back. I told her that sugar can feed cancer. She told me it is wrong to have rules about food and that satisfaction is just as important as nutrition. I didn't want permission to be bad, but that primeval purr machine took it as just that, reminding me daily of her words. In my mind, repeating at every single feeding opportunity, "Satisfaction is just as important."

It's always been hard for me not to want sugar. Even though I know how dangerous it can be for my body, if sugar is anywhere near me (especially free) I'll eat some given half the chance. Once I have a little bit, I just want more. I know how my body hums when I have my green smoothie, but it's a different kind of desire. After consuming my ounces, I'm not eager to blend more. My body percolates with what it needs. Yet, when I succumb to sugar, my body reacts like a drug addict or alcoholic.

Having become so much more conscious about my eating for health, this lapse into eating for happiness kicked me royally in the behind. So many at most checkout counters I frequent seem to grab or talk about the sugary treats displayed. Throughout my life I've done sugar withdrawals and after 21 days I don't want it, or feel consumed by it anymore. But the minute refined sugar touches my tongue, the poison is inside and calling for reinforcements.

To this day I want a reward for a difficult appointment or medical procedure. This week I heard that one out of three kids by 2050 will have Type 2 diabetes. If we don't see and stop what we're doing, we are setting up a whole generation to live shorter lives because of sugar. Katie Couric has been talking about this for 30 years. Dr. Oz and Dr. Northrup and many other doctors now point out the dangers of refined sugar in our bloodstream and how truly detrimental it is to our health. That's the on-the-surface sugar we can't get enough of, but sugar is a hidden ingredient in so many food items and restaurant plates. Even if we can stop ourselves from big desserts, it's still getting into our systems and triggering those of us who are sensitive in this way.

For me sugar is not a prize, it's a punishment. There is a little machine available for purchase that trains dogs not to bark. Some shock the dog, others use sound frequencies that irritate the dogs. I know they've had similar machines for humans since the 1970s but this kind of reinforcement only works for a period of time if you have a direct association. But the abstention doesn't stick, and it's only too easy to go back to the desired object. It doesn't change the behavior or alter significantly the structure of the brain. I wish inventors could invent something that will stop the child in me, the unconscious part of me who wants sugar from getting the best of the more level-headed me. For me, putting a skull and cross bones over each delectable seduction isn't the answer. For mothers, having a jar of little toys over the toilet probably won't do what little candies will. So what's the answer?

I know why I want to live. Thirteen years ago my discovery about orgasm enabled me to give up cigarettes. I never crave a death stick anymore. But no matter how long I've gone without sugar, all it takes is one bite and I'm a slave again.

Listening this week to the Conscious Sexuality and Relationship Conference expanded my awareness of a whole world of understanding that the mainstream hasn't yet quite opened up to and accepted. But it's happening. So often we want sweets because something in our life isn't sweet. What if I chose more carefully that which brings me pleasure than accept that which brings me pain? So many of us "endure" because the status quo says no pain, no gain.

I want years to uncover and perfect that vision I've had and sensation I've felt, but first I must stop dabbling with the devil that tastes so good. Perhaps I need to give up trying so hard to be a good girl... even the unconscious parts of me that still try even though the rebel has been out and about. So many people have created whole careers that help others be happier sexually and allow more love into their lives. Perhaps that's the answer. Quit trying to be an angel and the devil in me won't keep trying to take me down.

When I'm sedentary the thought of exercising is beyond me. But once moving I can't imagine sitting still again because the joy is so intense when I dance.

I look forward to the day I'm beyond that insatiable desire for something sticky and sweet. At least the kind that shuts down my immune systems and feeds cancer.

Sugar is the most easily obtained toxic seductive and generally accepted addiction the United States has ever seen and we need to address what we're doing to our youth.

How do you stay away from sugar if you tend to get triggered by it?

From Our Partners