Yep, you read the title correctly, I’m talking to the many undercover gluten-free sugar addicts out there who have yet to acknowledge that their problem is real. And even though this is supposed to be an “anonymous meeting” of personalities, I’ll introduce myself…
My name is Jennifer and I’m a gluten-free sugar addict. Though I was a sugar addict long before I went gluten-free in 2008 because of an intolerance, going gluten-free only made the problem worse. Perhaps it is my ‘natural’ love of pasta and bread stemming from my upbringing in a traditional Italian-American household or that my father has a love of ice cream sundaes or that my relatives always had an abundance of candy and italian pastries to share. “Manga, manga”, they’d say (‘manga’ means ‘eat’ in Italian).
After hitting rock bottom about 3 years ago, my relationship with sugar became a paramount issue that I could no longer ignore since Adrenal Fatigue set in. Extreme exhaustion was only one of the many symptoms with which I struggled along with yeast infections that I never seemed to have before as well as an unruly gut that no amount of eating the way I was supposed to (meaning gluten-free) seemed to fix.
The worst part of it all though was the psychological impact of it all. At the ripe ol’ age of 29, I couldn’t function the way that a normal 29 year old should. Obsessively vigilant about my gluten-free food, overwhelmed from a hectic and over-scheduled life, and frankly, tired of missing out on the sweeter points of my diet pre-gluten-free, sugar and sweet treats seemed like the perfect escape. I’d have cookies for breakfast, a banana for a mid-morning snack, leftover gluten-free pasta dishes for lunch with chocolate for dessert, another chocolaty indulgence at my mid-afternoon energy crash around 2 or 3pm, and then I’d top the day off with my favorite gluten-free vegan brownies at 10pm. My entire diet was shackled to sugar, fix after fix, nibble after nibble, splurge after splurge because in those moments I felt like I wasn’t restricted or unable to ‘eat like a normal person’ again.
Despite the toll that all of this took on my body and mind, I didn’t want to remain a prisoner to sugar. So I sought out help because I knew that no matter how much good nutrition information I had, I couldn’t walk this road alone. Tests confirmed my adrenal issues (which I still deal with today to a certain degree, believe it or not) and a holistic practitioner found that candida (aka. yeast) was wreaking havoc in my digestive tract upsetting a delicate environment already compromised from my wheat-eating years.
With a very difficult and highly restrictive plan in place, I began a month of sugar and refined carb cleansing with the help of my team of practitioners. The experience changed my life from that moment forward. Certainly there were triumphant moments coupled with lows so deep I would have given up if it weren’t for my supportive husband, but in the end, I found success in ways that I would have never guessed:
- I got my taste buds back! Eating so much extremely sweet food prevented me from being able to enjoy the subtler tastes of ‘healthier’ foods.
- I could wake up on my own without an alarm clock at 6 am every morning feeling ready-to-go!
- I found and harnessed the willpower to be able to turn down dessert (wow!) and understand what the better meal and snack options were to avoid more cravings.
- I got back in the driver’s seat of my diet! I learned to read the food labels on products and have the awareness to easily mind serving sizes.
- My digestive system quieted down so that I barely ever noticed an issue anymore.
And those are just the top 5 that I consider to be the most valuable to living a healthier gluten-free life. The other benefits are ‘icing on the gluten-free cake’!
Now you might be wondering how this all happened… how did I (and you) get here… addicted to sugar even though a gluten-free diet was supposed to fix everything. It’s quite simple actually and I’m going to share with you the top three reasons that gluten-free folks just like yourself are craving (and ultimately eating) things that you know you probably shouldn’t.
1) Your ‘Restrictive’ Gluten-Free Diet Mindset
When you’ve got to go gluten-free, naturally it’s an overwhelming process. You get so stuck in the “I can’t eat this anymore” mentality since your attention focuses solely on what you can’t have. This means leaving out a ton of great foods that you can and should be eating.
I get it though… to maintain the most ‘normal’ status quo, you swap out the glutenous versions of favorite meals for those gluten-free options. As this still feels restrictive (because it is), you seek out and consume any and all gluten-free desserts that make those ‘restrictive’ gluten-free meals seem not so bad. You can eat dessert and thus you will eat it because you want it and it makes you feel normal, right? Top this off with the fact that you are busy and probably don’t have a lot of time to shop, prepare and cook food like a culinary master, you also seek out convenience.
But a problem presents itself… the convenient Standard American Fare that you know isn’t so healthy… isn’t any healthier simply because it’s gluten-free. Many of the gluten-free treats are even starchier and higher glycemic than their glutenous versions. It doesn’t mean you can enjoy them here and there, but not at every meal and snack. The constant influx of sugar and starches wreaks your gut and increases your sugar addiction, period.
2) The Season of Sugar
If you aren’t familiar with the time of year we are now entering, then let me introduce you to what I like to call the “Season of Sugar”. Halloween candy is already out. Next Christmas and Hanukkah treats will line the shelves for months. Not long after you’ve finished off all your gluten-free cookies and treats, Valentine’s Day ushers in it’s heart-shaped chocolates. Then St. Patty’s Day will give us more green and shamrock-inspired goodies and round it all out with one last candy bang called Easter. You will spend nearly the next eight months being inundated with sugar in one form or another. Eight long months of being wooed at every check-out register, every grocery store endcap, every party, gathering or evening out and every walk into the office breakroom or snack table.
What’s worse is that sugar has somehow managed to make it into all of our favorite holiday dinner foods as well! Cooking carrots? Add brown sugar. Making sweet potatoes? Add organic juice and sugar. Love cranberries? Add some hyper-sweetened cranberry sauce to your plate or some dried ones to your grain dishes. Want a handful of nuts? Don’t forget the honey-roasted kind!
You get the picture.
3) Your Sugar Devil
Whether you’ve met this little guy or not, we all have one. If you used to watch the Simpsons, you may recall an episode wherein Homer is fighting with himself to do something. Then poof! There appears a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other. Both try to sway him toward their point of view and, as is the case with most of us, Homer’s devil wins out and convinces him to do something that feels good in the moment, but has seriously bad consequences in the end.
Sound familiar? I believe that we each metaphorically have a little sugar devil of our own sitting atop our shoulder who has become quite excellent at wooing us into eating things that we know are bad. This is the experience of many, including myself in the past, of the constant battle that happens over each piece of candy, slice of gluten-free cake or even the gluten-free pizza. And when we finally give in, thinking that it’s just this one time and how whatever it is we’re eating will taste so good, there’s plenty of made-up reasons to keep us playing the role of victim within the confines of sugar addiction.
So how do you break free from all this? You’ve got to make a different choice, just as I did. When you’re ready to take back your sense of control, learn the commonsense knowledge about sugar and enlist the support to kick your sugar addiction, things will begin to change. You’ll finally be the one calling the shots, supporting your good health for now and into the future, and eating the way you always knew you should, but could never figure out how.
Check out the upcoming Gluten-Free Sugar Cleanse that Jennifer is leading this Fall starting 9/27. It’s an online experience and community that will support you to kick your sugar addiction to the curb! Read more at: http://www.glutenfreeschool.com/services/gluten-free-sugar-cleanse/
Jennifer Fugo, CHC
Jennifer Fugo is a certified health coach and the founder of Gluten Free School, an online education destination for gluten sensitive individuals to get the guidance they need to make the gluten-free diet stick. She was named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine & has appeared in many publications including CNN, Yahoo & eHow.
Jennifer is sought after expert for news contribution on healthy & gluten-free living as well as a speaker, avid blogger & yoga teacher. Visit her on the web & sign up for her monthly newsletter with articles, classes & recipes at http://www.glutenfreeschool.com.