I’m dating myself here, but do you remember the original Ghostbusters movie? Remember when the evil spirit inhabited the “Stay Puff Marshmallow Man,” a fictional commercial icon for, I assume, marshmallows? That thing was gi-normous! And, even though it was amusing to see something evil in a large, fluffy mass of sugary goo, it was also a bit terrifying. Today, that image is haunting me.
Yesterday, I swore off sugar and unhealthy carbohydrates for the like 200th time since New Year’s Day. My pants were getting snug again, and my leggings were so tight they revealed every bump and lump. Although I ate a lot of fruit and veggies this summer, I also consumed pound for pound an equal amount of sorbet and ice cream.
Alas! This is nothing new. I have been on a diet since I was 12 years old. I am the yo-yo queen. In fact, if you look up yo-yo dieter in the dictionary there are two pictures of me: one for the high you and one for the low yo. I’ve had years of therapy that sums up my eating habits like this: I like to overeat when I am nervous, stressed, overwhelmed, happy, bored, contented, overjoyed, during full moons and all the moons in between.
What can I say? I like food. Most therapists say, “No, there is something more, something deeper that causes you to turn towards the pantry.” When I heard that the first time, I wanted to say, “First of all, I don’t turn to the pantry; I run. Sometimes when I am alone, I will even skip to the pantry. The truth is I really like food.” Instead, I just nodded and said I would journal about my food obsession, paid my $160, and headed to Chick-Fil-A. After months of journaling and mindfulness exercises, I came up with this: I like to eat because I find pleasure in it. It calms my nerves, tastes good, and is the reward for doing a fine job at darn near anything—tying my shoes.
At the same time, I also know that it is not easy to give up certain foods like sugar and refined carbohydrates. Research has shown that sugar is just as addictive as heroine. It hits the pleasure center of the brain, making it very difficult to give up. So at least now I can say it’s not really my fault. Yep. I’ll blame my parents. Mom and Dad got me strung out on sugar with that first bite of birthday cake. (I did the same to my kids—we’re all pushers!!!!)
I am no stranger to addiction. You name it, and I’ve been addicted to it. I know all about withdrawal and how torturous it is on the mind. I quit smoking so many times, I can’t even count the attempts. I think the only reason that last one worked is that over the course of the first week, I ate an entire tub of raw chocolate chip cookie dough, and school was out so I had time to just sleep through the withdrawal symptoms. But, I am proud to say, that last attempt in 2000 took, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.
Cigarettes are one thing, but sugar and flour are another. I can go months without seeing or smelling a cigarette. Not so with sugar. It is everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I’m not just talking about my pantry, grocery stores and ice cream parlors. There’s so much sugar around we have numbed our senses to it. For example,
- Bubble gum and snow cones at Little League games
- Cake at birthday parties, retirement parties, graduation parties, I pee-peed-in-the-potty parties (you get the idea)
- Candy bars and soda at school sponsored games
- Coffee and doughnuts after church services
- Lollipops dolled out by well meaning pediatricians
- Peppermint drops at the front desk at school
- Every possible holiday function: Valentine’s Day is damned!
- Healthy “cookies” and protein bars at the gym
- That yogurt you just picked up for a midday snack.
Start paying attention, and you will be shocked at how sugar has infiltrated our entire culture. Over the past five or ten years, researchers, politicians, and curious health nuts alike have been paying attention to the sugar effect and the sugar industry. (I won’t get into that now. Another blog, perhaps.)
So back to yesterday. Yes, I had steeled myself that I was going to resist temptation. I even went to the grocery store and snubbed my nose at the Oreos. However, by the time I picked up the kids from school, I had already blown my no-sugar contract at least three times. What? Don’t judge me. You should have heard that month-old, freezer-burned ice cream calling my name. It was like Odysseus’ Sirens. This, of course, sent me into despair, which then sent me back to the ice cream. Ah, the vicious circle.
So I went to bed not feeling so hot about my sense of will power, and as luck would have it, I had a scary dream. I dreamed that the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man was possessed by the devil and trying to lure me to a ball pit. Instead of balls, however, the pit was full of jawbreakers. It was horrible because I was simultaneously repulsed and attracted to the giant devil in white. He was so big I could see the individual sugar crystals on this smiling face. I awoke before the ending, but I did wake with a new revelation. That is, the devil makes me do it. This time I’m not looking for an excuse. I’ve used them all to no avail anyway: I’m gluten intolerant, I have big bones, I’m allergic to something that puts on weight, I would exercise more but my knees hurt, etc., etc. etc.
Yep, it’s the devil. It has to be. Who is the biggest tempter known to man? The devil, Beelzebub, Satan, and the Fallen Angel—whatever you want to call him—is the master manipulator of all of this. So logic would have it, if this is truly the case—that Satan is standing around every corner just waiting to shove sugar in my path or he is sitting in my brain stimulating my desire for biscuits, Baby Ruth’s, and peanut brittle—then the only way to fight him is with prayer. After all, Satan tried to take on the Father, and he failed. He tried to tempt the Son, and he bombed that one too. So I think my only hope at conquering my sugar/refined foods addiction is to call on some help from the God. God vs. the Devil (cleverly disguised as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man). Stay tuned. I’ll let you know how I’m doing.