Haunted by the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man

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.

courtesy of chacha.com
courtesy of chacha.com

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!!!!)

Sugar in the clay bowl isolated on whiteI 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.

young-man-eating-cake_byq-luvtro_psStart 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.

Confessions of an Addict (Again)

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I have got to get the crack out of my house. It is just sitting around tempting me, making me all jittery in wanting it. I can almost feel the sensation of ingesting it into my system and letting the wave of pleasure wash over me. I WANT to ignore it. I NEED to ignore it, but it is everywhere—in my pantry, in my fridge, on the countertops. I even found a small bag of it under my child’s bed. That’s it!.

Oh sorry, I guess I should clarify what I mean by crack. By crack I mean sugar. Why? Because sugar IS my crack. I am completely addicted to it, and as much as I want to be strong and resist its pull, I can’t because I just have no power over it. I want to detox. I mean it. But, even an hour without just a smidge of the white stuff makes me hanker for it in my BONES. You heard me, I said in my BONES.

Part of the problem is that some of my very favorite forms of crack are in plentiful supply at this time of the year. The crack dealers are all out in the open in full-force-promotion mode. Some are disguised as grocery store managers and CVS clerks. Others are Dollar Store stock boys and gas station attendants. That’s right. Pushers hiding in plain sight. Don’t believe me? Look at those luscious displays of goodies surrounded by smiling jack-o-lanterns and friendly ghosts. The dealers just make it all look so appealing, and I fall for their underhanded tricks every time.

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Just last week, I consumed—by myself now—four bags of Tootsie Pops that I bought for “Halloween.” I thought I was doing okay because I avoided the chocolate crack. You know, the Heresy Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rollo’s, and Crunch bars. Even though I am totally capable of justifying eating a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup because it has peanuts in it, and peanuts come from the ground, and peanuts are a whole food. Therefore, having anything with peanut butter must be like eating a vegan lifestyle. Yeah, I know, that is the sick way my mind works. I could easily make the same justification for eating an Almond Joy bar if I liked that sort of thing.

With Tootsie Pops, I can’t find any reasonable argument for consuming 4 bags of them in one week. I am pretty sure other than sugar—bleached refined white crack-like sugar—there is nothing in them that comes from the ground. But, will the logical side of my brain tell the impulsive side of me to run away? No. I am too far gone. I am like that owl in the 1980s Tootsie Pop commercials.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
Uh one. Uh two. Uh three.
Three.

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Well, I have totally skunked that old owl because by the end of my binge, I was down to no licks and just one chomp to get it going. That’s right, they were more like Tootsie Roll Midgets to me by the end of the week. (I have to confess my teeth started to hurt.)

Am I proud of this? No. In fact, I am not proud of any of my Tootsie crack behavior. I found myself hiding them from my kids, putting them in my purse or stashing them in my underwear drawer. The other day, I looked up and panicked because the kids would be home in 5 minutes, so I had to scramble to hide “the goods”. Whew! I was barely able to cover my crack with some dirty socks before the kids came barging into my room. Why all this? Because I did not want to share my stockpile. I KNOW this is pathetic, but…What if I ran out of Tootsie Pops before I could get to the store? Would I go through withdrawals? I talked myself into thinking it was just plain bad for my health to share candy with my children. (Now that I see this confession in writing, I think I may have to see a therapist.) My husband came home one day and found a trail of colorful wrappers that led right to my desk where I work on my writing. I must have been a sight—white lollipop stick poking out of my mouth, slurping syrupy drool from the side of my mouth, a mound of wrappers and white sticks by my side looking like the kindling for a small fire, and small pieces of hard candy sticking to my t-shirt (the ones on which I crunched too enthusiastically and debris landed on my shirt).

Continue reading “Confessions of an Addict (Again)”