Seasons of Joy: The Not-So-Sweet Side of Sugar

Every morning this week I have prayed Psalm 141:3 over myself (Psalm 141:3 free printable):

Every morning it is the first thing I do.  And every night I thank God for being sentry over my mouth.  This has been so helpful!  It is like I am suddenly not battling this on my own.  Having done lots of studying about self-control I felt it was time to put what I am learning into practice.  I had figured out that my biggest problem was sugar and sugar-like substances, so the first thing to get under control was this.  Each day I am choosing to give up sugar completely.  I say each day, because historically I have not been able to keep this up for more than a few hours, let alone days, weeks or months  🙂

This week it has felt different.  The idea of God keeping watch is powerful, and it nudges me to choose non sugary food.  As of last Sunday night I have not had any sugar.  No chocolate, no sweets, no drinks with sugar or sweeteners in.  Nada!  I’m not making any promises that this will last past today but I do know that today I prayed that same prayer and today I made that same decision.

For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.  {Isaiah 28:10)

And I guess if I make that decision again tomorrow and then the next day, little by little the chains of addiction will be broken…..but one step at a time.

I have read lots about the effects of giving up sugar.  Apparently there are seven stages of sugar withdrawal:

  1. The part when you think this whole giving up sugar thing is a breeze
  2. The part when the cravings kick in
  3. The part when your head feels it might explode it is so sore
  4. The part when your body starts to ache
  5. The part when your moods suddenly start to swing rather dramatically
  6. The part when your body begins to get the shakes
  7. The part when you emerge feeling much better, have more clarity of mind and basically start to feel better than you have for years….

Did you know an addiction to sugar has some scary parallels to an addiction to cocaine?  Yes, really.  From flooding your brain with the feel good dopamine, to lighting up the same areas of the brain whilst ingesting them, sugar shows many of the same symptoms/responses of cocaine use.  The cravings are very real, with tolerance building up quickly for both so that a person requires more to feel the same high, leading to binge eating in the case of a sugar addiction.  And terrifyingly, lab rats addicted to cocaine are happy to use either cocaine, amphetamines or sugar to assuage those cravings!  And of course the withdrawal effects are very real and for some intolerable making it very difficult to give up entirely.

For me, though, the worst thing of all is that an addiction to sugar is entirely socially accepted, and often encouraged.  You don’t see happy adverts enticing you to become a cocaine user, do you?  And yet some of the  most effective ads encourage us to buy a chemical just as powerful and just as dangerous (at least over the long-term) but it is dressed up in a costume which makes it appeal to almost everyone, especially children.  A fox in a sheep’s clothing if you like.

I’m a week in and I think I must still be in the ‘giving up sugar is a breeze’.  I made the decision to give up any type of sugar and sweetener.  I made this decision because I want to be completely free of the chains of addiction, and I suspect eating sweetener-sweetened food probably won’t help with that goal.

Funnily enough the ‘food’ I am finding it hardest to do without is not chocolate like I first thought it would be, but diet coke, sweetened not with sugar but aspartame.  It’s weird because I never have more than one of these a day, if that!   So, apart from really wanting a diet coke very much in deed I don’t seem to have had any other symptoms.  I was a bit achy three days in with an ache across the chest that I had never experienced before and as I had done nothing physical to warrant it I am guessing that may have been a withdrawal symptom, but apart from that…nothing.  I like to think that God is protecting me from them, but maybe they are still to come….

Anyway, the main thing I want to share today is this verse from 2 Peter:

Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love…..For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.… {2 Peter 1:5-8}

This verse came to me a few weeks ago and I have been meditating on it, searching for whatever it was God wanted me to learn from it.  Whilst I understand each dimension is supposed to fit into and develop the others and the passage needs to be taken as a whole, there is something about ‘make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control’ which captured my attention.  I have my basic faith, to this I need to work towards adding moral excellence or good character, and then knowledge or spiritual understanding….and then self-control.  I need to work not just on self-control but on the strength of a multi-faceted faith:  Growing a faith in a God, who is so much bigger than I can comprehend, will help build self-control.  Pursuing good character will help build self-control.  Seeking to increase my spiritual understanding will help build self-control….and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love…..   To be self-controlled will also require perseverance, perseverance will require self-control and in turn perseverance will increase that self-control muscle….and so it goes on, each characteristic helping to develop and maintain the others.  And suddenly self-control neither feels like such an impossible goal, nor a singular goal.  All these attributes work together to build…well, these attributes!

Things I have found helpful this week to ensure I stay away from sugar

  • I have found it hardest to give up Diet Coke.  It has been difficult finding a replacement because pretty much every single drink on the market contains some sort of sweetener.  I think this is just a suck-it-up kind of moment.  I am just drinking iced water, tea or coffee.  I have never taken sugar in any of these so I don’t really feel I am missing out.  The ice adds a special touch to the water.  Fizzy water is even better but I can’t afford to be drinking that all the time.
  • The last day or two I have definitely felt the need for something sweet.  It hasn’t helped that I bought some chocolate chip cookies for the children.  I have realised if it is in the house it is waaay harder to say no.  I managed to stay away but I shan’t be bringing them in the house anymore.  Simple!  Except it isn’t because nothing about sugar and teens is simple….
  • Fruit has saved the day on so many occasions.  For obvious reasons.  It is full of natural sugar.  I have chosen not to give up fruit.  I can’t in all honesty, believe that something so natural can be anything but good for me.  I am only eating it in its full and unadulterated form.  That means no juice, no dried fruit, no tinned cans and no smoothies.  Fruit helped me avoid those chocolate chip cookies yesterday 🙂
  • I have found protein to be almost miraculous in its ability to stave off cravings.  Having a slice of toast with cheese completely assuaged my cravings yesterday during the day, and adding Greek yogurt to a bowl of grapes helped me manage them last night.

This week I want to increase the amount I move each day.  I have been slowly increasing it to 10000 steps per day, and average around 11000 for a while now.  I’d like to inch this goal up to 15000

I will be including a free download of the 2 Peter 1 verse above for you to print out.  I have put this in my bedroom and will be meditating on it at night-time, when I have my quiet time: