I’ll admit it. Sugar is a drug and I was an addict. When I was around 7 years old, my favorite thing to do at family gatherings was steal a sugar cube. I would put it in my mouth and feel it melt on my tongue. It made me so happy. My grandmother had bowls of candy displayed on the coffee table at all times. My mother, who’s a dentist by the way, always gave us stern looks when we asked if we could take one. The fact that candy was not allowed made it that much more appealing to me. I would always raid secret stashes of candy, hide and enjoy them alone. One candy bar was never enough. It didn’t help that my sugary cereal was sprinkled with even more sugar in the morning. Ice cream was a daily thing. My family on my father’s side was known to have a sweet tooth.
As I grew up I started buying my own candy. I would get lost in all the Kit Kats, Snickers bars and Gummy candy. When I reached my 20’s I developed hypoglycemia. Whenever I went shopping I would get low blood sugar and start trembling. Like an addict that hasn’t had a hit of Cocaine in a while. I would always carry around a chocolate bar for when that happened. I would eat the chocolate in a manner one would only see on the National Geographic channel. Like a lion feasting on it’s prey. Just to get my blood sugar up. Yes, I got high on sugar. I was browsing Instagram one day and came across a brain scan that showed a brain on Heroine and a brain on sugar. The scans were identical. This means that the same addiction process that happens in our brain during a Cocaine high happens when we eat a bar of chocolate. I was shocked! I remember watching a documentary about sugar, and the effect it has on our bodies. One part particularly struck me was when one of the experts had this to say referencing giving kids candy, “You might as well shoot them up with Heroine, it’s the same thing!”
Anxiety and depression
It was when I reached my 30’s that thing got from bad to worse. I would buy cartons on Kit Kat and Kinder Bueno, and I would have one candy bar after every main meal, and I would eat two candy bars before bed. So I was having five bars a day. When I was out shopping, I couldn’t walk around without a sugary Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino, “extra caramel up and down” as Kuwaitis say. I developed major migraines. I was always on edge, my anxiety and depression increased. I was a mess! I would wake up in the middle of the night sweaty and needing another sugar hit. One night I decided enough was enough! I woke up the next morning and removed all the sugar in the house. I filled a moving box with sugar, Nutella, chocolate, candy, jams, cookies, cupcakes, sugary cereal, and cake mixes. I took the box to a food drive and went straight to the grocery store and bought all kinds of fruit. Bananas, grapes, apples, strawberries, mangoes, and one fruit that I always hated with passion: papaya. I decided I was going to give every fruit a chance. I went home and made smoothies. I substituted all sugar with honey. I bought dates to put in my bag for my shopping trips.
And I vowed to never have a candy bar ever again. Of course the first three days of detoxing were hell. I had migraines and I was very cranky, but I stuck with it. My coffee in the morning was just filtered coffee and creamer. Breakfast was a huge bowl of fruit, which gave me that hit of sweetness after the bitter coffee. I had fruit between meals and before bed. I mostly had mangoes since they were the sweetest. On the third day I got up the courage to try the papaya. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and started scooping the papaya into my mouth. I forced myself to chew and swallow. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I forced myself to finish the whole thing. That night I had a strange craving for papaya, so I went out and bought another one. It was so weird, how this fruit that I loathed so much became a craving. The dates were another story.
Why risk eating it?
I would munch on dates and dried fruit while shopping and found that I didn’t really have that craving for Starbucks anymore. I mean I’m not saying that the smell of Starbucks wouldn’t tempt me sometimes, but not as much as before I quit sugar. After a week on this new lifestyle I would wake up feeling happy and refreshed. I craved fruit all the times. Chocolate wouldn’t tempt me anymore. One day at a family gathering, I poured myself a cup of tea. Out of habit, I dropped a cube of sugar into the tea and stirred. I remember taking a sip of tea and spitting it right out.
It tasted horrible! It literally tasted like bittersweet sugary water. I couldn’t believe how I used to be addicted to this stuff! Fast forward a year later; watching a cooking show that involved making cake or cookies makes me gag. The sight and smell of chocolate makes me nauseous. I can’t stand the stuff. It makes my teeth hurt and gives me heartburn. Why risk eating it? My body is reaping the benefits of this new lifestyle. I’m literally bursting with energy and I’m much happier. Try quitting sugar like I did, and I promise you, you will discover a part of yourself you never knew existed. Challenge yourself today, and be the best version of you.
By Aisha Al-Zabin