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Support for a loved one with sugar addiction issues

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Old 02-23-2014, 11:17 AM   #1
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Default Support for a loved one with sugar addiction issues

Hello,

While I freely admit I have my own food issues that I'm struggling with I'm actually here today looking for help for someone else. I love this person more than anything else in the world and she's taken TREMENDOUS strides to get her weight under control.

To cut to the chase, she finds herself struggling with sugar - you know, the 'empty calorie' food that you eat when you're stressed, when you're starving, when you're unhappy, etc. I know I do it too. I have started reading different resources about the causes, the possible remediation choices and in general just getting myself educated so I can really help my wife. I don't want to be the person that says "oh, just say 'no' to that cupcake" - I really want solutions here. Can anyone share a story, a perspective or some advice?

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Here's some background that may or may not be relevant. My wife and I are both in our 40s and she's struggled with weight for most of her life. In the last year, though, she's shown incredible determination regarding her diet and her exercise plan - she's running regularly, she went to a personal trainer and she religiously follows a weight-training routine. Her core muscles are phenomenally strong (i.e. ability to plank, etc). She looks great - she really does - and she arrived at her goal weight months ago and has been diligent about maintaining. In fact for awhile she was below her goal weight... which was a frightening and stressful time for a lot of people (including myself!) but she got past that in a very calm and very healthy manner.

What I'm observing now is that she seems to be doing "calorie exchanges" so that she can eat some of these sugary snacks. The calorie amounts are pretty low... we're not talking about 2,000 calories of Oreos but rather 150-200 calories of marshmallow candy - but as she's a pretty short person it is still a significant 'hit' of empty calories. What really troubles me is that a few months ago she'd avoid that garbage like the plague - focusing on fruit, yogurt, 'real' food like protein, etc. Now I'm seeing her locking in on these other foods - and the worst part for me is that she's visibly stressed about it, she talks about how she "binges", how she wakes up in the morning disgusted with herself, etc and it's just heartbreaking.

Yes, she has gained back a few pounds and yes, technically she is above her goal weight - but THAT is not the issue. The real issue is helping her to deal with this apparent sugar issue/problem/obsession. She seems really stressed and really sad about it. I don't know if other stresses in her life are causing the sugar thing or not.

There's one last piece of information that I've been withholding because in all candor I suspect I'm going to get a lot of heat for it... but the truth is the truth after all. She absolutely positively loves artificial sweeteners. Iced tea at a restaurant with a LOT of splenda or sweet and low or whatever. Coffee? Same thing and include some sugar-free caramel syrup. Salad dressing? Same thing again. There's even this oddball 'zero calorie dessert topping' stuff... it does taste pretty good but I have no idea what the **** is in it (though I suspect it's got to have some kind of splenda-related product in it).

The minimal reading I've done up to this point suggests that artificial sweeteners can actually exacerbate the problem she's having. I hope this isn't the case or that it can at least be dealt with... because she's such a good person, she works SO hard to exercise and to diet, it would literally break my heart if she had to forego coffee with sweet-and-low or with her low (or zero) calorie caramel syrup added in. We have a good life together but from a food perspective she has SO LITTLE that she's "allowed" to eat I just hope that she can at least keep some of her 'treats'.


Anyway, I know this is a long tedious post. I tried to give a summary up above and all the detail below... but if anyone has any thoughts, comments, ideas, suggestions or prayers I'd be forever grateful to hear them.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by SugarSupport View Post
Hello,

While I freely admit I have my own food issues that I'm struggling with I'm actually here today looking for help for someone else. I love this person more than anything else in the world and she's taken TREMENDOUS strides to get her weight under control.

To cut to the chase, she finds herself struggling with sugar - you know, the 'empty calorie' food that you eat when you're stressed, when you're starving, when you're unhappy, etc. I know I do it too. I have started reading different resources about the causes, the possible remediation choices and in general just getting myself educated so I can really help my wife. I don't want to be the person that says "oh, just say 'no' to that cupcake" - I really want solutions here. Can anyone share a story, a perspective or some advice?

-----
-----
-----

Here's some background that may or may not be relevant. My wife and I are both in our 40s and she's struggled with weight for most of her life. In the last year, though, she's shown incredible determination regarding her diet and her exercise plan - she's running regularly, she went to a personal trainer and she religiously follows a weight-training routine. Her core muscles are phenomenally strong (i.e. ability to plank, etc). She looks great - she really does - and she arrived at her goal weight months ago and has been diligent about maintaining. In fact for awhile she was below her goal weight... which was a frightening and stressful time for a lot of people (including myself!) but she got past that in a very calm and very healthy manner.

What I'm observing now is that she seems to be doing "calorie exchanges" so that she can eat some of these sugary snacks. The calorie amounts are pretty low... we're not talking about 2,000 calories of Oreos but rather 150-200 calories of marshmallow candy - but as she's a pretty short person it is still a significant 'hit' of empty calories. What really troubles me is that a few months ago she'd avoid that garbage like the plague - focusing on fruit, yogurt, 'real' food like protein, etc. Now I'm seeing her locking in on these other foods - and the worst part for me is that she's visibly stressed about it, she talks about how she "binges", how she wakes up in the morning disgusted with herself, etc and it's just heartbreaking.

Yes, she has gained back a few pounds and yes, technically she is above her goal weight - but THAT is not the issue. The real issue is helping her to deal with this apparent sugar issue/problem/obsession. She seems really stressed and really sad about it. I don't know if other stresses in her life are causing the sugar thing or not.

There's one last piece of information that I've been withholding because in all candor I suspect I'm going to get a lot of heat for it... but the truth is the truth after all. She absolutely positively loves artificial sweeteners. Iced tea at a restaurant with a LOT of splenda or sweet and low or whatever. Coffee? Same thing and include some sugar-free caramel syrup. Salad dressing? Same thing again. There's even this oddball 'zero calorie dessert topping' stuff... it does taste pretty good but I have no idea what the **** is in it (though I suspect it's got to have some kind of splenda-related product in it).

The minimal reading I've done up to this point suggests that artificial sweeteners can actually exacerbate the problem she's having. I hope this isn't the case or that it can at least be dealt with... because she's such a good person, she works SO hard to exercise and to diet, it would literally break my heart if she had to forego coffee with sweet-and-low or with her low (or zero) calorie caramel syrup added in. We have a good life together but from a food perspective she has SO LITTLE that she's "allowed" to eat I just hope that she can at least keep some of her 'treats'.


Anyway, I know this is a long tedious post. I tried to give a summary up above and all the detail below... but if anyone has any thoughts, comments, ideas, suggestions or prayers I'd be forever grateful to hear them.
This is tricky to answer. IMO if anyone really wants something they should eat it. Keeping yourself in line by tracking how many calories, fat, carbs (or whatever you're tracking) is both smart and sensible. I can totally relate to those feelings of guilt she's experiencing. We tend to feel like we "failed" when one "bad" morsel of food passes or lips, and that's honestly not the case. This is the way I'm approaching this (and again this is what works for me and what my ultimate goal is)...I'm watching what I'm eating and exercising. My goal is to lose weight and gain strength. In regards to eating, I calculate what I consume and have set healthy goals. Most times I eat "well", but I also made peace with the fact that if I truly want something I'm willing to eat it, calculate the numbers, and move on with my life. The only time I get worried is when I eat things uncontrollably or find myself cheating on a daily basis. That's when you reevaluate what you are doing and reign it in. Has your wife really spoken to you about this? I mean a real heart to heart? I can tell from your post you really care about her and are generally concerned. It's hard sometimes to talk to people about what they are eating because it can make them defensive. Maybe you can broach the subject when she mentions her struggles to you. Honestly changing a lifetime of eating poorly is hard to change, and very rarely have any of us did it on the first try. Good luck to both of you!
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:10 PM   #3
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BTW is your wife a member here? There is a lot of love, support, and good advice here.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:47 PM   #4
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She IS a member here but I'm unsure if she still reads/posts. We have been talking and this is absolutely a case of her identifying and acknowledging a problem (I'm not bringing it to her attention, quite the reverse).

I'm going to interact with a few members here if possible and gather some different perspectives from people that are actively engaged in a weight loss/weight management process. I think that will give me some interesting things to consider.

PS - congratulations on meeting your 2/14/14 goal!
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Old 02-23-2014, 03:16 PM   #5
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In my experience binging and sugar cravings were linked to stress or emotional issues. Then eating more sugar causes the stress to increase and it's a bad cycle. The stress in my case was also related to restricting and obsessing a little too much over my weight. Once I gave myself a free pass to eat all that crap I realized that I wanted to eat less sugar for health reasons and not for weight control. In the first couple weeks I ate pretty badly until I made that realization and let go of the guilt. It's pretty easy now to avoid extra sugar, and I don't calorie count anymore.
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Old 02-23-2014, 03:31 PM   #6
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Stress eating is something that I do quite a bit of - in the last year or two I've learned to recognize it when it happens and that's helped me quite a bit. (Boredom eating, however, is still a challenge for me).

I've just read a really nice article at a website called carrotsncake.com. I'd post the link but even though it seems to be OK (in terms of the 3fatchicks terms of service) I'll just mention the website and say that it's an interesting article titled "how I beat my sugar addiction".

I like what the article says very much... and you know, I'm hoping that there's a way to reduce artificial sweeteners without completely cutting them out. I see so many people, though, with the "all or nothing" approach one finds with drug addicts or alcoholics that I'm starting to wonder.
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Old 02-23-2014, 04:55 PM   #7
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From your post it sounds like your wife is fit, relatively thin and healthy. What seems to be bothering her and you is her strict restrictions and then her ultimate binges. Lots of people struggle with eating and cravings long after they have reache their goal weight. Mostly because weight loss never puts an end to our need to eat. And weight loss doesn't give people peace like they thought it would. My guess is your wife has felt the success of her efforts but maybe it wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Making peace with food might benefit her very much and I strongly suggest she tries intuitive eating. A good place to start is with reading Overcoming Overeating and The Overfed Head.

The principles of IE suggest that we eat what we want but only when we are really hungry and stop eating when you are satisfied, plain and simple. Everything I believe about it is evident in the colorful quotes in my signature below. There is no reason to vilainize food and enjoying a bit of real dessert now and again will help your wife avoid all those non fat artificial foods that are very real chemicals.

.... By the way I gave up artificial sweeteners a while ago and it is possible, after you do so you can really start to enjoy the real flavors of food again and I got less headaches too. I do eat desserts now, when I want them, but with real whipped cream (whipped myself!) when I really want it. I eat (real) chocolate everyday.
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Old 02-24-2014, 02:35 PM   #8
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Anyway, I know this is a long tedious post. I tried to give a summary up above and all the detail below... but if anyone has any thoughts, comments, ideas, suggestions or prayers I'd be forever grateful to hear them.
This are just my thoughts based on my personal experiences. Different things work for different people.

My personal experience over many, many years is that the more I ate processed junk food, the less tasty healthy food was to me. So while my indulgences would always START small (a single servings of chips instead of a nice salad), eventually everything would spiral out of control and I would regain the weight.

Conversely -- when I stop eating the junk food for a long time, suddenly regular food would taste wonderful. Fruit is particularly fantastic.

Body chemistry, brain chemistry, addictive personality -- whatever -- I don't know exactly what it is with me, but I just can't do moderation with junk food the way many other people can. Junk food makes me crave junk food. And I have a hard time controlling portions of junk food as well -- inevitably I'd be eating huge quantities of junk (and not a vegetable in sight). It is like poison for me. It took me a long time (I'm 47 and have been dealing with this issue since childhood) to admit it.

So for me, I do in fact "just say no to that cupcake". There is nothing wrong with that approach and life is still happy and fulfilling without cupcakes. Really.
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Old 02-24-2014, 04:57 PM   #9
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Personally, artificial sweeteners never triggered anything in me. There's a whole slew of information out there though, on both ends of the argument.

I think that I can relate to what your wife feels a bit - its like this sort of feeling that the eating of whatever I end up regretting the next morning is happening TO ME. Not like I am choosing it deliberately, but that I'm almost being caught by a super strong wave in the ocean and I can swim back a bit each time, but the waves come and pushes me an inkling further and further.

I don't know HOW to go about resolving that bit (if it applies to your wife) but I do think that if she can find a way to feel like she is completely in her control, and feels more self-assured that she can maintain in the way that she wants - no constant making up for the sugary foods that she regrets afterwards then it would help. Sometimes this sugarfood eating pattern is just caused by simply starting and making it a routine. If she is a committed dieter and a routine person (I know I am!) sometimes it is helpful for us routine people to stop and go "woah hey there. let's reevaluate where I am going with this"
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Old 02-24-2014, 06:28 PM   #10
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Folks, this is all fabulous comment - EXACTLY what I was hoping for in fact - and I hope that it keeps coming!

I do appreciate all the good thoughts and I know that my wife will feel the same way once she gets to this thread.
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Old 02-27-2014, 09:48 PM   #11
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I'm going to shamelessly 'bump'' this thread just once to see if anyone else would care to give an opinion. (I almost said 'weigh in' but figured that would be an unforgivable pun on this board).

Thank you VERY much to everyone who's contributed - it has been a tremendous help.
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Old 03-11-2014, 09:19 AM   #12
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Conversely -- when I stop eating the junk food for a long time, suddenly regular food would taste wonderful. Fruit is particularly fantastic.
Just want to say I noticed this too! So interesting, when junk and sweets are gone, real food tastes better and yes fruit is a very sweet treat! Even plain yogurt which I never liked, now tastes good! And when I do have something with say mayo, it actually tastes a little sweet to me! You can reprogram your tastes buds


OP My only concern is that your wife may log on here and see this thread. Would she be ok with that? I'd be more embarrassed than anything to find my husband asking about me on a board I use.

I will weight in lightly and say it sounds like she may have an issue with sugar. I will tell you as someone with a sugar addiction, that if that is the case with her, she will battle that forever like an alcoholic trying to drink only socially. Someone with a sugar addiction (if that's the case) cannot intuitively eat, just like and alcoholic cannot intuitively drink, *if* that's the issue. I don't have any book titles, but perhaps something (google it) about sugar addiction might help her/you decide if its a sugar addiction so you can know where to go from there.
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Old 03-11-2014, 10:28 AM   #13
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This are just my thoughts based on my personal experiences. Different things work for different people.

My personal experience over many, many years is that the more I ate processed junk food, the less tasty healthy food was to me. So while my indulgences would always START small (a single servings of chips instead of a nice salad), eventually everything would spiral out of control and I would regain the weight.

Conversely -- when I stop eating the junk food for a long time, suddenly regular food would taste wonderful. Fruit is particularly fantastic.

Body chemistry, brain chemistry, addictive personality -- whatever -- I don't know exactly what it is with me, but I just can't do moderation with junk food the way many other people can. Junk food makes me crave junk food. And I have a hard time controlling portions of junk food as well -- inevitably I'd be eating huge quantities of junk (and not a vegetable in sight). It is like poison for me. It took me a long time (I'm 47 and have been dealing with this issue since childhood) to admit it.

So for me, I do in fact "just say no to that cupcake". There is nothing wrong with that approach and life is still happy and fulfilling without cupcakes. Really.
Man, do I concur with that. My own story in a nutshell.
I myself am struggling with a huge sugar addiction. I am finding that the only solution for me is to actually treat it like an addiction. For me, this is NOT brought on my stress or boredom either. So the root cause is, in fact, addiction. Senseless. Irrational. Total brain chemistry.
All I can say is GOOD FOR YOU. I want to hug you because the world needs more people like you. You seem to be so genuinely concerned and supportive of your wife. No matter how she decides to deal with it, just be supportive even if what you she think she might be trying isn't working. It takes time to figure these things out.

I also concur with others who have commented on the artificial sweeteners. Definitely don't affect me like plain old sugar. So I wouldn't worry about your wife no longer being able to enjoy a ton of splendas or stevias. If you are worried about the chemicals in sugar-free substitues, worry later.
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