The Monster Within
By: Faith Pearce
(5 min read)
This week has been interesting…that’s vague. I know. But let me go back a little to explain. Following having more free time I have been eating more sugary treats and bread items. This may be very normal in your diet, but my body does NOT like them. I have a gluten and insulin resistance due to my hormones, so if I eat these foods, the first thing that happens is I bloat. My body cannot process the extra sugar, and I get instant headaches.
The second thing that happens very quickly is my sugar levels become out of balance. I guess that is a bit obvious if I am eating more yum yums. I begin to crave that sugary hit more and more – then shortly afterward, boom. I crash down from the sugar high. I suspect many of you have felt the sugar highs and lows. It not only affects my blood sugar levels BUT MY MOOD. I then get “hungry” or at least I think I am, and there I am back in the kitchen wondering where I hid those yum yums so I wouldn’t eat them all that last time.
Thirdly, I am emotionally eating. I know myself really well. I capture my actions with a ton of internal dialogue so it is not like I am wandering around mindlessly. I know what I am doing. And, I still did it. When I am under a high level of duress, those sugary goodies are often my instant friend. They pick me up. They are a great distraction. They help me to replace one feeling with another. Constantly chasing that feel good ‘high.’
If I am honest, bread also gives me similar feelings of comfort. However, my body still breaks it down the same. Carbs become glucose and glucose increases sugar levels, and for me causes even more fluctuations, bloating moodiness, and a desire to eat more and more of the exact same thing I shouldn’t be eating.
I have been spending most days, every few hours, thinking about food which is not normal for me. I’ve been getting headaches, hunger pains, irritability, bloatedness, and gas. Really not pleasant. I’ve always likened it to feeding the Monster. Geez. I sound like I just got back from the Johnny Depp trial…”Tame, The Monster.”
My sugary experience is like I become a hangry child that screams and demands MORE!!! That’s how it feels to me. I am angry. I am on edge. I have headaches. So, what should Faith do? Eat More Sugar? Feed the Monster? STOP! I need to get control of this constant yo-yoing. Up and down. Up and down.
It’s not the first time I have weaned myself off sugar and processed carbohydrates. Some times are worse than others. Like this time. I can get to a place where I know I “have to” versus “I should.” I knew I needed to do something now.
I planned to do a detox and go cold turkey…maybe a little abrupt but sometimes you have to draw a line. Should I call it a detox – a reboot – a cleanse. Should I go black and white?
Some experts have made a comparison to sugar being more addictive than cocaine. And, I can honestly believe it. Eating sugar activates our opioid receptors which are linked to our reward systems. Dopamine is released, and we feel a pleasurable ‘high’. Because this is linked to the reward system, we are more inclined to repeat this behavior. Over time, the brain adjusts and stabilizes, and we shift from want to “need” or so we think. It takes more and more sugar to get the same ‘high’.
What does this mean, cravings…binging…withdrawal, and the repetitive cycle?
This week my body has been screaming, first of all headaches. I feel like my head is in a vice. I am beyond irritable. I cry at the drop of a hat. My brain fog is unbelievably annoying. My brain is playing tricks on me. It whispers, “Go on…just have one bar or a sandwich…” Luckily, I have been pretty busy the past few days, but the monster inside has still been very vocal.
Oh, and to top all of this off, I am dropping everything!
This last week reminds me of the first few days when I gave up vaping. The intensity of the craving was vicious and relentless. My hyper-awareness was exhausting. My intense addictive actions were unavoidable. Over time I have become aware that I have much less tendency to use something to escape. I don’t vape any longer. I just sometimes want a muffin or two.
I’m not judging escapism. I’ve seen many different forms. We all indulge in some form from binge-watching the latest season of Stranger Things or a weekend gaming marathon or sitting for hours reading a book. Where does a hobby or activity cross the line from joy to escapism and addiction?
For me, it is when my internal thoughts are all consuming of whatever the “thing” is that I shouldn’t be doing or the “thing” I am well aware of I am over-consuming. Social media can fall into that category. I was thinking about how I used to count down the days to the weekend so I could let my hair down, go out, drink and party. I spent my life longing for that holiday so I could finally allow myself a break. I looked for special times or occasions to give myself permission for a break. I spent so much time on auto-pilot, I think I simply ran out of gas. And the monster then looks for sugar, a pick-me up.
I don’t like being reactive. I don’t want to be the passenger. I want to be the driver of my life!
I spent decades hating my life. It was determined by other people’s standards, and that became my identity. I got stuck in one place. I lost myself and found many ways to “check out.” I was afraid of change. I hated change.
The main question I should be asking myself when the Monster in me wants to grab food or do another behavior that is unhealthy is, “What are you feeling right now, Faith, that is making you feel sad, lonely, or mad? Is there something that is making you feel less confident or brave? How can we address that?”
I’m still working through those layers, and it’s always a work in progress. I am so proud of the level of awareness I now have.
Today is day three of my detox, and my headaches have stopped! I have mental clarity. My sugar levels are starting to stabilize. The Monster inside has calmed and shouts less. I am more peaceful than I have been in a while.
It feels good to stop running, It gets quite tiring at times. It feels good to be happy with where I am right now. And thank God, the yum yums are all gone!