Addiction is a strong word, and I didn't want to believe that there could be such a thing as "sugar addiction" because, I, myself, was addicted to it. (Am I still an addict even though I no longer touch sugar? I would say no, but maybe once an addict, always an addict...?)`
I remember once, talking about how I loved eating cake and my mother said "Sugar addiction!" and I denied it strongly and fervently, but looking back, I think she was right. I was addicted to the sugar in the cake! I thought it was just that cake was a wonderful creation...what's not to love about cake, right...but it's not that, it's the sugary sweetness that is the hook. I wouldn't crave a salty snack like that. I wouldn't crave veggies like that. And although I enjoy butter, I don't CRAVE it like that. I did, however, crave the combo of sugar and fat, I can see that now. Chocolate and cake for me, those were my two biggies! I never craved pure sugar like lollipops or hard candies, but give it to me mixed with butter and fats like in a baked good and I was a goner!
But I never SAW my addiction back then. I just thought "Well, it's natural to love sweet, delicious foods, not so?" But since stopping ALL sweet stuff, including sweeteners (hooray!!!) I can now see how I actually was addicted.
And now, trying to cut sugar (and bread) out of my son's diet has opened up my eyes to how addicted he is. I feel guilty, actually, because I am the one who got him addicted in the first place by sharing all my cakes with him! I would take him out for a "treat" every so often, never once considering it harmful in anyway. I honestly used to think it was harmless - I mean, he is a scrawny kid who could do with some meat on his bones, so what was the harm in giving him a few "empty" calories - but I now know, it's not about the calories, it's about what sugar does once it gets inside him - and that is not good! Because sugar is actually both glucose and fructose combined. And fructose is the toxic part. (More on fructose in a future post, I promise, it's frightening, but watch this Youtube clip by Dr. Robert Lustig if you want to know more about the dangers of fructose). And the sweetness is the addictive part that causes craving.
But back to my point: which is that when I cut sugar from my son's diet for three days (I thought, let's start with only three days) he kept on seeking sugar. Asking for it. Craving it.
We did three days of no sugar and no bread a while back, with the reward being a small piece of cake (eish, I know, I know...it was all I could think of to get him to agree...I must use something else as the reward, I get it...) and I noticed that my son got BAD withdrawal symptoms. He complained of sore tummy, sore head, he felt weak, he got sore legs (I wondered if he was cramping? although he didn't describe a cramping sensation) and he even ran an unexplained fever. Now, the fever could very well have been something else, so I don't say it's related, but the timing was odd.
We haven't done no sugar and no bread since then, and that was around three weeks ago, because he has been going to school, and school is really a terribly sugar-laden place. Sugar is everywhere - in other kid's lunch boxes, as treats from teachers, and every Friday they have Baker Baker day where the kids take turns being the "Baker" and "selling" their wares - which is ALWAYS a sweet, sugary treat (either a cookie, a donut, a cupcake or some other such thing. Once it was a toffee-apple - my gawd - this thing was like a monstrous lollipop and so I allowed my son one lick and then told him to throw it away!)
So I felt it would be a little bit of a losing battle to cut out bread and sugar only to have him get it at school anyway. Not that I gave up, I still cut right back on those two bad carbs, but I wasn't very strict. But he would still ask every day for sweet things (he still does!) and he asks me constantly for bread (when the last loaf finished I didn't buy any more).
Now it's school holidays and so yesterday, we started another sugar-free, bread-free three days - so yesterday, even though I allowed him rice cakes and some plain Rice Krispies with milk (from what I read, rice is not too bad) he didn't have any other major carbs, and NO sugar at all. He drank milk and water.
Today, he seems to be going through the detox again. He is pale, listless, sluggish and complaining of his legs being tired. It would appear that he really is addicted to sugar, physically, even, and not just mentally. He keeps asking for honey, fruit, bread, cake or rice cakes. He constantly asks for any carby food you can imagine. I hope that this passes and gets better soon.
The plus side is this: every time we cut back on the bad carbs, he eats more of something healthy. He has just recently discovered salmon - and to my utmost joy, he loves it! My six year old likes salmon, what a miracle. And he likes butter on cheese, and has gone back to eating Greek yoghurt. He loves scrambled eggs and will ask for it most mornings, and now that I have cut back on his fruit juice, he asks for Rooibos tea again - we make it with xylitol (a little) and some milk.
So whilst I sometimes feel bad watching him battle with his addiction (and I can see it SO clearly now) I truly believe I am doing the right thing. It's not that I want him to go very low on carbs - I don't mind if he eats an apple, or some oats (although he doesn't like them, but still) and I have happily made him healthier muffins and encourage him to eat sweet potatoe, I definitely believe in no wheat and no sugar for kids.