By way of reminder. I can’t believe it’s been 5.5 years since…
I don’t like to use the word addiction but I will briefly use it here. I didn’t realize that I was addicted to sugar until this past July. A dear friend and client read me a small section out of the book, Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson that pierced me. We were sitting at North Star Cafe, one of my favorite diners, and at the very moment he read the words that described me as “skinny fat,” I was inhaling a wonderful baked treat that was smothered in homemade jelly. It was the sweetest thing…
I rode my bike that month a personal record of 1000 miles. My weight at the beginning of July was 168. My weight that day, at the very end of July, was exactly the same, 168. I looked fine and felt fine.
My healthy looks were deceiving me.
I was a sugar addict and didn’t want to face the facts any more than an alcoholic does. My cholesterol was over 260, my blood pressure was going up steadily and had hit a high of 150/90, my triglycerides were still in the normal range but on the rise, and worst of all my visceral fat numbers were through the roof. Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your organs and is the most dangerous kind to accumulate. I was storing it up like a bear going into hibernation, only I was far from hibernation. I was working out like a banchee, eating sugar during the training and coming home starved. My craving for sugar would be quickly satisfied with some toast and honey or some cinnamon sugar toast. In my mind I could eat whatever I wanted. I had earned the right to let my desires go unchecked. I would just work it off on the next ride. Or so I thought.
When M&M finished reading I was pierced and somewhat pissed. The words he read described my situation and yet there was a part of me that just felt like what a raw genetic deal I must have gotten. How could somebody who was eating fairly well, working out to such extremes be on the verge of clinical diabetes, and clinical obesity. In a word I felt powerless. I knew that I had a problem, but part of me just wanted to blame it on something besides my choice. I didn’t choose my genes, after all.
August 1, 2010 I told myself that I was addicted to sugar and that I was going to change my relationship to it, or at least really try. I wasn’t going on medicine yet to fix the problem. I was going to take the primal challenge and simply try what Mark put forth in his book. I told Miss of my plans and that if it didn’t work, I would shut up and take the blood pressure meds and the cholesterol shit too. I was now committed. My bride was a big help. She always is. She’s the best chef on the planet and she would now be given the challenge to rethink how she mastered her craft. My new eating lifestyle experiment was going to test her. I was going to cut out grains and sugars. My diet for the next three months was going to be proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Whole foods. Period.
No Cokes, no energy bars, no rice, no whole wheat bread, no white bread, no desserts (I did have a couple pieces of her pie, YEA BABY),and no excuses.
My cycling was cut from 1000 miles in July, to 800 in August, 600 in September, and 500 (estimate) in October. I began a three day pushups, planks, and pull up routine that was never more than 30 minutes but plenty intense. M&M would join me on most wednesdays for an even more intense version of the three P’s. Funny that its always easier to push when you’re pushed by another.
Miss made vegetables every way that is possible. We fell in love with Okra, discovered how filling and delicious butternut squash is, and olive oiled and salt and peppered our way through every vegetable imaginable. I ate steak. Lots of steak. Salmon too. Miss made salad after salad that are the best in the world. She came home one day with almond butter from Trader Joe’s that satisfied my hunger on countless occasions. That stuff is amazing. She never complained but I know she wondered, on a few occasions, if this was really going to work. I did too. I had my doubts.
After two weeks, my cycling wasn’t going well. I could barely keep up on the training rides and felt like a real slug. I wanted to go to the front and pull like a banchee, but couldn’t find the strength. I sat in the back and said nothing. M&M knew what was up but nobody else. I was kinda embarrassed, really.
The good news was that my weight was dropping and my breath was going primal. Within two weeks I had dropped 7 or 8 pounds. I couldn’t believe it. I was down around 160 and hadn’t really been hungry at all. My breath was beyond stinky. When the body goes into a sugar shock, it starts to go after the visceral fat. Mine had been there a while and it smelled accordingly. My insides were changing. This gave me some momentum to keep after it.
About week four, my cycling energy returned as if it had never gone. All of a sudden, I was back. I wasn’t any faster than previously but I wasn’t sitting in all ride either.
By week eight, I had lost 10 lbs and was into the high 150’s, a place I hadn’t seen in almost a decade, and then, only briefly. My energy felt level and strong. My craving for sugar wasn’t gone, but it was amazing how much it had dropped. A couple pieces of dark chocolate tasted super sweet. My almond butter and fruit smoothies, the same. I was beginning to believe that real progress was being made.
Week ten arrived and I could wait no longer. I scheduled my body scan with Dr. Visceral and waited for judgement day. I now weighed 156. I arrived at PrevaHealth a few minutes early, did the paperwork and waited for them to call me back. I had been here for a scan in 2006 and 2009 so we had some good comparative history. I was nervous like I used to get before a big tournament. I wanted to get in there and get it over with. I couldn’t wait to see if this experiment had worked. I was hopeful it had but still had some seeds of doubt.
After the 15 minute scan, back to the waiting room. After what seemed like an eternity, she called me back for my review. The first thing she said lit me up like a Christmas tree. She asked me a question. She asked me what medicine I was taking. None, I replied. She stared back in disbelief. She asked me how many fish oil pills/day I was swallowing. None, I replied. She then asked me how many aspirin/day. None.
By now, I was smiling uncontrollably. I can’t remember since the birth of our children, when I’ve felt more victorious. Funny, huh.
I told her that I was simply not eating sugar or anything that quickly turns to sugar in my bloodstream.
She told me she never sees results like what she was looking at. She told me that my plaque buildup around my heart, which was minimal, had actually decreased 18% over the past year. She told me that was unheard of. My smile widened.
She told me that my visceral fat which had gone from 170cm in 2006 to 192cm in 2009 had declined to 155cm. I was now below the target of 161cm. I was no longer diagnosed as “skinny fat.” I was now considered normal. My smile grew. She told me that no matter what comes from my physical next week, there’s no way she would want me on any medicine. My smile began to hurt. I felt a small tinge of what Plato said many moons ago,” the greatest victory is always against the self.”
My addiction to sugar was the problem. My sense that I deserved to eat whatever I wanted was the problem. My unwillingness to change my relationship to simple carbohydrates was the problem. My problem wasn’t going away. My problem was gradually getting worse. Gradually, I was consuming ever increasing amounts of sugar to satisfy my cravings for sweet. Gradually and nearly beyond my awareness, I was going the wrong direction and picking up speed to boot. My addiction wasn’t to pain killers or pornography. My addiction was my addiction. My addiction wasn’t the problem. My relationship to my addiction was. Naming it helped. Changing my relationship to sugar was the key.
Remember, those that overcome their addictions do so by assuming power over what they’ve felt they were powerless. AND they always have help. Remember, we are NOT meant to go it alone.
Thanks to a truth teller, M&M, who cared enough to jolt me. Thanks to my bride who did everything she could to help me.
This will most likely be the longest rant you’ll read from me. I hope it inspires some of you, that’s why I wrote. Sorry for the length, thanks for your attention, and remember that whatever your struggle, it’s NOT inevitable – it’s simply your struggle. You can get after it and overcome it. Good.
God bless you…