Shanetta McDonald
Updated Dec 28, 2016 @ 3:38 pm
Credit: Peter Dazeley/iStock/Getty

As I impulsively licked caramel icing off my hands from the croissant I purchased, I realized I had a problem. Parked in a lot, zoned out and stuffing my face, I was too eager to wait until I got home to eat my sweet breakfast. Reemerging from my sugar blackout, I realized what I was actually doing.

This was not just a “sweet tooth.” I had hit my bottom with sugar.

Nearly a year prior to this incident, I began treatment for an eating disorder. I suffered from food addiction and body obsession which reared it’s head in the form of bulimia and binge eating. My story is similar to those of many others with eating disorders. I lost the ability to control myself around food and as a result, I couldn’t show up for my life. Once I sought help for my ED, my life changed immensely. I was given tools for living and a plan of action on how to get a daily reprieve from binging and purging. I ate three meals a day and one optional snack, refrained from eating at events with unlimited quantities of food and I limited my mealtimes to one serving. But, I soon learned that although identifying triggering behaviors was key in maintaining my sobriety with food, I also needed to take a look at the triggering foods I ate.

From my earliest memories, sugar was a big part of my life. As a young child, my weekly allowance was spent on trips to the candy store, and throughout my teenage years, I consumed sugary breakfast foods, sweet treats and dessert foods daily. This might be normal for many people, but unlike others who grow out of such unhealthy food habits, my consumption grew worse. At meals out with friends, I struggled to be present. My mind was set on dessert. And, I couldn’t walk down the candy aisle in a drugstore without grabbing handfuls of goodies, or contemplating for minutes whether I should indulge or not. I needed my fix.

Credit: Zero Creatives/iStock/Getty

In college, my slew of dieting phases began and I tried to manage the amount of sweets I ate, which only worked temporarily.

My bottom with sugar was more significant than my bottom with binging and purging, because it minimized my need to act out in said behaviors. When I ate sugar, I couldn’t stop, and I was always plotting my next fix, which almost always led to a binge. Most times that binge led to feelings of guilt, shame and regret which ultimately caused me to purge. I couldn’t eat sugar like a normal person no matter how much I tried.

Eliminating sugar from my diet was the best thing I could have done to treat my ED. In my two-years of being sugar-free, I’m rarely triggered to binge or purge, and I no longer experience the extreme physical and emotional highs and lows associated with overeating sugar.

For many people, certain foods, animals or environmental elements trigger their allergies and spark a damaging response by the body to said substance, and that’s exactly what sugar does to me. Sugar is my allergy, and my treatment plan is to abstain from it in order to live a healthy, sane life.