Hi, My Name Is Juliet, And I’m A Sugarholic


Though it may sound sweet, a sugar addiction can be just as dangerous as other dependencies. (Alex Palomino/The Observer)

Published: April 30, 2009

One day, I was having lunch with a group of my co-workers. They were all having the pizza that they had ordered in, while I was eating some edamame and steamed broccoli that I had brought from home. I could tell that everyone was staring at me as the conversation tapered off, so I just munched on my broccoli. Then one colleague asked, “Juliet, why aren’t you having pizza?” I lied and said, “I’m just not that into pizza,” because I didn’t want to go into detail about my eating habits. Another colleague asked, “Are you on a diet?” I replied, “No, this is just how I eat.” After a few uncomfortable seconds, someone finally changed the subject.

I am faced with these conversations almost daily. In nearly all of these exchanges, I feel the need to explain that I am not on a diet and that I have just adopted a nutrition-conscious lifestyle. This lifestyle includes an abundance of fruits, veggies and whole grains, less meat, and no refined sugar. Most people have images of college students grabbing free food at every opportunity, whether it’s pizza for breakfast or ice cream for dinner, but asking me to follow this regimen is the equivalent of offering a cocktail to an alcoholic. I am a reformed sugar addict.

Many people find it odd that I’m not “living it up” and “going nuts” during the exploratory period of my undergraduate years. But for fear of falling into an addictive downslide, I resist the temptation to follow suit. The sugar in the pizza and the ice cream would trigger in me a voracious appetite for all things processed, food-colored and sugar-injected. The moment I get the first spoonful of that luscious, creamy, strawberry ice cream, the more I crave it.

My life used to revolve around sugar. If there were desserts hiding around the house, I would ferociously seek them out. I would rearrange pots and pans, and I would plunder cabinets just to find my sugar fix.

Then, the day arrived when I finally hit bottom. I had intense highs, where I was jumpy, jittery and overly excited. This was followed by severe lows, during which I was sobbing uncontrollably and wanted to crawl back into bed and never get out. After the third time I threw myself on the bed in tears, I realized that I needed to give up sugar. I realized that I was a slave to this substance and that I needed to eliminate this obsession from my life.

After burrowing into numerous anti-sugar books, I decided to alter my lifestyle. Now, I keep careful track of what I eat and I buy as few processed foods as possible. I almost never consume white flour, and I abstain from eating dessert.  As a result, I’ve lost weight, I sleep more soundly, and I have more energy, but I get a lot of flak from people about the way I eat. This bothers me because I wish I could have one donut hole and store the rest away, but I can’t. I needed to give up sugar altogether if I had any chance of having a day devoid of mood swings.

Sometimes when people comment on my eating habits, they voice concerns that I have an eating disorder. Because I am vigilant about the way I eat, they assume that I harshly restrict the amount of food I consume. I appreciate that people care enough to be concerned, but sometimes the furrowed brow, pursed lips and eyes squinted with concern are enough to make me shudder with exasperation. I despise having to tell people that I don’t have an eating disorder, and I’m not sure that they believe me anyway.

Oftentimes, when I encounter the broccoli-pizza situation like the one with my colleagues, I feel like I’d be too vain and condescending if I went into too much detail about my nutrition-conscious eating habits. When I feel that there is a safe, non-judgmental space to talk about my eating habits and the resulting physical and emotional gains, then I will explain. Otherwise, I keep my “sugar consumption will result in [insert degenerative disease here]” warnings and “giving up sugar will eliminate your mood swings” affirmations to myself.

I am aware that the way I eat is a bit extreme compared to the norm, especially for a college student. Nevertheless, I do not appreciate when people automatically assume that they should be worried about the way I eat or that I will judge them for what they eat. Other people have different health needs, and I know that the way I eat might not work for everyone. It is important to me that the air of condescension (on both sides) is wiped clean around this subject. I am perfectly willing to have a conversation about my eating habits as long as the people I’m conversing with understand that I am not trying to change them. I’m just sharing what I do to subdue the sugar monster in me.