Confessions of a Sugar Addict

Confronting our vices is hard. But since I have always believed in the mantra “Be the Change You Want to see in the world”, I am going to publicly share my biggest vice with you. I am an addict of sugar. I turn to sugar when I’m lonely, tired, sad, angry, and even when I’m happy, because sugar gives me comfort and joy. Fried, sugar-coated churros dipped in whipped cream and Nutella chocolate is my best friend. I would casually pick up two chocolate chip cookies and smother them with five heavy pumps of chocolate soft-serve from Allison dining hall. As I watch the number on my scale rocket, I continue to block my own consciousness and stuff my frustrations with another buttery edged brownie, another frosted sugar cookie, and another cup of silk-smooth chocolate milk.

I go onto “Psychology Today” and read about why people binge eat or why people are addicted to food as I chew on my overly coy Boston cream pie. I am mindless. I listen to podcast about making choices and the proven negative effects of sugar on my body while I continue rushing to Starbucks after class to purchase that salted caramel mocha I have craved since the start of my day. Somehow, the scientific facts have absolute no effect on my actions; I continue to be reigned by my emotions and irrationality. The comfort of sugar continues to bring me warmth, and the digit on the scale continues to skyrocket.

I can’t help but ask myself: Why is it that I want to be healthy but can’t stop resorting to sugar? Why is it that I know sugar is just empty calories but still can’t choose an apple over an ice-cream sandwich? I asked myself these questions over and over, only to find myself disappointed at the answers. 


Being a philosophy major, I decided to turn to my favorite philosophers for help. St. Augustine looked at me pitifully and said: it’s your bodily habits. Alexandra, you are so used to experiencing the rewards of indulging in desserts that your body naturally goes to it even when your mind tells you otherwise. When you skip dessert for a meal, your brain remembers the taste of the chocolate cake and sends you a signal that coerces you to walk to the dessert section and put something on your plate, even when your mind knows it’s the wrong thing to do. Plato, on the other hand, says: Don’t blame yourself too hard, Alexandra. It’s just ignorance. You might think you know the negative effects of sugar, but in fact, you are not fully aware. The fact that you haven't suffered a chronic disease due to your excessive intake of sugar means that you have not fully experienced the negative effects of sugar.


Augustine and Plato’s insights made me think. Eventually, I came up with three ways to combat sugar addiction that I plan to try for myself in the upcoming week. I hope they can benefit you as well, if you happen to have a similar experience as me. I know this can be hard, because nobody really thinks of sugar addiction as addiction. But it is a real issue, and if you are not alone in this struggle. Here are the tips - First, watch the documentary “Obesity: The Post Mortem” by BBC. Witnessing how sugar turns into the oozing, nasty layers of yellow fat that increase the size of your organs will you leave you in utter shock and disgust. Hopefully this will increase your knowledge about why sugar is bad. Second, find an alternative to stuffing your mouth with sugary foods when you are seeking comfort. The trick to breaking a powerful habit is not to eliminate the current habit, but to find an alternative. Instead of eating scones and muffins for breakfast and orange pie after dinner, pick up an apple instead. Drink some fruit-infused water. Be aware that sometimes the dessert is satisfying your emotional need rather than your hunger. Third, and most importantly, eat mindfully. If you do choose to eat a brownie, eat it slowly. Fully immerse yourself in the experience and drown yourself in the gooey texture as well as the sweet taste that it leaves on the tip of your tongue. Eat each bite slowly and methodically, one chunk at a time, and you will be surprised at how sweet a brownie actually tastes.

I know the process of breaking a sugar addiction hard. Sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine. I struggle with sugar, especially more so at Northwestern where tempting desserts lurk everywhere. Desserts have become my most convenient source of comfort. Many in the community do not take sugar addiction seriously, because its effects are not immediately observable. However, the process is challenging, and if you ever need to talk about your experience, please feel free to reach out to me. The campus dietician Lisa (she can be reached at lisa.carlson@compass-usa.com) is another amazing resource, and she will transform your understanding of food in no time. Beating sugar addiction is hard, but I believe me sharing my personal struggle is the first step to combatting it.  


Alexandra Huang