I ate sugar today. I do every day. I eat too much of it. Sometimes I attempt to cut it out of my diet, not entirely, but noticeably. I’ll admit my body feels better for it.
Recently, in my “I will quit everything and live a pure life” stage, I even downloaded a copy of Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar e-book. Some of what she wrote resonated with me. Some of it did not. I admire someone who can commit fully to an ideology and a way of life. There’s something inspiring about not giving up. I give up all of the time and it’s something I’m working on. I also find her rigidity unnerving.
On a recent trip to Sydney, I was walking through the food court eating a Macca’s hamburger and drinking a Coke. As I stood there inhaling my sugar and fat-filled lunch I spied someone who looked familiar walking through the crowd towards me. It was Sarah Wilson. I immediately felt I should throw my hamburger behind me and hide the soft drink under my top. Shit. Shit. Shit. My conscience was walking towards me. A woman so vocal about the evils of sugar and processed food was strolling through the crowd. I actually thought the God of Sanctimonious Living would shoot me down in flames.
But instead of fleeing in shame, my inner rebel took over and as she walked past I slurped my drink and munched my burger in defiance. I know I was poisoning myself with toxins, but it did make me giggle. And man, that burger tasted much better than it actually was.
So, it was with much interest I read Sarah’s latest post about how she too had succumbed to sugar. The almighty had fallen. I think she wanted to be transparent to her “followers”, show that she was human and that even she the Queen of Healthy Eating could fall prey to sugar’s evil ways. Sugar is a temptress you know.
In her words, she thought by telling her readers, that two chocolate croissants “undid” her, would “Contribute Something Helpful” (I have no idea why those words were capitalised). But the more I read, the more I found myself gagging on my sugary breakfast cereal. If providing a bit of a giggle, followed quickly by an uncomfortable uneasiness, was the “Something Helpful” then she succeeded. Here’s an excerpt:
“So yesterday I ate two chocolate croissants. Let’s be sure: they weren’t even good ones. They were stodgy and filled with PUMA-drenched Nutella-like goo. And I’d already eaten a full breakfast. And ate them with extra butter. But I was having a flap. And the flap took me straight back to a well-grooved rut that I spent, ooohhhh, a good twenty years chiselling into my being. It’s the rut that I used to go to almost daily when I got hurt, uncertain, uncomfortable, wobbly. Stodgy, PUMA-drenched pastries were what I would drown myself in when the panic and anxiety in my gut got too much. The stodge was like a suffocating pillow I could jam down on top of the anxiety. It would work. For five seconds. Until vile guilt overwhelmed me. And the anxiety – now carrying the weight of a gluten-y, sugary pillow – would flare up again.”
She goes on to detail what caused the eating of two croissants.
“What triggered the flap? A bit of travel loneliness, solo existence listlessness (it gets so damn exhausting making decisions on your own, like where to today? Should I hike here or there? etc.), oh, and also emotional confrontation.”
Look, before you all get grumpy at me for this. I get that for many people eating sugar does negatively impact on their bodies (as it does Sarah’s) and it impacts on them emotionally, but the obsessive nature in which she writes about eating the two croissants is reminiscent of how I would’ve written in my diary about eating a Mars Bar as a calorie-obsessed teenager. This extreme obsession over food is troubling. I hope the young women who follow Sarah Wilson, who have given up sugar not because of medical reasons, but for weight issues do not feed off this. I hope this sort of self loathing for eating just two croissants, doesn’t send a message to young girls that it is ok to punish yourself emotionally for eating something unhealthy. That when you give in to a sweet craving you must wallow in your misery before being “mature” and getting on with your rigid eating plan. I hope it doesn’t justify an anorexic’s harmful relationship with food.
The message to send people should be to maintain a healthy lifestyle through moderation, not extremism. And by connecting her food blip with her entire emotional wellbeing is unsettling, to say the least.
But what is also troubling is that she has used this revelation, this declaration of failure, to promote the commencement of her next 8-week course. It worked. She’s got the promotion required. I’ve fallen into the trap by writing about it. You must sign up to the plan to stop yourself from failing over and over again, right?
However, unlike when I imagined her happily living a lifestyle she had chosen for herself, I now feel a little sad for her. To live with such an unhealthy relationship with food to the point your emotional well being is so damaged by eating two croissants, must be very difficult. I wish her all the best.
And I hope that the women out there obsessing over every morsel that passes their lips find the support and guidance they need and do not hook onto the belief that it is ok to beat yourself up with such conviction over such a small thing as two croissants. Imagine how they’d react if they found themselves alone in an airport eating an entire Happy Meal?
What are your thoughts?
Brilliant! balance is the key, it really is. Extremism in any form and to which ever end of the scale is not good. Obsessing over our weight and what we look like is not good either. I doubt very much that I could ever quit sugar, not that I would want to. Life is full of too many good things, that have sugar! Everything in moderation x
I just keep looking at the picture of the croissants and wanting them x
Oh, I laughed out loud (literally) while reading this – especially the Coke slurp. I couldn’t agree more. Moderation is key. When I do eat a vanilla slice (my fave), or the bread and butter pudding (with a ganache shot) from my local bakery (and this is a regular occurence), I feel absolutely no guilt. I enjoy every last scrumptious morsel. I do follow the 5:2 diet, because the principles really work for me (the anti-cancer and other health benefits) as well as helping me to maintain a healthy weight (emphasis on healthy – I got curves, and I love ’em ;O) Importantly, though, the reason the 5:2 diet works for me is because it’s incredibly doable, fits in well with my lifestyle, and it’s got great health (scientifically proven) benefits, but it doesn’t “tell me what to do” on the those other five days. So, it’s vanilla slices and chocolate ganache shots a go-go! No guilt. And, no, I could not, would not quit sugar.
I too have followed the 5:2 plan and agree it had some good points about it, but for me I function better if best I just eat healthier the whole time. Good luck x
That is rather disturbing indeed. Where is the grace? By talking about it in such guilty terms, it’s encouraging her followers to feel the same if they “slip up” too – telling them it’s shameful under the guise of being “honest and real”.
I can only wish her the best on her journey. Sounds tricky x
Beautifully written Bianca. Often those who preach a message do so because they feel it keenly – so their extreme views and reactions are what you’d expect. It’s like a greenie confessing to standing under a hot shower for way too long, for the fun of it. They would personally feel extreme guilt for wasting so much water and energy.
Holding strong convictions takes a certain disposition and it’s not in everyone’s DNA to be quite so intense. I think your reaction is very human, but that doesn’t make Sarah’s any less so. And Sarah is right – sugar is really bad for us.
I am only thinking good things for Sarah as it sounds like she facing a tough path xx
When are we going to get past the whole ‘good girl dieting’ ‘bad girl for eating’ bs? I’m looking forward to that day. 🙁 And what the whakapapa is a PUMA food? Eh?
I have no idea what PUMA is? Nor do I know what whakapapa is?! ; )
I am currently picking strawberries, marshmallows and chocolate melts (as I had no block chocolate in the house) out of my teeth and thinking about how I refuse to feel any guilt. Guilt is something I am served copious amounts of in many other forms as a Mum and I refuse to allow “spoil” food (a pleasure I sometimes enjoy) to be ruined by an emotion which is actually wasted on anything other than purposeful harm to another. If you have an occasional pleasure in this life, then enjoy it I say.
Guilt does not help anyone. Strawberries on the other hand mmmm x
I love this post. As a household with medical conditions, we’ve spent a lot of time with a nutritionist to eat in the best way for us.
What has always bugged me about Sarah Wilson and this IQS craze is that this is how she eats. And that’s great. If it works for her & her health then power to her! But I hate that just because it works for her it sells books and other people get told to eat the same way. Um, no. We all have different tastes & conditions.
In my opinion, writing about ‘slipping up’ goes to show her own bad relationship with food. There is no such thing as ‘slipping up’ if you eat in a suitable manner for your health. This includes the “good” and “bad” foods! (I don’t like those words but I could rant for hours on that haha!)
“Slipping up” is fad diet mentality.
I’m strongly anti-diet and anti this crap about sugars being bad. Actually, our body requires sugars! Just like many other things… in moderation to each other.
For all these people who buy diet cookbooks and follow training programs – have you ever just gone to your GP or a nutritionist for help? Don’t listen to random strangers or your Personal Trainer, talk to someone who is actually qualified to give personal advice.
I had gestational diabetes with two of my children so like yourself am aware of “sugars” and balancing your sugar levels. Felt the best I’ve ever felt on a diabetes diet and I still ate sugar which was the best part. I;m with you on this one x
I was reading this as I ate some dark chocolate with almonds. Yum!
I’m not into extremism at all and think moderation is the key. In our house McDonalds is part of our weekly menu plan and am sick of sanctimonious people pointing out how awful and disgusting it is. Each to their own.
An excellent article, Bianca, one that I could relate to whole-heartedly. I too, tried to cut sugar out of my diet completely. Did I succeed? Hell no! Life is too short to not eat chocolate but am I more wise about what shite I put into my mouth? Yessiree.
Great piece B.
I also felt sad when I read her piece. Really, really sad.
There is actually a name for the rigid condition you wish to avoid, orthorexia. Ben Kim writes so well on this topic.
I think the focus really needs to be on health. Everything in moderation – even too much of a good thing is too much. A balanced diet, with lots of fresh fruit and veggies, along with exercise will keep you healthy inside and out.
I have the same reaction when I see how ‘flawless’ Michelle Bridges has become over the last few years as she chastises parents for daring to allow a greasy chip to enter the beaks of their precious little chicks. Am I imagining it!? If she can’t accept herself the way she is, god help the miserable, starving girls she preaches to about all things body beautiful. Damage can be inflicted in many different ways. A chip or a chocolate croissant are nowhere near the worst!
Good post!!! Everything has to be in moderation. I think you should always strive to continually improve your diet, lifestyle and yourself, but to obsess over one particular thing is unhealthy for the mind.
I loved this post, Bianca. Not only bigwords but wise words. As someone who has spent most of their life battling the bulge, I find these diet extremes really unnerving. That’s when people really start to obesess about food… I finally got to my goal weight but only by eating healthy, being happy and having a little of what I fancy. Health is more than a body shape, it’s a state of mind. There’s no point having one without the other!
I think people who cut whole food groups from their diet for any other reason besides serious health conditions are strange. Why deprive yourself ? Why set yourself up for failure ? I believe in moderation. I eat raw foods. I eat veggies. I eat sugar & fat & I’d drink coke every bloody day if I could but I know it’s no good so I limit it.
I too feel sorry for Sarah. She has so much to live up to & it’s all her own doing….
If I beat myself up every time I ate something bad, I’d be black and blue. Granted I’m not nearly as healthy as Sarah Wilson, but I think hers is an extreme form of ‘healthy’ eating. Surely moderation is better than complete abstinence where sugar is involved? Her post made me think of the young girls reading it and reprimanding themselves in the future for a minor hiccup in their healthy eating programs. The post just doesn’t sit well with me…