By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Come on, it's Sunday," she begs. "Every- one deserves a break on Sunday."
No, they don't, I think, but opt to take one anyway. We share a bowl of the cookie-dough flavor. My mouth doesn't like the mealy morsels of rice swimming in the ultra-sweetened creamy substance. Nevertheless, with one bite the candy freak in me is unleashed. Immediately after leaving the pudding shop, we stop off at the closest Duane Reade so I can buy packs of gummy bears and Twizzlers. They are inhaled.
Every day after work, once I get off the C train, I pass a Super Foodtown grocery store. Now, this isn't just any grocery store. The important thing to note about this store: It sells strawberry laces. Each coiled lace contains an artificially flavored abundance of sweet goodness.
Thus, the journey home creates a constant battle. Should I stop off and buy a pack of the laces? Or can I muster up the courage to fight my craving? My only motivation to fight it is knowing that when I dogive in, I usually fall victim to a tragic overdose, which leaves me shriveled up on the couch in a bout of paralysis. I didn't intend to make the stop today, but the laces wouldn't stop calling me.
Once I commit to giving in to my wanton craving for the tantalizing sweets, I become impatient. By the time I make it into the store, I'm so eager to consume the candy that I run to the metal shelves where the laces are stored and I eat a few on the spot. On my walk home from Super Foodtown, which is only two blocks, I've consumed 20 of the 50 laces. As predicted, exactly one hour later, the box is history. So am I.
I decide to hit up Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, the medical director of the New York Diabetes Center and author of Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars and The Diabetes Diet: Dr. Bernstein's Low-Carbohydrate Solution. If anyone can scare me into giving sugar up, it's him.
Bernstein assures me that it is quite possible to be addicted to sugar. He tells me about a two-decade-old study that found that if rodents were fed carbs, the serotonin levels in their brains increased.
"[Sweets] raise serotonin levels in your brain and make you feel better," he says. And they are fast-acting.
Bernstein reminisces on a time 40 years ago when sugar addiction wasn't as prevalent in our society. He remembers riding with a cab driver who used to get excited when he stopped at red lights.
"He liked to look at the girls," Bernstein says. "He especially liked it when the sun shone through their skirts."
But now most of the people he sees on the street are obese. The diabetes epidemic is proof of our addiction to sugar, he says.
"And it's not just sugar. It's things that get rapidly converted to sugar, the happy things that raise your serotonin levelsbread, pasta, and carbs."
I guess they call them "simple sugars" for a reason. America has become so fixated on instant gratification that, at the moment we begin to feel pain, we numb it with a spoonful.
By this point, it's prettyevident that I need professional help. There is only one option: Desrosiers's services. She offers one-on-one counseling to help you kick your sugar addiction. I schedule a session with her.
Two weeks later I arrive at her castle-like brownstone. She greets me with a warm hug.
First we go over my diet history. She asks me questions like "What kinds of things did you eat growing up?" and "How often do you exercise?" I notice that I remain defensive throughout the session. She'll inquire about what I ate for lunch and I'll blurt out that I had pizza every day this week, but I usually don't do this and it has just been a really, really bad week, so give me a break, OK? Then I remember she was only asking what I ate for lunch.
Later, I let her know that I have pangs of hunger every hour or two. If I don't eat, the right side of my stomach hurts immensely. She suspects that I have already developed hypoglycemia. I tell her that this can't be. She tells me that it can.
It's the end of the session, and once we discuss the price of her services, I realize I will not be able to complete the program. Her six-month solution costs $1,500which is $1,350 more than I can afford. I inform her of my low funds and she lets me know that we can work out some sort of payment plan. I entertain the thought, but realize that a payment plan doesn't work if I don't have any money.
So I'm at it alone again. The only difference between my situation now and my predicament of two weeks ago is that I know what not to do. For example, I'm aware that vowing never to eat candy again isn't going to work. If I want to stay clean, I must come up with a goal and a plan to get there. The first thing I give myself is a date to work toward. If my goal is only to stay clean for a select amount of timeinstead of eternitythen I'm less likely to freak out and relapse. Once I reach that goal, I will be reluctant to throw all my hard work away and eat sweets again. (I am sticking to eliminating all refined sweets because they are bad for you, too.) It's a kind of reverse psychology.