I’M AN ADDICT
Back in 2009 was the first time I met my then-boyfriend’s parents.
Needless to say I was nervous.
I’d never formally met parents before and wasn’t sure how to behave.
When we arrived, I remember them being warm and friendly.
Dinner was roasted meat and vegetables.
I remember taking more than I should have and not being sure if I should force myself to eat it all.
Which is hindsight was an omen.
We made small talk – his parents asked me questions about university, work, my parents, nationality etc – all the normal stuff.
I mentioned how lovely their house was and all that.
Then came dessert.
I’ll never forget it.
His parents bought out a big tub of ice cream.
His Dad said casually they would divide the ice cream into 4 equal quarters for everyone.
I remember chuckling as I’d assumed he was making a joke.
Then suddenly I stopped when I realised he was dead serious.
I looked at my then-boyfriend with confusion.
No way was I going to eat that much ice cream.
I wasn’t even sure if I wanted any.
So I eventually just said that I’m happy for them three to share it and I sit out.
His parents looked at me like I was some sort of alien.
They tried to hide it of course as they were polite.
But I could see that the ice cream was very important to them.
Later when we got home, I quizzed him about it.
He enlightened me that in his family, they take dessert very seriously.
They would sometimes weigh their dessert to make sure everyone got an even amount.
Sometimes, if they had to share cookies together whilst watching TV, they would spend more time watching the cookies and trying to stuff their face with as much as they could, missing most of what they were watching.
They never had any sugar lying around in the house as they would eat everything as soon as they got it.
And no, none of them were fat – they would eat badly, then eat well for a while, then binge and back again.
This was normal for them.
For me though, it was a culture shock.
I come from a sharing family – We ate as much as we wanted and there was always food left over.
Which has it’s own problems – A certain unfairness which has caused us to hide food in our bedrooms that we didn’t want to share as adults.
Regardless, it was normal for there to be food at my parents house – after all, my parents literally have 3 fridges in their house.
So to me, the whole thing with this boyfriend’s parents was entertainingly absurd.
Anyway, after my first initial meeting, we started spending time with his parents a lot.
Playing board games as well as holidays etc.
And without them meaning to, I became very aware that sharing dessert was a special point of rapport for them.
All of them hustles together indulging, a certain sense of satisfaction that I couldn’t be a part of.
And because I wanted to build rapport, I began to start forcing myself to eat dessert.
Honestly, it was traumatic at first – the sudden rush of sugar and feeling terrible.
But over time, I got used to it.
I started enjoying it.
And most importantly, it became part of my coping mechanism.
This coincided with some stressful times in the early days of starting a business.
So I ate.
Some type of dessert everyday.
I started craving chocolate cake, cannoli’s, tim tams – you name it.
And I started becoming ingrained in this boyfriend’s family.
But what happened was I was getting fatter.
My body had no way to handle it.
I was ballooning.
And I couldn’t imagine that feeling of hating sugar anymore.
It now sounded absurd to me that there was a time I wasn’t a sugar person.
It wasn’t until some time later that I realised it wasn’t feasible to maintain rapport in this way.
Nor is it healthy.
So I tried to stop but it was too late – sugar had become part of my coping mechanism.
If my day went badly, I wanted dessert.
If it went great, I wanted to celebrate with dessert.
Not to mention it had now become the backbone of all get-togethers – birthdays, christmas and other holidays were celebrated with extravagant desserts.
This wasn’t something we did in my Fijian-indian Hindu family.
Not except for Diwali once a year.
So it now became a big part of our life.
And when I started ballooning up, I would try to exercise and cut the sugar out.
Except that I would spend all my time fantasising about dessert until that one day I could have my cheat day.
But then the cheat day would be like me falling off a cliff and having to climb back on, until the next cheat day.
I felt like I was traumatising myself.
I felt unhappy and deprived.
Which is why it never worked – I would always fall off the cliff, feeling guilty about what I shouldn’t be doing.
But eating badly anyway.
Until I hate myself enough to start the process all over again.
I’ve done this cycle – a lot.
My Addiction Cycle was out of control…
Last year 2017 was the worst.
Last year I decided to go back home to Sydney, Australia to spend time with family.
I was planning to leave after a month so in the meantime, I would give myself full permission to enjoy all of Dad’s food that I can possibly handle.
And I did..
This would have been fine except that I decided to stay for nearly 5 months.
And became the fattest I’ve ever been in my life.
Like seriously unhealthy.
Mostly static, no exercise and ate everything there was at my parents house until Dad restocked – which was too often.
Not his fault – he wanted to see me happy.
Not this boyfriends’ parent’s fault either – they were doing whatever makes them happy.
So when I came to Chiang Mai, I needed change.
I couldn’t do the cycle anymore.
I needed to look at what was happening.
And the first important thing I realised was:
I’m an addict.
A sugar addict.
I don’t have the mental capacity to eat sugar one day and cut it out the next.
I’m an addict.
I have to treat this like an addiction.
I have to allow my body time to stop craving it.
I have to have a symbolic sugar funeral.
As in say goodbye.
A real goodbye – of all my favourite foods.
And do a symbolic 12 step program.
- Forgive myself.
- Feel the feelings as they come.
- Understand it’s about how I cope.
- And find new ways to cope when things are bad (like gym).
- Learn to allow other people to have their addiction.
- And try to be a part of it in some small way (I now smell desserts – that’s all).
- Understand it’s a long process..
- And I might falter.
But it’s ok because I’m an addict…
You know it’s funny the more I see sugar as an addiction, the more I realise how hard it is for people like me to quit.
If I was a cocaine addict, I could tell my friends & family and know that they most likely weren’t going to stick candles on top of it for my birthday.
Or if I happened to say no to cocaine, people most likely aren’t going to try to stick it in my mouth forcefully and say “You’ll love this, try it!”
Or most importantly, there aren’t advertising signs everywhere I look that would push me to imagine snorting cocaine.
All of this happens with sugar and desserts.
And it’s bloody hard.
But it gets easier over time.
I’ve been sugar-free for about 6 weeks now and right now I feel no cravings for sugar.
I can be around friends that eat it, comment on how good it looks, smell it and let it go.
In my mind, I’ve had my sugar funeral.
But that doesn’t mean that sucker won’t become a zombie, crawl out of it’s grave and try to eat my brain again.
I’m okay with that possibility because I’m an addict.
Honestly, it’s much easier to be sugar free here in Thailand because most of the advertising are for things like snail whitening cream and motorbikes.
It gets much harder being back in a western country.
Where ice creams and desserts are mostly advertised at peak low-willpower times.
I don’t know how I’m going to cope without indian sweets in my life either.
But I must.
I’m an addict.
This is a picture Damien took of my as I was enjoying one of my favourite desserts in the world, Hokkaido Cheesecake Tart. It is seriously amazing. Just look at the happiness in my face.