Flour and Sugar: A Tale of Slavery

The author has been asked how he gets by with no bread, pasta and all the other flour-sugar substances. Here’s his answer.

Update: A recent New York Times Magazine article on sugar as a toxin is worth reading as a companion to this post. Article summary: “That it makes us fat is something we take for granted. That it might also be making us sick is harder to accept.”

Mood music:

A reader of this blog wrote me over the weekend and asked how on Earth I’m able to exist without flour and sugar. No pasta? No bread? What else is there?

A woman in OA who I start sponsoring today asked the same question in a Saturday-night phone call. She said she’s hit rock bottom with the binge eating and is ready to do what she must to get better. But really, she asked. Does she HAVE TO give up flour and sugar?

The answer is no. Being in a 12-Step program for compulsive overeating is about one simple goal: To stop eating compulsively. There is no official OA diet.

I also tell people new to the program that sponsors are not doctors. We share the details of how we became abstinent and sober. But what works for us will probably not work for the next person.

No two addicts are the same. That goes for the substance we get addicted to, the manner in which we let it destroy our lives and how we come to the point where we realize it’s time to turn it all over to God or die by our own hands.

I know people in the program who are diabetics or who have intestinal problems that make them very sensitive to raw vegetables. Their food plans have to be different.

But it is true that most people in OA recovery abstain from all foods that have flour and sugar in the ingredients. Including me.

In my case, those ingredients were at the root of my addiction. Flour and sugar mixed together were for me what heroin was to Nikki Sixx or what vodka was to Ozzy Osbourne.

Not only did I put on an atrocious amount of weight binging on these things — I was 280 pounds at my worst — but I started running into some serious medical problems. I was waking up in the middle of the night throwing up stomach acid, for one thing. I was also experiencing an increased frequency of migraines, chest pains and deep fatigue.

I’m not a scientist or a nutritionist but I know this — days after I stopped eating flour and sugar all these things stopped happening to me.

That’s when I realized how enslaved I was to the stuff.

I also dropped more than 50 pounds on the spot. By four months in, the weight loss was 65 pounds, and I’ve maintained my current weight for nearly two years.

The wild thing is I lost the weight and have kept it off eating way more food than I ate before I got abstinent.

Almost everything I eat goes on a little scale. Four ounces of protein. Ten ounces of vegetable. Two ounces of brown rice or potato. Ten ounces of veggie is a lot.

My goal wasn’t really to lose weight. I didn’t mind being a big man. Hard to believe, perhaps. But it’s the truth.

I sought recovery for the sake of my sanity. My grip on reality was getting looser and looser, and without action I was going to fall into the abyss.

The weight loss was a bonus. And I won’t lie: I’m much more comfortable in this body than I was before.

Do I still wish I could eat a slice of pizza or have pasta once in awhile? Well, I thought I would have to fight back those urges. But I haven’t.

In fact, the sight and smell of McDonald’s or Papa Gino’s now makes me want to puke.

I never expected that. But I’ll take it.


25 thoughts on “Flour and Sugar: A Tale of Slavery

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  23. its funny how we react when we first get sober. how could we possibly live without the thing that is killing us…because after so much time it seems to be all we can live on.
    even for years afterwards, there is a small deep piece of us that says, “well, if the conditions changed, if we do things well enough, if something falls apart hard enough, could we maybe just have it one more time?”
    and i cannot say, no, i will NEVER EVER AGAIN…all i can ask for is one day. some days its just one minute or five seconds…but those are five seconds that i can make it without being enslaved. sometimes that is quite enough. Have a good one!

  24. Sugar revs my OCD brain. When I quit alcohol, I found that sugar and white foods became it’s substitute and now I pretty much always avoid them (exception- very very small taste of birthday cake) I’m calmer, my teeth are better and I dropped some weight. I’ll always have to be careful of what I eat because my OCD meds slow me down a bit, but eating cleaner and drinking a decent amount of water definitely has helped keep me less zippy zappy and not fitting into those clothes.

  25. I get asked that too, all the time, about sugar and white flour. Of course, I’m also not eating meat, dairy, or soy, so people are always like…what do you eat?? They were not addictions for me in the same way they were for you (although I definitely had a sweet tooth), but they were poisoning me. Giving up that stuff is the best thing I have done for my body, my health. Most of the time, I don’t even miss that stuff. I make my own “ice creams” now with unsweetened hemp or coconut milk, unsweetened cocoa and frozen fruit, and love it way more than any ice cream! When you find what works for you, you don’t mind giving up things, because you know you are better off for it!

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