We’re inching towards the finish line. The recipe template is complete. The chapters have nearly finished the editing stage. The cover is designed. The Preface is written. All I do is write and revise lately. It’s been simultaneously frustrating, exhilarating and cathartic. We’re still aiming for a February appearance on Amazon. (Hopefully!)
Revealing the Preface of my book is intimidating, at best. It’s a no-holds barred glimpse into the genesis of Kitchen 2.0. The running theme of my adulthood has been helping others. Motherhood, teaching, addiction advocate, and now, this blog and cookbook. If The Kitchen 2.0 Cookbook helps someone understand and conquer their addiction to sugar, then I’ve done my job.
Thirteen months ago, I was caught in an endless cycle of eat – regret – resolve to change. You know what I’m talking about if you also are addicted to sugar. Every time I ate carbs, I felt better. Not physically, mind you, but mentally. Less anxious. Peaceful. It’s hard to describe. But then the regret would cross my mind …. “This isn’t good for me! Why do I do this?” I’d resolve to stop treating my body like a trash can. Then later, my sugar level would drop, anxiety would return, and the desire for carbs would flood my thoughts. If I didn’t indulge, the urge would get louder and louder in my brain. Until I gave in. Again.
While you are reading this paragraph, try not to blink. Seriously. Don’t blink your eyes. Try to keep reading this paragraph and convince yourself that you won’t give in. At first, it seems easy. But then the urge to blink becomes foremost in your thoughts. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else. BAM! You blinked. Feels better, doesn’t it?
Well that’s one moment of what it’s like to crave and give in to that craving.
I’ve battled sugar cravings my whole life. I remember being called fat by a schoolmate when I was 12 years old, and ever since that day, weight and body image has been one of the main themes of my life. I never understood why my sister could have a cookie and walk away from the container, while I felt compelled to go back again and again and again. My grandmother said I had a “sweet tooth.” My mother told me I had no willpower. The battle in my head felt weak and sad and pathetic.
I wrestled with my thoughts and cravings through every family party, holiday and event. What would I eat? What would I not eat? I shared very little about my emotional struggle. Why would I? My relationship with food consisted of one failure after another.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 50’s that I described my thoughts to my physician. I explained my lifelong lack of willpower. “Oh, you must be insulin reactive,” she commented. It was an epiphany for me, even though I didn’t yet know what she meant. This feeling has a name? I’m not crazy? How could I have not known this before? I’d read every diet book, and faithfully attended weight loss meetings and classes my whole adulthood. No one ever mentioned being “insulin reactive.”
Not to be confused with Insulin Resistance, being Insulin Reactive is termed Hypoglycemic Reactive by the medical community. The NIH (National Institute of Health) states: “The causes of most cases of reactive hypoglycemia are still open to debate. Some researchers suggest that certain people may be more sensitive to the body’s normal release of the hormone epinephrine, which causes many of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. Others believe deficiencies in glucagon secretion might lead to reactive hypoglycemia.”
Whatever the cause, it’s real, and I finally began to understand why I felt so compelled to eat, hide food, and consume candy/cookies/carbs all day long. I was more reactive to insulin peaks and valleys than other people.
At the time of my life that I stumbled upon this epiphany, I was working in the addiction field, helping families and their addicted loved ones, understand the disease of addiction. It felt hypocritical to ask family members (and those with substance use disorders) to battle their demons and work their program, while I couldn’t resist eating the gummy bears, cookies, and boxes of candies hidden in my bottom desk drawer. The brain of the drug addict and the brain of someone addicted to sugar are one and the same.
When we eat delicious food, the chemical Dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is one of the “feel good” chemicals. Dopamine release is one of the reasons that the human species survives, because if we don’t eat, we won’t survive for long. Our brains interpret Dopamine release as pleasure. Dopamine changes the programming in our brain to insure we will repeat that behavior again. Sound familiar? (Chocolate, anyone?)
Sugar and heroin. Sugar and cocaine. Same part of the brain. Same release of the same chemical.
In my work in addiction, I often described to families how the brain of an addicted individual is hijacked by heroin. Our brains are born with opioid receptors. When we stub our toe on cement, it hurts like hell, but a minute later, the pain has decreased. Ever wonder why? Our toe is still bleeding, but unless we touch it, it doesn’t hurt anymore! It’s because the naturally occurring opioids in our brain fill those receptors and the pain is turned off at the brain level. So why can’t an opioid-addicted individual “just stop” using opioids? When opioids are introduced to the brain, the brain is flooded with an inordinate amount of opioid that the brain has never experienced. Basically speaking, there aren’t enough receptors to handle the amount of opioid. The brain creates new receptors because the Dopamine release is incredible. The brain LOVES it. Each time the person increases their use, more receptors are created. However, when the person stops using opiates, all those new receptors are empty. Those empty receptors are felt in the brain as pain. Real pain. The kind of pain that makes your skin crawl and your stomach vomit. Every cell in your body aches, and your anxiety soars to peak levels. What makes the pain go away? You guessed it. Opioids. They fill the receptors and the person feels normal again. Opioid use hijacks the brain into thinking that opioids are more important than relationships, food, sex or survival. It’s definitely NOT for a lack of “willpower.” I’ve never met anyone who enjoyed being addicted to opioids. It’s pure torture.
Well … addiction to sugar (in those who are insulin reactive) is basically the same thing. It’s obviously on a lesser scale, but it’s addiction just the same. It gave me the same out-of-control emotions of any addicted individual. If I revealed the number of times that I threw out ALL the sugary junk in my house, and ended up at Walgreen’s the next day, buying it all over again, you’d be amazed. If you’re nodding your head, you’ve been there. Highly processed foods are loaded with additives, sugar and salt so they “taste better.” Eating an apple or a handful of grapes was never as satisfying to me as a candy bar or a sleeve of cookies. Why? They are loaded with much more sugar than found in nature, so I wasn’t satisfied with the natural fructose in an apple. My brain craved the intense sugar rush of gummy bears and chocolate covered fill-in-the-blanks. Highly processed junk foods function as super-stimuli. They flood the brain with more Dopamine than an apple ever could.
So … What to DO?
In the addiction field, we say: “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” Powerful words, and true. If we aren’t uncomfortable enough to enact change in our lives, it’s human nature not to change. (And why enabling an addicted person is so counterproductive.)
I continued on my merry way of eating and regretting, being uncomfortable in my own body, getting winded climbing the stairs to my bedroom, hating my image in the mirror, enduring aching knees and acid reflux and high cholesterol levels … until my husband got sick.
On January 6, 2019, he revealed to me that he had been taking high blood pressure medicine for two months, but hadn’t told me because he didn’t want to worry me.
Shit just got real.
It was one thing to live in my cozy, little town called Denial, but it was another thing entirely that he was sick because of the crap I bought home each week from the grocery store. I loved my sweets, and he loved his salty snacks. I made sure the snack cupboard was always filled with every chip and cheese puff he desired, because those things made him happy, just like my cookies and sweets did.
I reacted immediately. Like a crazy woman. Seriously. I filled about five enormous bags with everything in the kitchen that contained sodium of any kind. Bottled sauces and salad dressings and marinades. Boxed rice mixes. All those chips and cheese puffs. Everything. And, like I had done a multitude of times before, out the door went the cookies, candy, and ice cream. It was all donated to food pantries and to the young kids at my office. Then, I looked around at the empty cupboards and thought: “Now what the hell do I do?”
I turned to the internet for research. American Cancer Society. American Heart Association. National Diabetes Association. The Whole Grains Council. Every reputable organization I could find. I took notes. I bookmarked articles. What were their guidelines? What was an acceptable amount of sodium for one day? How much saturated fat is acceptable, but what is the threshold for harm? How much cholesterol is too much in one serving of a meal? I was obsessed, but it was enlightening and empowering. I was the shopper, the cook and the gatekeeper. I decided I would go along with the new plan as well, because starting a new diet was emotionally familiar and safe. Maybe this time, I could finally lose the weight. What I didn’t know, was that our lives would exponentially change for the better.
I began searching for healthy recipes. The internet had never failed me before, so I tried to find a site or a blog that would teach me how to cook this new way, without boxes of rice/vermicelli or chicken coating mixes. But nothing out there was comprehensive with the collective nutrition standards I had imposed on our cooking.
All the recipes I found were either this or that, but not all the criteria combined. We both needed to lose weight. My husband needed to restrict his sodium. I needed less sugar, including omitting the whites: bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes. We committed to eating only complex carbs and limited our fat intake to healthy fats. We were doing this as a team, and I needed to find appropriate recipes and embrace the nutritional guidelines as a collaborative.
Meal planning was intense. The calculator was my best friend. The math was long and laborious. I began to blog about our journey, but I didn’t tell a soul. It was just a way for me to let off steam and keep a running record of the recipes I created that fit all the criteria. I named the blog “Kitchen 2.0” because it represented the new and improved reboot of our culinary and physical lives. After a few months, it was glaringly apparent that it was working! My husband’s blood pressure wasn’t so erratic anymore. Food tasted better, and I wasn’t craving sugar! I went public with the blog to my friends and family. I kept the calculator at my side and revised old family favorite recipes to accommodate our new way of eating.
One year later, I look in the rear-view mirror and feel incredibly proud. The biggest change? No sugar cravings. Ever. Seriously. I haven’t had a cookie or a sweet since January 6, 2019.
Did I ever think this was possible? Absolutely not.
Do I want a cookie? Sure, sometimes.
Can I have one? I don’t think so.
Am I having one today? Definitely not.
Here’s my truth: If you detox off sugar, and re-frame your way of cooking, you can do it, one day at a time. There is a reason that phrase is legendary. Change is difficult! No one can do it all at once. I know I’m one cookie away from relapse, just like any other addicted person. I created a life for myself and my husband where it’s easier not to “use.” That’s recovery. We’ve lost a combined 100 pounds. My husband is no longer on blood pressure meds! My cholesterol is at normal levels. No more aches and pains. Acid reflux is gone. Hallelujah!
I’m so incredibly proud to share this cookbook. The math has been done for you. Pick a breakfast and two main meals a day, and you’re eating healthy. There’s plenty of room for healthy snacks like fruits and veggies and protein. Have a glass of wine or a cocktail, if that’s what you do. I love a glass of wine while I cook dinner. We have homemade pizza and tacos every week, only we make them differently now. I’m no longer ashamed to share my struggle. It’s a physical addiction, not a lack of willpower. And if it helps some of you lean in to the process of giving up refined sugar and excessive sodium, it’s a win-win for all of us.
Kitchen 2.0 isn’t rocket science. It’s just plain common sense. I’m not culinary trained. We’re not here to win the James Beard Award for culinary excellence. The K2.0 approach a is simple way to cook healthy meals. It’s fuss-free and easy. We choose organic when possible, consume only complex carbohydrates, and embrace clean eating.
Welcome to Kitchen 2.0!
It’s a revised, reorganized, redirected revolution!