To coin a currently overused phrase – “I am on a journey”, and I’m not finding it an easy one.
My name is Ann and I have a lifelong sugar addiction.
Because I’m not overweight, nobody believes that sugar genuinely has a strong hold on me and I’ve been trying to give it up for pretty much all of my adult life. Assuring myself on my 20th birthday, that once and for all, I was going to kick the habit. I failed. I repeated the promise on my 30th birthday. I failed. I repeated the promise once more this May, on my 40th birthday. I am still trying, but once again, I am failing.
After ballet lessons from the age of 3, going to the shop with my 10p was the highlight of the week and tough choices were made between a Highland Toffee bar, maybe a Wham, a couple of those tiny chocolate cups in their crimped foil. Now and again, some cherry lips, maybe some sherbet pips, or a couple of Refreshers. Definitely a few Black Jacks and Fruit Salads, perhaps a packet of Spangles, Pacers, or Tooty Frooties. Those weird chalky alphabets? Loved them. I. Loved. Them. I could fill this whole blog relishing the memories of sweets from my past.
Sugar used to be a treat, and rationed, as it should be; for me, restricted to Saturday mornings. Growing up, I was getting my hands on more money via various income streams – pocket money, my paper round, the weekend job in the vegetable aisle of Somerfield; I had disposable income, and unfortunately, I could not get to the newsagents fast enough to dispose of it. The addiction got hold of me and it hasn’t yet let me go.
Happily, reaching the end of my 20s, I met a man who also had a soft spot for sweets; we’d spend our evenings binge watching 24 and binge eating Mr Frosty ice pops and Rainbrow drops. He got over that phase though, and went back to his balanced diet and his great teeth. I think he might have been pretending to be a sugar fiend to get me in to bed, or to get me to marry him. Regardless, I did both of those things, and that at least, was a good outcome.
When I was pregnant with my first son, horrendous heartburn very early on meant that my diet was pretty limited: jacket potatoes with cheese and beans, countless cans of fizzy elderflower drinks, and strawberry milkshakes. Navigating my way through the haze of first baby delirium, I used chocolate for an easy energy boost. Constantly. Throughout my second pregnancy and babyhood with twin boys, I repeated this pattern. Oh, the guilt that I may have predisposed my boys to diabetes in later life…
Sugar is no longer a treat for Saturday mornings, it is a crutch and it is accessible and it is an enormous market with millions of avid fans (or are we slaves?). It is part of every day life that many children take for granted and demand, and parents use as a quick fix before the onslaught of after school activities. I hate it. I hate this stranglehold, and the niggling concern after listening to a podcast strongly suggesting that in 20 years, we will think of sugar in the same way we now think about smoking.
I went to see a naturopath recently after a spell of feeling below par. I may have handed her information on a plate by writing on my new patient form that I am a tired mother of 3 with a full time job and a sugar addiction. After taking a couple of strands of my hair, she played an instrument (well, that’s what it looked like) and then told me countless vitamin and mineral deficiencies I apparently have (I may, or may not – my mind is open to alternative health). She then told me that I absolutely have to ditch the sugar because my blood glucose is constantly spiking and crashing, leading to my utter lack of energy. Handing over my fee, I walked out, and managed to stay off the bad stuff for a month. After the first few days of headaches and feeling like climbing the walls, I began to feel amazing. Literally, amazing. My mood was stable, my outlook was bright, and for the first time since childhood, I woke in the mornings without an alarm clock and didn’t feel tired. Not once, in adulthood, had I got out of bed so easily.
And then we went on holiday to Italy. Hitting the ice creams and chocolate, hard, feeling confident that I would be able to give up sugar again easily upon our return home. How deluded? There are clearly similarities with any other addiction. I can’t just eat a chocolate bar and believe I’m still in control; Sugar is in control of me. Now, I’m firmly back in its clutches, it’s the secret Crunchie in the utility room whilst putting a wash on, the handful of chocolate buttons whilst pretending to look for rugby kit, my 2 Nobbly Bobblys before bed when the children are fast asleep. Yes, 2, ugh. I’m back to the old ways, and every morning, when the alarm clock wrenches me from slumber, I feel like I’ve been hit over the head with a sledgehammer. Always tired, and I know why. It isn’t lack of sleep (I regularly get 8 hours), it isn’t the full time job, and it isn’t the children. It’s the sugar. I know it’s the sugar because I felt different without it. I felt so much better. Everything was better.
I need to get back there, and this post is therefore making my commitment public. I want to feel like I did for that short, blissful period at the end of June when I was in control. Now, that? That was sweet.
Ann Thomas, a full time working woman, freshly into my 40s and pursuing self-improvement and environmental responsibility like a 40 year old who loves Instagram and podcasts…. I’m also a mother of 3 boys. Relatively placid boys, so it isn’t as much carnage as you would imagine. Happily, they still love cwtshes and kisses and still want me to get into bed with them to warm it up. As does my husband, so life is good.