Everyone has secrets, but the big, heart-opening, mind-awakening clincher? Most things don’t actually need to be kept secret. The best way to move beyond any kind of obsession, addiction or related issues is to share our struggles with our peers. Sometimes we just need to put everything out there so today, Steph is.
I’m not the first addict to admit to this, but the big first here is me speaking to the wider world about it. My parents and sister have certainly been aware of my struggles and supported me for some time, my colleagues have undoubtedly seen the telltale signs of me going cold turkey, and my best friends have witnessed more than a few of my falls off the wagon.
But have I ever really acknowledged it head on and shouted it out loud? No. But do I need to, when my body speaks for me?
I have been overweight for a long time, it’s been about two decades since I last ‘slept well’ and I have been battling the unfortunate skin dilemma of the tired and unhealthy late-twenties girl for some time. I mean spots within wrinkles? Talk about combination skin! So maybe you’re wondering if city living in my twenties has led me to recreational drugs? Nope! I’ve never touched a dodgy smoke, powder or pill in my life; I’m good fun without the fun stuff.
Let’s move on to my brittle hair, dry skin, poor circulation, and aching joints. Ah, it must be the fags! Wrong again. I haven’t smoked a cigarette since I stopped thinking it was cool at house parties circa 2005. I’ve probably smoked less than five cigarettes ever!
Ok, moving on from teen peer pressure, I’ve also battled some dark moments over the past couple of years, feeling truly miserable and helpless. It must be the Mother’s Ruin I hear you proclaim, she’s always talking about Tanqueray! Erm, no. I’ll hold my hands up and admit to the odd blowout and associated ginjuries but my housemates will vouch for me that this happens less than once a month. When I do hit the booze, I stick to a gin and slim (unless a glass of Prosecco is needed for an occasion, but I’ll decline Champagne, can’t stand the stuff), and I opt for water or the odd Sprite with meals.
I’m also no caffeine junky – I have one black tea and one green tea a day, at the most. And finally, for the record, I am not using this forum to admit to a sex addiction – my body insecurities would soon put a stop to me acting on any lusty thoughts!
So what’s left? Oh yeah, that other dangerous elixir, the one everyone that is talking about. The little creep that is refined sugar.
There are many people who still snigger at the thought of a food addiction, but modern research suggests that sugar could be as addictive as cocaine and nicotine, and from the way I crave the stuff – like a pig sniffing out truffles (take this as you please, figuratively or literally) – I am more than inclined to believe the hype. But my sugar binges do not temporarily wash away my sorrows like alcohol may do, binging does not make me the life and soul of the party like drugs can, and as for a bag of chocolate buttons calming my nerves like a cigarette is said to, nope, not even close. The comedown is so much more intense than the high, in fact I can’t ever remember a high, and yet, I can’t stop myself.
Tackling such an addiction is no easy task, and many have failed before me. On the positive side I have never eaten pasta, rarely eat white bread or rice and noodles, and I have successfully weaned myself off breakfast cereals over the past eight months. I have upped my already high intake of vegetables, and tried my very best to eat more fruit and steer clear of packaged juices. But those little cakes and biscuits are my drugs of choice for SERIOUS benders, and no amount of gym time will reverse the effects that such an excessive amount of sweet stuff is having on my ass and abs, never mind what’s happening to my organs.
So once I’ve devoured a whole pack of biscuits trying to hit a deadline, I think, I’ve blown it already so I make dinner an additive-fuelled ready meal with a crusty bread roll, because a triple-carb meal is bound to subdue my hunger and cheer me up right? Wrong! I then feel so awful that I go to bed without preparing anything for the next day, so end up buying packaged sandwiches or salads for lunch… And probably dinner too. It makes me look and feel awful, but it happens again and again. I deny it to my friends and family. And then I look at the scales and wake up from my sugary haze and try again.
I know when I live by a diet of high protein and high fibre with sensible carbs such as sweet potato or a little rye bread, I feel and look leaner, and my workouts are focused and productive. But when you’re on a weight loss regime like me, and you’re not the best cook and lack the confidence to shake up your fitness routine, a plateau is inevitable. And with that plateau comes a relapse for sugar-fiends like me.
So my current relapse has lasted for two months, it’s my longest ever, and today is the day that I say ‘sort it out’.
For me, sorting it out means being organised, and asking for help. It means making a realistic meal plan, sharing it with my housemates, and then buying the actual bloody food. It means listening to my nearest and dearest when they suggest alternative options – a homemade tomato relish for example instead of sugary Tommy K. It means preparing and freezing a couple of meals in advance so that each week I have emergency meals to throw in the microwave after having that terrible day at work, or getting back from my Boxercise class at 9pm, too tired to cook. It means monitoring my body for a whole month, so that I know whether or not I need a healthy snack to avoid reaching for that 3pm KitKat. It means checking restaurant menus in advance, ordering the healthy option first before all of my friends order, and it means reminding my fellow diners that I need their support, all of the time, so they may think twice before ordering the chocolate medley to finish, and hey, they may even thank me for it. It means signing up for my gym classes a week in advance, or arranging to meet my sister for a workout, Not just saying ‘Tuesday’ and then not going because I didn’t realise that meant ‘Tuesday at 6pm’ so I didn’t take my gym kit to work and it’s now too complicated to rearrange. It means getting up 10 minutes earlier each morning to pack my various Tupperware so that I’m fuelled for the day. It means thinking about whether I actually need to take my purse to work today, if I already have all of my food, and I’m coming straight home tonight. It means avoiding supermarket packet sandwiches full stop, but never sacrificing a meal full stop. It means making time! It means painting my nails in front of the television, rather than sampling my housemate’s new baking triumph. It means enjoying my friend’s birthdays with a slice of cake but successfully avoiding all-day cider drinking and swerving those fast-food joints on the way home. It means enjoying a night of cocktails with the girls but not so much that my tongue turns blue and I cave in to a takeaway with extra naan bread the next day. It means drinking loads of water, and waiting 20 minutes to see whether or not I really am hungry. It means reminding myself that I’m a human, not a dog, and I don’t need treats. It means enjoying the results of better skin, better sleep, and leaner limbs, and not rewarding my successes with ‘naughty food’. It means shaking it up every six weeks to avoid the mental and physical plateau. It means taking full advantage of the support that is available from my friends and family, and reading up on the people who inspire me.
I never want to preach, I’m certainly no expert, but I’m human, and I’ve been struggling for a long time. I want to enjoy the remainder of my twenties as a healthy twenty-something, and I fully believe that minimising processed sugars in my diet will help me to achieve this. I want to sleep well and I want to get back into my size 10 jeans, (not the be all and end all, but my extra weight is hurting my feet and I can’t ignore my BMI). I want to make sure that I never cancel another night out because I don’t like how I’m looking or feeling. I want spend more time prepping for the questions in a job interview rather than panicking about how chubby I look in a blazer. I want to feel confident enough to start dating again. I want to get back on the stage and dance, properly, without the crippling fear of my wobble holding me back. I want to be so focused on my Zumba routine that I don’t even care about being the chubbiest girl in the room. I want my friends to slap a piece of cake out of my hands because they remember how miserable I was the last time I felt like I needed cake. I want those closest to me to recognise when I’m lying, and confront me. I want to be the healthiest I’ve ever been. I want to be free from addiction, but I know I have a long journey ahead of me, and I need all the support I can get.
I struggle with many of the same daily challenges and insecurities as Steph and I’m sure many of you do too. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and if you have any tips you want to share for coping with any kind of addiction we’re all ears. There’s no judgement here!
Until next time, stay healthy!