I’ve followed the recent media debate about sugar and obesity and health and tax with interest.
In recent years, I have reduced my sugar intake considerably by limiting consumption of or cutting out sweets, biscuits and most manufactured food. Then this year my eating regime went haywire as I started to comfort eat when I lost my Mum. I could have won an Olympic Gold for munching through a packet of fruit pastilles or speed dunking Rich Tea biscuits.
All the while, I knew I didn’t really want to eat them, but I couldn’t stop pacing our larder like a tiger in a cage trying to mark out a particularly tasty tourist for tea.
Of course, I put on weight and I couldn’t sleep properly. I had to do something.
I just stopped.
I have eaten no sweets for weeks and can walk past a sweet shop or in and out of a filling station without succumbing to temptation.
It’s the same with biscuits. I’ve had a few when we’ve been travelling and they’ve been part of my picnic, but right now there are no biscuits that I would eat in our home.
I’ve lost the weight I put on, and a bit more, and weigh the same as I did 25 years ago. What’s more, I have more energy and am sleeping as soundly as a baby. And my productivity has soared enough to increase the UK’s GDP by several percent.
Physically, it was so easy to achieve, but I couldn’t have done it without very hard work in my head and heart.
I’m like everyone else. I know what I want to do, but don’t always do it. I can see why and how and the benefits of doing something, but can find a million reasons, excuses or distractions to stop me doing it.
With sugar and food, there is also lots to tempt us. The supermarket and food manufacturing business model is based on selling us more than we need. Over recent years I have stopped buying lots of things because I want only one doughnut, not three and won’t throw away food or eat more than I want. But it is easy to fall into the habit of picking up a packet and dropping it into a trolley or basket. Once it’s on a shelf at home, it calls out to us to eat it.
And it doesn’t matter if we read about the benefits of eating healthily or someone encourages us. We have to want to do it ourselves, really want to do it.
The battle is not fought in the supermarket, but within ourselves.
I don’t like people telling me what I can and cannot do, especially when governments or councils introduce heavy-handed laws or regulations ostensibly to solve a problem but which often unfairly limit the lives of those who act responsibly. I don’t agree with a sugar tax, but I do agree with individuals, retailers and food manufacturers acting and eating responsibly.
Last weekend I made fairy cakes as a treat, precisely because I can control the ingredients and because they fit into my diet as a whole. I used 85g of sugar. I set this against the 11kg of sugar a year I stopped consuming when I gave up sugar in tea. Sugar is now a much smaller part of my overall diet and I would like other people to be able to do the same, if that’s what they want to do, without having to be taxed.
I know how tough this is. This year has reminded me of the difficulty of addressing how we feel and think and the massive effort it takes to change our habits, some which we have followed for decades. It took talks with a vicar and professional counselling to help me make the changes I needed along with support from Mrs Z and my family.
I don’t underestimate what a challenge this is for anyone, but I do know that starting is often the most difficult part. And that can only come from ourselves.
Acting responsibly is so challenging as we have to face so much that we try to put off.
But if everyone acted responsibly, not just when dealing with sugar but everything, we would control our own lives without the need for heavy-handed laws and regulations.
Life is so much better when you do it yourself.