My name is Vicky, and I am an addict.
I am addicted to sugar.
When I was about 11, I can remember sneaking into the kitchen to mix margarine and sugar and quickly gobble it down before anyone caught me. On Sunday mornings my mum would go out with my younger brothers and sisters, and I would make chocolate cornflake cake mix for breakfast: sugar, syrup, butter and cocoa melted in a pan, poured over the minimal amount of cornflakes.
For Christmas in 2004, I was given two copies of the same book. I returned one to the shop for a credit and, at New Year when I'd just split up with a boyfriend and felt the need to reinvent myself, I picked up The Sugar Addicts' Diet by Nicki Waterman and read the back cover; it was like she was describing me. I bought it with my voucher, and began reading.
Waterman was a TV fitness expert, always bouncing about in lycra and showing housewives how to burn off those love handles on daytime TV. At the beginning of this book, she tells how even though she was known for being fit and healthy, she suffered with horrible sugar cravings to which she often succumbed. I remember one particular section where she spoke of eating bags of pick n mix. Despite being slim and fit, she had a layer of fat from all the sugar she was eating, and she knew she had to do something. So she'd devised this diet, and kicked the sugar habit, and now she was sharing it in this book.
I was convinced; a lot of what she said about her sugar cravings sounded exactly like me. I would eat crap for breakfast, sugar and crisps throughout the morning, and then more crap for lunch, followed by an afternoon of crap, and an evening of foraging in the kitchen for more crap. I drank loads of Coca Cola, and I was overweight.
I remember going through the cupboard, and rounding up all the chocolate and sweets I'd been given for Christmas, hiding them in a carrier bag at the back of my wardrobe. Then I went shopping, and began the diet. I remember making porridge for breakfast, much to my housemates' confusion, and eating peanut butter on brown toast before bed each night. After the initial headaches of withdrawal, I started to feel pretty good. The food I was eating was pretty ordinary; I didn't need to hunt down any weird and wonderful ingredients, and I don't recall it being too much of a chore to prepare the meals. But I only lasted a few weeks at it, before I went right back to what I'd been doing before.
Since then, I've periodically given up drinking Coca Cola for Lent, or gone on bonkers healthy eating kicks which have involved cutting out all sorts of everything and only eating the sort of weird, expensive foods you can't even find in the local health food shop. Once I stopped eating all dairy except goats' milk, even though I hated the taste of goats' milk and it repeated on me all day. At one point a couple of years ago, I was going to the gym as many as 9 or 10 times a week but I was still eating an awful lot of junk.
A few months ago, I bought a copy of Sarah Wilson's book, I Quit Sugar. I looked through it and thought:
oh, that sounds like something I should do... but it's a big step. I'll wait until I feel ready to do it.
And of course, the book sat about on the book shelf, and every now and then I would get it out and think, ooh, that recipe looks pretty easy actually... and then do absolutely nothing about it.
Ten weeks ago, I began the Thinking Slimmer programme. Every night when I go to bed, I listen to a short MP3 of a man talking. I can't even tell you what he says; I usually fall asleep. It has had a weird effect on me - I don't feel like I'm making an effort to lose weight, but without thinking about it I'm exercising more and eating less junk. I've not suddenly dropped 10 stone overnight in some bonkers sensational magazine diet that involves eating only left-handed chickens and organic Mongolian soil; it's coming off very gradually, the same way it went on.
The weirdest part came a couple of weeks ago, though.
I picked up the I Quit Sugar book again, and began actually reading the recipes. Then I did a bit of shopping, and then I just started making some of the dishes. Before, it had always seemed like a bit too much fuss to make these meals; I couldn't be bothered to hunt in the cupboard for this or that, and I didn't want to add something-or-other onto my weekly shopping list.
In the last week or so I have gone from thinking oh, I might make that green smoothie for breakfast to making my own cream cheese, making sugar-free chocolate spread, sprouting my own chickpeas and activating nuts. I've made soups and coconut butter and chicken stock and stuffed my freezer with all sorts of things. And then I went onto the I Quit Sugar website, and signed up for Sugar Free September.
At the moment, I'm still drinking Coke, and I'm still eating some of the junk I lived off before; but not as much. My meals are a whole lot healthier, and I'm not spending every evening rummaging about in the kitchen for any scrap of hidden chocolate I may have missed the last five times I looked. My plan is to gradually cut down my sugar intake before the 1st of September. That is one of the scariest sentences I have ever written. On the one hand, the idea of giving up sugar terrifies me... but also, it's kind of not such a big deal any more. It feels like it's just sort of time to do it. Watch this space...