This is most probably one of the most inspiring stories I have ever read. Carol joined The HELP: Harmony Eating & Lifestyle Program a couple of months ago and changed her life.
I’d love to say we fixed Carol but the truth is that Carol has put in the effort and changed her own life. By choosing to admit and identify as a sugar addict she has found the freedom to recover.
Such respect to you Carol, I am in absolute awe.
Here is Carol’s story written August 2015:
I attended the same government boarding school from age five to seventeen. The food was insufficient and pretty unpalatable. In my “Memory Books” I still have the collection of string, stones and worms we found in our food. Tuck was strictly banned. Did these nutrition-deprived formative years contribute to my ‘sweet tooth’? My parents were slim and healthy but both had a ‘sweet tooth’. In later life my mom realised she had an unhealthy relationship with sugar and tried to curb it. “I can eat a whole tin of condensed milk.” she lamented. Is a ‘sweet tooth’ hereditary?
We couldn’t afford sweets or chocolates. As a treat one Christmas my dad bought one large Tex Chocolate Bar. Just one. In glistening yellow and red paper. We were a family of five and he used a ruler to measure out five exact pieces which he carefully cut with his penknife. Oh what heaven that one brown mouthful was!
I often visited my school friend’s house and her mom would ask me what I’d like to eat. What would I like to eat!? I’d never been asked that! As an eight year old, I didn’t understand the question. At home and at school we got three meals a day but certainly no choice. Soon Mrs Boehmer learnt to serve me my standard request of sweet Milo and cinnamon sugar pancakes. We remained life-long friends.
I remember lying in bed after dormitory lights out vowing that when I grew up I would always, always have a box of chocolates and a packet of Bakers Choice Selection Biscuits next to my bed so that in the morning all I had to do was reach out and my favourite treat would be right there at my fingertips to eat before I even got out of bed.
I was a slim active healthy child and teenager. At twenty-one, I won “Miss Best Legs of Pietermaritzburg”!
At twenty-three, my house mate decided I should join her on the Scarsdale Diet. I weighed a healthy 53kgs and had never thought about my weight or dieting. Did this first totally unnecessary diet set me on the Road to Dieting?
At twenty-four, another friend asked me to do a Paw-Paw Detox. Paw-paw only for three days. One evening we went to movies and smuggled in foil-covered dessert plates piled high with paw-paw. As our spoons clinked the man next to me loudly wished us Bon Appétit! My friend’s house was double-storey and on the last morning we were so weak we could barely walk and had to crawl up the stairs!
Once at a work function my colleagues were shocked when I started at the buffet dessert table before having main. I never ate milk tart – far too bland! I needed the rich, rich stuff.
At twenty-six, and not fat, I decided to do the California 450 Diet alone. I went without food for eleven days, drinking only shakes. My weight plummeted. That housemate was a clean-freak. One morning I was running late for work and rushing madly around the kitchen shaking my strawberry flavoured shake. Somehow it exploded and her perfect shiny white kitchen was drenched bright pink floor to ceiling.
I ate piles of junk food all through my only pregnancy. Cravings were there but couldn’t put my finger on what it was I was my body needed – so I ate everything in sight. I weighed 83kgs on the day I gave birth and felt very, very large and uncomfortable. From the baby’s first breast-feed to his last, I read a book and chomped chocolates while he suckled. I kept a store next to my feeding-chair!
I lost that weight through what is known among my family and friends as the Carol Diet. Eating less aided by exercise, running, appetite suppressants, one or two laxatives, lots of water, no food after 4pm, vigorous gloves-massaging in the shower and cellulite creams. To satisfy the sugar cravings I’d stuff down five Slimslabs in one go!
I slimmed down and remained a healthy active woman. Fortunately other vices such as alcohol, drugs and gambling never got me. It was the sugar that did.
At thirty-five, I managed another seven-day no food diet drinking only Shake Meal Replacements aided by appetite suppressants.
Out of the blue in February 2003, at age forty-two, a mysterious exceptionally nasty affliction called Chronic Deep Pressure Urticaria hit my entire body inside and out. I won’t go into the details but the sole relief came in the form of Prednisone pills. You got it – cortisone. I lived on cortisone daily for the next ten years. It was the only way I could function with any sort of normality. Without cortisone I struggled to walk, sit, drive, work, etc. From time to time the Urticaria would attack my lungs. I had trouble breathing and used an asthma pump. As we all know cortisone causes immense weight gain. My hypothalamus was all over the place. An hour after eating a meal I’d go and eat another meal! I ate mountains of my favourite sweet stuff like koeksusters, cremora tarts, mint caramel tarts plus pizza, pies and white toast and don’t forget the Milo and pancakes. Plus of course the greatest downfall – chocolate.
I gained 13kgs.
I did a few Carol Diets which included limiting the carbohydrates and sugar – but the daily combination of sugar plus cortisone inevitably piled the kilos back on.
My partner was my enabler as he also loved sugar and carbs so we’d over-eat together. In restaurants I’d always ask the waitress what the dessert was before I’d even ordered my main course.
I’d always hung on to my old ‘thin clothes’ and still lug four suitcases of ‘thin clothes’ around every time I move house. I have packets of ‘small’ bras which I can’t bear to throw out. It was worrying how much money I was spending on bigger and bigger clothes every few months and felt sickened when the size labels screamed 18 and 20! I loathe clothes shopping at the best of times.
At dinners I continually went back for thirds and even fourths of dessert, sometimes piling two plates pretending one was for someone else. I could eat a whole caramel tart or suchlike in one sitting. It was almost as though I was striving for that overfull, sick feeling too much sugar brings on. I would perspire, especially under my eyes. And blink a lot, stretch my stomach and exclaim “Yoh what a sugar rush!”.
I played tennis all my life and on the court in March 2013 at age fifty-three I developed Fasciitis under one foot. Anyone who is familiar with this injury will know it’s awfully debilitating to say the least. There is no cure except prolonged rest. Often it will take years of rest. Jogging and tennis were out of the question. Walking was hell. Without a swimming pool to exercise in I lay on the couch for a year. And ate.
I gained another 10kgs on top of the previous 13, hitting an all time high of 86kgs.
My elderly dad who’d never talked about weight or sugar issues kindly joked I might be fat. I hid the scale. Menopause hit. I was once again forced to buy bigger clothes – this time caftans. I was reminded of novelist and alcoholic Stephen King’s response when asked how much he drank. Somewhat baffled by the question, he replied “All of it of course.” That was me. If there were chocolates or puddings or biscuits in the house I ate all of it. I was out of control.
Mysteriously though thankfully the Chronic Deep Pressure Urticaria began to subside and I was able to slowly and painfully wean off cortisone.
In January 2014 I read about Karen Thompson and her Harmony Addictions Clinic in Hout Bay. It was a light-bulb moment for me. The words ADDICTIONS, CARE, EATING, SUGAR jumped out at me. As others before me have said: seeing the words SUGAR and ADDICT in the same sentence changed my life! Wow, I realised I AM AN ADDICT! I immediately phoned Karen. My conversations with Karen and Vaughan Pankhurst from Harmony and our subsequent e-mails stayed in the back of my mind for eighteen months then, suddenly on 3 June 2015, seventy days ago, mercifully my brain clicked into its familiar Diet mode. But this time I was armed with an exceedingly powerful new tool: the knowledge and acceptance that I AM AN ADDICT.
In the last seventy days I’ve been on a Carol Diet using my old tried and tested techniques including running Parkruns every Saturday BUT the whopping difference is I have cut out all sugar and all carbohydrates.
11kgs lighter, I’m sleeping well for the first time in twenty years, am full of energy, am not bloated, my head is clear and what else….? Ah, I can heave down my ‘thin clothes’ suitcases tomorrow.
This isn’t a story about emotional anguish, insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, anorexia or purging. It’s about an ordinary person being on a fifty-year-sugar-addiction journey without realising it. I am a sugar addict. Always was, always will be.
If you have an inspiring story to share please mail me firstname.lastname@example.org and leave a comment or encouragement for Carol in the comment bar.