Life Changing Decisions


If you have been a regular reader of my weblog you will have noticed that there has been a decided lack of writing over the past year.

My life has been too personal to be able to write without it seeping onto the page and colouring, in a far too intimate way, the text. So it has been easier to keep silent.

Whatever has been going on is irrelevant, but the effects that it has had upon me physically and emotionally are important and hence the time to write has come around again.

I have a long history of drug and alcohol addiction. This has affected my hormones and particularly my stress response: When I am stressed or feel fearful I shoot a large amount of cortisol into my body. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the sensation of stress, that feeling of sand in your blood. There are several side effects from elevated levels of cortisol in the blood, including weight gain, especially the tyre that some of us get around our waist. Another aspect of this hormone that affects me is that it causes aching and loose joints.

As a runner this gives me knee and back ache. I run to still my mind, to gain perspective, to master depression. So anything that disturbs this very important aspect of my life has to be dealt with. Over the first few months of this year my joint problems, due to stress, became intolerable. Endless visits to the chiropractor to fix the twists and kinks were wasted trips.

Finally I was told I had to give up all sugar.

Why? An interesting question and one that Adi, the man I see for my bones, explained that the sugar is the initiator of the stress response. That the excess sugar in the diet is stored in the waist as glucose, and that all of this, including the cortisol, makes the ligaments of the body loose and stretched.

So since early August I have not touched any sugar, honey, aspartamine, agarve syrup or fructose. I do eat fruit, but in moderation.

It has been utterly transforming. My temper has subsided. (Please do not ever think it has gone, but it is much more manageable.) My joints are good, I run faster, I sleep better and do not get that awful stressed sensation so often. But the main, and most surprising aspect is that so far I have dropped 12 kg with no effort at all.

Within a week of stopping sugar, and like with all other addictive substances I went cold turkey, I realised just how much of it crept into my consumption every day. I worked out that I was averaging about 15 teaspoons of sugar per day. Yes, it seems like a huge amount but it appears in the most insidious ways: in cereal, marmalade, puddings, drinks. Plus I took sugar in tea and coffee.

The withdrawals lasted about 10 days and since then it has been easy. To remove sugar from the diet has another side effect in that the appetite changes completely and the need for food is very diminished. Sugar needs sugar needs sugar. One easily ends up just acting out an addiction: drinking tea or eating a cake just for the sugar. Once this has been removed the appetite becomes far more moderate. It is a relief, truthfully, and very relaxing to be out of the spiral.