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Gavin Sharples
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Hi, My name is Gavin Sharples and I am an addict !

03 February 2014, 16:00

What if I told you that almost every day you ingest a drug that is one of the most addictive known to mankind?

What if I told you that researchers and medical professionals the world over are now saying that if they knew the effects and destruction that this substance has on people they would have banned it and placed it on the same list as cocaine.

This substance is the cause of a pandemic of health issues, diabetes, obesity, disease and death. And what if I told you that you and your children are probably already addicts?

It is a drug however that is not banned. In fact, it's not only legal to push, pedal, distribute and sell, it is promoted and advertised openly and is one of the world's most traded commodities.

It is one of America's top exported products of mass destruction. Together with weapons of war, alcohol, tobacco and entertainment (if you can call Miley Cyrus entertainment!) It is pervasive in almost every food type and major American food brand.

This addictive drug is called “one of the world's most valuable agricultural commodities". In 2011 global export trade was worth $47 billion. $33 billion of it was exported from developing countries. Around 160,000,000 tons is produced every year, legally, by more than 123 countries.

A United States Department of labour report states that children and forced labour is used to produce this drug in over 18 countries. Above source from the fair trade foundation commodity briefing report - January 2013.

The secret of its deadliness is out in most developed countries and its use however has increased in spite of this knowledge and has more than doubled in developing countries.

So what is this addictive, pervasive, legal drug of choice? You have probably guessed it by now its C12H22O11 and I am almost sure you are a user on some level! Sugar!

Yes, my fellow travellers, the sweet tasting, found in almost everything, delicious and very addictive, white (not always) stuff, called sugar or sucrose or fructose or many other names it now goes by to hide its presence. Ever since laws have been implemented to specifically state the amount of sugar in products, manufacturers have been using various other names to hide the actual amount of sugar contained in them.  Look out for these sneaky labels - barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, caramel, corn syrup, confectioners’ sugar, carob syrup, caster, date or demerara sugar, dextron, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, molasses, sorghum syrup, treacle, panocha and many more.

Rest assured anything ending in the letters “ose” is sugar.

I sat for a full day and “researched" papers, documents and watched lectures by medical professionals, scientist and healthcare professionals. Every one of them agreed that sugar is the number one cause of obesity, diabetes, weight gain, inability to lose weight, loss of mental sharpness and the fact that over consumption of sugar is in some way associated with many diseases in the world today. Some doctors are now saying that sugar is the next tobacco and that all of the techniques and tactics used by big tobacco to hide the addictiveness and destructiveness of tobacco is now being used and has been used by sugar manufacturers and sugar product manufacturers. One medical professor calls Pepsi and Coca-Cola trucks delivering their products to a store, “weapons of mass destruction”.

I am not going to regurgitate all the material that I have found I'm sure you can Google, the evils of sugar and just follow the links. But before I get a whole bunch of snotty e-mails from the anally retentive people or people who have nothing better to do all day but to read blogs and commented negatively on them let me say - We do need sugar (glucose) and our bodies cannot function without it. We can however get our required amount from healthy fruits and foods and we need not add the extra 4kg of refined sugar every month, over and above what we require. I am also not telling anyone else not to eat sugar. I am merely sharing my research, my opinion and more importantly my experience with my sugar addiction.

All I can tell you from my personal experience is that I am an addict. For this month's rant you are my support group. I am standing in your circle and saying to you, “Hi, my name is Gavin and I am an addict!"

My addiction started a few weeks after I was born when my well-meaning, loving mother, was taught to add a few spoons of sugar into my cow’s milk (no formula back then) at every feed. It shut me up and I was a happy baby. It is crazy that we wouldn't give a new-born child a bottle of Coke to drink but we give them sweetened milk and milk formula’s full of sugar without blinking an eye. Before I was two months old, I looked like a baby sumo wrestler and my habit was about 48 grams of pure Brazilian White a day.

I was on solids – porridge, within 3 weeks and the sugar doubled. I was tripping on Durban Snow at every feed. It didn't stop there. In my teens, our family of four consumed up to 4 crates of Coca-Cola every week. That was almost a crate of Coca-Cola per person or 12 x 2L Cokes a week EACH. At 24 teaspoons of Angel White per bottle that was quite a habit.

My sugar intake however wasn't limited to Coca-Cola, I also got my fix from moms sugar filled cooking and La Rochelle bakery’s milk tarts, cakes, doughnuts, Koeksisters, Chelsea buns, deserts, custards and takeaways. My mom even put sugar in her carrot salad, which was also drenched in Oros. My favourite “salad” at a braai, was her sliced bananas covered in whipped cream with loads of sugar. Now that's a flippen’ salad!

Funny thing was, if you offered her chocolates or cake she’d tell you she didn't have a sweet tooth and didn't eat chocolate or cakes. I gravitated to the brown form of the drug like Malema to a tender and chocolate became my drug of choice. Any fellow addict will tell you there is no better fix than a garage pie, a coke and a chocolate. The trifecta of addictive pleasure.

It's no wonder that most research papers and sites on sugar report that the average teen consumes between 34 and 38 teaspoons of sugar every day. In 2012 adults in the United States consumed over 45kg’s of sugar per year. That is more than 3.75kg a month. Looking at South Africa's obesity and health issues and the fact that our diets have been influenced by all major US brands and “soda" companies we’re probably about the same if not worse.

Stop! Don't just gloss over the numbers! Try and see them literally. Stack 4 x 1kg sugar bags on top of the each other. That is the amount of sugar we consume almost every month. Now for the group of naysayers or people like myself who don't like to compare ourselves with the Americans, take 2 x 1kg bags of sugar and a look at them. Pour them out onto a table and take it in. Not literally! If you’re an addict like me don't do this without your sponsor in the room. Even at 50% of the United States average, half the consumption of the yanks it is still unbelievable.

Sugar is found in most of our food but the adding of extra sugar and the creation of sugary products has grown exponentially. Researchers tell us the most efficient way to deliver a sugar fix is via the soft drink industry. Apart from the effects on your health, a sugar researcher tells us that drinking one sugary soft drink a day will increase your weight by 6kg per year. A bottle of Coke a day will increase your weight by 11kg per year. And don't get me started on sugar substitutes and “diet” cold drinks. According to medical professionals they are nothing more than poisons. Medically most, if not all sugar substitutes are referred to as neurotoxins.

So I decided on 11 November 2013 to go 40 days cold turkey with my addiction. My father became a diabetic (no surprise) he stopped eating sugar and lost about 20kg in 6 months with no exercise and no change at all in his diet. After 40 of the hardest days of my life I lost 5kg and now on day 71, am down 8kg. I have to add that I have been weight training and not eating bread. So yes, I had a miserable Christmas!

I never started my sugar stoppage for weight loss. I really did it because I got to a stage when my health started to suffer and I was out of control.  I needed an intervention and the opportunity to kick my own ass. My waist had gotten so big I was asked to audition for a Michelin commercial, and I battled to tie my shoelaces in the morning without a respirator. I was on thyroid medication and Nexium for gastro oesophageal reflux, I battled to sleep, I had no energy and by 3 o’clock in the afternoon wanted to take a nap, I always got colds and flu, I got muscle cramps and injuries and I felt all round crappy.

As I sit here today I feel 100% healthier, I have stopped all of my medications, I sleep well, have more energy than ever before and I have lost 8 kg in fat. Not bad for just stopping and looking out for sugar.

The most important and significant change is the fact that I have taken back control of my life from my drug of choice, beautiful, deadly, Florida icing - sugar.

I have always believed that being in control of one's life is the ultimate freedom and secret to happiness. I believe one of the greatest super-powers you can have is self-control. The ability to take back control of your life from food, alcohol, sugar, pornography, a person, betting, anorexia, prescription drugs, narcotics, smoking, exercise, being right, the internet, TV, risky behaviour, girls with big breasts (just a test to see if you've read this far or are actually concentrating), people pleasing, perfectionism or collecting stamps, gives you freedom.

Unfortunately I have found that one of the only ways to beat an addiction is to be placed in situations of temptation again and again and having to say no. Every time you are tempted and you say no, you take back the power. You take the power away from the addiction one temptation at a time. You will find, like I did, that the universe will, with love and kindness, put you into situations of mass temptation the exact day and week you decide to take back your power. It is perfectly designed because you cannot take back your power unless you are tempted. Taking yourself out of a situation does not allow you to exercise personal control. It's the toughest most rewarding ride you will ever take. I dare you to be and acquire your superpower of self-control!

Well that is my drug, my admission and my personal challenge for 2014. What is yours? What is the one thing you are going to take control of this year that will make a massive difference to you and your health, family and life?

Gavin Sharples

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