Thursday, 27 December 2012

Drug Addiction and My Family

Remember Dougal from the Magic Roundabout battling with himself over lumps of sugar?  Just one lump can't harm, can it?  Just one tiny lump...

I always assumed that this was a parable - a metaphor for drug addiction.  But it doesn't need to be a metaphor at all.  Sugar releases the same pleasure chemicals in your brain as cocaine - your body builds up a tolerance to it just like addictive drugs.  Even savoury foods we buy have been laced with this insidious sweetener, keeping us hooked and reliant on food manufacturers and their processed product for our hit.

Since becoming a paleo family, we have pretty much entirely avoided sugar in its processed form.  We still use honey from time to time - I see it as our nicotine patch - and we still eat fruit.  But this avoidance of sugar becomes harder at Christmas, doesn't it?

Christmas, for me, is all about recreating warm feelings from our childhood and about making new ones for our own kids and about spending quality time with friends and family - I'm ignoring the Christian aspect of Christmas as I'm an atheist and Christmas to me is also about spreading a little bit of sparkle in the middle of the dark bit - a festival of lights, if you will.

Feelings of comfort from our childhoods are triggered by the senses.  Christmas lights sparkling; the scent of cinnamon, orange and spice; the sounds of jingling bells and carols; the soft feeling of warm jumpers, snugly slippers and toasty blankets and the taste of our favourite foods.

The thing is that now we have decided to live a paleo lifestyle, a lot of the foods that really shout Christmas are off limits.

So we had a choice: continue with paleo throughout the festive period or relent a bit and indulge some.

I think if it had been just me, on my own, I wouldn't have strayed far from the paleo path but being that my husband really does like cheese and biscuits and thinks boxing day cold cuts are incomplete without crinkle cut oven chips and the fact that all my kids' friends will be eating crisps and sweets and biscuits and cakes and ice cream and chocolate this Christmas, I felt mean sticking to my guns.

So I stocked up on paleo things as well: beef and ham and turkey and veggies and salad and fruit and nuts.  I also made paleo Christmas puds and paleo Christmas cake and paleo mince pies.

But I did decide to 'treat' the family so bought pizzas for emergency-can't-be-bothered-meals and cheese and oatcakes (at least not wheat crackers) and crinkle cut oven chips.  We made real flour gingerbread houses and covered them with real sugar sweets.  We made a chocolate bombe from ice cream, sweets, swiss rolls and chocolate.  And as chocolate brioche and croissants and coffee used to be a favourite weekend breakfast for us, we decided on pastries and croissants instead of our usual scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for Christmas morning breakfast.  We had visitors coming so bought beer and cider and wine and then we settled down to indulge.

Behaviour levels (normally pretty good) and tantrum episodes (generally unheard of) spiralled a little out of control after sugar binges and wheat splurges and my youngest, Jake instantly went back to the tummy troubles he used to have before we eschewed wheat.

Russ got fed up with the oven chips after the second meal with them.  The kids ate only the ice cream, discarding the swiss roll, of the chocolate bombe.  There are still oat cakes, croissants and pastries in the cupboard and the gingerbread houses are still standing.  There are still several bottles of wine, cider and lager sitting in the kitchen, undrunk.

Last night, the kids begged for some raw veggies.  Jake asked for a tuna salad instead of pizza and Liv asked for turkey and raw veggies for breakfast.

We have learnt a lot about or family's relationships with paleo this Christmas.

There have been a lot of changes that we have become used to, that have become such an intrinsic part of our lives now that we find it uncomfortable to stray from them.

My kids genuinely crave vegetables.  Jake is genuinely turned off wheat.  They can happily turn down pastry and traditional cakes, in fact they all said they prefer my palo versions but the monkey still clinging to their backs is sugar!

It's amazing to me how successful those clever ad men have been in brainwashing the entire population of this planet into thinking that breakfast should consist of a wheat product with some sort of dairy product, that Christmas is about wheat and sugar, that children want these things more than they want the natural goodness of protein, fibrous carbohydrate and healthy fats.

It's crazy how ubiquitous sugar has become and how natural a part of childhood it seems to be.  Kids have to have sweets, don't they?  We all love doughnuts and pies and cakes and pastries, don't we?  We have been very convincingly and comprehensively brainwashed by the corn and sugar industry into believing that high fructose corn syrup, inverse glucose syrup etc. are the cornerstone of every nutritious meal.

There's even a section for it on the food pyramid!  What a load of rubbish!  We won't die without sugar and wheat!  Processed sugar is not part of a healthy, balanced diet.  A balanced diet consists of the things we need to keep us alive and healthy.  Processed sugar just does not figure in that!

I can plainly see the physical and emotional and behavioural response my kids make to non paleo foods so clearly after this Christmas binge - highlighted by the contrast to their normal nutritional intake - and it's scary the effects these things have on my family.
It's easy the rest of the year and in the home to stick to paleo.  But I think from now on, I am going to make more of a concerted effort to help my kids to make paleo choices out of the home as well.

Or, I could just go with Calvin on this...


  1. I've strayed from paleo this Christmas too. Strayed pretty far if I'm honest, and I feel like crap! I have to say it ha strengthened my resolve and my belief in the paleo diet ten fold!

  2. Me too! Next Christmas is going to be paleo all the way, if we can't make a paleo version, we won't be having it!
    It's affected my kids really badly. Back on it proper today and almost instantly made a difference!
    Really missed clean eating and hard working!
    Thanks for your comments. x

  3. Love your blog! We provide drug addiction treatment and alcohol rehab in Surrey (UK). I've found your article to be really helpful, thank you!

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