Monday, 4 February 2019

Am I Addicted to Sugar?

My name's Clare, and I'm a sugaraholic.

When I was drinking (a lot), I wasn't that interested in sugar. I felt quite smug about my lack of sweet tooth. I could inhale a packet of crisps (that's chips for my American friends) from twenty paces, but chocolate? I could take or leave it.

Then, I quit drinking, and hot chocolate and cake became my lifeline.

I have to confess, that over the last few years, that craving for sugar hasn't really diminished. In fact, it's got worse.

In our house, we have cupcake Friday. I don't actually bake the suckers. I'm really not that kind of mother, sadly. But I pick the kids up from school and we go to the local cupcake shop where they sell such beauties as Unicorn cupcakes! With horns and sprinkles.

I swear, eating a large cupcake with lots of frosting makes me totally HIGH.

But then, there's the inevitable crash, an hour or so later. And I've started craving that sugar high more and more.

When I was madly editing my new novel for a Christmas deadline, I spent hours in my pyjamas and Uggs, hunched over my laptop, mainlining mince pies. I kid you not. I ate dozens of those evil temptresses.

I know I am not alone. Many, many people tell me that after going sober they developed unbearable sugar cravings.

Why is this?

Well, it turns out that sugar acts on our dopamine levels in exactly the same way as alcohol, or cocaine, or any other drug.

Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. If you have a tendency towards addiction, it is likely that you are particularly sensitive to dopamine.

When we drink alcohol, or eat sugar, our brains produce a spike of dopamine. Way-hey! The issue is that following that spike, there's a crash, which makes us crave more.

And over time, our brains reduce the amount of dopamine produced naturally to compensate for all the stuff we keep shovelling in, so without booze, or sugar, we feel a bit...meh.

After my Christmas sugar binge-fest, I decided that something had to be done. I needed to moderate.

I have, therefore, given myself some parameters. I will NOT eat sugar during the week. I will NOT eat sugar alone. I will NOT eat more than one cupcake in one sitting.

Is this all sounding horribly familiar?

And, just the same as when I tried those rules with booze, I find myself becoming obsessed by the idea of sneaking down to the newsagent and hiding a cheeky bag of Maltesers (they are mainly air, after all) in my shopping basket, amongst lots of random items that I don't actually need.

I did some research, and there is some good news. There are, it turns out, several ways to produce dopamine in a totally healthy way.

First off, you can eat foods rich in something called tyrosine, like almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish and chicken. Not as pretty as cupcakes, but they do the same thing in a more gentle, less addictive fashion.

You can exercise. Yoga is especially good at producing dopamine, but any exercise, particularly outdoors (dopamine loves sunlight) will do the job.

Make sure you get lots of sleep. If you're sleep deprived, your dopamine levels will go through the floor. That's why you crave sugar when you're tired.

Listen to music! Your favourite tunes lead to an increase in dopamine. Yes, really.

Get a massage. Apparently, massage therapy increases dopamine levels by nearly 30%, while also decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone).

I've been trying these strategies, and they really do work.

So, whether you're craving booze, sugar or cocaine, grab a banana, do some asanas in the sunshine, book a massage and turn the music up, and before you know it, the cravings will go.

Read the story of my first year sober, The Sober Diaries, described as 'Bridget Jones Dries Out.' You can get the first few chapters for free using Amazon's 'look inside' feature. Click here for UK, here for USA.

For daily inspiration and information, check out the SoberMummy Facebook Page. 'Like' page to stay updated.

Love to you all,


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

How Cancer Changed my Life

It's been three years since I finished my treatment for breast cancer, and yesterday I had a meeting with my oncologist to discuss my latest blood tests.

I have, he told me, 'a perfect set of bloods.' I don't have a perfect set of boobs any longer, obviously, but you can't have everything.

This, my friends, means that I am, as far as we can tell, still cancer free.

I swore, when I was first diagnosed, that if I was lucky enough to survive this, I would never, ever become one of those irritating people who said that cancer was the best thing that happened to them.

I still stand by that. Cancer was the very worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

However, in many ways my life is so much better now than it was before my diagnosis.

I am Grateful

Many studies have shown that feeling grateful is really good for our mental health. It's so easy to send life feeling constantly dissatisfied with our lives, and to forget the important things, like health and family.

I can never forget. Because three times a year I have checks at the boob clinic.

The night before this check-up, I lay in bed mulling over the usual issues of the day, like whether my son will ever get to grips with French grammar, and where my daughter's hockey mouth guard had disappeared to, and it struck me that in twenty-four hours I might be worrying about how long I had to live instead. From one day to the next, your life can change irrevocably.

Every four months I am reminded that having your health and your family is a precious gift that we can never take for granted.

I Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I used to stress out about the smallest things. Everything had to be perfect.

A cancer diagnosis puts things into perspective. Once you've had to stare death in the face and think about your children growing up without a mother, a parking ticket or a less than perfect school report seem utterly insignificant.

I'm still not an entirely laid back mother, but I'm much more so.

I'm More Empathetic

We are always so quick to judge each other, and to get angry when we think that someone has treated us badly in some way.

Dealing with cancer makes you realise that everyone has their own stuff going on - a sick parent, a troubled child, a mean boss. Sometimes, just getting to the end of the day is a triumph. No-one can be expected to be perfect.

I Have a 'Fuck-it Button'

My life has totally transformed over the last three years. There were always many things I wanted to do with my life, but I thought there was plenty of time. I'd get around to it one day, when the time was right.

I was also paralysed by the fear of failure.

Since I was a child, I'd wanted to write, but I worried that I didn't have time, that I would never be good enough, that I'd be rejected or, worse, laughed at.

Since the cancer thing, however, I've developed a 'fuck-it button.'

Now, whenever I hear that little voice of doubt saying you can't, I reply FUCK IT! What's the worst that can happen? I'm not going to DIE (yet), and if I don't do it now, I might run out of time, because who knows what's around the next corner.

So, I published the story of that year of my life - the year I quit drinking, and then got cancer, The Sober Diaries (click here for my Amazon page). And, next year, my debut novel is being published.

I told this story to my oncologist yesterday, and he said that many of his breast cancer survivors have gone on to do extraordinary things.

But it's not just about cancer.

Whatever trauma you are dealing with in your life right now, know this: when you get out the other side (which you will), you will be stronger, happier, nicer and - what's more - you'll be a superhero.

Love to you all,

SM x

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Welcome to Mummy was a Secret Drinker

I used to hate January. It's cold and dark. The bathroom scales are the harbingers of doom and you dare not even peek at your bank balance. It's miserable.

But now, it's one of my favourite months of the year. Because if you don't drink, you feel like a bit of an outlier for most months of the year, but not, my friends, in January.

Right now, we sober people are surfing the zeitgeist and feeling positively fashionable. I was even in the Sunday Times Style Magazine last weekend. Whoop whoop.

Another New Year bonus is that I get thousands of new visitors to this blog, and if you are one of them, then WELCOME!

I started writing Mummy was a Secret Drinker when I first gave up booze, back in March 2015. I used the blog as therapy, and I wrote every single day. So there are nearly 500 posts on here now.

I thought it might be helpful to signpost some of the ones that you might find most useful.

You might want to start by reading this post, which I wrote when I'd been sober for 1000 days. I had no idea how much quitting alcohol would change every aspect of my life. If you need some inspiration, you'll find it here.

The post I wrote on Three Secrets to Success gives you my top tips for getting sober.

This one, on Making Sober Less Shameful features the TEDx talk I did on what it's like to quit alcohol in a world where everyone drinks.

If you want to learn a bit more about how addiction feels, then try this post on Understanding the Wine Witch.

If you're still not sure whether to quit drinking, or just cut down, then read this: Why Don't You Just Drink Less?

If you'd like to read my blog from the beginning (which is quite an undertaking), then click here.

If you're a fan of the Facebook, then I post inspiration and information every day on the SoberMummy Facebook page. Click here (and 'like' page if you want to stay updated).

If my regular readers have any favourite posts you'd like to highlight, please add them to the comments below!

You can read the story of my first year sober in the book described as 'Bridget Jones Dries Out' - The Sober Diaries. Click here for my Amazon page in the UK, or here for the USA.

Happy New Year to you all!

SM x