Since I can remember there has always been the belief that there was something intrinsically wrong with me that could only be fixed by the consumption of substances. My addictive cycle led me to dependence on alcohol and cocaine and pretty much any substance (or person) that for a short space of time could make me feel good about myself.
I struggled with low self-esteem and low self-worth, always feeling that I was lacking in any and every way. I never felt beautiful, confident or adequate and self-medicated these feelings with numerous substances and behaviours.
I booked into rehab in 2004 and spent the next nine months in deep introspection. I started healing my relationship with friends and family but most of all I started discovering who I really was.
Recovery from drugs and alcohol was easy, but it was my recovery from an eating disorder that was a lot more challenging.Â I spent the next seven years abstaining from eating disorder behaviours i.e. bingeing, purging and overeating.
I tried to â€œnormaliseâ€ my eating by having a soft drink or chocolate daily as this was encouraged by my dietician (?!)Â but before I knew it my craving for sugar became far from normal.
I needed my daily sugar fix and there was nothing sweet about that. I would turn into a monster in a desperate attempt to fill that â€œhole in my soulâ€ with some external sweetness. Far from identifying this disorderly eating I was partaking in, my dietician commended itâ€¦. I was finally exhibiting â€œnormalâ€ eating behaviours. She did not take into account the fact that I was eating all of my emotions and I would do anything to get hold of sugar. If I went for three hours without consuming carbohydrates my blood sugar would drop and I would become grumpy, irritable and irrational. I would then need to rush to the shop, fridge or a friend in a desperate attempt to ingest sugar just to feel â€œnormalâ€ again! And so the cycle continued.
It was after watching sports nutritionist Professor Tim Noakes on television one day that I realised I had a recognised problem. He mentioned the addictive nature of sugar, likening it to a drug, and in that moment I realised deep at the core of my being that my name was Karen Thomson and I was a sugar and carbÂ addict.
In South Africa, eating disorders are generally treated as â€œprocess addictionsâ€, very simply meaning that abstinence from behaviours such as bingeing and purging are sought. They then try to â€œnormaliseâ€ your eating. My sugar addiction went further than that. I could not treat it purely as a process addiction, the effect that sugar had on me very clearly showed that this was a â€œchemical addictionâ€ as devious, cunning and powerful as an addiction to drugs and alcohol. I needed not only abstinence from behaviour, but also abstinence from the substance.
With Professor Noakesâ€™ guidance, I started following a diet low in carbs and high in protein and fat. I introduced high fat foods such as butter, coconut oil, nuts and avocado into my diet and the positive results were almost immediate. I started losing weight, my moods stabilised and I had a lot more energy. I was no longer dependent on another substance to make me feel â€œnormalâ€. I was slowly restoring myself to my natural way of being.
07 Aug 2014
06 Jun 2014