Martine Rolls: Lower sugar levels with sweet inspiration

By Martine Rolls

When my sister and her partner from the Netherlands visited me a few years ago, she complained a lot about the food.

Not that Holland is particularly known for its culinary delights, but in her opinion, everything she tasted here was too sweet - the bread, the milk, the sauces and especially the meals she ordered when they had lunch or dinner at a restaurant.

Since then I've been thinking about all that sweetness, as she was absolutely right. I now look more closely at labels on food products and I have come to the conclusion that there is sugar in basically everything you buy in our supermarkets - even baby food. If you don't believe me, just take a look at the labels of all you've got in your pantry and see for yourself.

New Zealanders most definitely have a sweet tooth, and it's a little scary to see that so many people have no idea that sugar is addictive, and that too much of it can be dangerous.

Searching for the dangers of sugar online really opened my eyes.

We all know sugar makes us gain weight, rots our teeth, and increases the risk of diabetes, but after an extensive Google search, I now also know that it raises blood pressure, stresses our livers and kidneys, feeds cancer cells and that too much sweetness can lead to the chronic, low-level inflammation that is at the core of many chronic diseases.

When I talk about the dangers of sugar, I'm not only talking about lollies, biscuits, ice cream and doughnuts. I'm talking about fructose, so a battle against sugar will also involve certain fruits.

I've gained quite a lot of weight in the past few years, about 12kg, and it has all settled relentlessly around the waist.

The weight gain started about three years after I'd had my babies so I can't blame them. Having a desk-based job hasn't helped, but I do know that I don't want to get any bigger.

Ramping up the exercise regime is one way of tackling it, but I doubt that's enough. So I've set myself up with two books: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson, and Sweet Poison by David Gillespie. They both say life is sweeter without sugar. In addition, I'm drawing inspiration from a new blog I found. It's called and was set up by Dylan Keys from Papamoa.

The Bay of Plenty Times covered his story in 2010. You can will find it here. 

Just to explain things a bit better, Dylan is a former drug user; pack-a-day smoker and a recovering alcoholic. He has also suffered from mental illness for the last 13 years. On August 10 2009, he got sober.

A focus on exercise became a healthy way of managing his addictions and his state of mind and he has been on a journey of self-improvement since.

Dylan, also a talented artist, is now studying to become a personal trainer. He wants to use his life experiences to help others improve their lives through exercise and healthy living, and I think that's admirable. He hopes to help others make the same battle back from the brink that he did.

I have always found Dylan's journey inspirational, even though I have not fought the same demons he has. This new blog about quitting fructose is something I can really relate to, though, and I hope more people will find and follow it.

In his first blog entry, he said: "To look at me now most people assume that I must eat healthy all the time, and I could probably continue to get away with pretending that I do, but it's time for me to be completely honest.

"For the last two years of my recovery I have been eating horrific amounts of sugar at night, often in secret because of the embarrassment that I should, and do, know better.

"I go to the gym six days a week and train hard, and I consciously eat well all day, but at night I binge on disgusting amounts of sugar. I'm not talking a few biscuits or a chocolate bar, I'm talking a two litre tub of ice cream every night, as well as a family block of chocolate every other night.

"So why did I just share my sugary secret? Well soon I'm going to be in a position where I'll be training others and helping them to improve their lives through exercise and healthy living, so it's important to me that when that time comes I know that I practice what I preach, that I'm honest and that I'm accountable."

He also said that even if one person can relate to the words he is writing, or if it inspires them in some way, then in his mind the blog will be a success.

Dylan only started the blog last week but it has already inspired me in many ways.

The truth is that I have failed miserably at detoxing in the past, and don't even get me started on dieting.

Completely quitting sugar is unlikely to work for me and I will still enjoy a piece of chocolate every now and again. But I will make sure I drastically and deliberately limit my intake of the stuff.

Martine Rolls is the Bay of Plenty Times online editor.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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