A sugar addict tells all

04 June 2014 - 02:01 By Katharine Child
SUGAR RUSH: A child tucks into candy floss. A recovered addict says sugar is like heroin
SUGAR RUSH: A child tucks into candy floss. A recovered addict says sugar is like heroin

"Hi, my name is Karen and I'm a sugar addict."

This is how Karen Thomson, who works at the Harmony Addictions Clinic, in Hout Bay, near Cape Town, introduces herself.

The granddaughter of world-renowned heart surgeon Christian Barnard, she has battled addictions all her life - first cocaine, then heroin, then alcohol and finally sugar.

At 24 and skeletal, she entered rehabilitation.

"I no longer wanted to live but was too scared to die."

After nine months in rehab she has been drugs-free for 10 years, and free of sugar for two-and-a-half.

Now she helps others who have a self-diagnosed sugar and carbohydrate addiction.

Thomson uses a 12-step programme based on that of A lcoholics A nonymous .

The treatment includes therapy, drumming and walks on the beach near a clinic that primarily treats drug addicts.

By August, she hopes to have launched an online course for people who want to stop eating sugar.

Thomson said she works with addicts in honour of her grandfather's legacy.

She claims she found notes written by him in her mother's cupboard after his death. One of the notes read: "I have saved 150 lives through heart transplants. I could have saved millions through preventative medicine."

Thomson said she fed her feelings with sugar from her youth.

"I don't crave lamb. I associated the sweet taste of Coca-Cola and chocolate with love and happiness. Sugar calmed me."

These days, she avoids sugar.

"When I start eating chocolate I can't stop."

She had one relapse after a fight with her husband.

"I ate a big bowl of pasta, drank Coke, had sweets and biscuits.

"I felt like I was on heroin. That's when I realised how toxic sugar is."

Dietician Rael Koping said sugar is physiologically addictive.

"It acts on the same centre of the brain as heroin. It can calm you down," Koping said.

Are you a sugar addict?

  • Is your stomach bloated after eating?
  • Does your brain feel foggy a lot of the time?
  • Do you have a mid-afternoon energy slump?
  • Are you unable to stop yourself eating a whole slab of chocolate in one sitting? If not, you may be addicted to sugar.
  • How to stop
  • Give up carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and biscuits.
  • Identify sugars in food, be they corn syrup, sweeteners etc.
  • Avoid processed food, and eat vegetables.
  • Contact a registered dietician if necessary.