There’s a moment in the new series of Sugar Free Farm where TV personality Alison Hammond discovers she eats 666 chocolate bars every year.
It’s a moment that could happen to many of us – and that’s what’s scary. The difference between Sugar Free Farm and other reality shows is that it really IS our reality. Perhaps not the mucking out stables part, but the sugar addiction, oh yes.
The series’ registered dietitian Hala El-Shafie is well-practiced at healing sugar addiction. We chatted to her about the many reasons we’re addicted to sugar – and why Sugar Free Farm is a model for how we should all live.
A silent addiction.
When we think of addiction, our minds are drawn first to illicit drugs. But it’s the seemingly innocuous substances, Hala says, which we also need to watch out for.
“What people often don’t realise with sugar is that it is incredibly addictive. Most people have very little awareness of how much they’re they’re eating unless they’re forced to think about it.”
The addiction can be so severe we lose connection with our bodies’ basic functions. In the beginning of Sugar Free Farm, celebrities were given an apple to eat. But sugar had deadened their taste buds so badly, they could no longer taste its sweetness.
Refined sugar has absolutely no health benefit.
“The thing is, refined sugar has absolutely no health benefit. And yet it’s one of the biggest parts of the modern diet. The more we eat, the more we want. This addiction, on an international scale, has to be addressed.”
Mind over matter.
Anyone who has tried to give up sugar on their own knows it’s just not that easy. That’s because our relationship with food is deeply psychological, says Hala.
“The psychological aspects of our eating habits have to be addressed more than anything else,” says Hala. “It’s not just about what you’re eating, it’s about why you’re eating. We need to ask ourselves, am I eating this because my body needs it? Or is it a crutch?”
It’s not just about what you’re eating, it’s about why you’re eating.
Hala is so passionate about this she runs workshops to help people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. One of the first things she does is dispel diet myths – but quitting sugar is not one of them.
“My background is working with eating disorders, so I do not advocate diets at all. But limiting sugar is not a fad. It isn’t about counting calories, it’s about eating real food. We can all benefit from it.”
We’re used to seeing celebrities thrown into farfetched situations on Celebrity Big Brother or I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! – and now forced into farm labour. But the irony is, not long ago, this was how everyone lived.
“We used to exercise all day – foraging food, hand-washing our clothes. Now we drive to work and sit down for eight hours straight. Even if we are working out, that’s not the body’s natural state,” says Hala.
The bottom line is we all need to get back to basics.
“We are in an obesity epidemic. Lifestyle diseases – obesity, cancer and type 2 diabetes – are all linked to the way we now eat.
“The bottom line is we all need to get back to basics. To do that, we all need to cook from scratch, know where our food comes from and ditch refined sugar.”
And if the glowing before-and-afters of the celebrities are anything to go by, maybe good health and happiness really is that simple.
You can catch Hala and Sugar Free Farm on Thursdays at 8.35pm on SBS.