You Are What You Eat... Literally

Being an athlete for most of my adult life, I have been asked for my advice on eating healthier and making changes to diet on an almost daily basis. Most people are shocked to learn that I've been a sugar addict my whole life...
Ian West/PA Archive

Being an athlete for most of my adult life, I have been asked for my advice on eating healthier and making changes to diet on an almost daily basis. Most people are shocked to learn that I've been a sugar addict my whole life. Could be worse, right? I'm not overweight, my skin is clear, I have all of my own teeth, so it can't be that bad? Well, I honestly believe sugar is one of the most damaging substances we consume without even thinking about its effects. Sugar not only affects your body, but more importantly your mind.

For my last big fight five years ago, I had to lose two stone but still have super strength power and endurance, alongside also have a razor sharp mind. Losing weight for me was easy, but keeping in top athletic condition whist being a lot lighter I believed was going to be hard! But it was easier than I thought.

I had my meals prepared to take the guess work out of it, so I could focus on my preparation, but I would prepare my first meal of the day, porridge protein powder a few raisins and a squirt of Manuka. The meals were tasty, filling, and above all easy. The major factor I believe to my success in making the weight and still being strong, fit and more importantly feeling physically and psychologically great, was the fact that I was in control. I felt like it was working and it was. Positivity breeds positivity.

After all of my hard work and healthy outlook, in the changing room after my competition I decided I had 'earned' a Mars bar, so I took a bite but struggled to eat it. My taste buds had changed so much it was like poison. Weirdly I put the bar down, but within 10 minutes I had a hunger for sugar like a vampire for fresh blood! Ten minutes is all it took for that sugar to take hold from disgust to almost uncontrollable sugar lust.

Why did I feel I deserved that chocolate to give me my sugar fix?

From an early age the pharmaceutical companies and global businesses that have such a grip on the whole of modern society indoctrinated me, my family and the rest of the world into believing the brightly-coloured, super sugar-laden product that was, and still is, heavily advertised in the media is an essential part of my day.

With a catchy slogan and even catchier song, they informed me that despite the fact it may be a little naughty, it was what I deserved after a hard day (A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play), or what I needed to get me through to meal time (Milky Way - The sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite) and was a completely harmless addition to my daily intake.

We forget how powerful advertising is. Our subconscious is bombarded daily not just on TV, but magazines, billboards, bus stops - everywhere where first world human beings gather there will be some form of advertising telling us what to buy and how we should look. But as we know now it's not always the wonder product it appeared to be. In the '60s Olympic standard athletes would not only openly smoke, but even promote it. Go back a little further Coca Cola was promoted as a patent medicine, which would "cure all nervous afflictions - sick headache, neuralgia, hysteria, melancholy - why? Because it contained, as a Coke spokesperson recently quoted, a "trivial" amount of cocaine!

We don't even need to see it, it's in our ears.

Overhearing a conversation on the bus recently I heard two ladies discussing their latest attempt at losing weight. One said to the other "Oh I have been so bad this week" and went on to describe how she had overeaten and felt guilty about it. That really hit home to me, how advertising has affected us to our core. This woman was not likely a "bad" person". In fact she went on to discuss how she had picked up her children from school, made a costume for the school play and planned what she was to feed her family that night for an evening meal. That's not a bad person. She didn't discuss plans to murder, kill, kidnap, maim. She simply put herself in the category of "bad" as she had chosen to over indulge this week. The power of social perception in advertisements and magazines, telling her how she should look and what she should eat put her, in her own mind, in the "bad" camp. That's how effective, in the simplest terms, that 20 second advert or banner is.

Now I still occasionally have a Mars bar, maybe up to five per year. And don't get me wrong, I still love them. I equate it, pretty much, to how some people who don't smoke regularly, might have a social cigarette.

Sugar plays a pivotal role in the development of many of the devastating illnesses we fear most, namely heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's to name a few but in everyday terms reducing sugar in our diets our cholesterol and blood pressure improves in a matter of days. One day we will realise the dangers of sugar in society much like smoking, and cocaine.

So, though it's not medical advice, I would say to make you feel better, look better and actively make a change to your overall well-being then ditch the sugar, grab an apple and put the magazine down. Be your own advertisement, be your own billboard and show the world the best you!