A mum-of-two told yesterday how she developed a dangerous addiction to SUGAR that nearly killer her – and said her habit was more addictive than being hooked on COCAINE.
Sugar junkie Nikki Oakley, 45, was scoffing down a shocking 50 TEASPOONS a day of the white stuff by gorging on biscuits, chocolates and cake.
She was so hooked on sugary treats that she would suffer withdrawal symptoms if her cravings were not met and would suffer regular mood swings and depression.
The recommended daily intake for women is just six teaspoons meaning Nikki was consuming a staggering SEVEN times the suggested amount.
The child minder, from Redditch, West Mids, would usually start the day with a breakfast of biscuits and then snack on cereal bars to get an early-morning sugar rush.
She would then tuck into a meal of baked beans on toast and yoghurt at lunchtime.
Nikki would then munch on more biscuits during the afternoon before having cake WITH her evening meal.
To curb her final cravings of the day she would eat a chocolate bar before she went to bed and would always avoid drinking tea and coffee in favour of sugar-filled Pepsi.
Nikki’s addiction did not cause her to become obese but she was heavier than she wanted to be at 9st 11lbs and wearing size 12 clothes.
And the problem got so bad that doctors warned her that is she did not cut down her daily intake she could be sent to an early grave.
She said: “My physical symptoms were mainly headaches, I had no energy at all, I was very short tempered and snappy and the cravings left me in tears.
“Shopping was a torture. I would walk up the aisles looking at the biscuits. I wanted them so much I literally be crying.
“I was in a cycle. I’d feel tired, so I’d have something sugary, then after the high would come a low, so I’d start again.
“One of the worst feelings in the world happens after the first few mouthfuls of intense pleasure.
“It’s when the addiction takes hold and I’m cramming food into my mouth, even though I don’t really want it and there’s that helpless feeling of not being able to stop.
“Your head is telling you to stop, but you just can’t do it.
“During the feelings of guilt that followed, I would insult myself, call myself disgusting, then feel so bad I’d turn to sugar again.
“I could have quite happily eaten cake, chocolate and biscuits all day long, from the moment I got up to when I went to bed.
“What’s more, almost everything else I ate was processed food. I was eating stuff labelled ‘low fat-diet products’ not knowing they were full of sugar.
“The doctors said it could kill me eating this much sugar – it has been known to be as addictive as cocaine. I’ve never done drugs but it was like I had a coke habit.
“And I had been this way for about five years.
“I had always enjoyed sweets as a child but it really got back around 2008 onwards when it became a full-blown addiction. But like most addicts – I was in denial.”
In desperate bids to kick the habit Nikki tried a number of slimming clubs but failed them all because they allowed her access to sugar.
In September, Nikki was diagnosed as a sugar junkie by Anna Mason, boss of The Healthy Employee, who aim to improve eating habits in the workplace.
She was then placed on a daily diet of: breakfast, oatcakes with hummous; lunch, chicken with salad; snack, natural yoghurt sprinkled with raisins and nuts; dinner, homemade spaghetti bolognese sauce with salad.
Over the coming months she slimmed down to 8st 7lbs and slowly began to feel much healthier.
Nikki added: “It was torture at first. I’ve never been on drugs but when I was coming off the sugar it really was like going cold turkey I guess from something like cocaine – I didn’t think I could do it.
“It was only then I realised how bad the addiction had got.
“During a trip to the theatre I had, on one side, a friend eating jellies and on the other side a friend eating chocolate buttons.
“Everywhere I looked there were people eating bags of sweets, ice creams and drinking fizzy drinks.
“I felt like I’d hit rock bottom and I was on the verge of tears throughout the performance.
“The cravings have been terrible, I really would have given up thinking it wasn’t normal if I didn’t have the support.
“It has been awful. I’ve been snappy, tired – I could hardly move. I like running and I couldn’t believe the effect that ditching sugar would have in the first few weeks.
“I always run three miles three mornings a week.
“But during the first week of giving up sugar I couldn’t even run one mile without feeling like I was going to pass out.
“After about four weeks my body began to adjust and now I’m running faster than ever and I’m slimmer than ever.
“But I’m not in the clear yet – I am still a recovering sugar addict and I want to lose more weight.
“My goal is to weigh 8st and to be a size 8. That’s when I’ll really know I’m clean.”
Mrs Mason, from the Stratford-based company, believes the country’s infatuation with processed food is the cause of the growing sugar crisis.
She said: “We are hooked on processed food, but really we’re hooked on sugar. It’s a modern phenomena.
“People suffer headaches and cravings that can reduce them to tears because of areas of the brain that demand a sugar fix.
“Sugar is possibly more powerful than any opiates and we are surrounded by the stuff.”
* Just last week, a group of eminent doctors and academics insisted that food manufacturers must reduce the level of sugar in processed foods by up to 30 per cent to halt a wave of disease and death.
They said sugar is as addictive and dangerous as cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine.