Beating the Buzz: Day #1

I like candy

I like candy.

I’ve been made aware there’s a killer in my midst.

It’s not my quarterly cigarette or the overly generous blob of butter I add to my mashed potato.

No, it’s their sweet, crystalline buddy. Sugar.

Now that I’m a fully fledged member of the “late 20s” category, I’ve had to make a few lifestyle changes.

Firstly, I can no longer drink heavily on a school night and emerge twinkling the next day for work.

Secondly, unlike in my formative years, I am now unable to eat whatever I like without my bathroom nemesis The Scales telling me I’ve packed on a few pounds.

And thirdly, though I have reluctantly acknowledged the need for exercise and note the sudden influx of Facebook friends posting smug maps of their 20 mile post-work runs, I favour my sweat and pain to come from yoga.

So with an exercise regime lacking in the cardio department, I decided to look at my diet and in doing so, came across an article on The Telegraph website which made the shocking claim that the average Brit consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar a week.

I promptly went to the kitchen and weighed out 200g of Tate and Lyle’s finest product and was immediately disgusted. No-one in their right mind would eat that amount of sugar if it were presented straight up on a plate.

Nevertheless, I was quietly assured I couldn’t possibly be among those sugar-shovelling whackos, but a quick look at my log on MyFitnessPal informed me I was very much in denial.

I’m embarrassed to say that last week I ate roughly 75g of sugar a day, despite eating “healthily.” Granted, further probing found much of my sugar intake was due to fruit, but fructose baffles me and I’m yet to find a definitive answer about how bad it is compared to refined sugar. So far all intents and purposes, I’m eating what can only be described as “a shit load” of sugar.

Next on the list was to ascertain whether my candy cravings were habitual. An article on the BBC’s website asked four questions about sugar addiction, including, “if you go without 24 hours do you develop headaches and mood swings?”

‘Sure, doesn’t everyone?!’ I scoffed. But the results were in with just that one answer. I’m officially addicted to a totally legal white powder.

According to health bosses, over consumption of sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure, with 35 million people worldwide committing saccharine suicide thanks – in part – to their sweet tooth.

With those sobering facts, I decided it was time to start beating the sugar buzz.

For the record, my intention isn’t to give up this so-called poison entirely. For one thing, no human has ever survived on zero sugar – even Eve ate an apple.

Secondly, I strongly doubt my ability to completely eliminate a sweet tooth rooted in a childhood featuring an almost daily carousel of after-dinner cheesecake, meringue and pavlova. (It was the 80s and frozen dessert was considered ‘posh’).

Lastly, my best friend’s birthday is in two weeks and will most certainly be confectionery based.

So, the aim for the next fortnight is to get down to the recommended daily allowance of 50g a day without punching someone in the face – hardly a challenge some might say, but given my apparently intake one which I am frankly sceptical about.

At 9am on day one, I felt fairly confident. Research suggested part of the problem is that sugar is hiding in my store-bought food without me even knowing. Another article suggested scrutinising food labels to see if sugar or its masked manifestations (Disaccharide, Erythritol and Monosaccharide, anyone?) are lurking in the first three ingredients. If so, it said, step away.

With this in mind, a quick survey of the supermarket’s cereal aisle led me to the conclusion that the only sugarless breakfast bowl I’d be enjoying for the foreseeable future would be Shredded Wheat.

Off I went to work feeling pleased with myself for avoiding the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, but was immediately derailed by the banana and handful of blueberries I added to my bitesize cardboard, which zapped half my allotted sugar intake for the day. And it was only 9.04am. Weep.

By 11.30am I was feeling a bit shaky. I sat waiting anxiously for the stroke of midday then whipped up a salad, only to find that “balsamic vinegar” actually means “sugar syrup” and I’d unwittingly added 4g of sugar to my lunch. Four grams. In vinegar!

At around 2pm I was clenching my teeth. It felt unnatural not to have finished my lunch with a maltose morsel and I cracked to my taste buds’ whim with a sugar free lemon squash. Does that even count?

By 5pm my head was pounding. I drove home daydreaming about my dinner only to remember it was going to be a sugarless misery. As I ate my baked salmon, I tried not to think about the nine bags of Mini Eggs stashed at my boyfriend’s house in case of “emergency.”

After tea I looked at my sugar intake for the day and found that despite forgoing my 3pm caramel Options hit, I’d still consumed 46g of sugar, and I’d not even logged the strawberries I was planning on eating.

Nevertheless, I went to bed patting myself on the back for getting through the first day with fairly reasonable results and comforted myself with thoughts of a nice breakfast.

Then I remember: there will be no honey-coated flakes of heaven in my morning. Just Shredded Wheat.

Who lives like this?

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Johnnie marks a musical milestone

THE first thing Johnnie Walker says to me is that he’s sorry for calling so late.

I’m genuinely confused for a second, because a legend of the radiowaves can be as late as he likes in my book.

The man on the other end of the phone is, after all, one of the last radio DJs of the 60s; responsible for a generation of sleep-deprived kids sneaking their cheap tranistor radios under the covers to tune into broadcasts way past their bedtimes.

The veteran voice of Radio 2– famed for such notorious behaviour as hosting pirate radio show Caroline in the 60s – takes the compliment with a bemused laugh.

But while my nostalgia is decidedly secondhand in nature,  he’s taking a personal tour down memory lane with his newest live show,  which he will be sharing with audiences in Bradford next month.

“It’s called Musical Milestones,” said Johnnie. “I play all the records that mean a lot to me, like the first record we played when my father bought home a wind up gramophone when I was five.”
“But there are some nights where I will come off and I’ll go ‘darn, I didn’t play that one’ or I say ‘I must use that one again’, so it’s constantly changing. I never know what I’m going to play but I doubt that it will be boring,” he added.

Johnnie began his radio career in 1966 on offshore pirate radio station, Swinging Radio England, before jumping ship, as it were, to Radio Caroline.

It was during his time playing plastic out at sea that he entered the history books on August 14, 1967, as one of the only DJs brave-slash-risky enough to carry on playing as the government imposed a ban on pirate broadcasting.

For Johnnie, it was a defining moment in his career.

“A really big moment for me was when I went against all the advice of my parents and friends and DJ friends, when I carried on broadcasting on Caroline after the government made it illegal. I played All You Need is Love by the Beatles and became a criminal for playing records.”

His decision to keep on playing was a likely combination of part protest/part dedication, based on an unshakeable passion for the job and the music itself:  a feeling he wasn’t about to give up so easily.

“I managed to get a job on a radio station so I could play all my favourtie bands and share that experience of good records with the Caroline audience,” he said. “All the DJs in those days wanted to find that next big thing because it’s exciting, it just shows you’re doing your best to discover new music.
“I used to go through 60 or 70 new singles every week in the 70s searching for that gem. A lot of it was really bad, then you come across a gem and you think, ‘wow, this is brilliant’.
“Finding the little nugget amongst all the other stuff is brilliant. I remember when Walk on the Wildside became a hit, I thought, ‘I knew that music had something and lots of other people did too’,” he added. 

Audiences in Bradford have a lot to look forward to with such colourful anecdotes on the cards, but according to Johnnie,  no two nights are the same.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to coming to Bradford. The great thing about people in Yorkshire is that they will tell you what they think and I like that. 
“They’ll just shout, ‘Hey Johnnie you’re show is rubbish’.  I don’t mind a bit of heckling, it’s good fun. 
“We leave little index cards in the interval and people go off and have a drink then come back and write questions.  We get the house lights up and read them out – it’s the best part of the show for me and the audience I think.”

You would think after four decades on the airwaves, talking about his life in music would be second nature, but even someone with his experience gets the pre-show jitters.

“I’m always really nervous when I go on, I’m pacing up and down 10 minutes before a show,” said Johnnie. “It’s very different to doing it to a live crowd, it’s more embarassing it if bombs, so there’s more tension.
“You can take some great artists like Paul Simon or Neil Diamond and they all get nervous, because they care about what they do.
“If you pull it off then it’s a wonderful feeling.  But I put everything I have into it because I want people to have a good night, and if it goes well I’m happy.
“I don’t want to big it up too much though,” he laughed, “in case I have a bad night in Bradford.”

Johnnie Walker will play the Bradford Alhambra on Thursday, May 12.